TR: Kings Island - 4/18/09
April 18, 2009
"A 7:45 arrival ought to do it"
It's time to begin another coaster season, and this year my home park Kings Island, unveiled a brand new rollercoaster. It was with great excitement that I went to the park with Paul Miller. To give you an idea of how impressive the new coaster, Diamondback, is well Paul drove 14 hours each way from Minneapolis just to ride it.
The park was expecting a crowd for the new coaster's opening day, and they took the unprecedented step of starting opening procedures with the parking lot at 6am and the park gates at 8am. The rides were to still open at 10AM unless you had a gold or platinum pass, in which case Diamondback would open at 9AM. We planned on getting the park early, and wound up waking up ahead of schedule, getting to breakfast ahead of schedule, and arriving at the park at 7:45. We ought to be here early enough.
We pulled into the parking lot using my gold pass to dodge the $10 parking fee and filed into the rapidly filling gold pass lot. I was getting out of the car when April and Pete pulled up in the next parking space, we could not have timed that better had we tried. We all walked up to the entry plaza and we encountered lines for every security lane stretching all the way back to the main flagpole and growing fast.
As the park advertised at 8AM the security checkpoints opened and by 8:10 we were entering the park. We made the mistake of stopping off at the restrooms, but at least we got to see the really cool new hand dryers, a model where you stick your hands into the machine and it dries your hands with air coming from all over. It's fast and cool, but I doubt they have enough of them.
We continued our mission to ride Diamondback and found that only the Larosa's side of International Street was open, and the plan was if you had a gold pass you made the turn towards Scooby Doo, and if you didn't have a gold pass you waited up by Sttarbucks. By the time we joined the line, it was stretched back from the entrance of Scooby Doo back to the intersection on International Street. The park had some guys walking back the line trying to tell us something but their megaphones weren't nearly loud enough, particularly when they had to compete with the music over the house sound system. I also suspect the may have had the media taking pictures of the loud crowd assembled.
Shortly after 9AM, they opened the next checkpoint, we stayed towards the middle of the crowd which was a good idea. It seems that when you got near Scooby Doo they had portable fencing setup that gradually narrowed down to force a single file line, shortly before that they had security holding back the crowd letting about 50-100 people through every few minutes. With all this, it took us till about 9:15 to clear this checkpoint,
We followed the crowd between the cones and walked through Nick Universe. I was disheartened when the Diaomondback line was stretched across the blue ice cream stand and heading towards tower. I could not believe it when we proceeded to walk back along the line and by the time we got to the end of it we had walked past Chik-Fill-A, past the International Showplace, wrapped around to the back of tower and halfway down the hill towards the floral clock. Yet for all that the line from that point was about a 1 hour and 45 minute walk. I say walk as due to the high capacity of Diamondback you never seem to stop moving. You might pause every once in a while for about 20 seconds, but generally you keep moving the whole time. Some solace could be had when we made the turn by Starbucks and could see the looks on the non passholders faces when the line continued to grow and grow,
So we took out walk around International Showplace, past Chick-Fill-A, past the blue ice cream stand,past the Central Grill, and then made the turn to Rivertown. When we entered Rivertown I was impressed with the new brick walkways around Diamondback and at first though that perhaps they had taken out the Rivertown blacktop but it seems only the areas they had to redo got the bricks. Lookiing into Rivetown the store that was an abandoned gift shop the last 5 seasons has reopened as the DB Trading Post with Diamondback goodies and the photo booth. The little food stand is still there, renamed the Snake Pit. The Backporch Stage and the old mining company have been torn down and replaced by the queue maze for Diamondback. The entrance will eventually be where the Back Porch Stage used to be but for now additional temporary line has been setup so the entance is right next to Rivertown Junction (what used to be Wings Diner, sporting a new blah tan paint scheme)
We entered the temporary line area passing the first test seat, the temporary area is just one Z shaped waiting area that leads to the real entrance. At the real entranceyou have access to the main line or the single rider line. It was at this point I was encouraged to try the test seat. Diamondback has an electronic test seat with a real working lapbar. You pull the bar closed, it locks, but you still aren't good, you have to be able to pull the bar down until the green light mounted in front of you lights up. I passed this test so I was admitted to the main waiting area.
First you go where mining company used to be, in this space you have a shaded queue area with several switchbacks and mist fans. It was at this point that we noted Rideman had arrived and was overseeing the proceedings getting video footage of the grand opening rather than riding. When you get to the part of the queue that walks alongside the restaurant you pass the soft drink and candy vending machines, you then go alongside the queue maze almost passing right by the ride entrance then you go around the corner to a second queue area that runs behind the Rivertown Junction building, effectively removing the picnic area that used to be there. This area has two long switchbacks and is unshaded. It does have misting fans, and you get to watch the splashdown effect. We also noted the line was now firlmy wrapped around back past Rivertown Pizza. Later reports would tell me it stretched back to at least Beast and maybe even Crypt.
After the second queue maze you turn right, go down a few stairs, walk underneath the track, then turn left and up a long flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs a seat assigner will diret you to your seats. Now I see why the line is constant motion, as no sooner could the seat assigner fill all 16 rows, the next train has arrived, accepted the new riders, and then the seat assigner could admit the nxt 32 people.
Diamondback is a B&M Hypercoaster, a typs of coaster that is at least 200' tall and featured no inversion elements, instead they feature high speed, and tall hills. Diamondback has the newest train style which has the staggered seating. The way it works is the odd numbered rows have 2 seats mounted in the center of the car, the back row of each car, or the even numbered rows have 2 single seats, one on each far end of the train, so when all is said and done the train is 4 seats wide, but the staggered arangement is meant to improve the view for those in the middle, as well as promoting the wide open feeling. Another reallly nice touch is that the trains are mainly red and orange, but each train is trimmed out in a different color: green, red, or orange. The track is gold and maroon for the lift hill and first drop, but turns to red and cream for the rest of the ride.
For our first ride we were lucky enough to be sent to the back row of the train. We took our seats in our seperate single seats. There is a safety railing in the back of the car between the two seats and also in front of you to make sure you don't fall down between the cars. I hopped up into my seat, which is set high enough that my feet can't touch the floor of the car while seated, its not as extreme as say an Intamin inverted coaster where you practically need to pole vault into your seat.
Now the big test, I pull bck on the safety bar. On the test seat I noted it took three clicks to get the green light to come on, but here on the train I could only get one noticeable click but the bar rested about where the bar on the test seat did. Luckily for me, this was deemed acceptable and we were soon on our way.
The trip up the lift hill is quick and is steep enough that you won't be enjoying the view of Rivertown on the way up. At the top we take the steep 74 degree drop that zooms down and runs between Crypt and Potato Works. I note generous airtime on the first drop, which is a good sign. The ride continues and the things I noted the most were how quiet the ride is, how smooth the ride is, but most iportantly the strong airtime on every single drop, even the drops coming off the mid course brake run, and the drop that feels like it has trims on it. The turnaround back behind Crypt is interesting to say the least, but the signature moments are at the end of the ride, starting with a helix that spins you around right above the walkway back by Beast, when you come out of this helix, you head down into the much smaller swan lake for the big splashdown. Of course the splashdown is created by fins on the train which cause the splash, while the trains tays dry. IF you stick your hands out to the sides while in the back seat you may get a splash here. You then go up one more hill and into the final brakes a quick turnaround back into the station, Folks, we have a winner here, best ride the park has opened in years. We quickly exit the ride and head to the DB Trading Post where we collected our free Diamondback t-shirts for being amongst the first 10,000 riders. Wile we were in the DB Trading Post we also looked at and decided to buy the 2 photos and 2 keychains package of our on ride photo for $20. The line to pick up your photos was stretched outside the building and wrapped around the corner. We asked if we could bring out claim ticket back when the stand was less crowded and were told we could.
On our way back into the station, we noted April and Pete heading down the exit ramp, wait they were supposed to be BEHIND us. Something is wrong here, and when we got to the wlakway we learned that even though the test seat cleared them to ride, they were rejected by the ride itself. Bummer. They retried the test seats and of course the test seats said they were fine. They got a manager involved who wanted to see what the deal was, well its official the real train seats are less accomodating than the test seats. April could ride, but needs a friend to push down hard on the lapbar for her.
With that all sorted out, I emark on a mission to show Paul the park as this was his first trip to Kings Island. We started by running jackets and t-shirts out to the car. I see they got rid of the magic light handstamps again, and went to blue handstamps where they apply entirely too much ink, I saw more than a few guests with blue ink smeared on other parts of their body and on their white shirts. Beverage service wristbands were also purchased at this time ($10 for all the fountain soda you can drink, not bad when one drink is $3.59 now) the park advertises these wristbands as little as possible, and I note they don't seem to get that much utilization. I know they started as an extension of the free beverage service for group outings, but if they are going to be sold to season passholders, or even the public at large, they should do a better job promoting them.
We head to action Zone after scoring two rounds of drinks. We start to head to Invertigo but the line was just way too long for a mere boomerang even if it is an inverted boomerang. Owing to Paul's height (almost 7') we skipped Drop Tower and Delirium and headed to Son of Beast.
Son of Beast had abot a 45 minute wait and we decided to not wait through the extra front seat queue. Son of Beast starts off good, but I knew when the train started shuffling in the lift approach, that even though the first drop is incredible the Rose Bowl helix would be miserable, which it was, then the mid course brakes and the former loop drop were pleasant, then the second helix was rough and shaky again. In other words it hasn't gotten any better, Paul absolutely hated the ride. To be fair, it was one of those rides he went on to see if it really is as bad as its reputation suggests.
We next headed to Flight Deck and the line was back to where the giant billboard used to be, which is a sign that the park truly is busy. About 20 or so munutes later we climb into seat 2 of Flight Deck and instantly realize that was a big mistake for somebody of Paul's size. Paul did find Flight Deck to be a enjoyable, made even more enjoyable as the girl sitting in the first row was taking her first ever ride on it and wa sgenuinely scared. We do agree that the ride is so short they should send you around twice.
We next headed to Adventure Express, while noting Delirum had about an hour wait. We got to Adventure Express and the queue area maybe a quater full which means only about 10 minutes What was more disheartening was the family ahead of us. All five bought Dippin Dots, separate cups for each one of course, for $5 each at the stand across from the ride entrance, then walked slowly though the queue in front of us eating it, then when they realized the line was so short they pitched unfinished, as in at least half full cups of Dippin Dots. Yikes, but hey its not my money. Adventure Expresses theming is falling apart yet again, which means its good that the ride experience itself is pretty solid for a mine ride. While waiting to ride Cameron texted us to say its now 1:30 and hea had made it on all of two rides, we weren't doing much better, as we were just about to board our fourth. I noted Advneture Express was only running two of its three trains
We exited the ride and I note the Cyber Sez reality game is finally gone, but its replacement isn't much better - a portable Jacob's Ladder game setup right in front of a much bigger permanent Jacob's Ladder game. I also noted that depsite claims to the contrary at SOAR that Outer Hanks was reverting back to being Bubba Gumps, that it is still Outer Hanks.
We head into Coney Mall and we find Racer with a two train wait on each side. After waiting in lines, this is more like it. We took a ride on each side so Paul could get both experiences. The red side is significantly better running, bu the blue side seems to go faster. I also learned that the difference between snug fit and downright uncomfortable fit comes down to which pocket my wallet is in
After Racer we backtracked to Festhaus for lunch. When we entered the Festhaus we caught the tail end of the county and western music show. Paul thought it was awful but I didn't think it was that bad. We headed into the food lines, and I have a distinct distate for using video panels as menu boards. Makes it way to easy to change prices. I get to the service counter and my eyes light up and I think I hit the jackpot as they had bowls of watermelon available. I grabbed a bowl without even asking how much it would be. We stepped down to the hot food counter where we each got two gigantic slabs of peperoni pizza. The sign of quality is when the pizza goes from pizza oven to your lunch tray in under 45 seconds.
We grabbed drinks, and headed to a table. The first thing we noticed is the air conditioner didn't seem to be on today, the other thing is that if Paul thought the C&W show was bad, we soon were dismayed to learn that Mr. Cowpie took the stage to do some kid oriented show centered around really really awful jokes and humor. We grabbed another round of drinks and then headed out on the ride circuit.
We wanted to pick up right where we left off, so we headed right to X-Base. Both Firehawk and Flight of Fear had lines stretching out onto the midway with all visible switchbacks full Recent intellignece gained by cell phone told us Firehawk was running 2 hours. We deicded to try to get in as many other rides as possible then bite the bullet here.
We headed to Vortex, the line totally filled the permanemt queue area, but with three trains, it moves people really fast. A hint is if both rear switchbacks are full go towards the front as it only has one switchback due to the front seat line. Vortex recieved a new paint job and looks really nice, the ride runs about as it always does, another solid performer.
Our next stop was Backlot Stunt Coaster, formerly Italian Job, It half of one switchback full, an owing to having a grouper and three trains running the line moved pretty fast. We noted the splashdown pool was bone dry and wondered how long it would be until Diamondback's pool will also be dry. We got into the train and noted that the on board sound still doesn't work, nor does the stairway drop effect. But the trains are getting worse, the instrument panels and front license tags are gone, and of course the headlights are out. Luckily the ride itself is a solid performer, the police cars still work with lights and sirens, and the show scene mostly works except for the helicopter not rising and falling. I did not one incident in line where a family of five was clearly togehter as a group - 4 children of varying ages and one adult. Whent he grouper was trying to find a single rider, the adult of the group volunteered. The grouper tried to say "Are you sure?" "You won't be able to ride with your family?" etc. She insisted and was sent to the empty seat. She even acted like she was goin to take the seat but backed out at the last second. By this time not only were the other 4 members of her party seated but so were 8 other riders. In other words she managed to totally fill the ride crews gear box up with sand.
We had some inteligence that the Beast line was 1 hour, but since thats a park showpiece, we grab a round of drinks and head to Beast. The first thing that I noted was that the vacation timeshare scam booth is gone! Thanks goodness, I thought that was very tacky, it is much better served as a Diamondback gift stand. We rounded the corner to Beast, and besides Diamondbacks helix over the area, the whole Beast Plaza looks different It also got the brick paver walkways, but now all access is through what used to be the exit by the games area. Luckily the exeptionally steep hill has been replaced by a longer but much more gradual ramp that runs diagonally through the area The fence is also been moved in closer totally blocking off the former Beast concession stand. The rest of the Beast line remains the same excpet the line starts where the greeter station is.
The line was spilled out onto the midway by about a dozen people. We join the line and note the lower queue house was shut off, but the middle and upper queue houses were in full use. As advertised about an hour later we were riding Beast. Beast got a lot of new wood yet again, and the helix is a lot better than it has been in years. Paul indicated that if this is much improved he would hve hated to have seen it before, He isn't a fan of Beast either. To quote a college sports fan "Over-Rated!"
We get a text message that the Diamondback line is now under an hour. We dash through Rivertown. I could not tell if crypt was open or not, the Crypt equipment room was making noise, but I couldn't see much activity around the ride. The other big change is Wings (the old Columbia Palace) is now Rivertown Junction, with much the same buffet setup as Wings. And with it, another trace of Paramount theming is gone.
We get to Diamondback and now the line is back to Central Grill in Nick which meant it was just about an hour. We learn that April, Pete, and Dave are within 20 minutes of us in line. We all get our rides, with us being sent to row 12. (Back row of 6th car of 8) I wasn't too excited about this seat assignment, until I took the ride and learned that Row 12 also has nice airtime on very drop. That is the sign on a great ride.
After the ride we head to the photo booth, which now has no line. I present my claim check from earlier but alas they can't find the pictures. After stringing us for 15 minutes while the manager and 3 other associates are holed up in the office figuring ou what to do, they even do satisfy the situation in a very complimentary manner. I still don't understand how they were able to reprint the big photos but not the keychains. But then they gave me something with my pictures that will make me easily forgive them for not having keychains.
We then proceeded to engage in Strange Coasternut Behavior, in its classic form this involved a bunch of coaster crazies standing in the middle of the walkway, in the hotest park of the park, with no shade, within steps of operating roller coasters instead of riding the coasters. We at least found a nice table in a shaded area of the park, and within easy access to the Snake Pit which facilitates enjoying several free drinks.
Eventually we realize we have to finish Paul's tour of the park, so Rob and Dave join Paul and I for a walk through Nick where we find out Paul is too tall for Reptar so we head on to Avatar. he line for Avatar was just at the bottom of the ramp, and whats more they don't have enough seats for us when we get to the front of the line. We eagerly let two riders pass us so we can get seats in Row 1 instead of Row 4. Let me tell you the end rows make a HUGE difference on this ride. It's still not half the ride it was when they first installed it, but its not bad either.
We then go for a quick spin on Fairly Odd Coaster, the line being about halfway over the stile over the track. We take rides to verify this ride is still running well, and at the end of it we meet up with Don.
We note the line for Scooby Doo is posted as only 15 minutes, but by this time its 8:45 and we wanted to try to get Paul on both Firehawk and Flight of Fear. We race to Flight of Fear, enter the and find a full hangar, we quickly retreat. We head for Firehawk. The queue maze is just one half of switchback from being full, but its posted as only 45 minutes. It actually took about an hour, and Rideman and Rob decided to ride Diamondback instead. Don stayed with us and we soon had a back row ride on Firehawk. How nice it was that instead of the operator needing to shove further on my bar, they lowered it and then asked me if I wanted it tighter. Firehawk is now my second favorite coaster in the park behind Diamondback. Too bad the capacity on it is bad, and its making an awful squeal entering the station. Paul really loved this ride.
It was about 9:45 on a 10:00 close, so we dashed to Flight of Fear and found the line to be all the way within the UFO. It still took about 20 minutes which mean we heard the fireworks go off while standing in the station. Flight of Fear was a tight fit as always, but I was able to ride, man this ride always reminds me how I am losing my flexibility, The ride itself was great exept the brake is still hitting hard.
After Flight of Fear we headed to the front gate, but one last coment about Coney Mall. The panhanding in the park has got to stop, we were approached at least three times by panhandlers, and they each wanted at least a buck. We headed to the front gate, met up with the rest of the group, and then headd to IHOP for a group dinner.
What a fine way to start the season!