Trip Report: Paramount's Kings Island
April 7, 2002
Kings Mills, OH
"Where is everybody?
Trumpets Sound, playing a regal sounding royal fanfare Life returns to the land of Coasterville, as the 2002 Coaster Season has officially begun.
We'll skip the getting there is half the fun part. Suffice to say that as we pulled off of I-71 at the PKI exit, the generosity of the car was overflowing as no less than 3 people were willing to cover the $8 parking fee. Oh, wait, no less than 3 people in the car had PKI parking permits. We pulled into the lot and realized that we were lucky enough to be able to grab one of the very few remaining non-wheelchair, non-preffered parking spaces in the front section of the parking lot. Even better than the Gold Pass Parking lot, for which at least 2 people had passes for. Besides which, unless they made some traffic flow improvements from last season getting out of the the Gold Pass Parking is anything but a perk.
We then swiftly made our way to the front gate while reading the note we got from the parking plaza stating that due to the cold weather, the park would be running limited operations today. Perhaps the passing out of these notices contributed to the near non-existant crowd today, as it was chilly in the morning, but it was feeling nice by the afternoon, and the vast majority of the parks's attractions did eventually open. We then saw the ride closings board which showed that the Beast and the Reptar would be closed today, and then the a-frame sign that caused a bit of uneasiness. "Tomb Raider MAY operate today......" (Then something about please accept our apologies for the inconveniece as we tweak the attraction). Well MAY is better than the WIll NOT that was made famous two seasons ago. Marching onward, we came across the front gate turnstiles, where we noted a new admissions system has been installed, one with full color display screens for the operator, and barcode scanners and not barcade swipes. This should help things out, we noted even the re-entry people got computer screens. One comical note, when a ticket/pass is accepted, the color readout shows a green arrow icon, but the arrow is pointing back towards the parking lot. I know overanalyzing, but then part of being a park nut is noticing and analyzing small details that most people don't think twice about. Speaking of analyzing things, I note that the big airport style security checkpoint at the front gate has been eliminated, and judging from remarks of those that have been to other seasonal parks this spring, is in tune with what other seasonal parks have been doing. Grab a park map out of the brocuhre rack and then head to the ACE brick. "Would you stop and take a quick survey?", OK, now we head to the ACE brick, "Would you stop for a picture?", and now he head the the ACE brick. Wheew.
A lot of time was spent re-introducing and all. It's sort of like that first week back to school "How was your summer vacation?", except for us its "How was your off-season?" Socializing took place and then we were met by a park GR person who informed us that today's walk back would be to Flight Of Fear. The walkback is a nice courtesy and tradition that PKI offers, kudos again to the park.
Flight of Fear is of course totally different from Outer Limits. On our way back there I noticed that there seemed to be a lot more flags in the park than in years past. They may have always been there, they just seemed to be more noticeable, and I noted a couple patrotic tracks have been added to the background music. Anyway, we entered the Flight of Fear building through the hangar, into the UFO, onto the train, and with a WOOOOSSSHHHH. Coaster season 2002 had begun. Some of our group expressed that they were unable to ride FoF this year, though they could last year, and others indicated that the seats on the right side of the train are more accomodating than the left. I didn't notice much change, I'm just retelling the tale. FoF ran brakless and the ride chamber was sufficiently dark, that the multi colored spotlights were very effective. I'm not kidding when I say that FoF is a very fun coaster now. We exited FoF and waited for our group to reassemble. We considered anotother FoF ride, then opted to instead head for the REAL flight of fear. It's FLYERS time, don't youknow.
Flyer Season 2002 has begun! Where can I join AFE (American Flyer Enthusiasts) or is it APE (American Phlyer Enthusiasts). We entered the line for the Flying Skooters. Who writes the verbage for the ride safety signs. Someone wrote, for the Flying Skooters "2-3 Per Seat" When someone shows me three people who can ride safely together in a Flyer seat! That and PKI has adopted the CP ride intensity ratings. (1=Mild Ride, up to 5=Extreme thrill ride) (Yes 5 is a double black diamond) So onto the ride, where they were very accomdating of offering solo rides. The PKI Flyers are still excellent, although they cycle now ends just as the action starts getting good, much like it did at the end of last season. The experts of the group were snapping like crazy, and the rest of us like me, had some good rides, even if we didn't hear two many groans of the cables. We then had an ITOT on the Flying Eagles and rode for quite a while.
Watch your electronic newsfeed for the foundation of the "American Flying Skooter League", we haven't quite come up with the rules and regs for Official Tournament Flyer Flying, but we made progress at our first meet yesterday. Of course we couldn't resist taking a walk over to Tomb Raider much longer. So we headed down the path, confirmed that Beast was closed today, and on around to Tomb Raider. Wow this whole section of midway has changed. Everything from the Beast entrance to the Potato Works stand is all part of the TR plaza.
Attention Potential TR:TR spoiler infomration, please scroll quickly down to the second field of stars if you would rather not know anymore about TR:TR than it exists.
SPOILER ALERT ****************************************
********************************** TOMB RAIDER: THE RIDE
As I was saying, lets first discuss the non TR:TR side of the Tomb Raider Plaza (Last change to bypass the TR stuff) The gift shop for the area has of course been rethemed to TR. (This is the one that started out as the Red's Dugout Shop, and has had many themes throughout the recent years), to the right of the gift shop a Nacho and ICEE stand has been added, to the left of the gift shop, the peach basket game (named Basket Case) has been relocated from its former position in front of KCKC. The basket game is well done with a lot of baskets up on the rood and signage, as well as huge sacks of potatos on top of the redecorated Rivertown Potato Works where popcorn chicken and beer have been added to the menu. The train station Ice Cream stand is now a Gourmet Dippin Dots stand (!) with Dippin Dots Sundaes, and Floats. As well the train exit has been reconfigured. Instead of two entrances to the train ride, there is now one entrance, the former entrance on the Potato Works side is now an exit, with an obnoxiously long exit ramp so as to not have people exiting through the new dining patio area. Okay I think I have talked enough about the surroundings to safely protect anybody who does not want the spoiler.
The TR:TR plaza, starting at the Beast Entrance is roughly set up as follows, the whole thing looks like an African wildlife exhibit from the outside (Cambodia is the actual setting for TR, right), shame the park did away with Adventure Village, the theming would have fit together perfectly. Anyway at the Beast end of the TR plaza is a tent covering a Land Rover (actually used in the filimg of TR, according to the signboard). Obligatory movie prop. (Look closely at the tire treads in the ground under the Land Rover, clearly some other vehicle has been here as the LR did not make those tracks.) To the right the Land Rover tent is the mouth of the cave/tomb/temple, its never made quite clear, but if this were a Tolkien-esque adventure this would clearly be a 'back door' entrance. A large forboding arch shaped entranceway leads to mysteries unknown. The arch way itself is covered in runes or picture writing. The actual ride entrance is to the right of the cave entrance to allow access to the outdoor queues located alongside the buidling. A sign above the ride entrance proclaims that "No carry in gear allowed". to the immediate left of the entrance are the test seats. Next to the test seats is a short term locker facility. Approximately 120 electronic SmartLocke lockers are available to hold the carry on items you aren't allowed to take with you. This is very similar to the setup for the rollercoasters at IOA, with the lockers situated right between the ride entrance and exit. Unlike IOA, however, there is no free grace period while you wait. What they do is give you 90 minutes for 50 cents, payable at the time the locker is rented, woe be the person who overstays their welcome, as each additional 30 minutes or fraction thereof is $1.00 extra, payable when you go to retrieve your goods. (The locker door won't unlock till the penalty is paid). There is a $6.00 maximum limit on the fee, however. To the right of the locker rental is the ride exit ramp, and then on to Potato Works.
When we first approached TR:TR it had not started operation for today yet, but under other suggestions, I tried the test seat to avoid any embarassing situations later. I noted that I fit into the test seat alright, and had to struggle with the seatbelt, similar to my experience on B&M coasters. But at least I learned I could ride. Since not much was open yet, we waited around,, had some Potato Works fries, and saw the ride open. Being good reide enthusiasts, we headed directly to the ride, not fast enough to beat those who were camped out in front of the ride, but we wound up in the first aisle of the outdoor queue area. the first section of queue is a normal queue maze, no shading as yet, though I hear that will be adressed before summer season. The queue is ADA complaint in width, and leads to a curved path that takes you from the overflow area to the attraction entrance. For this section the queue rails are genuine simulated bamboo. There is a short section where the queue is missing and a rope was being used today, I suspect that will be adressed as there are plugs in the ground that look like they pull out to expose holes to mount speed rail type product.
SERIOUS SPOILERS AHEAD, LAST CHANCE TO EXIT WITHOUT RIDING!!!
Then you enter the temple/tomb/cave/whatever (hey I haven't seen the movie nor played the game). The area resembles the site of an archeological dig with bamboo poles helping to brace the supports and to hold a canvas cover over the heads of the archeologists. Interesting that this particualr temple came with a modern state of the art fire safety system AND an overhead garage door at its mouth. Through the opening and immediately you are walking along a bridge,the bridge cleverly keeps the guests from getting too close to the props along either side wall. Props? Temple ruins, broken columns, and other stuff that are surely archeological finds. The whole area is lit merely by work lamps. After a few twists and turns in the temple your path is blocked by a staff member. At the appropriate time this staff member admits 77 people into the next room. (Which is around a corner so you can't see it until the staff person admits you). To borrow from the Disney philosophy if running an attraction, this staff member is where the turnstiles would be to a holding pen. The next room serves as a holding pen, a room where not much happens, but it gets people grouped into 77 people, AND divides the group into three, each group corresponding to a row on the ride. The front row is to the left, and the back row is to the right, however they seem to assign rows, so choice is by lottery. In other words a lot of housekeeping gets done here to prepare the group logistically for the attraction. In this room the rows are seperated out only by temporary looking tensa-barriers. Possibly they hadn't planned to split the group this soon originally, or there are some details that still need to be worked out. This is the moneky room, as it is lines by statues of monkeys. Some say they can see their eyes and noses move. The ornamental cieling suggests a temple chamber, though clearly an antechamber or hallway. Blocking your progress forwards is a rather substantial looking portal of stone. RIght on cue the music begins, then a light projection is shown on the stone door, and it seems to keep moving until it lines up with the pattern inscribed on the door, at which time the massive door slides open to the left.
At this point everybody walks forward, anxiously into the next, room where again the room is split into three sections, this time by more substantial railings. This room is supposedly the tomb, or some inner sanctum, along one wall you see a glowing greeb orb and a statue, the other walls are themed, but not as much. Then all of a sudden the door through which you entered noisly slides shut, all the lights go out, and a voiceover comes on about being inside a tomb. When the lights come on, a magic mirror is seen floating where the green orb was, and a strange magenta mist/smoke coming out the top. The magic mirror is, as you probably guessed, merely a projection screen for the preshow video. The preshow video seems to little more than a movie trailer for Tomb Raider, and seemed to do nothing to set the scene. Oh it introduces people like me who are unfamiliar with the Tomb Raider franchise to the settings, people and all, but it really doesn't do much. I suppose the ride vehicle is supposed to be that big brown steel beam she rides in the preshow. Usual theme park simulator plot line: "The hero got in, nabed the treasure, then all hell broke loose during the escpae". At the end of the video "FAMOUS LAST WORDS!" the screen shows some fire imagery, the room glows red, and a curtain rises to reveal access to the ride chamber. Perhaps there is both an overhead door and a curtain. I definetely recall looking up while walking under a curtain, and perhaps that is substial barrier from the ride area. Just before going under the curtain, there is a door located to the right hand side of the hall. This is the Chicken Chute, the last bail out, "LAST CHANCE TO EXIT WITHOUT RIDING", the door that seperates the men from the crybabies, etc. The room it leads to is also the child swap facility, and somehow it makes provision to reclaim articles lost on the ride, I'm not sure how this works out. I suppose if there is enough of a pit under the ride, someone can sweep for loose articles while the tub is being loaded/unloaded. I only mention it becuase there is signage about reclaiming lost articles. (And why weren't they in a locker). A cast member quipped about 20 cell phones being lost on the ride the previous operating day. Riders beware. (I wonder how a cell phone holds up to an 80' drop onto hard cement?) (Or is their cushioning underneath, hmm questions to be answered).
If you continue under the curtain, you see what looks like some evil pendulum machinery in front of you, and three ramps with drawbridges heading to the ride. One ramp for each row. You enter the ride gondola from the side, and soom find yourself looking at a row of seats. As if you were in a theater you move down to the end of the row, filling in all available seats. Once you find yours, you have one last chance to secure small loose items before sitting down. In back of the seat in front of you near the floor is a clear plastic pouch, the pouch closes will a velcro closure, and two snaps, much like the straps on a camera bag. It's not much but it may help, I don't know how much weight or value I would trust it for. It should be noted that the operators do NOT point these pouches out to people, and that a people will tend to put their feet in the exact same spot for bracing. Keep those caveats in mind. Use at your own risk, that type of deal. The ride gondola itself is very plasticy, and looks almost like a motion base found on numerous motion sim rides located around the world, except this one has shoulder bars. The riders sit down, pull the shoulder harness down, then fasten a seatbelt between the legs to the front of the shoulder bar. I found that getting the harness down, locked, and belted in the actual ride to be a lot easier than the test seat, Again, your mileage may very. Then again the test seat may be calibrated for the fact that just before the ride starts the ride automatically tightens the shoulder bars some. If you can't fit the test seat, you probably won't be comfortable in the ride. This ride does not have the battling rams to push down on the shoulder bar, instead it appears to be in the shoulder bar mechanism itself. The seatbelt being a redundant safety check. The operators do come around to check bars and belts, then the lights go out, the doorsclose, and the bridges go up. Then the ride vehicle moves forward while remaining upright headed to the control booth, (at the top of the wood and bamboo ladder) Of course you anger some temple god, the ride vehicle turns some more, still upright, much like a ferris wheel, then one more time, and by this time the god is really angered, you get sprayed with water, the ride vehicle reclines backwardso you are looking at the stalactites on the ceiling while getting misted, then the lights go out, the gondola does one tumble while strobe lights go off, then the ride does one revolution with the lights off,until it finally stops with the gondola locked in what appears to be the prone flying postion,with your head slightly lower than your chest, looking stright down into the lava volcano, and bubbling lava, and fountains that just miss drenching the riders in the gondola. Then it holds you upside down for an eternity, then another eternity, then anothher eternity, you feel the blood rushing to your head, another eternity, then it finally releases, then the ride speeds up and does a real fast spin of the room, tumbling I think twice along the way. Then is comes to a stop about halfway up, on the back, rightside up, where some voice over occurs. (Voice overs are barely audible), You can clearly see by the framework of the ride that this is a Top Spin (Giant Sized of course). The ride is slowly lowered back to the base of the ride and then.
Fianlly the lights start to come up, you sit anxiously awaiting the ride to restrart
You feel the shoulder bars release.
You unceremoniously find that the exit doors have been opened and you can exit the ride, feeling cheated out of the climax, cheated out of the grand finale. Its like the ride stopped in the middle of the show.
You exit the ride vehicle expecting something more, you cross the exit drawbrige, go down a ramp into a darkend small room, you turn right and realize that you ARE being unceremoniously being dumped out onto a rather ordinary boring unthemed exit pathway. You make your way along the long walk from the very back of the building to the front of the building. At least you can wave to the train riders if they happen to be coming though at about that time. You see the door to the Rendevous Point if doing the child swap, and a promise of "Recalmim Lost Articles". Otherwise you continue down the exit path to a future on-ride photo booth. (I would bet right when they spin you and the strobes flash), after the on-ride photo booth, you come to the locker area, then out onto the midway. The gift shop is located directly across the midway from you and the exit points you right at it.
Q: How did you like your ride on Tomb Raider
A: It's fine, just fine, I think it will get a lot of attention.
Nothing stellar, nothing earth shattering. The theming is excellent for a Paramount Park, the ride entryway is great. The preshow rooms looked great and convinving. However I was expecting more out of, "an interactive queue experience" than just a pre show movie. I was thinking more along the lines of Poseidon's Phury (IOA). Again, though I would be remiss not to tout how well the theming works, and how it raises the bar for a themed attraction at this type of amusement park. The ride itself while not bad, should be treated more like a show. Its a novel idea, using a Top Spin as a dark ride system, and it is unique, (nearest TS is over 225 miles at Geauga Lake), and it is pleasing the crowds. It just seems to a)be a bit on the short side, b) be skimpy on the thrills side (unless being held upside down is a thrill for you), and c)seems to be missing a climax or grand finale. Something to say "THIS WAS TOMB RAIDER!" So I have trouble giving an opinion of the ride. As a theme park attraction it is excellent, as an imsersive experience it is great, as a unique and novel ride experience for PKI it comes through, as a action packed maniacal thrill ride, it falls short, as a Top Spin, it disapoints. When they said people were wrong in predicting its a Top Spin, they were correct but with the qualifier (*It looks like a Top Spin, it may bear the Top Spin nameplate, but it doesn't behave like one) Best suggestion I have is to try to forget the fact that it IS a Top Spin. It's an experience I would do once a visit, maybe twice, but not something that I would repeat over and over. It's a Oncer. We'll see how it does, I predict the GP will eat it up, and I predict the enthusiasts will be less than enthused about it. As a business decision, however it is clearly a great success as it does provide something entirely different, entirely novel and for 95% of the park guests, something the likes of which they have never seen before. A rather fine addition for the park. Ride it for yurself and see what you think.
IT IS NOW SAFE TO CONTINUE READING
After riding Tomb Raider, we collected our party, and noted that Vortex was open. We proceeded towards Vortex, but were stopped by a sight that needed immediate attention: An open Flying Skooters ride sitting with no riders and nobody in the queue. We just had to take a couple Flyers rides.
After the Flyers we headed over to Vortex, we noted a case of Vortex Shedding, then proceeded to board the ride. Vortex has a fine new paint job and looks fantastic. The ride even rides pretty good. More noteworthy it was hinted that we ride on the left. Due to the walk on conditions, the back few cars of Vortex went out with only the left seats filled. We looked down at the Beast as we were climbing the lift, a lot of new wood, which is not to be unexpected, but there in brake run. It's true, the Beast is getting Fin Brakes. Its not evident whether these will be conventional or magnetic brakes but the fact is the Beast is getting new brakes. The entire floor of the brake runs looks to be boarded in, similar to several section on Legend at HW.
After Vortex, a few people purhased cold drinks, then we headed down Coney Mall. 7th Portal is the only motion sim movie right now. (Meteor Attack opens later on), but it was noted that 7th Portal did not have a ride intensity rating, which is odd becuase Eiffel Tower does. We headeddown Coney, noted that they are apprarently in the middle of renovating the Skeeball building. At least we hope it is just a renovation or that building is going to look butt ugly. A pulled taffy stand has popped up next to Dodgems, the Antique Cars arenow simply known as "The Antique Cars - By John Nolan Ford" (And has allegedly been outiftted with John Nolan Ford billboards). The Voyager motion simulator next to the Zephyr is gone, and the rest of Coney looks pretty much the same. We passed FoF and Racer and went into Oktoberfest where we caught a ride on Adventure Express. AdEx iswas running great, the drummers were drumming, the eyes were glowing but I don't think the big guy said his lines. From the Adventure Express you can see the remnants of King Cobra. Ya know, they are taking these new extreme coasters a bit too far". I mean the train reaches the top of the lift, then the track ends. Oht here are some other track sections remaining but not much. In the area that used to be the picture spot for taking photos of the loop of King Cobra, a Slingshot is being erected. It isn't done yet, so be patient. Prices and ride experience have not yeat been determined. We contined on around into the Action Zone, though we did not enter the Action Zone, we instead headed to the PAramount Theater which is being used as the pass proceccing center for now to pick up the Gold Pass calendar, a premium item for Gold Pass hodlers, though its in a standard newspaper rack, unsupervised, so its not like Joe Q Park Guest could not get one. (Not that I encourage dishonest behavior, nor do I agree with the one per family rule, if its a Gold Pass perk, every goldpass holder is entitled to one)
The main reason the calendar is worth getting is that the picture for April is a 1972 PARK MAP! This is the 30th aniversary season afterall. A fine premium item that may help answer some historical questions. We then got our hands stamped, took premiums and coats to cars, and collected video equipment. Had some interesting conversations, including one with a guest pulling into the parking lot who was obviously concerned about the flyer he got at the toll plaza talking about limited operation, when in fact everything except Reptar, Beast, King Cobra and the waterpark were open. But hey maybe that scared a lot fo people off. The park may have to reevaluate when to stop passing those out. We then re-entered the park. A couplechanges to International Street, the pizza joint has grown to take over the Virtual Reality arcade, and, get ready for this, the Bakery is now selling Krispy Kreme donuts (for $1 each). Funny, I thought LegoLand had an exclusive on that. Other than that things look pretty normal on International Street. We took a ride up to the top of tower, where by way of the 100X zoom lens I was able to get the fin brakes on Beast, a lot of video was taken, things were looked at, discussed, we got pretty darn cold, we rode back down and just so happens the food crew was back from lunch. We then headed to Hana Barbera land so the Food Crew could have desert (Blue Smurfcones!). We took the chance to ride Beastie. For one we had to refute that ridiculous rumour about individual ratcheting lap bars on Beastie, two it was there. Beastie was only running one train, but it rode decently. We looked at the wait for Ghoster Coaster and decided it was too long, Reptar was closed, and we are ineligible for Taxi Jam. We then headed into Rivertown, observed that the elephant on Wild thornberries was turned off. We walked past but declined to ride White Water Canyon, and headed to Tomb Raider, where we videoed the area, and then had a time out while waiting for some in our group to take a ride. (it will only be 20 minutes! Famous last words.......) Anyay we overanalzed the whole TR plaza, overanalayzed the Outfitters gift shop, overanalyzed the train ride. Took the train ride. Went over by Beast plaza, went into Beast Arcade. Noted that they have a DDR 3rd Mix, did not play DDR 3rd Mix but noted that the park chose probably the worst place in the whole arcade to put it. I have still never played DDR, and after looking at the machine, I truly fail to see the point of it.
Some time later, our group is reassembled, and we head to Vortex. Seems there was something interesting about Vortex that we needed to photograph, and of course take a ride while we are there. We then headed down to Racer. Only forwards side was running. Running very smooth as a matter of fact. Running nicely, then right after the last dip before the turnaround I head loud remarks indicative of rider doscomfort coming from Rideman. Get back to the station, yep, Dave Althoff's first case of torque lock for the season!
Nice to know some things never change. We then headed to the action zone, took some photos of the slingshot area, took some video of the King Cobra demolition project (*sniff*), walked around into the Action Zone, and noticed that they are recycling the same "Coming Soon" fencing from last year! We then rode Top Gun and had a pleasant ride, then rode Son of Beast. The seats may have more padding now, but the ride still rides like a washboard. Ack, does the phrase "ride with no redeaming qualities" have any meaning to you??? We went over to Face/Off and got a rare near walk on wait. Of course we all wanted an end seat, which took a bit longer. Fast, intensive, smoooth. Face/Off is not a bad ride at all.
We then headed back to the Flyers where most of the group camped out until park closing. I mean you can't beat no-wait Flyer rides. I took a walk over to Tomb Raider, where I found the wait to be just 15 minutes, and noted one other problem. The overflow queue, the last turn before the station you head down the trail to the cave does NOT have a rotary gate. This means that when the line is incredibly short, like it was now you still have to walk all the way to the back of the queue house and back. That is if not every single rider I spied was jumping the fence. They need to consider a gate or something there, or someone is going to get hurt.
After my Tomb Raider ride, I headed back to the party on the Flyers. And we Flew, and we Flew, and we Flew some more. We then headed up towards the park exit, said our goodbyes, and headed to Waffle House.
Oh, and as a diplomatic gesture, the mayor of Coasterville gave theColumbus delgation a bottle of Moxie Cola!
Back to Trip Reports