Park of the Week: SeaWorld San Diego

Who's the Best Roller Coaster Manufacturer?

March 19, 2022, 10:44 PM · With new coasters debuting across the country as regional parks open for the season, let's ask the big question - which roller coaster manufacturer is creating the best coasters in the business?

We have 10 companies for you to consider in our Theme Park Insider Vote of the Week this week. Let's start with the five manufacturers with multiple coasters in our annual Top 25.

Intamin

The creator of more rides on our Top 25 list than any other manufacturer, Liechtenstein-based Intamin Amusement Rides builds much more than just roller coasters. But the fact that this company has helped create our readers' top two favorite coasters, as well as five of our Top 10, speaks to its record as a coaster builder. Intamin's top coasters include Intimidator 305, El Toro, Maverick, and with Universal Creative, Hagrid's Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure and Jurassic World VelociCoaster.

Bolliger & Mabillard

Walter Bolliger and Claude Mabillard left Giovanola in the late 1980s, then went on an unprecedented run to become one of the world's leading coaster companies. Known for innovations with Floorless and Dive coasters, notable B&M productions include Fury 325, SeaWorld Orlando's Manta, Leviathan, Incredible Hulk Coaster, and the just-opened Emperor at SeaWorld San Diego.

Rocky Mountain Construction

Fred Grubb upended the roller coaster community (yeah, pun intended) in 2011 with the debut of New Texas Giant, which revived an aging wooden coaster with a greased lightning steel track. So popular that the company's initials have become a verb ("which coaster should get RMC's next?"), Rocky Mountain Construction's top coasters include Steel Vengeance, Twisted Colossus, Lightning Rod, Iron Rattler, and this year's Iron Gwazi.

Premier Rides

Baltimore-based Premier Rides made its name with LIM-launched coasters in the late 1990s. Today, its most installed coasters are its three Sky Rocket models, including the recent Ice Breaker at SeaWorld Orlando. Its Revenge of the Mummy with Universal Creative is its top-rated coaster by our readers, and other notables include Full Throttle, the record-setting EpiQ, and West Coast Racers.

Vekoma

Dutch Vekoma Rides Manufacturing started making farm equipment in the early 20th century, but got into the amusement business as a contractor for Arrow Development before building its own rides in the late 1970s. Now part of Sansei Technologies (see below), Vekoma has a long-standing relationship with Disney, for whom it is building the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, following its work on Disneyland Paris' Space Mountain, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, and Expedition Everest.

Then let's also consider five other design and construction firms, including a couple with a single coaster on our Top 25 list.

The Gravity Group

Cincinnati-based The Gravity Group is one of several companies that arose after the demise of Custom Coasters International. With its manufacturing arm Gravitykraft, The Gravity Group recently built Kentucky Flyer and Mine Blower, but its best-known and highest-rated coaster remains Holiday World's The Voyage.

Great Coasters International

Pennsylvania-based GCI is another CCI descendent. Its recent coasters include Texas Stingray, Wicker Man, Mystic Timbers, and InvadR. But our readers' favorite GCI production remains GhostRider, a CCI coaster that GCI retracked in 2016.

S&S Sansei

Utah-based S&S is another Sansei Technologies company. It's also the final resting place of Arrow Dynamics, whose assets the company acquired in 2002. It also hired several former CCI employees, too. S&S just opened Tumbili, one of its 4D Free Spin models. It also produced Fuji-Q Highland's Do-Dodonpa and Adventuredome's El Loco.

Gerstlauer

Germany's Gerstlauer builds a range of flat rides and track rides in addition to its coasters. Best known for its Eurofighters and Infinity coasters, Gerstlauer's notable works include TMNT Shellraiser at Nickelodeon Universe in New Jersey, Dollywood's Mystery Mine, and Alton Towers' The Smiler, as well as Knott's Berry Farm's HangTime.

Mack Rides

Mack Rides is the oldest company in our vote today, dating back to 1780. Still owned by Germany's Mack family, Mack Rides showcases its attraction line-up at its Europa Park. But you can find Mack Rides in parks around the world, including Copperhead Strike at Carowinds, Slinky Dog Dash at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Flight of the Hippogriff at Universal Studios Hollywood, and Time Traveler at Silver Dollar City.

There are our candidates. Now it's time to vote.

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Replies (9)

March 20, 2022 at 6:39 AM

How do you vote for Golden Horse?

March 20, 2022 at 8:47 AM

I'd like to vote for Schwarzkopf but there's no write-in option...

March 20, 2022 at 12:43 PM

It was not tough to vote for RMC. I would have gone with B&M years ago, but just thinking of the coasters that I'm most excited to ride and which manufacturer I'd be most excited by were a local park to announce a new coaster partnership... it's gotta be the Fake Wooden Coaster People.

March 20, 2022 at 8:20 PM

This is a tough one. I would have voted for Intamin without hesitation before RMC became a presence. All of the RMC's I've ridden - New Texas Giant, Iron Rattler, Outlaw Run, Wicked Cyclone, Goliath, Lightning
Rod, Steel Vengeance, Twisted Timbers,Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster, Jersey Devil, Iron Gwazi - have been amazing. Cyclone at SFNE and Mean Streak were among the most boring coasters I ever rode but RMC turned them into something vital and exciting. As for Intamin, El Toro and Intimidator 305 remain at the top of my list but what RMC has done is ingenious. What Mack Rides did with Time Traveler and Copperhead Strike is impressive but I'm still going with RMC. I'm surprised that they aren't ahead in the voting.

March 20, 2022 at 9:43 PM

Intamin lost my vote. Way too much down time! For me, a toss up between B&M and RMC.

March 20, 2022 at 11:14 PM

At this point most of my top 10 are RMC's. A lot of it comes down to maintenance, GCI and Gravity Group would be my 2 and 3 though as they age it depends on how recently they were refurbed (Hades, for example, was my #1 when it opened in 2005 and a few years later was absolutely terrible).

The "cheaper alternative" companies like Gerstlauer, Zamperla, and Maurer are total crap. I hate pretty much all of their coasters lol.

March 21, 2022 at 1:39 PM

For me it's RMC. I think they are producing some of the most innovative coasters in the world right now, and have not been hit with reliability issues that have constantly dogged Intamin (save for Lightning Rod). I think B&M produce some of the smoothest, awe-inspiring coasters on the planet, but they don't really push the envelope. Plus B&M coasters are far more expensive than their competitors nowadays, so new installations have been slowing in recent years - also partly due to the reliability of their older models that are still highly rated 20+ years later.

I really like what Intamin has been doing lately, but they still have issues with reliability and longevity. Wicked Twister, Volcano, and now Top Thrill Dragster have all closed in recent years after less than 2 decades of operation. When a park spends $10+ million on a roller coaster, they expect to get more than 20 years out of it, and don't expect to have to perform major renovations/modifications on it in its opening season like Intimidator 305, Maverick, and Hagrid's. I have more Intamins in my top 25 than any other manufacturer, but that doesn't mean they're the best.

I think Mack and S&S are gaining ground, especially Mack. We'll see how some of their recent installations age and what new innovations they bring to compete with the big boys.

March 21, 2022 at 3:44 PM

Looking at my top twenty, it currently consists of...

9 RMCs
7 Intamins
2 B&Ms
1 Arrow
1 Mack

Despite RMC coming out on top, my vote goes to Intamin for the reason that they have a lot more variety in their catalog. As good as RMC coasters are, there is a lot less variety among them, with similar elements arranged in different ways on each of their rides. Intamin, on the other hand, has a very wide variety of attractions that they have built, and they have often been one to push the envelope. Yes, reliability may be an issue with some of their designs, but this a vote for favorite rather than a vote for best (which would go to B&M for their consistency and reliability).

March 25, 2022 at 11:38 PM

RMC for me! If you tell me a coaster is getting the RMC treatment, I want to book a flight ASAP when it opens.

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