TR: Kings Island
Trip Report: Kings Island
April 27, 2008
It's my season opener!
On the park's true opening day, I spent the day with my cousin at Great American Ball Park, but today I reserved for riding some coasters. Therefore, I met up with Rideman at 1pm, and we arrived at the park just before 1:30. I could tell it was going to be a busy day judging from the parking lot. We approached the south toll plaza, and noted that while the middle lanes were backed up, no one was going around the side of the tollgate in the lane marked for RV's/Bus/Oversized vehicles. Hey we were in a Crown Vic, that's an oversized vehicle right? We pulled up alongside the tollgate and I noticed the toll collectors are now scanning barcodes on passes with a 'gun' style barcode reader instead of a swipe style reader. We drove through the lot, and I noticed that at passenger pickup that last year I noted the American and Ohio flags were replaced with Kings Island flags, this year the American and Ohio flags are back. We give up trying to park in the main lot, and go back in the corner behind the RV's in "Adventure Express 15" and take the long walkway to the gate. I notice that while the lot itself could use some resurfacing, the walking trail is freshly laid blacktop. I wonder if Great Wolf Lodge had anything to do with that, as the signs along the walkway are in the Great Wolf Lodge style.
We get to the entry plaza and I note the season pass processing line is backed up clear into the parking lot, I'm glad I already processed. We approach the park and I notice the bright yellow painted trip hazard that used to separate the tram lane from the pedestrian area is still there, but at least the ride safety sign appears to be standing on its own now. We note a park close at 8pm and no rides are listed as closed. We head to security, and get there just as additional lines are opening up. I duck through a newly opened line and am through the checkpoint in no time. A family with 3 wagons, and 7 people intercepted Rideman on the way to the newly opened lane he ducked for and by the time he realized it all the lanes had long lines. I did note they took a couple detectors out of the center of the checkpoint to use as an exit. We hit the admission gate and use some newly opened lanes to sail through the admission gate.
We then head up International Street, but not before being ambushed by Keyhole Photo, we then wander kind of aimlessly, turning at the first turn and walking through Oktoberfest. We note the line for Delirium looks short, but also out of the way. We press on, past a substantial line for Slingshot (sale price: $15 ($25 list) and take a ride on Adventure Express. Adventure Express was a walk on as usual, but my hopes were raised when I noted a) the presence of a height check person, b) brand new height check poles (the wooden poles have been replaced with something a little more substantial looking), and c) the ride ops have new costumes. Really if we inserted a turnstile in the queue right by the height check person, this would feel exactly like a Cedar Point operation. As it turns out this would be the last greeter type person we would see in queue for a rollercoaster for the day.
We take seats in the front seat of the back car, and fasten the belts with their newly added grab loops, drop the safety bars and off we go. Adventure Express is one of those reliable rides that always seems to run well, with just the right amount of laterals. The special effects are about where they were last year. The big guy at the top of the second lift has his speaking part back and his eyes glow but no lights on the molten lava. Most of the drummers are drumming, and they even left the lift hill tunnel service door open, just like Paramount used to.
We exited Adventure Express and Rideman showed me the new scenery panel for the rope ladder game, it features all kinds of easily identifiable Kings Island rides and landmarks, and one giant coaster that doesn't seem to fit in with anything at the park. We wonder if the scenery panel is already designed to be compatible with "Project: 2009". The same motif can be found on the fronts of the Coca Cola vending machines. ($3.50). I also note the minimal overlay used to transform Bubba Gumps into Outer Hanks.
We head into Coney Mall and head to Racer. Okay, so Racer has been in the news a lot recently because of the big change to discontinue the backwards facing side, so yes now both sides of Racer run in the traditional forwards facing manner. At the same time they also discontinued having 1 red train and 1 blue train per side, instead putting both red trains on the midway side, and both blue trains on the back side. I say this because when the trains were sitting back in maintenance, somebody decided which trains went on which side, and I'm not sure how much thought went into that decision. It's also worth noting that since the Forwards/Backwards signs at the queue entrance are now obsolete, they were replaced with signs reading "BLUE RACER" and "RED RACER" Here is where somebody fell asleep at the switch in the "attention to detail" department, a few years ago Racer received a brand new marquee, it looks like a big shield with the word Racer written across it, with one half of the shield being red, and the other half blue. Yep, you guessed it, the entrance to Blue Racer is under the red half of the shield, the entrance to Red Racer is under the blue half of the shield. Rideman thinks I am being way too nit-pickey in calling the park out on this.
So how does it ride? Well, I have never known the midway side of the ride to go forwards so we head for Red Racer, and the line is just to the bottom of the ramp. I was really hoping they would get rideof the chain link fence down the center of the platform to ease station congestion, but they haven't. The station congestion is also still a problem as there were crowds heading for the seats in the front of the train, but after pushing ourselves through there was almost nobody waiting for the last two cars. I dunno something just looks wrong seeing this train facing forwards. We sit down, same loops have been added to the belts. We go out on the course which had received a lot of retracking over the off season. This side is running nice and smooth, but its not quite broken in yet, as the ride is smooth but a bit sluggish. Note that we left the chain lift first, and the blue train had already passed by the time we got to the turnaround. Anecdotal comments by the ride operators are that the Blue side has been winning pretty regularly. (Blue side? Go Muskies!) Hey, since the train has been turned around, do I get a new coaster credit for this?
We exit Red Racer and head to Blue Racer. Line is about the same length, station congestion problems are about the same. We ride in the same seat as Red, that being the back seat. Okay Blue Racer is running faster, but it is also running quite a bit rougher. How come the midway side of this ride gets all the love when it comes time for maintenance, and the backside doesn't?
We exit Racer and head towards X-Base. I note despite rumors to the contrary the X-Base sign next to the Ring Toss game is still there, and is mounted on a substantial concrete base. The X-Base sign on the archway under Racer however, has been removed. Also I don't think the runway lines on the ground extend out as far as they used to.
Our time back here was short, the greeter at Firehawk was advertising a 2 hour wait, and an quick inspection of the ride indicated only 1 station open, and the queue maze at least 3/4 full. While they did get the second station open while we were observing, the crew appeared to be sluggish in operating the ride, and besides Rideman has little interest in the ride, so we headed next door to Flight of Fear. We saw the outdoor queue maze full, and decided to return later.
We scamper our way down to Vortex, looking at the credit card machine installed in one of the game joints. In a similar minimalistic transformation the Happy Days Diner, is now the Juke Box Diner. Vortex's line was spilling out onto the midway, but we both know there isn't that much queue space available, especially with three trains on. Consequently the line moves pretty fast, Rideman notices a couple minor changes have been made to the ride, and soon we are heading to the front seat of the last car. Vortex, not much to say about it, its another ride that is pretty consistent so we had the typical Vortex ride.
We did not check to see what was playing in the Action FX theatre, but did note the Tramp Thing actually had a line, and also noted it had been sale priced down to $5 from the regular $10. As the maximum weight limit on this one is 200 pounds, I doubt I will ever get to find out what the big deal is.
We noted that Three Point Challenge (aka License to Print Money) is still doing a great job, and I note they replaced the real basketball racks with new racks that are more permanently mounted. We pass by Backlot Stunt Coaster and the line is through 2 switchbacks in the queue house, we decide to return later. but a visual inspection of the ride reveals that the billboard at the end was changed to remove the Italian Job reference.
We then come across Area 2009. Yes, there used to be a lake here, but right now there is a lot of heavy duty earth moving equipment standing proudly all in a row. You know usually when I see this much earth moving equipment in one place at an amusement venue, I am at a large fair, and am allowed to walk around and look at said equipment. The lake and much of the grassy area around it is now a big dirt field, and there is a collection of footings of various sized strewn about the area. A new picket style fence has replaced the simple chain barrier that used to be here. The walkway from here to the floral clock has been gated off, and I note Paradise Island still stands, albeit out of use for the year, at least as a concession stand. Not much to be gleamed from this area, but it does send the message that something LARGE is coming. While in this area we note a brand new park directory has been placed at this fork in the path. I thought that was a great idea, to help guests who are realizing the pathway is now closed and wondering "What do I do now?" Then I looked at the directory. It has a park map up top and a listing of common destinations at the bottom, with arrows pointing the way. Okay, the arrows for First Aid, Nick Universe, and Action Zone quite clearly point right to the blocked off path. Uhm, maybe this directory was created before the knew the path would be closed, so I looked at the map, they even had a magnified "You are here" inset. The inset and the map both quite clearly show that the path in question does not exisit this year. (It is solid grass on the map). That means whoever designed this directory is sending people down a path they KNOW isn't there. Classic! This goes beyond "poor attention to detail" to "outright stupidity"
Speaking of outright stupidity, that discount vacation scam booth is still allowed to exist across from Rivertown Pizza. I mention to Rideman that it would seem odd that Cedar Fair would allow people to come in for the express purpose of screwing their guests over. Rideman pointed out to me that no, these people are merely here to tell you about an exciting vacation opportunity, once you get there, then THOSE people are the ones that screw you over. I dunno it just seems tacky to have this kind of joint in a first class amusement park. I mean this is something that would fit in better at a fair or flea market. They approach me with a cheerful "Hi! How would you like a trip to _____ for only $____!" I respond back with a gruff "You mean they haven't kicked you guys out of here yet!!??!!" and go on my way.
We head to Beast, and notice they have slightly remodeled the entrance. Most of the chain link is gone except for a small section to block off the walk on weekends entrance. Also gone is the wooden fence, so now you enter in the center of what used to be the Beast Drinks building about where the height checker used to be. I think they need to replace that "Beast Canyon Cold Drinks" sign with a big Beast marquee front and center over where the new entrance is. We enter and the line is almost down to the middle queue house, but with all the queues in the top queue house (station platform queues ) in use. We were surprised that it took about 30-40 minutes to get through the Beast queue. When we got to the station, we noted that the front seat queue was not that much longer, so we took a front seat ride on Beast. There is evidence of new wood on several parts of Beast, and the ride actually seems to be running pretty good this year. It lunged about halfway up the second chain lift on its own, and it seems anyway that they have lightened up on the brakes. At any rate, Beast seems to be running great this year, although the crew is still sluggish as you might expect with it being early season. We were in row 1, rows 2 and 3 were full of girls who were the kind that scream in a high pitch shrill at the top of their lungs for absolutely no reason, like sitting still on the brake run. When we exited Beast we noted that now both the top and middle queue houses were full.
We next head to the Crypt. I was eager to ride the Crypt as early reviews are that it now runs a much more intense program. The line was almost back to the ride entrance but with none of the outdoor queues in use. We decide to wait it out, and eventually we get into the Crypt itself. lots of skulls, skeletons and spiders have been strewn about the indoor queue area. We reeach what was the Moneky Room (now the skeleton room) and with the addition of two ropes, they have changed the three seat lanes into a new section of indoor queue. This area does have a couple problems, the first is the speakers in this area are entirely too loud for PA announcements, and b) the people that diesigned the lighting effects never intended for gueusts to be facing 'backwards' in the room. Yeowch those things are bright. There is a grouper at the end of the new "Monkey Room queue". We note that the leftmost lane in the preshow room has been blocked off with rope. We were sent to the right lane, and there is no more preshow movie. Instead front and center in the room is an audio animatronic bat that spreads its wings and roars a couple times. Not that impressive. The attendnat had given the safety spiel and was starting to collect loose items when the ride went down. Obviously they needed to back people up so the people who were on the ride could move back to the queue. Rather than pack them into the unused third lane. (The lanes are wide enough where we were not at all packed into the other two lanes), they insisted everybody indoors COMPLETELY exit the cave by walking back through the queue. There are obviously no speakers in the tunnel part of the cave, and they had one operator trying to get people to move, the people weren't moving, the operator got frustrated at the situation and as the saying goes "Nothing good can come of this" The operator started rudely barking orders at guests, in between barks, we overheard her mutter that this was the EIGHTH time today they have to evacuate. A time later they had some management types walking the queue apologizing for the delay and how things were handled. Some time later we were alllowed into the cave and due to people ahead of us leaving. (The people who were cleared off the ride were not eager to try again, given their hasty exit) we were led right into the preshow room, but there was no preshow, instead the overhead door silently rose, and we boarded the ride. We had heard a row of seats had been removed, but we saw no evidence of where a row had been removed, I mean yes there were only 2 rows of seats but we could not see where the third row would have been, and that was looking both at the front and rear of the gondola. Wonder if they totally replaced the gondola. Anyway we were in our seats, the bars and belts were locked, the checkers had come through and checked restraints, everything seemed ready to start, and then nothing. I did note that a lot of the theme elements in the main chamber had been removed and the big woman on the wall directly in front of you had been painted over in black. After a few moments of fiddling with it, they asked everybody to return to the preshow room. We had already invested 45 minutes the first time to not ride it, then waited out a 45 minute downtime, to not ride it. The ride is clearly not ready for riders if this was (by the crew members own utterance) the NINTH breakdown of the day. We bolted towards the exit doors, escorted by a ride op, who could then not open the exit doors at first. In other words it still a pile of crap.
We spent some time inpecting the new flower pot holders in Rivertown, and heard that next years new attraction is some kind of floating restaurant, so clearly they are getting the Dinner in the Sky that was featured at the last IAAPA. We noted the train arriving, so we took a ride on the train so we could see the deforestation of some of the train ride grounds, we could see lots of markings indicating something is going on back in that woods. I also noted the rumors that somebody bought the western town set is false, as it was still there.
We next head over by the Back Porch Stage to get another look at Area 2009. From there we head to a Genuine Scale Model Replica of a famous French Landmark, that was built by a German Firm and sitting in the center of an American theme park. Yep, a no wait ride up to the top of Eiffel Tower was in order to get another look at Area 2009. You really can't see any more from up top than you can from a ground walk and riding the train, as the woods hide any work being done back there. You may get to notice the enormity of the construction site. We also noted the patio behind Midway Eats and Treats in Coney has been blocked off. Is it too early to start the rumour that a certain underutilized Coney snack bar could soon make way for the queue area and station for a new antique car ride to take place in the Tower Gardens/ Paramount Story area? Further interesting earth moving can be seen behind Son of Beast. We also noted that for park with an aerial tower attraction, almost no attention has been paid to how things look from the top of said tower. Oh and that one floor panel by the down elevator doors still wobbles.
We come back down to earth, and head to Action Zone, by this time Festhaus is closed but we are intrigued by signs that would seem to indicate Skyline Chili has been added to their menu. Entering Action Zone, we ride Delirium. They are using about 3/4 of one switchback in the queue house so its a relatively short wait, for a most excellent if somewhat brief Delirium ride.
We then headed back to Flight Deck, paying attention to the new Thunder Alley name for the go karts ($6) and that Skycoaster was sale priced at $15, Rideman said "Don't even think about it!" remembering our long long wait for Skycoaster at Halloween Haunt last fall.
Flight Deck, well instead of very minimal changes, went for a minimlaistic approach. Every single piece of theming between the entrance sign and the station building has been removed: the radar dish, the yardarm style flagpole, the movie posters, BOTH giant billboards the stand that used to hold miniature jet fighters (but didn't actually hold miniature jet fighters the last couple seasons). About the only things that remain is the giant American flag painted inside the tunnel, and a couple regimental banners they forgot on the lower level of the station queue. (Well, and who knows if they gutted out the closed display cases of the lower queue area) They also removed the giant tarps that had been stretched out between the columns in the station house and adorned with more regimental symbols. I hope they put something back in their place to use as sun shade. As for the ride itself it still runs great, short but great. It was a total walk on as usual.
Now an aside to the flag situation, yes those who read my TR's know I have a certain flag fetish. The poles at the front of Fort Kinzel are again unused for what is now countless seasons in a row. What kind of military fort does not fly the colors? The poles in the middle of Coney now all bear Kings Island flags, well the half of that avenue of flags layout that is left. The flags atop Wings Diner are gone. And in a way I agree with Cedar Fair, in that they don't use the American flag as gratuitous decoration, but in some themed experiences, it actually does belong.
Anyway, one last ride, we duck into Son of Beast just as the park is closing. We wind up in seat 2.1, and let me tell you, that ride was B-R-U-T-A-L. It is back to being a ride with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. With that we exit the park but not before taking a look at the Evil Kenevil display setup in the lobby of the International Restaurant.
We kill enough time in fact, that we have very easy egress out the north exit to the parking lot, and then more or less make our way to Culvers for some dinner and custard before heading home.
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