Trip Report: Paramount's Kings Island
Mason, Ohio - 04/08/2000
"Up bar. Down bar, recheck. Up bar...."
Today was "dry run day" at Paramount's Kings Island, a day when Paramount employees bring their friends and family to present a small, forgiving audience so that the crews can get an idea how the place runs with live targets. This year, thanks in part to the spectacular new wood coaster, and in part because they are really nice people, the park's Marketing department thought it would be a good idea to add a bunch of coaster nuts to the mix to find out how they like the new coaster.
Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. First of all, the coaster is not ready to ride, and won't be for another couple of weeks. Then, the weather decided not to cooperate. Rumor has it that it was 80+ degrees in the park yesterday; today the temperature hovered around freezing all day long, and yes, we did see snow. Not a lot of snow, though, and the temperature did come up a little, the precipitation quit, and just as we were leaving, the sun put in an appearance.
Those problems aside, Kings Island's marketing crew swiftly put a recovery plan into place, a plan which was sure to save the day for legions of coaster fans. Along about 11:00 this morning, we all met in the Carousel Room in the catering facilty above the park gate. There, we learned of the day's plans. Throughout the day, groups would be taken back to see the new coaster. Even if the sun wouldn't shine for us, the Son would. Right around 1:00pm, most of us gathered on International Street and waited for the signal. When the signal came, we proceeded in an orderly fashion to the only roller coaster operating, The Outer LIMits: Flight of Fear.
This proved to be problematic. Operations on Outer LIMits were slower than I have ever seen them before, with each train taking five minutes or more to dispatch, and with an unbelievable number of people bailing out of the ride at the last second. What in the world is going on here? Unfortunately, after waiting nearly an hour, I found out. Apparently when somebody put the trains back together, they misaligned something in the shoulder bar mechanisms (probably installed a cam backwards or something) so that for nearly half of the people attending, the shoulder bars would not latch. I'm not talking about a two-click problem, I'm talking about would not latch at all. Fortunately, we learned later that the Director of Ride Operations also found out about the problem (rumor has it that she couldn't ride either), and steps are being taken to get the trains fixed before the park officially opens next week. So much for that ride!
By this time I had met up with Scott Short, who also could not ride Outer LIMits. Fortunately The Beast was operating now, and Scott was likely to get his wish: a ride on The Beast in the snow! BUT WAIT A MINUTE! To get to The Beast, we must first pass the Flying Scooter! Gotta ride this one!
Well, it is dry run day, and this means things are done by the book. And the book says you put two riders in a tub on the Flying Scooters.
Operator: Two riders...
Scott: I don't think so...
Dave: We'd better not!
Dave thinking, not speakingNot 'no' but 'HELL NO!'"
Operator: Can you at least try it?
Always willing to attempt accommodation, we agreed to try, knowing the inevitable result. I walked to an empty tub. Scott attempted to climb in, and found it impossible to even come close to sitting down. He got out, but found that there were no vacant tubs remaining. I suggested that he go back and take the next ride, but he chose instead to wait at the exit. There was a breeze blowing, and I ended up getting a darned good ride. Clearly the operating policy on this ride needs to be changed to better accommodate groups of adults, but I sure hope they don't take this ride out anytime soon...this particular Flying Scooter is one of the best ones around.
Finally it was time to visit The Beast. We arrived in the station just as the first public train was leaving, and two trains later we were onboard. It was a cold, wet Beast, although the snow quit just minutes before our train left. The banners placed in the station last season are still there, as are the claw marks on the side of the train, but of course the special "20th Anniversary" decal is gone. I figure that due to the inclement weather conditions, the way The Beast was running today is not indicative of the season...but the drop trims after the second lift were all full-OFF today, which is something I sure hope continues for the rest of the season! The Beast has gotten a lot of new lumber this year, particularly in the stairs, walkboards, toeboards, and handrails. For some reason, the new lumber has not (yet?) received the characteristic redwood stain. I'm just glad to see that with all the attention the Son is getting, the father is still getting good care.
The Beast would prove to be my last ride of the day. Several of us gathered beneath the Eiffel Tower for a park tour. I guess the intent was to show off the park for people who had never been there before, but since most of us who showed up for the tour were, in fact, familiar with the park, we did something different. Angie, our expert tour guide from Guest Relations, took us into the park services area in front of the park, and showed us that PKI has a particularly uninteresting boneyard. Far more interesting were the many prints and photographs, mostly aerial views, of the park and of the other Paramount parks, hanging in some of the offices and conference rooms. I wonder if Kings Island has ever considered developing a public exhibit of this kind of stuff, kind of like Cedar Point has in their Town Hall Museum.
By this time, it was time for me to take my tour of the Son of Beast construction site. The access to the new ride is by way of the current Top Gun exit, and through a very short queue area, then up a long ramp into the station. The exit ramp is directly above the entrance, and for now dumps out on top of the concrete bridge and leads behind Drop Zone. I suspect that will change a bit before the ride opens. We were not able to see the station or the single car from the train parked therein. We did see the extreme drop from the station, over a couple of hills and around a turnaround to the base of the lift hill. We gazed in awe at the 218'-high lift hill with an American flag and a construction banner at the top. Then we walked over to the loop, and marvelled at its construction. The 118' vertical loop has a steel tube backbone supported by four A-frame supports. Steel track-ties hold brackets, and traditional nine-layer wood coaster track is bolted to the brackets. The train will race down the 214-foot first drop, then head up and into the first gigantic helix, which features track banked at nearly 90 degrees. The train comes out of that helix and across the block brake, which we are told is not intended to be used as a trim brake, and will include a tire-drive advancing system to insure that a train stopped on the block brake will have enough speed to make it through the loop and the remainder of the course.
After the loop, Sonny will tear through the other giant helix and over a couple more hops before returning to the transfer table and station, a station which, though at midway level, is one of the highest-above-ground coaster stations I have seen. The ride is going to be awe-inspiring at the very least. I just hope it proves to be a good ride.
By the time the tour ended, it was time for dinner at the Festhaus. Oh boy, bad hamburgers and LaRosa's pizza, right? Wrong. Kings Island's catering staff put together a very nice feast for us featuring pulled barbecue chicken sandwiches which were actually quite good. The park's hospitality is amazing. We did find out a few other things over the course of the day and at dinner.
First of all, the convenience store and the glass-blower's shop have traded places. This makes a lot of sense, as it puts the convenience store (this is the place other than the Outer LIMits exit where you can buy aspirin, for instance) right next to the main gate, which is first of all the more logical place for it, and second means that they can move the convenience items out of the gift shop at the South end of the entrance plaza and use that for more coaster-related merchandise. Of course, the one "problem" with this is that it means the traditional ACE walkback meeting place "in front of the glass-blower's shop" is no more. To eliminate confusion, the park has constructed a large paving brick inscribed with a message honoring coaster enthusiasts. We were told that this large brick will be placed in the pavement on International Street and will serve as the new meeting spot.
Second, the bad news. Due to major problems with vandalism, the operating policy on the Phantom Theatre has been changed. It is now a kiddie ride, and you can no longer ride it unless you rent a kid. There has got to be a better way to solve the problems with this one!
Third, in the no-news-at-all category. The Kings Mill Log Flume's status is presently "???". The ride is still standing, but the boats are in the boneyard, and it is not operating and it is not on the park map. I'm guessing it hasn't been inspected, either. One member of the marketing staff says the ride will be SBNO this season. A rumor is that it will be removed mid-season. Another member of the marketing staff indicated only that the ride was being "re-evaluated", whatever that means.
Fourth, I never made it over into H-B, but I understand that the climbing structure...the Crystal Maze or whatever it was called...has been removed, and is being replaced with some kind of Wild Thornberrys attraction. My guess is that the replacement will be a better attraction than the climbing structure ever was.
Finally, I am sure nobody will be surprised to learn that safety belts have been added to all the seats on Drop Zone. Someone said something about a safety strap on King Cobra as well, but the ride did not operate today, so for the moment I'll consider that a rumor.
All in all, it was mostly a good day. Sure, there were some technical glitches, but that is why the park holds a dry-run day. It would have been nice if more of the park had been open, but with snow falling, what could we expect? It was an enhanced Winterfest, and most of us had a great time. Thank you, Kings Island for inviting us. Thank you David, Angie, Jeffrey, and all your associates I don't know as well for being such wonderful hosts and putting up with this bunch of irritating coaster nuts. We're all looking forward to a good season this year.
--Dave Althoff, Jr.Back to the 2000 Park Visits index