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High-on crack at Carowinds
A roundup of roller coaster news
As passenger-filled coaster trains barrel through a course, they pull enormous Gs and impose tremendous forces on the structures that support their tracks. That’s especially true of mega-behemoths such as Fury 325 at Carowinds in North Carolina, which climbs 325 feet and reaches a blistering 95 mph. It was disconcerting, therefore, to learn that the park closed the coaster on June 30 to repair a crack on one of the ride’s pillars. Even more disconcerting: It seems the fissure was discovered not by Carowinds inspectors but by a park guest who tried to alert park employees and posted evidence of the issue to social media.
According to an official from the state’s Department of Labor, which is investigating the incident, the crack had been visible for “maybe six to 10 days prior” to the park closing the ride. Yikes. Representatives from Fury 325’s manufacturer, Bolliger & Mabillard, along with Carowinds’ maintenance team determined that the fracture formed along a weld line. B&M is fabricating a new pillar and will deliver it to the park as soon as this week–which is a fairly remarkable turnaround. The part should be installed in short order, and extensive testing and ride cycles will be conducted before the Swiss ride maker and an independent testing company perform a final inspection and give the all-clear sign.
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It’s unclear whether the incident might trigger closer inspections of other B&M Hyper Coasters such as Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland. What is clear is the crack appears harrowing in this video of the compromised ride posted by the eagle-eyed park guest.
The story was picked up far and wide. (As ride and park fans, you were probably as besieged with requests to discuss the news from your friends and family as I have been.) When the mainstream media reports on park incidents such as this, the coaster boy in me can’t help but chuckle at just how wrong they can be sometimes. A number of outlets, for example, described Fury 325 as the “world’s tallest, fastest roller coaster.” Oy. It’s surely extreme, but it’s not the tallest and fastest on the planet by a long shot. Carowinds more accurately describes Fury 325 as the “tallest, fastest, longest giga coaster in North America.”
Here’s hoping that the park and B&M can repair the beloved ride quickly and safely reopen it as well as determine how to prevent any future failures on Fury 325 and similar coasters.
New twist on old coaster
In other coaster news, let’s head west. The wooden coaster, Mr. Twister, graced the original Elitch Gardens from 1964 to 1994. When the Colorado amusement park relocated to downtown Denver in 1995, a new Twister II woodie was built to honor its predecessor. The ride sat dormant last year for some work and just reopened as the reimagined Twister III: Storm Chaser.
Embracing its name, the coaster now features extreme weather-related artifacts in the queue and a “Storm Chaser Recruitment Center” makeover of the loading station. Passengers also experience a darkened tunnel with some tornado effects as they race through the course. I’m not sure whether any improvements were made to the track or the physical ride experience as well during the shutdown, but I’d imagine that to be the case given the length of the closure.
Open since 1890, the future of Elitch Gardens is unclear. The city of Denver plans to redevelop the area surrounding the downtown park into “The River Mile.” The multi-use project, which is slated to include housing, schools, retail, and dining, may displace Elitch Gardens. The park’s owners have said that if that happens, they would seek a different home. That would make the third location for the venerable park, which surely would be a record.
Um, “pretty high and powerful?”
Cedar Point has park fans in a tizzy after releasing a cryptic tweet. It read, “First shipment. Signed. Unsealed. Delivered,” and included a checkered flag icon as well as a close-up image of…something. The tweet concluded with the hashtag, “#CP24PHP.”
The consensus seems to be that the post refers to the Top Thrill Dragster makeover project that is underway. (Hence, the checkered flag.) The photo of the shipped item would appear to be something that will be used for the footings to support new construction that may supplement the existing structure. The first part of the “#CP24PHP” hashtag likely refers to “Cedar Point 2024.” It’s the “PHP” that has folks baffled. Some are suggesting that it may stand for “Peak Horse Power,” which could be the new name of the coaster or perhaps a subtitle or marketing slogan for the reconfigured ride.
The Ohio park announced last year that the 21-year-old Top Thrill Dragster would be closing after standing but not operating since August of 2021. As is the case for virtually all of the Intamin Accelerator Coasters, which feature hydraulic launch systems, the Cedar Point ride has been plagued with problems. Just before it closed, a piece of the coaster dislodged and struck a park guest. The park announced earlier this year that the new version of the ride would open in 2024.
While nothing has been officially announced or confirmed, it is perhaps the worst-kept secret among the coaster community that Zamperla, and not Intamin, is handling the makeover project. The Italian ride manufacturer has been aggressively stepping up its roller coaster division. There has been speculation that the new layout may add a spike that would accommodate a multi-pass magnetic launch system to get the train up and over the ride’s 420-foot top hat tower. When it launched in 2003, Top Thrill Dragster was the tallest coaster in the world.
Epic coasters on the way
Finally, let’s take a look at some new thrill machines that will be coming to midways in Ireland and the U.S. Emerald Park (formerly known as Tayto Park), has announced that two coasters will be featured in its new Celtic-themed land, Tír na nÓg. Scheduled to open next year, the Irish park will be welcoming a family boomerang ride and a suspended thrill coaster, both from Vekoma. The latter will reportedly climb 102 feet and hit 56 mph.
It’s not scheduled to open until 2025, but it seems that the structures and tracks for all of the coasters at Universal Orlando’s Epic Universe theme park have been erected. Among the planned rides will be a dual-track coaster that will greet guests at the park’s hub and what will almost surely be a Donkey Kong-themed mine cart coaster that will “jump” the tracks. Expect to read a lot more about Epic Universe over the coming months here at About Theme Parks as details become available.
That’s a lot of coaster news! Weigh in with your thoughts.