Published: August 23, 2006 at 4:56 PM
I assumed Mr. Saunders would not be impressed with the announcement, but from what I could tell from those gathered at the press announcement today, most were extremely excited about this new coaster. It's hard to believe that BGE has not added a coaster since 1999, and in that time, 2 roller coasters have departed (Drachen Fire and Wild Maus). The park's collection of coasters is still among the top 10 parks in the world, and the addition of Griffon will only increase its standing.
Everyone is going to want to draw comparisons to SheiKra, and rightfully so since this coaster is very similar. However, the designers have made enough changes to the coaster to differentiate it from SheiKra with a second Immelman and wider, floorless trains. Griffon is definitely not a clone like we've seen from some other park chains (Six Flags and Paramount).
Walking around the park today, I was trying to visualize what a 205' coaster in the middle of the park would look like, and all I could think is that it would dominate the landscape. Where Griffon's drop will be is topographically one of the highest spots in the park, which means the top of this coaster will be seen from just about anywhere in the park. Not only that, but riders will look down over Alpengeist, no slouch itself at 190 feet, as they round the first turn before the ominious first drop.
I think the most significant detail revealed about Griffon is the trains. With floorless trains 10 seats wide, riders sitting in the 2 seats on either end of the front row will be wide open with nothing in front of you, nothing above you and nothing below you, not even the track. Griffon will offer the closest experience to flight we've seen in a coaster since X and Eejanaika (the new 4-D coaster at Fuji Q Highland). The outside seats on SheiKra are pretty amazing, and I'm just salivating to think what the outside seats will be like on Griffon. The only problem will be trying to manage the queue to get people on and off a coaster with such wide rows. Theme park guests have a hard enough time counting to 4. I can only imagine how difficult it will be to force people to fill in every seat in every row.
Am I completely satisfied with Griffon? I can't really say since so many details were already known about this coaster before the announcement that it was a bit of a letdown to find out there wasn't much of anything that we didn't already know about Griffon. The coaster does bring a MAJOR attraction to a land in desparate need of one. Guests frequently just walked right through France just to get to their next destination. Now guests have a destimation in France. However, I'm a bit dissapointed that neither of the drops go through a tunnel or underground, a feature that was a staple of the three previous dive machines. The first drop does go under a pedestrian bridge, but other than that, both drops are wide open. I'm also a bit saddened that two Immelmans are the best the minds at B&M could come up with for this coaster. I realize rolls and corkscrews are pretty much out of the question for trains so wide, but a dive loop or a straight loop would have further separated Griffon from SheiKra. I am also a bit concerned that the park has eiliminated two family attractions (Wild Maus and LeMans Raceway) in favor of a huge coaster and a massive dark ride. The park still feels they have a strong collection of rides for all ages, but I would contest that BGE could use an infusion of smaller, well-themed flat rides targeted at the whole family.
As BGE management have said, this new coaster will not come close to breaking any height or speed records, but having the tallest and fastest coaster is not what they're aiming at. They want to have the "BEST" coaster, and Griffon is likely to be near the top of "best coaster" lists for years to come.
For those who are curious, the construction site is pretty difficult to view now since they have close the skyride. The skyride will remain closed through the rest of the 2006 season. For the best glimpses of the construction site, guests can ride Loch Ness Monster and Alpengeist to get the best view of what's going on. Today, they were in the process of driving piles and digging pits for footers, which would mean that a crane and track are probably still about a month away from showing up at the site.