A very historic theme park located in Agawam, Massachusetts, Six Flags New England (SFNE) is an amazing theme park that mixes the old classic feel of a theme park with some the latest technology currently available in the amusement park industry.
The Early Days at SFNE
Opening in 1870 as Gallups Grove, the grounds were opened as a picnic facility with Groves by the beautiful Connecticut River. Visitors arrived via steamship from Springfield and other cities. In 1900, the Springfield line made a connection to the park at the end of the rail line; the Park was not known as a “trolley park.” Trolley parks were amusement parks owned by railroad companies who had stops at these parks to bring in visitors on the weekends.
Also in the early 1900, a few rides were installed on the property, such as a carousel. In 1912, the first coaster was brought the property; it was known as the Giant Dip. With the popularity of the Giant Dip, the park added another coaster, the Greyhound, in 1915! After Henry J Perkins bought the park in 1911 and brought it from a picnic to an amusement park, Gallups Grove added a 300ft diameter wading pool known as the Lake Takeadip. In 1920, the Giant Dip was taken down and replaced by a coaster twice its size known as Lightning! Later, in 1928, a third coaster came to the property known as the Whirlwind Racer.
The Wall Street Fall of 1929 hit the park, and, by 1931, the park was on foreclosure. For the 1932 season, the park only operated 5 days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, and, in 1933, the park was closed indefinitely. Sometimes, the property was used as a picnic grounds for company outings. And, for the two years from 1937-1939, a drive-in was located in the parking lots.
The Carroll Family Era
In 1939, Edward Carroll Sr. bought the closed-down park and reopened it as Riverside Park on May 29th, 1940. He made it the biggest amusement park in New England! He bought the blueprints and cars of the 1939 World’s Fairs Cyclone Coaster and opened it. In 1941, a new coaster was added called the Cyclone (later renamed – today known as Thunderbolt). To this day, it is still operating at the park and is in fact the oldest operating coaster in the Six Flags chain of parks!
Ed Carroll took an interest of Automobile Racing – which, at the time, was gaining lots of interest in the Northeast area. So, after World War II, he opened the Riverside Park Speedway in 1948. Stock car racing began its popularity at Riverside in the 1960s; then, NASCAR Began holding events at the park in 1976. The first winner of a NASCAR event at the park was Bob Polverari. For the following year, the park added its first coaster that goes upside down; it was known as the Loop Coaster, later known as the Black Widow. The park became very successful in the 1970s, so the park added a log flume during that period. Later in the early 1980s, the park stopped selling individual ride tickets like many other parks across the country at the time and implemented pay one price admission for unlimited rides all day. Then, in 1983, Riverside added its third coaster. This was a smaller copy of the Coney Island Cyclone Coaster. It was known as Riverside Cyclone.
The Premier Parks Era
In the cold winter of 1996, the Carroll Family, who owned Riverside, was approached by Premier Parks of Oklahoma, who bought the park and renamed it Riverside: The Great Escape. For the 1997 season, Premier spent over 20 million on new attractions! Some included a water park called Island Kingdom, which featured many different slides in addition to a wave pool. Other things included a Vekoma SLC that was known as Mind Eraser! In fact, the park is celebrating Mind Eraser’s 20th Birthday! In addition, there was a shoot the rapids ride added called Shipwreck Falls. However, it was removed in 2011 to make room Goliath. Furthermore, the park added a Vekoma Air Jumper known as Time Warp. In 1998, the park was bought by the Six Flags chain. The park was still known as Riverside until the end of the 1999 Season. Then, many of the parks Premier owned were rebranded or “flagged” to become Six Flags in 2000. One of the major things that happened was in late 1999; the Riverside Speedway was removed to make room for SFNE.
Getting Flagged and Beyond
In 2000, this Six Flags park saw a big transformation; it featured a new entry plaza, and the speedway was replaced with a world-class hyper coaster by Intamin that the park named Superman: Ride of Steel, and a new family coaster called Poison Ivy’s Tangled Train. Plus, the park added a Vekoma Boomerang that was relocated from Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom; it was placed in the north section of the park. That is known as Flashback. In 2001, the parking lot was relocated and moved across the street to make room for future attractions. In 2002 the park saw yet another coaster added – a B&M floorless coaster named Batman: The Dark Knight. The following year (2003), the park saw a retheme of Island Kingdom to be transforms into Hurricane Harbor, the namesake to many of Six Flags’ water parks. Many new slides and areas were added. Then, in 2005, the park saw another coaster called Pandemonium, which is a fun, family-friendly spinning roller coaster by Gerstlauer. Also, in 2005, the amusement park launched a water coaster called Typhoon.
In 2006, SFNE saw two relocated rides from [former] sister park, Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. A HUSS Sky Swat, Catapult (which was later removed in 2012) and Splashwater Falls – a Diablo Falls water ride. Splashwater Falls was removed in 2016 to make room for the Joker 4D Free Fly Coaster. In 2007, two new kiddie worlds were added. Wiggles World which took over Tiny Timber Town by reusing the current rides and taking down the old play structure; it’s also added new rides and play elements as well as a new stage and Thomas Town, which featured a train and two kiddie rides. Thomas Town was located next to the park’s main gate. Thomas Town is now known as Whistlestop Park, and Wiggles World is now as KIDZOPOLIS. In 2008, the park attempted to add a Mack Indoor Wild Mouse Coaster called the Dark Knight Coaster. It was going to go with the release of the new movie Dark Knight in 2008, but, due to permit issues and construction delays, construction was halted and stopped. Because of this, the ride was relocated to Six Flags Mexico, where it still operates to this day! Superman: Ride of Steel closed down at the end of 2008 to be transformed into a new experience with new restraints, new paint, new effects and theming, on-board audio and a new name – the ride was now known as Bizarro. Then, in 2016, Superman defeated Bizarro and Returned to SFNE by being rethemed as Superman: The Ride featuring new paint, theming, and removal of the on-board audio
In 2011, the park added a Mack Rides Wild Mouse; it was added to the spot where the Dark Knight Coaster was going to be installed back in 2008, the coaster is known as Gotham City Gauntlet Escape from Arkham Asylum. In 2012, the park added another coaster – a relocated Vekoma giant inverted boomerang. It is located on the former site of Shipwreck Falls, right next to Flashback. In 2013, the park expanded the water park by adding a Proslide drop capsule slide called Bonzai Pipelines. In 2014, the park added a world record-breaking Funtime Starflyer, known as New England Sky Screamer. In fact, it’s still the world’s tallest swing ride. Also, after 31 years of operation, Cyclone was closed down in 2014 for removal of track to become a Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC) hybrid coaster.
In 2015, the revamped recreation from RMC, Wicked Cyclone, debuted to park guests; the roller coaster features lots of airtime and the world’s first 200-degree banking stall. In 2016 saw the return of Superman: Ride of Steel, and Fireball (a Larson superloop coaster). In 2017, the park is adding yet another coaster, The Joker 4D Free Fly Coaster. On the former site of Splashwater Falls, Joker opens to the public on Memorial Day Weekend!
Overall, Six Flags New England has over 65 rides and attractions for the whole family to enjoy. This Coaster Capital of New England feature 13 roller coasters and New England’s largest water park, Hurricane Harbor, that is included with park admission. This park has a lot of history and provides great thrills to this day. For those of you who have visited this park throughout the years, what are your opinions about it? We’d love to hear more about your most memorable memories.