The Steel Curtain at the West Mifflin, PA park on the outskirts of Pittsburgh establishes 3 records including the tallest coaster in Pennsylvania at 220 feet, the most inversions in North America with 9, and the highest inversion in the world at 197 feet above the ground. In addition to being a world record breaking coaster, The Steel Curtain represents the first partnership between the NFL and a theme park with the coaster and the surrounding land themed after the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the most popular franchises in the NFL. The coaster features a web of black track and bright yellow supports that are very appropriate for the Steel City. The trains are patterned after the team’s jerseys complete with football-themed seats, as if riders are being carried into a NFL game.The coaster wars have heated back up as Kennywood has staked its claim against some of the biggest players in the industry.
The coaster was designed by S&S Sansei Technologies, who debuted Maxx Force last week at Six Flags Great America, and is a departure from their pneumatic launched coasters and recent free-fly (4-D) coasters. The trains feature seat belts and lap bars, not over the shoulder restraints, which are comfortable, yet provide plenty of upper body freedom, a huge plus on a coaster where you’re flung upside down 9 times. The chain lift slowly pulls the train up to the top of the 220-foot hill at a very steep angle. Once at the top, riders get a couple of seconds to admire the view before going right into the first diving inversion.
As the coaster accelerates to its 76 MPH top speed, the coaster then shoots upwards into a double inversion around the lift hill, similar to a cobra roll.
Then comes a high-speed, low-slung airtime hill before entering another double inversion, similar to a “sea serpent” like the one found on Medusa at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.
After the second double-inversion, the train goes through what I think are the real highlights of the coaster. The trains speed towards the park’s central lagoon for a rather innocuous, but amazing airtime hill achieving at least 2-3 second of pure out-of-our seat euphoria. After being ejected out of your seat, the train then executes a dive loop to take the train back towards the station, but there are still 3 inversions left. The next inversion is a flip-over that sends riders over a walking path and then quickly into a corkscrew. The train then goes through a tight helix and that final inversion that flips the train halfway over before going right-side up, into a quick bunny hill just before the brake run.
I was initially a bit skeptical whether Steel Curtain would live up to its record-breaking status as well as a coaster manufacturer that has been known more for smaller coasters. Also, having written most recently about new roller coasters that have been smaller but with wider appeal and not needing to break records to build a great ride, I was not prepared for what Steel Curtain brings to the table. For as great as smaller coasters can be, there’s something to be said for being the tallest, fastest, or “most-est”, and Steel Curtain proves it. The overall ride is incredible with smooth transitions between inversions and great pacing throughout. There’s not a single bad spot on this ride, and the intensity is unrelenting throughout without being nauseating, even in the back row where riders experience the highest positive g’s. The record-breaking 9 inversions fly by without being repetitive or uncomfortable, mostly thanks to the lack of OTSRs. While I’ve never been on The Smiler with its world record 14 inversions, the common comments about that coaster is that it the inversions are really repetitive and disorienting. The Steel Curtain doesn’t have any of that, and pairs the high volume of inversions with great shots of airtime, high-g’s, and an overall fun experience.
This is not the kind of coaster that guests should be afraid of like Smiler or Intimidator 305 that are known for their over-the-top experiences. While my 9-year old son, Zachary, is a thrill seeker, he described the coaster as “crazy”, but didn’t want to stop riding it during today’s media event. The coaster is easily re-rideable, and will easily thrill guests over and over. So, while I’ll still give it up for the small rides that find ways to do more with less, The Steel Curtain is a record breaking coaster built the right way with more than just record breaking numbers in mind.
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