Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Saturday, May 01, 2010

TR: Kings Island - April 30, 2010

Trip Report: Kings Island
Mason, OH
April 30, 2010

“My season opener!”

I had really planned on getting to the park around 9:20 to catch the KIC group at the Gold Pass ERT, but with traffic and other delays in my morning, I was happy to be walking in the front gates of the park around 10:10 ready to start another season. No problems at all with parking gate, security checkpoint, and main gate with my shiny new Platinum Pass, and soon I was at the head of International Street deciding on a game plan.

I decided to start in Action Zone and head towards Diamondback. Today is a “Math and Sciences” day for the local schools, and in the past could years the park has combined the Math and Science day with the spring Friday evenings promotion to make a full 10AM to 10 PM day. However, the Math/Science day FAQ on the website seemed to indicate Planet Snoopy would be closed until 5pm,so it made sense to make quick work of the rest of the park, particularly the low capacity rides, and then marathon Diamondback.

It appeared International Restaurant was the base point for the teachers during this event, and as I was arriving lots of students were heading into the Kings Island Theatre for a presentation. I, headed to Delirium. It was a one cycle wait for Delirium, and I did notice the new signs guiding people to the correct bullpen area. This would also be the start to see if the off season weight loss program was a success. On closing day last year, I needed operator assistance to ride this. Now I realize I had a bulky coat on then, and warmer clothes. Today I had plenty of slack in the belt, and needed no assistance with the bar. In addition, I was rewarded with a great spin ride to start the season.

After that, I headed to a real challenge, Drop Tower. Drop Tower for me last season was a no go in anything more than a t-shirt, and that was with a great deal of operator help. It was just a wait for the ride in session to stop kind of wait, and then I was headed to a seat. Lower the bar, loosen the belt, and it slid right into the buckle with no problems, and I could pull a half inch of strap back out, so overall, there are signs of improvement. That doesn’t change the fact I don’t think Drop Tower is a particularly good drop ride. Give me one of the portable ARM drop towers that travel the fairs, those things are much more effective. Even the drop tower that goes to the Ohio State fair is more effective.

I decided to skip Flight Deck for now and come back later. The go karts and Skycoaster, as well as the On Location shop and Stunt Crew grill were not open. Congo Falls was, but I didn’t feel the need to get that wet, however Invertigo was not open.

I headed into Oktoberfest, and walked past a closed Slingshot and a closed Adventure Express. The next open ride was the blue side of Racer, so I headed up and the line was just about halfway down the ramp, but they had both trains running. I soon climbed into seat 1.3, fastened the belt, and pulled the lap bar down. Two fast clicks, in the past I could get the first no problem, but the second took work. Unfortunately, a lot of the operators require two clicks at Kings Island, so in the past this ride caused me some minor grief, but now, as with the other two rides, everything is right with the world. Racer seems to be sporting a lot of new wood, and even some minor airtime on the outbound leg. For Racer in the past few years, that’s acceptable.

I started walking down Coney Mall, and I see life. All the flat rides along Coney Mall seemed to be open, even though Juke Box Café, all the merchandise, the arcades, and some of the games were not. In other words, exactly the opposite of what you would find in a Six Flags park.

I next headed to Firehawk but it was closed, there were technicians working on it, so I killed some time by riding Flight of Fear. Flight of Fear was using half of its outdoor queue area but once inside you took the quickest route. I did note the $2 per use coin operated lockers. The same lockers they have used for years at first 50 cents, then 75 cents. Suddenly they jump to $2.00 all at once. All the work lights were on in the queue area but they were running the preshow. Not that I saw much of it, I entered the hangar right when it started with the Auto-Reboot and entered the UFO when it got to how indestructible the material is. I headed for the back seat, and Flight of Fear was another ride I struggled to get on last year, but this year, I lowered he bar and the belt easily slid home with some slack left in the belt. It was really nice to be able to ride this without the lap bar embedded into my gut. Someday, I need to try one of the “floor panel” seats, but not when it is a 40 minute wait. As an added bonus, the bright white service lights were on inside the bowl, making for a truly special Flight of Fear ride, Sadly, the to brake the train to a complete stop on the mid course brake. Outside, some of the rides, they had extra signage related to Math and Science day, the one for Flight of Fear boasted to the LIM system, of course, but here is the last sentence of that sign “Here at Kings Island, Flight of Fear was the first roller coaster in the world to use this technology to move the train throughout the ride.” Note it doesn’t say to launch the train, or just to get the train up to speed, it clearly stated “move the train throughout the ride” It also looks like Kings Island outsourced the educational components of the event to COSI.

Ah, by now Firehawk is open, and sadly has a 1 hour wait. I decide to bite the bullet now and get this over with The queue area did not look that bad, maybe two or three switchbacks open, but with only one station open, the line was solid all the way to the loading area. That, and the crew did not seem to be in any particular hurry, and of course you had to factor in at least one downtime moment in that wait. I wind up in row 4, and Firehawk was never a fit problem before, so of course it isn’t now. In fact, now I think they don’t push the lap bar down enough as I have plenty of room to slip and slide around in there during the ride Remember to close your eyes going up the lift due to that bright sun. Firehawk is still one of my favorite rides in the park. Finishing that up, I was glad I had all the low capacity stuff out of the way.

Next I walked right onto the back seat of Vortex. No more squeezing with all my might to get the belt fastened, life is good I tell you. Vortex was, well it was Vortex, same old reliable ride as always, and the back seat float is still there in abundance. As I returned to the station, there was a group of girls in the seat queues practicing screaming on demand at the top of their lungs in a high pitched shrill. I was glad I was not going to be on that train, it was miserable enough the short time I was being unloaded. I did a soft drink machine check, $3.75 this year, and credit card swipes have been added to the soft drink machines, I next checked out EuroBobbles. The Bobbles are basically an oversized kiddie pool placed where Flight Commander and Euro Bungy used to be. I say kiddie pool because it is to big to be a kiddie pool, but not deep enough to satisfy an adult swimmer. Imagine four giant beach balls floating on said pool, now put a person inside each beach ball and you have EuroBobble. The ads on the web say “Walk on Water” from what I observed its more like crawl on water, and if you do get daring and try to stand up, its more like fall on water. The humor value in watching this is immense, and an observation area has been setup along one side of the pool. Also funny, as soon as the unseal the ball to get the rider out, it instantly deflates, so thee is humor in seeing them try to get in and out of the balls. This seems to be aimed at the kids, as I noted the safety signage, which is ride specific in nature, has a 200 pound weight limit I may have lost some serious weight in the off season, but 200 is still a far off memory. I also shudder to think, we teach kids and parents not to put plastic around child’s face, here we are sealing them up in an air tight plastic ball.

Back on the park tour, next up is Back Lot Stunt Coaster, a ride that has received a lot of changes. The line was just back to the bridge over the final drop, we can’t call it a splashdown right now. No greeter, and I was soon in seat 2. Okay, we heard all the BMW mini cooper detailing is gone , as are the doors so they look kinda like generic car shaped cars. They even used the excuse to get rid of the windshields and everything. Yes, they look hideous, particularly in their all red, all blue and all white trains. What was wrong with doing a red, white, and blue patriotic motif? They did manage to add Flight of Fear style seatbelts that hook into the lap bar however they did it way better than they did on Flight of Fear. In fact flight of fear could learn something from this,. They mounted the belt up towards the top of the sidewall of the car, and closer to the opening so the belt is a lot more obvious and easier to get to while seated, then they put the latch plate almost at the top of the lap bar support rather than down near the bottom. I’m sure this has to better for everybody, as it is easier for the rider to reach, and the loaded doesn’t have to kneel or bend down far to work with them. That said, they are absurdly unnecessary, I mean its operated since 2006 without them, and how many people were held in by the now missing door?

Next it was another walk on experience, this time for Beast. I guess they realized Beast is nowhere near as popular as it used to be, probably due to Diamondback helping even the locals realize its really not that good of a ride. When Cedar Fair took over they started letting people enter through what used to be the greeters gate, then they took out all the queue before the greeters gate and made that the entrance, then last year they totally redid the entry plaza. This year after 31 years, they finally put in a gate where they can totally shut off the first queue house. You know, the one they only used on very busy Saturdays, but you still had to walk down to and then back up. Then they took the center railing away from the big ramp from the middle queue house to the top queue house. The line splits into two as you enter the top queue area. I’m not as sure about taking out the center railing but we’ll see how that works out for them.
Anyway, I did wait two trains for a front seat ride. Same as Racer as far as fit goes, but that’s not a shock. Beast in April already gets a penalty for uneccesary roughness, but at least the work they started last year in the helix is continuing to show improvement in that area of the ride. We got back to the brake run, and we stopped all the way at the back end of the brake run, great that means all three trains are stacked. I knew things weren’t good when the operators came back along the brake run to comfort the riders. That’s never a good sign. So we sat for awhile while they sorted out whatever problem they were having, eventually they were able to cycle the trains around, so they could unload everybody, When I got back to the midway, the ride was indeed closed, as was Crypt, but who is surprised to see Crypt closed.

The train ride was open but I skipped it, White Water Canyon was closed, so I headed to Diamondback. Things seem great, the ride is only back as far at the cell phone container. We see a train stop on the brakes right after the splashdown. Then we see operators go out to comfort said riders. Uh-Oh, not again, Ride closed, which immediately sends so many people away we advance to about halfway up the stairs, I decide to wait it out for way too long, maybe half an hour, by which time I am at the top of the stairs almost to the grouper. It was about 2:30 when they totally cleared everybody out.

I headed to Race for Your Life Charlie Brown (log chute) to see what that is all about. The line was all the way down the wooden ramp, but I waited it out. It’s amazing how little they did to Wild Thronberries in this conversion. Change the ride name, chang some signage, put a status of Charlie Brown with boat paddles out front, remove the camper from the pond, change the name of the camp on the mill building, replace elephant with snoopy, put up a finish line and a big scenery oanel to disguise the water feature. I get in a log, and the theme at the top of life 1 is shamelessly left over from Thronberrys, badly faded now, but left over. All the theme elements along the course between lift 1 and 2 are gone, the next theme element you see is the scenery panel hiding the snoopy water feature. I did get a little bit of water damage from this ride, but except for the t-shirt everything was dry by the time I finished up with Flying Ace.

I did a Diamondback check, no progress there, I don’t even see people working on it! I head for Planet Snoopy. A Snoopy has been added to the top of the Kite Flyer and Linus décor elements have been added to made it Linus Launcer. The impressive signage for Reptar is of course gone, and the ride is now a hideous yellow and orange. It was also a 1 cycle wait so I can’t complain with that. I did note some neat synergy in that in most of the park the QTVs are starting to disappear, but on Flying Ace they show peanuts cartoons on the QTV’s and they also advise the DVD is on sale in the gift shop. I’ also happy to note, getting the belt fastened on Flying Ace was a breeze, which is an improvement over last season.

I then did a cursory walk through of Planet Snoopy. Plankton’s Plunge is now Kite Eating Tree, while not as detailed as the old theme, it looks nice. The park is really getting used to reskins of the kids area. For the most part it all came out looking pretty sharp with vibrant colors and all. The character carousel is still generic horses, Blues Clues has reverted back to being the biplane ride it was before Nick, however now all the planes are red, and a big Snoopy flying on his doghouse has been added to the center of the ride, Surf Dog came out looking better than I had heard, I especially like the lifeguard chair at the entrance. I didn’t ride Surf Dog or Woodstock’s Express (Beastie), but instead headed right for Boo Blasters on Boo Hill. Some minor touches to the outside and adding the ghost in the window, I declined the $1.00 upsell on the 3D glasses, and proceeded to walk right on the ride, The indoor queue looks about the same as it did, except maybe darker, no characters or narration on the balcony, and of course the bookshelf and secret passage switch are gone, The whole queue area and loading area is much darker than before. I climbed into a car and is off to the races. Most of the ride is really just a minor reskin of Scooby Doo, just get rid of the boxes of Scooby snacks and get rid off all the Scooby characters. The guns seemed to work a lot better than they have in years. But just when you think it was all cosmetic work, you encounter a real cool special effect at the end of the ride. I mean something more like Disney or Universal would do, and you would not expect out of Cedar Fair. Basically using a fog screen as a projection screen they project a scary image onto it so that your car appears to be heading right for it, its animated it moves, it talks to you, and more. Then right as your car gets near it, it totally disappears. You then go through about 20 seconds of pitch black hallway with nothing happening. Then you hit the final sequence where you get to make up a lot of points. I expected a bigger payoff coming out of that pitch black tunnel, particularly after the treats of the projected image.

Leaving Boo Blasters I headed around the front of the park to check on food and Invertigo. I mean we are getting up on 4:00 so I’m starting to get hungry. Skyline was closed, pizza shop was open, however, if you like bad pizza. Into Action Zone, Stunt Crew was still closed. I am upset that I paid $3.50 for the world’s smallest ice cream cone of Blue Ice Cream. I mean I have sent the ice cream cones they used to sell, this is a pure insult to charge so much for so little for so cheap a product.

I did go back and get my token ride of Flight Deck, again a lot easier time with the belt, the giant painted flag is still there, and the ride is its old reliable self. While riding it, you can see the back of the Great Wolf Lodge. I know there is a pathway between the park and Great Wolf Lodge, my dining plans came more into view.

I noted the Go Karts, Slingshot, and Skycoaster were starting their day, but with non discounted prices for SkyFlyer and a long line for Slingshot I stayed away from them, I cruised through Festhaus and saw the roller coaster projects from math and science days. Panda Express was open, as was the regular Festhaus food, but that’s not what I really want. I head towards Outer Hanks while taking a walk on Adventure Express ride along the way. Fit on Adventure Express has never been an issue, but I like the fact the final tunnel seems to be fully restored. Outer Hanks was closed, so next I decide to take the trip to the top of Eiffel Tower. Walk on here as well, and up top I note a few interesting things First was Diamondback was still close with no end in sight, second was the path that goes from Dodgems, past the floral clock, to Backlot Stunt Coaster is closed off and construction equipment is all around the area. I noted Subway and Chic-Fill-A looked to be open, but those again, just didn’t do it for me. I completed my tour around tower and headed back down. I went to Diamondback to check on status, and unchanged since two hours ago, I admit to sulking, yes the park had 10 other coasters open and other fine rides, but “I want to ride THAT one!!!” I checked out Rivertown Junction Dining Hall, I mean it promises a salad bar, carved meats, real veggies, and probably the healthiest food option in the park. It was also closed. That sealed it, Great Wolf Lodge here I come.

It took awhile to backtrack to the main gate, get a hand stamp, then do the walking trail to Great Wolf Lodge. I mean that walk is a haul and a half. I get into the lodge, make my way through the lobby and first head to the big buffet type place, but I am an hour early. I head to the bar and grill type place, where at the time they did not appear to be interested in me. I check out the game room in the basement. The bowling machine was neat fun, and I noticed but did not try one of those two rider coaster motion simulators, but interestingly enough, they weren’t the coasters of Cedar Point like you are used to seeing in those machines, instead the choices were: Phoenix, Twister, Thunderbolt, and Phantom. I was going to try to wait it out till 6 for the buffet, but decided to try the bar and grill again. Besides it looked like a large convention was already lined up for the buffet 45 minutes early. This time, I there was staff a plenty at the Bar and Grill (Chuckles was it), so I got “the dreaded booth by the kitchen” well I’m in a coaster shirt and shorts, and eating alone, I’m used to these bad table assignments. I did like the tent like coverings over the booths to continue the camp feel, and it had a window out to the hallway where I could watch people playing Magic Quest or whatever it is.

I ordered up a diet pepsi, grilled salmon, baked potato, asparagus and a field green salad with Italian dressing. All very good food, attentive service that wasn’t in your face but seemed to be right there right when you needed something, and yes I paid more than any meal in the park, but I ate a lot better than I would have anywhere in the park. I mean the dinner was filling, and hey with a 12 hour day to work with in the park, and hour and a half rest break is not much to ask for. As I was leaving the restaurant I peered through the picture windows into the water park which looks quite nice if also quite empty at the time, however I suspect that would change fast as the line at registration rivaled that of a Disney or Vegas hotel at check in time. I then got a text that Diamondback was OPEN!. I didn’t run a sprint, but let’s just say I made it from the lobby of Great Wolf to the Diamondback entrance in 15 minutes including some annoyance at the front gate. Note I said the front gate not the security checkpoint. For years and years you reentered the park at the reentry lane by the hand stamp lane. Now I was informed I had to enter through a regular entrance lane, just as the two lanes they had open were being swamped by the after work crowd. Grrrr.

The timing could not have worked out better as I descended on Diamondback at the same time as Dave Cornell, Brian, and their party. Diamondback was just through 1 switch bank in the second queue area. So about 20 minutes or so later, and what luck, row 16, thank you! We get in the train, I pull the bar down, I see the line is clearly visible with room to spare, last season I was struggling to even make the line visible. But wait, “We are not running this train, please return to the station area. Not Again! Luckily they do load us onto the very next train, Oh, Diamondback, where have you been all winter. Great strong airtime! Easily the best ride in the entire park. We liked it so much, we rode it again, this time in row 3. It’s pretty good even up here!
From there, we decide to take a ride on Beast, still a walk on, and we get seated in row 4, we get the “Thou Shalt Be Two Clicks” operator. and get rewarded with a train we have named “Ole Square Wheels” That’s train 3, avoid it at all costs.

Next we go to Backlot Stunt Coaster, the line is about halfway back to the queue house, so a duck under the rail is in order, Still no grouper, so we hold out for the front seat. Bigger flame effects than my first ride, and we are in the white train. Anecdotal comments would appear to reveal the red train is the best and the white train is the worst.

We head back around to Firehawk, and this time its only about a 20-30 minute wait. Both stations are open, none of the switchbacks are open, and the line was just from the grouper halway out to the midway using the short route. We board Brians favorite row (5) from the side you have to go down and back up stairs to get to. Yep, still a great ride. We continue our tour with rides on Racer, Adventure Express and Delirium.

After Delirum, we return to Diamondback and first take a ride (row 2) through the normal queue, then enter via Single Rider Line, and I get tow 6. Not a bad rid, but not that good, Then its just Dave Cornell and I and we manage to squeeze off two or three more rides using SRL (which was a real walk on), winding up in seats 2 or 3. It was a great ending, On my final ride , I got to watch the fireworks while riding to end the day.

Then it was the long haul back out to the car , picking up a park guide on the way out of course.

And so starts another fine season!