Written by Russell Meyer
Published: August 4, 2005 at 8:01 AM
Is it possible that we are entering a new era of roller coasters? It seems that wooden roller coasters are making a resurgence, with the success of Thunderhead at Dollywood and Hades at Mt. Olympus in 2005, and now three major wooden coasters are vying for supremacy in 2006. Beech Bend Park, a small park in Bowling Green, Kentucky has announced plans to build a wooden roller coaster designed by Great Coasters International (GCI). GCI has brought us some of the more popular wooden roller coaster built over the last 10 years, including Wildcat and Lightning Racer at Hersheypark, Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa, and Roar at Six Flags America and Six Flags Marine World. This new wooden roller coaster will feature 30 crossovers (a record), and three high speed station fly-bys. The coaster will also feature the incredibly comfortable and nostalgic-looking Millennium Flier trains. This coaster has yet to be given a name, but guests will be able to submit suggestions through the park’s website. If your suggestion is selected, you will win a pair of season passes to the park for 2006, and an opportunity to be on the maiden voyage of the new coaster.
This announcement makes three major wooden coasters from the three major wooden coaster manufacturers coming to the United States in 2006. Beach Bend’s woodie joins Holiday World’s The Voyage, and the yet-to-be-announced Intamin wooden coaster for Six Flags Great Adventure. Six Flags has not yet released any information about its 2006 wooden coaster, but if rumors are true, it will be as big, if not bigger than The Voyage. Could the price of steel be pushing parks towards wooden coasters, or are we just experiencing a renaissance? It’s difficult to say, but wooden coaster fans will definitely be on cloud nine in 2006.
The buzz is building, and coaster fanatics are getting giddy. It appears that the long wait may finally be over, as Six Flags Great Adventure is very close to reopening the tallest and fastest roller coaster on Earth. Kingda Ka has been testing almost non-stop over the past few days, and sources claim that the record breaker will finally open back up by the end of this week. As you may recall, Kingda Ka has been down for nearly two months because of an accident which occurred during a routine test run, damaging a number of parts on the launch track. Six Flags has begun running ads highlighting the coaster, and the likelihood is that the coaster will be open this weekend. The big question, though, is how consistently will the coaster operate? While many coaster fans will flock to the New Jersey park, there is still no guarantee that the coaster will be able to stay open, or even run consistently through the day. People have been patiently waiting for this coaster for almost the entire summer, and I would expect them to come in droves once an official announcement is made.
In other Six Flags Great Adventure news, the park has started to release details about the rumored hotel it wants to build in the former season pass parking lot. The 500-room hotel will feature a restaurant, bar, and an “upscale” pool with a waterfall. The hotel will have its own entrance to the park, located near the old season pass entrance, and it should be completed by spring 2007. Details about possible theming and rates have not yet been released. Who does Six Flags think they are: Disney, Universal, or Busch? Depending on the quality of this new hotel, it could be one of the best additions to this park, pushing it beyond just a regional park, and into the “resort” category. Now if only Six Flags could improve the quality inside the park, they’d really have something going for them.
Orlando Sentinel 7/28/05
A 16-year old diver nearly drowned last week while conducting “underwater shore restoration” near the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel. It appears that the teenager panicked when a generator powering the air compressor for his breathing air ran out of gas. The teenager received his S.C.U.B.A. certification just 8 months prior to the incident, and had been working for the company for 6 months. While this incident is unfortunate, it does draw attention to an interesting question, namely, why was a 16-year old performing this work in a dangerous environment? Teenagers dive recreationally all the time, and there are many responsible young divers in the world, but should we be employing young people, who are barely old enough to flip burgers at McDonalds, for jobs like this? I’m not sure what the labor laws are in Florida, but the type of work that this teenager was performing should not be completed by someone under 18. In addition, the accounts of the incident make it sound like the other members of his 4-man team were at the surface, meaning that this kid was diving alone. The teenager appears to be doing fine after being revived and air-lifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center, but this could have been much worse. No one is sure how this contractor, Anchor Marine Environmental Services, was allowed to employ such a young person to conduct underwater labor, but I’m sure that an age limit for “dangerous” occupations will result, if they don’t already exist.