Kennywood turns to pro sports for its new coaster's theme

July 19, 2018, 10:54 PM · Kennywood has kicked off the 2019 coaster announcement season with something different — a roller coaster themed to a pro sports franchise.

The Pittsburgh-area amusement park is teaming up with the city's most beloved franchise in naming its new coaster "The Steel Curtain," the nickname of the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense from its 1970s Super Bowl champion teams.

The Steel Curtain also will feature nine inversions — which the park says is the most of any coaster in America. (I can't think of one that has more, so I'll go with that. Correct in the comments if you know another.) S&S is designing the coaster, which will have a top speed of 75 mph and top out at 220 feet.

The coaster will anchor a newly-themed Steelers Country land at the park, which also will include End Zone Cafe & Tailgate Patio for food and drinks, as well as The Steelers Experience, with interactive football and team-themed exhibits.

Theme parks have flirted with pro sports themes on their attractions in the past, but usually only by renaming a coaster for a day or weekend following a bet over a playoff game or series involving a local team. Kings Island themed a restaurant to the Cincinnati Reds a few years back, and Disney routinely hosts championship winners as part of its long-standing "I'm going to Disneyland/World!" ad campaign. Disney also is the jersey sponsor for the Orlando Magic, but no park that I know of in the United States has permanently named a ride for a pro sports teams before this one. (Again, correct in the comments, if you can think of an example.)

Outside the U.S., the biggest example of a theme park theming to a sports franchise might be Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi and Ferrari Land in Spain, though one might be able to debate whether those parks are themed to the famous Formula 1 team or to the car brand itself.

The novelty of branding its new coaster to the local NFL franchise should help Kennywood spread the word about the ride. Heck, we're writing about it, and Kennywood isn't typically a park that we cover, nor are S&S coasters usually headline material around here. (Exception 1 and exception 2, of course.) So Kennywood's partnership with pro sports already is working. Now it's up to the coaster to turn that initial interest into the kind of passionate following that the Steelers have cultivated, both in western Pennsylvania and beyond.

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Replies (17)

July 19, 2018 at 11:27 PM

Historically S&S coasters like this are poorly engineered, unreliable, and get rough relatively quickly. Best of luck to them.

July 20, 2018 at 5:37 AM

They gotta put a Primanti Bros. counter service venue in Steeler Country if they want to be taken seriously by real fans!

But, yeah, I'm interested. Very interested.

July 20, 2018 at 5:56 AM

James, admit it- you're only interested in the food. The coaster is just an excuse.

July 20, 2018 at 5:57 AM

I think this is so clever. Had two friends of mine who are Steelers fans who aren't at all theme park enthusiasts text me about how we have to go here in 2019. Congratulations to Kennywood for thinking outside the box!

July 20, 2018 at 10:23 AM

Even as a Ravens fan, I have to say this is brilliant. The Steelers are an institution in Pittsburgh (and beyond), and to add a record-breaking coaster on top of introducing the first NFL IP into a theme park turns a solid regional park into a destination park for more than just coaster fans (cue Jerry Jones to create a partnership with SFoT, less that a mile from AT&T Stadium, for a Dallas Cowboys land).

The coaster itself looks quite impressive, but like the_man noted, I wonder if they might be setting themselves up for trouble by using a second-rate manufacturer for a coaster of this size. Using S&S instead of Intamin or B&M probably cut the costs by a third or more, but S&S does not have a great track record with coasters. They sometimes try too hard to buck trends and think too far out of the box (Hypersonic XLC and its famous rubber tires and square rails that caused tons of downtime yet weren't any smoother than poly or nylon wheels and tubular track), which ultimately leads to short lifespans for their installations. This coaster looks very much like a Gerstautler or an Intamin in terms of overall design, so perhaps they've realized that coasters and tracks have certain features for a reason. I do like how Steel Curtain has a few features that echo the original Steel Phantom design (cobra roll and dive loop), which was converted into Phantom's Revenge due to roughness and sagging popularity.

I wonder if they will be able to get this done by the start of the 2019 season, even though they've already started construction. The land where Steelers Country is going is expanding the footprint of the park, and the geology of the Allegheny Valley is notoriously difficult to build on because of foliations, fractures, and incongruous rock units. Not to mention the winter weather in Pittsburgh can slow construction projects to a crawl.

Sorry James Rao, I've been to the franchised Primanti Bros. locations (including the one in PNC Park), and they can't touch the original location in the Strip District (down the street from the Convention Center), where you can get a sandwich and a PBR for under $10. That's the beauty of the original, because it was a lunch and after work stop for all the factory and steel mill workers. Only the original location has been able to maintain that charm and aesthetic even as the neighborhood around it has changed dramatically (it's borderline hipster-ville nowadays with an invasion of overpriced gastropubs and warehouse loft apartments). It's just not the same as plopping a Nathans at SFGAdv or a Skyline at Kings Island.

We haven't been to Kennywood in a couple of years, but obviously we'll be making a trip next year (were thinking about going in a couple of weeks on our way home from Ohio) so I can wear a Ravens jersey through the Steel Curtain. It would be interesting to know what the costs are for this expansion. Construction costs aside, the licensing costs for the NFL have to be astronomical unless the Steelers are doing the park a solid with a hometown discount.

July 20, 2018 at 10:42 AM

Don't forget that S&S just bought Vekoma

Yes, they probably got a discount so that Vekoma coasters can still be considered in the future because it seems the no one considers Vekoma for big coasters nowadays, just family coasters not even Disney who went with Mack for Slinky Dog

July 20, 2018 at 10:47 AM

Reminds me of the Drachen Fire stituation; park wants new coaster with all the bells and whistles, hires a cheaper manufacterer to do a sketchy job. Lets hope this thing lasts way longer then DF.

July 20, 2018 at 11:30 AM

The ride looks great, maybe I’ll have to plan a trip to Kennywood in the near future. Even though it’s got 9 inversions, the larger footprint won’t make it quite as tummy churning and crazy as The Smiler, but it’ll still a good addition to the US coaster list. I’ve often wondered why no-one in the US has tried to take on AT with a 15 inversion coaster ? Maybe CP in 2020 ? Could this be the start of a new era for the parks …. maybe a buccaneer themed ride at BGT and a black and gold knights ride at SWO … ? Just imagine a coaster that winds its way thru a huge pirate ship with all the trimmings, and a knight in shining armor taking on dragons in a themed dark ride …. yeah I know, fantasy (theme park) island again ... :)

July 20, 2018 at 12:38 PM

That CGI POV looked uncomfortable to me... and that's with CGI smoothness. Just not enough flow between the elements. I can't imagine riding this a year or two in, with the track starts to roughen up.

I agree with Russell. I cannot imagine Jerry Jones not flipping his s--t when he hears about this and demanding a deal with SFoT to top it. All good for coaster fans if that happens!

July 20, 2018 at 9:36 PM

@Russell, I appreciate your opinion, but even a franchised Primanti Bros. location is better than the average burger/chicken strip joint at the local amusement park. And it lends an air of authenticity to the idea of "Steeler Country"! It is a no brainer just like Cedar Fair finally adding a Melt location to Cedar Point. Make it happen, Kennywood!

July 21, 2018 at 12:16 AM

This is not at all what I expected the park to announce, but it is definitely a very unique ride and fits in well with the quirkiness of Kennywood. I don't know that I'd say it looks like a top coaster or something that makes me want to hop on a plane and fly across the country, but it will definitely get me to include a return to Kennywood in my next Pennsylvania trip. My main concern here is that S&S coasters have been a pretty mixed bag, so I think I'll need to wait until this opens and word about it comes out before I start considering a visit. It has the potential to be one of the best coasters in the region, but also the potential to be a really uncomfortable and/or disappointing ride.

As for the theme, I think the name is terrible but the overall Steelers branding works really well at a park like Kennywood that doesn't have its own IP and primarily draws from a concentrated local audience. I just hope it doesn't lead to every park putting in a ride themed to their local sports team, as that will get old way faster than Six Flags doing endless DC rides.

July 21, 2018 at 3:21 AM

Fury 325 at Carowinds is named and color schemes to the local NBA franchise the Charlotte Hornets.

July 21, 2018 at 12:07 PM

Yeah, but... "Fury 325" isn't as direct a reference as "Steel Curtain," and Charlotte hornets is a reference that dates back to the Revolutionary War, so the connection specifically to the pro sports team isn't as exclusive.

But that's totally a judgment call and well worth a spirited and long bar debate!

July 22, 2018 at 2:51 AM

The sports teams were definitely the inspiration for the themes of Gold Striker and Fury. The 49ers had just moved across the street when that ride was built and they also painted Top Gun to 49er cherry red to better fit TV shots and promotional materials. Also in Charlotte the NBA team had just announced they were changing their name back to the Hornets so there was a lot of hype in the region around that. So while they weren't directly themed to the sports teams, they were definitely inspired by them. It was no coincidence that CF was trying to mold itself into parks that better fit with the region, as Matt Ouimet would always say "we have 11 regional brands"

July 23, 2018 at 8:46 AM

There's a big difference between being inspired by local sports teams and a direct license. In the case of Fury, Carowinds made it no secret that the entrance plaza and color scheme for Fury were directly inspired by the Hornets. However, there was no IP used, and no licensing agreement necessary to simply use a hornet/wasp sculpture and a teal color scheme on the roller coaster.

Steel Curtain is a completely different animal that directly references the NFL franchise, using their word marks, logos, and trademarked phrases and slogans. Carowinds gives a nod to the Hornets without directly licensing their IP, while Kennywood is spending money to leverage the popularity and influence of the Steelers (and the NFL) to generate buzz for their new attraction and land. It's an apples and oranges comparison here. Steelers Country is more like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter than Fury 325. You're going to be able to buy t-shirts with the iconic Steelers logo, Terrible Towels, and the like, while at Carowinds (unless they've changed their merchandise offerings since I was last there) you can get Fury 325 shirts with the wasp/hornet, but it's not the same as the Charlotte Hornets' logo and no NBA merchandise is sold in the park (of course they award basketballs, jerseys, and other NBA licensed merchandise at games, but that's different than having a store full of Hornets stuff).

July 23, 2018 at 10:57 PM

Well Robert, to continue the FURY 325 being a groundbreaker in including a sports team (and for that matter the INTIMIDATOR also at Carowinds was based on a sports icon)..... One might say that Kennywood could have been inspired by Carowinds use of sports teams and decided to take it to the next level.

(I am not truely invested in this arguement, but just having fun with this because I too thought of FURY 325 when I read about it being the first sports themed coaster.... and then I read the comments).

July 25, 2018 at 6:31 AM

The Primanti Bros. in Market Square is the best location.

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