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Construction photo tour of Magic Mountain's new 'Terminator Salvation' coaster

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Published: March 22, 2009 at 1:25 PM

This is for west coast Theme Park Insider readers who voted against Dollywood's Thunderhead in the Best Ride in America tournament yesterday: This summer, Six Flags Magic Mountain will give you the chance to see what you've been missing.

Like Thunderhead, Magic Mountain's new GCI wooden roller coaster Terminator Salvation will feature a station fly-through, as well as other airtime elements that have made Dollywood's coaster a favorite... among those who've made their way to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to ride it.

Magic Mountain General Manager Tim Burkhart took me through a private walk-through Terminator Salvation's construction site this morning. I found it amazing that Magic Mountain plans to open the ride to the press on May 21, with its public debut the next day. SeaWorld Orlando's Manta is complete and running tests in advance of its opening the same weekend. But, today, two months before opening, much of Terminator Salvation remains timbers lying on a bare concrete slab.

Terminator Salvation Construction

And what a slab it is - more than 1600 cubic yards of concrete, pouring which certainly made this a more labor-intensive construction project that filling a few dozen concrete holes, then driving steel support pillars into them, as one typically does for steel coasters.

Terminator Salvation stands of the site of the former Psyclone. To make way for the new entrance to the Terminator's themed queue, Magic Mountain demolished a former arcade which had stood on the site of the old glass blower's shop in Cyclone Bay.

Terminator Salvation Construction

This shot looks out from the coaster toward what will be the queue entrance. The two slabs on the far side of the bridge will support to the ride's entrance arch.

Once in the queue, visitors who walk under the track and into the ride, where they will switchback before entering the first of two themed pre-show buildings.

Terminator Salvation Construction

Burkhart stands in the middle of what will become the queue and pre-show area. Burkhart said that Terminator will be Magic Mountain's most elaborately themed ride, with Terminator props created by the film's prop designer.

The theme will be that riders are joining with the Resistance, pursued by Terminator designers who want to use human beings (such as, well, you) as the "raw material" for a new generation of Terminators.

Terminator Salvation Construction

Once through the second pre-show room, visitors will enter the loading station, which will be located to the left in this view. To the right, you can see Terminator's 100-foot main hill, which is "nearly" topped out, according to to Burkhart. Here's a view to the left, where the load station will stand in the foreground.

Terminator Salvation Construction

Continuing to the left, here is a view of the remainder of the ride track, within which will stand those pre-show rooms.

Terminator Salvation Construction

Why a woodie for a SciFi theme? Burkhart said that after the park took down Psyclone, it wanted to replace it with a world-class woodie, and the GCI model fit that bill.

"We took a look, and just didn't feel that there was anything really new and compelling out there with steel that we hadn't done before," Burkhart said.

Burkhart wouldn't give up what on-ride special effects riders can expect on Terminator Salvation ("I don't want to go through the X2 tunnel thing again.") But I can reveal that rumors of an on-ride audio system are true.

One potential pitfall? Capacity. Terminator will run with two trains and an 800-person hourly capacity. That will mean multi-hour waits during the ride's premier summer.

Burkhart said the ride will feature Millennium Flyer trains, modified with bolted-on fixtures to give them a "Mad Max"-style feel. The idea is that you are riding in a makeshift Resistance vehicle, trying to escape from the pursuing Terminators. Given that concept, the rougher ride of a woodie might actually fit the theme better than smooth, slick steel. We'll see.

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony Murphy on March 22, 2009 at 5:44 PM
Looks like a good start to Six Flag's bad press? They still have a bommarang roller coaster (the one in green)? SFGA tore that one down fast due to it constantly breaking down. I am suprised that they kept that up!
From Deidre Dennis on March 22, 2009 at 5:45 PM
I have to say that I've never experienced a woodie that I've liked. I've left every one of them with a horrible headache. I understand the thrill for some people is the rambling that makes you feel like it's going to fall apart or whatever, but I vowed long ago to stick to steel after my experiences on woodies at different parks.

All I can say is OUCH!

From Robert Niles on March 22, 2009 at 5:52 PM
Yes, that is Deja Vu in the background, and it was running today.
From Derek Potter on March 22, 2009 at 6:03 PM
Wooden coasters are generally rough by nature, but GCI coasters are the smoothest, most comfortable wooden coaster ride out there. Of course the engineering is great, but I attribute a lot of the comfort to the trains. Strangely enough, it's an old design from the 1920's that GCI resurrected along with the twister style of coaster they build. The seats and bars are thickly padded with a lot of room, and the trains are articulated, which means each seat has it's own set of wheels, making the train more flexible. Geekspeak I know, but Magic Mountain will have a winner with this ride.
From Joseph Staconis on March 22, 2009 at 6:38 PM
Ok one thing I need cleared up If there's a chance of Magic Mountain closing this year why spend more money building a coaster
From Nick Markham on March 22, 2009 at 6:51 PM
One, there is no chance of SFMM closing this year or next, and two, SFMM getting a highly themed coaster this year makes me want to visit this park even more this year! But I think the park should also go back to all of their old cheap coasters and do exactly what they did with X2 and what they are now duing with Medusa and Superman: ROS! I mean, imagine a Batman: The Ride being the first extravagantly themed B&M invert, themed to The Dark Knight and having mist, light, and on-board audio effects!
From James Rao on March 22, 2009 at 7:48 PM
Nice report, Robert, thanks. I used to love going to Magic Mountain back when I lived in Simi Valley, but that was years ago, before Six Flags. I am anxious to get back someday soon, maybe in the next couple years after Disney completes Cars Land. By then MM should have yet another coaster for me to enjoy, and a couple of my kids will have reached the magical height of 54"!

Something I really liked from the article was: To make way for the new entrance to the Terminator's themed queue, Magic Mountain demolished a former arcade which had stood on the site of the old glass blower's shop in Cyclone Bay. Anytime you take out a midway experience like an arcade to put in a themed coaster (however slight that theme may be), well I am good with that!!

From Todd Houts on March 23, 2009 at 4:42 AM
Anthony - SFGA's installation of Deja Vu wasn't torn down as much as relocated. It is now at Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho. (Although I wonder what became of Six Flags over Georgia's installation... wouldn't be surprised to see it pop up at a smaller Six Flags park someday as as "new" coaster - unless it became "parts" for the SFMM one.)

And Derek is right: GCI builds wondeful wood coasters. This one looks very similar to Evel Knievel that opened at Six Flags St. Louis last year, which is an awesome ride. And based on the length of time it took to build Evel Knievel, SFMM is going to have a hard time meeting their deadline - although I guess they didn't have a Missouri winter to slow down construction.

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