Along with virtually every other coaster boy and girl that visited Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Florida and spotted the forlorn remnants of the park’s defunct wooden coaster, Gwazi, I used to think, “Now there’s a prime candidate for RMC to do its thing.” Some background: RMC is short for Rocky Mountain Construction, a ride manufacturer that has developed a stellar reputation for taking past-their-prime, rough-riding wooden roller coasters and transforming them into gloriously smooth wooden-steel hybrid coasters. Five years after Gwazi closed, my fellow coaster nerds and I will get our wish.
Set to open in the spring, the reborn Iron Gwazi will feature RMC’s patented IBox steel track. While it will retain much of the original coaster’s wooden structure, the redesigned layout will make it considerably taller and faster. In fact, with a 206-foot drop and a top speed of 76 mph, it will be RMC’s tallest and fastest hybrid coaster yet. Oh, and it will introduce three flip-flopping inversions into the mix. Toss in 12 airtime moments, and it’s easy to see why nerds like me are geeking out over Iron Gwazi.
When Orion opens this spring at Kings Island in Ohio, coaster freaks will be click-clack-clicking even higher and roaring even faster than Iron Gwazi. With a 300-foot drop and a furious speed of 91 mph, the steel behemoth, known as a “giga” coaster (a term applied to rides that stand 300 feet or taller), will take its place among the tallest and fastest rides on the planet. Forget inversions. Orion will be all about exhilarating speed – and at least a couple of moments of extra-freaky airtime.
Pennsylvania’s Hersheypark, the self-proclaimed “sweetest place on Earth,” just might unleash its sweetest coaster yet, when Candymonium debuts in the summer. The “hypercoaster” (loosely defined as a thrill machine that exceeds 200 feet and is designed for speed and airtime) will climb 210 feet, hit 76 mph, and likely pour on the airtime moments. For its finale, Candymonium will take a victory lap around a Hershey Kisses fountain. The coaster will be the highlight of the park’s new Chocolatetown area. Because the thrills might trigger hunger pangs, the area will also welcome a restaurant, ice cream parlor, and confectionery kitchen. Sweet!
Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia will be unleashing a heavenly coaster in 2020. Located in the park’s Italy section and themed to Roman gods, Pantheon will forego a traditional lift hill and use multiple magnetic launch systems to soar 178 feet and accelerate to 73 mph. Passengers will navigate a top hat hill with a beyond-vertical, 95-degree drop, a mid-course spike that will send them racing up towards the heavens where they will abruptly stop and plunge backward, and two inversions that will send them into tailspins.
Shifting from the good place to the bad place, Jersey Devil will take passengers up 130 feet and drop them at a hellish 87-degree angle. As they travel along 3,000 feet of track, they’ll encounter three inversions, including a zero-G stall that will leave them dangling upside down for a few precarious seconds as they barrel forward.
The ride’s most distinguishing feature will be its single-rail IBox track system. Another RMC innovation, Jersey Devil will be the third coaster to feature the concept, which sends low-slung trains with single-passenger cars along a single, narrow band of ribbon-like track. The ride will open at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.
Four launches, including one that will catapult its trains up a 93-foot spike on which they will drop at a beyond-vertical, 100-degree angle, will send chills down passengers’ spines aboard Ice Breaker. Set to open in the spring at SeaWorld Orlando, the ride will also include an 80-foot-tall top hat tower featuring a steep ascent, followed by a short crest and a precipitous drop.
The only wooden coaster on the 2020 countdown is Texas Stingray, opening in the spring at SeaWorld San Antonio. It will drop 100 feet, hit 55 mph, and race through a 100-foot-long tunnel. Because two of the state’s largest wooden coasters were previously converted to wooden-steel hybrids, the SeaWorld ride will debut as the tallest, fastest, and longest woodie in Texas.
3kj Main Stand
SeaWorld San Diego will introduce the penguin-themed Emperor in the summer. Known as a dive coaster, passengers in extra-wide trains will climb a tower, proceed to its precipice, momentarily stall as they dangle over the edge, and – finally –release into a 90-degree dive down 143 feet that will accelerate them to 60 mph. They will then navigate three inversions, including a barrel roll and a corkscrew.
Part roller coaster, part splashdown ride, a 20-passenger vehicle on Six Flags Over Texas’ Aquaman: Power Wave will launch backward and forward multiple times, reaching 63 mph, on a U-shaped track bookended by two 148-foot-tall spikes. For its finale, a pool in the center of the track will fill with water, and the vehicle will create an enormous plume as it races down and skims its surface.
The last coaster on the list isn’t in the U.S. – at least not all of the time. That’s because it will be located aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s new Mardi Gras ship, where passengers will be screaming at sea as the ship plies international waters. The interactive controls on Bolt will allow passengers to determine the speed of its motorcycle-inspired cars. Mardi Gras sets sail in early fall.
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