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It's the end of the Dragon Challenge at Universal Orlando

September 4, 2017, 11:14 AM · The Dragon Challenge ends today at Universal Orlando Resort. The Bolliger & Mabillard inverted coasters in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade will make their final run in Islands of Adventure this evening.

Universal has announced a new, more family friendly "coaster experience" to replace the Dragons in 2019. But that's all we know — officially — about the new attraction to come. So for now, let's say goodbye to the Chinese Fireball and Hungarian Horntail... and the to Fire and Ice dragons that preceded them.

Fire and Ice were the red and blue tracks on the Dueling Dragons coaster that opened with Universal's Islands of Adventure in May 1999. The dragons fought in the sky over Merlinwood in The Lost Continent section of the park. Both sides stood 125 feet tall and ran for a little over two minutes on 3,200 feet of track. But the Fire (Chinese Fireball) side dropped 115 feet and reached a top speed of 60 mph, while the Ice (Hungarian Horntail) dragon dropped 95 feet and topped at 55 mph.

But the dragons never were about the specs. The appeal of this ride was the dueling. The two coasters would dispatch together and "duel" throughout, with multiple near misses throughout the ride. For riders sitting up front, that created some amazing visuals as you watched not just the track and scenery around you, but the other coaster racing along its track, as well.

And Universal set the stage for this epic coaster battle with one of the greatest queues ever built. Filled with more bones than the aftermath of a Texas barbecue, the medieval Dueling Dragons castle included an animated stained glass window that set up the story of the two dragons. Foreshadowing what would happen with the Hogwarts Castle that eventually moved in next door, some fans would walk through the queue like it was an attraction by itself, skipping the ride at the end.

Dueling Dragons became Dragon Challenge in June 2010, when Universal completed the transformation of the Merlinwood section of The Lost Continent into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. While the coaster — along with its family coaster neighbor The Flying Unicorn — survived the transformation, the dueling of the dragons did not. Before the Potter conversion, Universal has stopped dispatching the coasters together, in response to multiple incidents when personal objects from riders on one train flew off and hit riders on the other.

Today, Universal Orlando bars personal items, including wallets and cellphones, on all its major coasters. But it never allowed the dragons to duel again. That robbed this coaster of a great deal of its appeal, leaving them to run alone... as rather mediocre inverted coasters.

After Universal opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida next door in 2014, Dragon Challenge's bare coaster track looked a bit cheap and out of place in comparison with the exquisitely detailed Diagon Alley, which didn't break the illusion with an amusement park ride the way that Dragon Challenge did in Hogsmeade. Neither of the two Hogsmeade lands that Universal built after the original Islands of Adventure installation — in Hollywood and Osaka — included Dragon Challenge, although both did include the smaller Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster, which was the new name and theme for the Flying Unicorn ride in Orlando.

So it didn't surprise many fans when Universal announced earlier this summer that the dragons would close to make way for a new Potter-themed attraction in the land.

Assuming the ride is not relocated to another park, Dragon Challenge will be only the second of Bolliger & Mabillard's 117 coasters around the world to close completely, following the Lightning inverted coaster in Kuwait, which closed last year. (It could be the third, if you want to count Universal's Incredible Hulk Coaster as a closure, since Universal tore down and rebuilt its entire track, even though the rebuild followed the same layout as the original track. Argue away on that point.)

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Replies (26)

September 4, 2017 at 11:48 AM · While the dueling ended in 2011 after an incident involving the sight of a guest's eye, this ride has been a shell of its former self since it reopened in 2010. JK wasn't totally fond of keeping the ride in place anyway. And when the Hulk closed down for its massive refurb, this was when the speculation started as to the fate of this attraction. It's a shame that this ride has to close, but it is for the best. Great things are on the way!
September 4, 2017 at 12:35 PM · RIP Dragons. It was my first big boy coaster and I'll never forget hurling down the track at another train, but swooping up and missing it. It helped start a whole new hobby for me.
September 4, 2017 at 4:14 PM · Man, one of my faves first time I went to Islands, always loved the older version to the Potter one, a great experience.
September 4, 2017 at 4:45 PM · I rode it today for the first time, Blue track. I am saddened that the ride is going as I'd wanted to ride it for years, as it was a good experience, not nearly as shaky as RipRideRocket, but did leave me disorientated (I blame the heat).

But as Robert said, its gimmick, or "JayBang" if you will, was the dueling aspect. As people thinking they can get around the "Empty your pockets" rule ruined the duelling experience for the rest of us, it no longer has a reason to exist.

September 4, 2017 at 6:14 PM · I rode this when it was "dueling", and revisited it in more recent years, where I thought it to be a distraction to the impressive immersiveness of the world of Harry Potter (but then again, so is Flight of the Hipporgryph, except for the impressive animatronic at the beginning).

However, riding it in 2015, I was reminded of how much I love roller coasters. Being in my mid-40s, it was the first regular-ol' steel track outdoor roller coaster I had gone on in quite some time - and BOY did it bring a smile to my face. That day I rode the dragons and Rip-Ride-Rockit multiple times, and I LOVED every second.

Dragon Challenge/Dueling Dragons will always have a special place in my heart, because it brought back such fond memories of going to my local steel-coaster park and riding the coasters over and over and over.

So, goodbye dragons. You were never as good as the land you complimented, but you will forever have a special place in my Theme Park memories.

September 4, 2017 at 7:33 PM · Like others have said, it was time for the Dragons to bow out, as Harry Potter totally revolutionized what Universal were and are trying to do with that space and there's just no cost-effective way to keep them around at this point. Rode Fire for the last time today, still gives a really nice ride. Love that airtime hill after the opening element. Ice was always paced weirdly and not as intense, but rode it last month and enjoyed it. Here's to the future!
September 4, 2017 at 7:50 PM · I rode last week & said my goodbyes. It was never really the same after we lost the duelling.
I always preferred Ice, I'm glad I got to duel. Farewell old friend
September 4, 2017 at 9:13 PM · I wish they'd sell it to another park, no idea how feasible that is, but it seems like such a waste if they scrap it.
September 4, 2017 at 9:14 PM · Any ride closure is sad. When it is a high profile and generally well-liked attraction, the loss is even more sad. In my opinion, this is probably the biggest roller coaster loss in theme park history, and it is a ride that will always be missed by many people.

That said, people go to destination parks for one-of-a-kind experiences that they can't get at a regional theme park. When the ride opened, it was a one-of-a-kind experience. Now, however, it is merely two above-average inverted coasters that are intertwined with each other. They are still good rides, but similar rides that are better can be found elsewhere. When maintenance costs are increasing and popularity declining, replacing it with something better and more unique makes sense. I'll always be sad about the loss, but I am excited to see what is coming in the future.

September 4, 2017 at 11:14 PM · Before the potter conversion? Dragon Challenge dueled until August 2011, so for more than a year after the Potter conversion.

Technically this would be the 2nd and 3rd B&M roller coasters to close. This is two roller coasters intertwined, not one.

I skipped my last opportunity to ride Dragon Challenge about three weeks ago. The attraction lost its appeal when the dueling stopped and I realized I wouldn't be sad skipping out on a last ride.

September 5, 2017 at 4:03 AM · I'm trying to think of another coaster closer of this size, that was this loved. Maybe Hypersonic XLC? Eagle Fortress?
September 5, 2017 at 5:22 AM · Dragon Challenge will be missed. I already miss Dueling Dragons which fit in better when it was Lost Continent. I miss Lost Continent, too.

However, I love Hogsmeade as much or more. A new ride system custom designed for Hogsmeade will fit into the land in a much more integral way IMHO.

There is always this sort of bittersweet feeling when a ride is replaced -- holding on to memories of rides past while being tickled with excitement for what the future holds. In this case, Universal is cooking up something special for us.

September 5, 2017 at 8:03 AM · Lovely coaster's, they will be missed..... I am wondering if Universal will sell these coaster or just mothball them...

I am looking forward to whatever UO has in store for us.

Orlando Parks have been doing a fantastic job creating new attractions for us fans!!!!!!! Heck even Fun Spot has been adding some new coasters...

September 5, 2017 at 12:48 PM · I wonder why they can't save the track for the new third park, but have them separated and themed as 2 distinct rides.
September 5, 2017 at 1:51 PM · Because the 2 coasters are lame individually. Neither coaster by itself is that great, it was the dueling aspect that made them exciting. Fire/Chinese Fireball was the better of the 2, but would probably be down in the bottom of a best inverted roller coaster list. Ice/Hungarian Horntail was even worse, might be down there with Great Bear as the worst B&M invert ever constructed. The layouts were specifically designed to enhance the near-miss/dueling elements. Take that away, and the coasters lack anything unique or exciting compared to other similar coasters because of the straight track and deliberate delays between elements to allow for the dueling elements to synchronize.

They might work at a small regional park, but still would have the popularity of a Vekoma-SLC. They're definitely not something I would want to act as cornerstones of a major Orlando theme park.

September 5, 2017 at 4:25 PM · I think Fire would make a reasonable stand alone if the theming was on par with Nemesis, but Ice, even when dueling, was never one I chose to ride. I just hope the new coaster is one that is primarily built as a thrill ride, and not one that's just there to compliment the Potter-land theming.
We will find out soon enough.
September 5, 2017 at 4:52 PM · Universal Orlando, like Disney, doesn't stash away some ride system in their boneyard to reuse in the future. There is nothing they can do to fool the public into thinking it would be a new attraction and worthy of our attention. The most likely outcome is that this roller coaster will be demolished. It's highly unlikely with its reputation that this ride will be sold and relocated.

Universal put some of the rides from Wet 'n Wild up for sale with the sale condition being that they could never operate in North America again. Dragon Challenge, if put up for sale, would likely have similar conditions.

The sentiment were seeing from a few for Dragon Challenge really isn't real. Jaiden Dragon Challenge or Dueling Dragons was never loved. If this attraction were popular it wouldn't be closing.

The critics can rant and rave about how it never fit in with Hogsmeade and the ride equipment is ugly. IIf people loved it they wouldn't be criticizing it. The fact is a big, thrilling roller coaster isn't easily hidden inside some building. The look of the attraction is not the problem, the lack of ridership is.

Even when the Dragons dueled they were still mediocre inverted roller coasters. The dueling was a cool trick, but when it came down to the ride experience neither track was very good- Fire being the better of the two.

Another problem with the Dragons was the fact that the best ride experience was limited to the front row. So each cycle four riders got the ultimate experience and the remaining 28 largely missed out.

September 5, 2017 at 5:08 PM · @Russel

I honestly don't think Great Bear is the worst, I've been on some bad Batmans, most specifically Le Vampire

@ultimaterollercoaster

I think dragons was loved, but like Universe of Energy, it's capacity greatly outweighed it's demand. Not every attraction needs a 60-minute wait.

September 5, 2017 at 5:34 PM · Ultimaterollercoaster nailed it perfectly when saying the only people who had a great ride experience were those in the front row. Sitting anywhere other than the front was a complete waste of time. For me the enduring part of riding Fire (and Ice) in the front was the banter between the 2 trains going up the lift hill and then all the waving and shouting as we hurtled towards each other before veering up and away thru the loop. It was loved by a loyal band of duelists who turned up in surprising numbers on Monday in their Fire/Ice ... Red/Blue t-shirts. Made me regret throwing mine away all those years ago. I for one loved the dueling dragons ... who sadly became a shadow of their former selves when the decision was made to send them off separately.
September 5, 2017 at 6:33 PM · I think we should put the blame for the lack of dueling where it belongs: riders.

If it wasn't for people being irresponsible with their belongings, there would have never been incidents that lead to the non-dueling version of the coaster. I have been to many theme parks, and I can't believe the rudeness I see by park guests. Climbing on things labelled "do not climb", jumping fences into areas clearly marked for cast members only, and yes sneaking phones/cameras on coasters where they are not permitted.

Most of us TPI folks are probably good rule followers and polite theme park visitors. But don't forget that you might be surrounded by jerks at the parks that think they know better!

September 5, 2017 at 6:38 PM · So if Dragon Challenge was going to have to get a new track similar to Hulk due to the wear and tear and amount of cycles over the past nearly 20 years, how would they be able to sell it to anyone else?

Doesn't seem like an option as some have been suggesting.

September 6, 2017 at 5:56 AM · " I think we should put the blame for the lack of dueling where it belongs: riders."

Amen, DBCooper. Not enough criticism has gone to the fools and idiots who thought it was a good idea to bring loose articles onto a roller coaster that moves close to highway speeds (there were reports that some goofballs tried to pass/throw items back and forth between trains through the near misses). All I can do is shake my head when I see such stupidity and selfishness, but the parks have to continue to cater to the lowest common denominator. It only takes one moron to ruin it for everyone, and sadly that's what happened to Dueling Dragons/Dragon Challenge - Thanks JERKS!!!

@Jaiden - I've ridden over 10 different BTR clones/mirror clones, and while some are not as well maintained and run a little bumpy/chatter, none are nearly as bad as Great Bear. It's an awful custom design that has that lame forceless helix after the lift that was needed to properly align the drop with the loop and Immelman because B&M/Hershey couldn't figure our a way to thread the design through Super Dooper Looper. Sorry Jaiden, Great Bear is easily the worst B&M invert. Unique, yes, but that's the only thing going for it.

September 6, 2017 at 11:23 AM · @Russell Meyer -- I had no idea that people tried to intentionally throw things, but now that you mention it I can totally imagine this scenario. A couple cool kids think they will toss something from one train to the other, right? How terrible! Of course, they won't be reading this post...
September 6, 2017 at 12:30 PM · Led Zeppelin was a B&M coaster that was built for Hard Rock Park. It operated for about a year and a half in Myrtle Beach SC before being sold, shipped to Vietnam, and re-built....'
September 7, 2017 at 12:55 PM · "some fans would walk through the queue like it was an attraction by itself, skipping the ride at the end"

Many times, great memories. I still have a complete walkthrough video of the original queue, a prized possession.

September 8, 2017 at 10:34 AM · Lightning is SBNO as far as I know. I am fairly sure at least one is headed to Kentucky Kingdom

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