Wildcat to Close at Hersheypark This Month - RMC Next?

July 8, 2022, 12:36 PM · Hersheypark announced this morning that it will close its 1996 GCI wooden coaster, Wildcat, at the end of the month.

The coaster's last day will be July 31, the park said. Wildcat opened May 27, 1996 and features a 85-foot drop and top speed of 50 mph on its 3,183 feet of track. As for what's next, the park Tweeted a tease, "Any suggestions on what we could do with 3,100 feet of wooden track?"

The fact that the top response to that Tweet was Rocky Mountain Construction posting, "We have a few ideas…" should fuel the speculation that Wildcat will be getting an RMC steel-track makeover. Hersheypark promises more news on Wildcat's future later this year.

In the meantime, here is the park's most recent POV for the soon-to-be-retired coaster.

Theme Park Insider readers rated Wildcat as number 10 among the 13 roller coasters at Hersheypark, so it seems that the consensus is that the aging ride could use an upgrade. We will have to wait to see what that will be.

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Replies (17)

July 8, 2022 at 1:08 PM

Wildcat is very similar in design to Roar at SFA, which had an identically named clone located at SFDK. Roar in California was converted by RMC to Joker back in 2016, and I could see RMC designing an almost identical conversion to Wildcat for Hersheypark. Considering that Hersheypark has finally realized that going "mainstream" is the way to go after the successful debut of Candymonium (B&M Hyper), perhaps they've understood the error of their ways of trying to go against the grain with their coasters that has resulted in a massive collection of mediocre coasters each with their own flaws.

I actually thought Wildcat was running pretty good last summer when we visited after undergoing some retracking, and when they switched over to the Millennium Flier trains in 2007, that solved a lot of the roughness issues with the coaster.

July 8, 2022 at 1:58 PM

It’s been years since I went on Wildcat, so I can’t reliably comment on it. However, I went on Joker at SFDK last summer and loved it … so, consider that a moderate endorsement.

July 8, 2022 at 3:59 PM

The conversion of SFDK's Roar into Joker resulted in what I'd consider to be RMC's weakest IBox, so I can't say the prospect of an RMC Wildcat is the most exciting news out there. That said, Wildcat pales in comparison to all but the oldest GCI creations (even the nearby and only slightly newer Lightning Racer is a marked improvement) and is my least favorite of Hersheypark's three woodies. Even a lower tier RMC would be in the top two or three coasters at Hersheypark for most visitors, so even though I wouldn't rush back to Hersheypark for it, I'm all for a conversion of the ride.

July 8, 2022 at 6:20 PM

Read this on a different coaster site a few weeks ago. My family and I just got off Wildcat last week, and although we make the jump to Hersheypark every year, they all agreed that due to the ride experience they would never get back on. With today's new, go figure.

July 9, 2022 at 10:44 AM

this is fantastic news...possibly 2 of the roughest woodies i've ridden of late are wildcat and timberwolf at WOF. both of them awful experiences that i couldn't wait to get off of (and i love woodies)...really hoping the news for WOF is not another woodie, as TW could really be a good RMC someday and WOF is long overdue for a good steel launcher. hershey has a very solid coaster lineup and an RMC would be a perfect addition.

July 9, 2022 at 12:04 PM

Don't really get the potshots at Hershey's lineup in here. I love that it's unique and features rides you can't get elsewhere, even if some of them (ahem, Skyrush) don't quite land. Storm Runner is a genuinely elite coaster and Fahrenheit, Great Bear, and Lightning Racer are all terrific complementary rides. Haven't been back to ride Candymonium but it seems to be the headliner the park really needed.

I'm in the camp of hoping this isn't just a standard mid-sized regional RMC. We have enough of those and it's probably not worth sacrificing the original GCI for another one, even if Wildcat isn't near their best work in terms of layout or ride experience. My hope is that RMC is just messing around on Twitter and this is actually going to be the grand debut of a full GCI Titan Track conversion, where the company can pay tribute to their original design themselves and introduce an experience unlike any other out there. If it is RMC, let's hope they up the ante a little and get a bit more creative than they have with their more recent mid-sized conversions.

July 11, 2022 at 9:46 AM

evanweston, totally agree...i did a PA/OH/IN coaster trip in 2014 and rode all of the coasters at HP except trailblazer, which was down. very solid lineup IMO. i even loved skyrush and rode it 4 times and never experienced the "crush" at all (though that came later on a front row ride on magnum at CP, which literally felt like razor blades trying to cut through my thighs). anyway, i ended my night with 6 amazingly fun rides in a row on lightning racer as the attendant let me re-ride 5 times after i traded sides. i have a very positive impression of Hershey since that one and only visit.

July 11, 2022 at 11:32 AM

I feel that Hersheypark has a good lineup, but not a single coaster, save for Candymonium, is near "best in class" with each possessing a significant flaw that detracts from the experience aside from maybe Lightning Racer, which for me was the only coaster in the park before 2020 that was worth multiple re-rides.

Each coaster's flaw is a direct result of Hersheypark's decisions to go against the grain and/or their choice to keep adding new coasters year after year instead of combining resources over multiple years to install a blockbuster attraction. Up and down the line, the Hersheypark collection is wide and varied, but Candymonium is probably the only one that would crack my top 3-5 coasters of its type.

July 11, 2022 at 1:15 PM

What "significant flaw" would you assign to Storm Runner? I suppose you could knock it for length but every element hits and the Flying Snake Dive is a legitimate all-time great element. Easily one of my very favorite launch coasters in America. I also just sort of take issue with criticizing them for trying to be unique when that impulse should be praised and encouraged.

July 11, 2022 at 2:34 PM

Storm Runner's flaw is its length, or lack there-of. While it was standard for Intamin hydraulic launch coasters to have short layouts when Storm Runner debuted, there are far better launching coasters out there now, though most of them with LSM launches. Hersheypark chose to mesh a truncated version of a layout with inversions you'd typically see with an LSM launch (or multiple launches) on a hydraulic launch coaster. Also, the initial design of the unpadded OTSRs was awful. Yes, Intamin corrected for that error with better padded restraints installed a number of years ago, which is critical on Storm Runner and its rapid-fire elements, but it doesn't detract from the initial gaffe. Also, Storm Runner was down for nearly 2 years because of typical Intamin incompetence in engineering, even though it doesn't come nearly as close to pushing the technical limits as some of their other creations. I don't mind Storm Runner, and would probably rank it as my 3rd or 4th favorite coaster in the park, but it's not even close to my top 10 favorite launch coasters in the USA (and I haven't ridden Velocicoaster or Hagrids yet, so don't count those among my rankings).

Great Bear is probably the worst B&M invert in the US (after Ice Dragon/Hungarian Horntail closed a few years ago) because of its awkward layout necessitated by the park's unwillingness to regrade sections of the landscape to accommodate better transitions between elements. Look at Great Bear next to Alpengeist, and you can see the clear difference in what B&M can do when they're not forced to kill momentum to line elements up in specific spots of the park. It's like Hersheypark built the coaster using RCT, and chose where each element was going to go, and then B&M had to figure out how to make everything connect.

Skyrush is such a wasted opportunity. It's an incredible layout that actually compliments Cadnymonium, despite them both being categorized as hypercoasters. However, as with Intimidator 305, Intamin pushed the envelope too far, and have created an experience that is just too much for the average coaster rider. Don't get me wrong, I-305 is one of my top coasters because of its intensity, but KD's gigacoaster unleashes that intensity in a rather controlled manner compared to Skyrush, especially after the re-profiling of I-305's first turn. Storm Runner is complete chaos, especially in the back row where if you haven't ridden in a while and don't remember where to brace or adjust your body to prepare for each turn, it can be ridiculously jarring and borderline painful. For seasoned Hersheypark guest, Storm Runner is probably awesome, but for those of us that don't get a chance to ride it often and then hop on blindly, it can be an unpleasant experience. That's even before you consider the "Thigh Crush", which I'll admit was not as pronounced during our most recent rides 2 years ago (it was down for a big chunk of last summer due to a broken lift cable - big surprise for an Intamin).

Fahrenheit isn't a terrible coaster, but like so many Hersheypark creations, it could have been so much more if they had given the design team some more resources or more/better space to work with. Instead, it's a decent vertical dropping/looping coaster, but there are better out there like Mystery Mine, Hangtime, and most of the B&M dive machines. Also, the design and compact layout mean that capacity on this coaster is ridiculously low, so if you don't ride it first thing in the morning, you're stuck in 1+ hour lines to ride what would be a middling coaster in most other theme parks.

I'll give it to Hersheypark and GCI that Lightning Racer is one of the better pure woodies in the US. It was one of the first coasters to run MF trains, which is probably why it debuted and stayed in the top 20 of most top woodie lists for such a long time (though after riding my first coaster with Timerliner trains during my trip to Texas, they're my new favorite for woodies, and wish Holiday World would have found a way to get those on The Voyage). The racing aspect is great and unique, and shows what Hersheypark can do when they plan ahead and designers are given adequate space to build a world-class coaster (another reason why Candymonium is a top B&M hyper).

Laff Trak is an indoor spinning wild mouse that's less than 100 feet from an outdoor wild mouse. Where's the logic in that? Nothing against the newer coaster, but it kind of undermines the typical 30+ minute line for this slow-loading ride when you've got something very similar steps away.

And let's not forget Roller Soaker, which barely lasted a decade before Hersheypark recognized the error of its ways, along with the numerous flat rides that have underwhelmed because the park is obsessed with adding something new every year.

So yeah, when you look at Hersheypark's coaster lineup, you've got a gem that is Candymonium and a solid entry with Lightning Racer, but the rest of the lineup is a who's who of coasters that could have been great, but for one reason or another are flawed or have better versions at another theme park not too far away.

July 11, 2022 at 9:12 PM

One of my favorite coasters at Hershey isn't even mentioned in your post. How many parks still have a well maintained woodie from the 1940s that gives a smooth and airtime filled ride? Comet, especially at dusk/night with the chaser lights going, is a memorable experience that I will always look fondly on.

I certainly won't argue about unreliable Intamin POS syndrome the park has going for it but Comet, Lightning Racer, Storm Runner, and Skyrush (have not ridden the B&M hyper) are all very fun coasters and more than enough to make this a "must visit again" park. Really the only gripe I have with this park is the corporatization over the past few years (the new entrance looks absolutely awful IMO, it looks like something that would be designed by Cedar Fair), and I much would have preferred them to just take out the Boomerang rather than put money into making it a Jolly Rancher ride.

July 12, 2022 at 11:52 AM

Yeah I'm with the_man on them leaning into the corporate/candy theming way too hard over the past few years. One of the great joys of Hersheypark was how subtly that stuff was integrated into a traditional American amusement park, which made it feel special without bonking you over the head with it (and then you have Chocolate World where it's explicit, which felt like its own thing). The last several additions have been way too "brand synergetic" for me and I'm afraid the park is going to continue to lose its unique character.

I appreciate the thorough run-through of the coasters, Russell, I just disagree with a lot of it in a way that I think probably comes down to our individual tastes. I really enjoy Great Bear *because* it is awkward and weird! I love the strange little pre-drop turnaround, the out-of-nowhere corkscrew in the woods that serves as the finale, the way it interacts with Sooperdooperlooper and the surrounding midway. I think Fahrenheit's "Intamin does a EuroFighter" gimmick is very cool and I'm glad we have it to see what it looks like. I love that Storm Runner does LSM launch coaster things with the far superior hydraulic launch system. I'm with you on Skyrush, but even then I admire their ambition in trying to deliver a world-class experience and some enthusiasts think of it that way.

But maybe that's where we differ–Intamin is my favorite manufacturer precisely because they take tons of risks and don't know how to say no to an idea, and it often produces sheer brilliance. Hershey "understanding the error of their ways," i.e. slowly becoming Cedar Point With Chocolate, is disappointing rather than encouraging for me.

July 12, 2022 at 1:22 PM

I can certainly appreciate and understand other opinions, and totally get the "Cedar Point with Chocolate" criticism that some fans have made of recent changes to the park. However, when Hersheypark, as an independent operator, started announcing itself as a coaster destination (they only have 1 fewer coaster than Cedar Point), and started partnering with major manufacturers in the 90's to build what on paper are "world class" coasters, they kind of lost their small park charm and appeal, much like Dorney did when it was scooped up by Cedar Fair in the 90's. Hersheypark wanted to play with the "big boys" while staying independent, but understood that it could not grow at a sustainable rate with its bottlenecked entry gate and lack of IP. So they "corporatized" the entry, which I actually like FWIW - far better than Cedar Fair's recent entry re-designs, though Hersheypark's desperately needs the trees to grow in to offer more shade, and are leveraging their most recognizable IP (Hershey-branded candy) as any big park would do.

They were the 19th most visited theme park in North America in 2019 (and just behind Canada's Wonderland, Cedar Point, Kings Island, and SFGAdv for most visited seasonal parks), and along with Kings Island were the only regional park to open a major roller coaster in the middle of the pandemic (summer 2020). So if they want to continue growing, they had to open pathways up (and increase their operating schedule, which they're doing with their new Halloween event). They're not competing with the likes of Kennywood, Luna Park, Morey's Piers, and Knoebel's anymore, they're up against industry heavyweights, and that means recognizing why top regional parks are successful and acting like a major park instead of a small independent one.

I'll admit that I don't get to Hersheypark as much as I would like primarily because it's independent. It takes a bit over 2.5 hours for me to drive to Hershey, but buying a season pass there doesn't get me into any other parks (so I've never gotten one to make more frequent visits), while my season pass to BGW (just over 2 hours from my house) gets me into a bunch of other parks around the country we visit relatively frequently (same with the closer SFA-@30 minutes away and KD-@1 hour away). However, every time I've gone to Hersheypark, I get excited to ride their unique collection of coasters, but come away disappointed because the parks I visit more frequently (and have season passes to) have better versions of similar rides. I get the feeling with the addition of Candymonium and an RMC conversion of Wildcat, Hersheypark is slowly becoming a park that might justify us getting a season pass even though it would only be for a single park.

When it comes to Intamin, I admire their risk taking and willingness to push the envelope of technology and mechanical limits. However, their track record tells the story, and when coasters they designed less than 20 years ago are being decommissioned by a park that specializes in building and maintaining world class roller coasters, you have think twice about falling in love with their next creation. Yes, Intamin designs some great, ingenious, and mind-bending coasters, but what good are they if they're broken half the time or have to be torn down because they reached the end of the lifespan decades before other manufacturers' creations built during the same era?

July 12, 2022 at 2:03 PM

I definitely need to get back to see the new entrance in person and ride Candymonium, which is one of the only B&M hypers in the U.S. I haven't been on but seemed a bit too similar to Mako 20 minutes down the road from me to be worth the trek out there alone. RMC Wildcat, even if it's just a standard mid-sized regional RMC, would probably be enough to tip me over and get me back next summer or in 2024. I'm definitely not opposed to making the park more guest-friendly to accommodate the influx of crowds and I certainly understand leveraging the IP the best they can, but I did feel that they retained a lot of that innate charm through the 2000s and the first half of the 2010s and I hope to find that it's still there on my next visit.

Definitely get it with Intamin, but I've been able to get on all of their major installations in the U.S. since Volcano and they are littered all over my top 50. They're worth the headache, for me (and I'm not the parks tasked with dealing with them, lol!). You need to get on VelociCoaster and Hagrid's ASAP, by the way, they are absolutely titanic attractions.

July 12, 2022 at 2:30 PM

@evanweston - Candymonium is right up there with Mako, and is probably better than Orion, which opened a couple of weeks earlier (by far the weakest B&M giga) - and I've ridden every B&M hyper/giga in North America except for Goliath at LaRonde. I just don't think Hersheypark could justify its effort to continue growing (they've been pretty much 10%/year through much of the 2010's) without opening up their entrance. The old entrance was a complete debacle getting in and out of the park (lines extended up the tram path and into the parking lots on busy days), and while the new gates eliminate a lot of that small park charm, it will help the park to get more and more guests through the turnstiles.

You better believe Velocicoaster and Hagrid's are on the docket (hopefully this October). We ended up doing a Disney "bubble" trip on our previous visit to Orlando in January 2020, and the pandemic caused us to pump the brakes on a 2021 trip. While we did make a quick trip over to Sea World this past February, we would have never had enough time to fully appreciate UO during the Galactic Starcruiser media voyage, which was the main purpose of that Orlando visit.

To circle back to Comet, I concur with the_man that it's a pretty good classic woodie with it's rather unique double down and back design, but there are some better woodies of similar ilk that I would rate higher including Phoenix at Knoebel's, Thunderbolt at Kennywood, and Cyclone at Luna Park, which I hadn't ridden in a LONG time prior to a trip up to the NYC area in mid-June. And of course the best wooden roller coaster on the planet (IMHO), though from a different era, is not that far away at SFGAdv, El Toro.

July 12, 2022 at 2:56 PM

I thought Orion was underwhelming, too. I am missing Leviathan, Behemoth, the La Ronde Goliath, and Candymonium. Fury is obviously a class above everything else and is in my top 5, but I really love Diamondback, Mako, and SFOG Goliath as well, and even the worst of them (Intimidator and Orion) are really fun rides. Candymonium seems like a perfect headliner for Hersheypark and would probably be my second-favorite in the park (I really, really love Storm Runner). I look forward to riding it soon.

It's funny that we diverged so much on Hershey's lineup when we feel pretty similarly about these wooden coasters! I too have El Toro at #1 and rate all three of the classics you mentioned extremely highly. Thunderbolt is a criminally underrated roller coaster, more rides where the biggest drop is the last one please and thank you.

July 12, 2022 at 4:10 PM

I have been to HP several times before the renovation and actually agree they needed to re-do their entrance as it was too small and congested, I just don't like what they did. Just like Carowinds it looks like a concrete jungle (I also agree they needed to re-do Carowinds entrance at the time) but it feels more like i'm going to Walmart in Clermont than going to a theme park.

Also I totally understand what they were going for with the brown to match the Hershey branding and make the look fit the look of the rest of Hershey, but the brown needs to be broken up. There is way too much brown all over the place without anything else to look at. The [post renovation] White Sox ballpark is a good example of how to do something like that right, as well as the areas around the Disney Springs hotels. There are brown and brick facades but there is also black iron and landscaping to break it up. But if I were supreme leader of Hersheypark TBH I wouldn't have gone that route at all because that's not how entering an amusement park, a place for happy family fun, should look IMO.

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