What many doubted they'd never see finally happened this weekend. Kentucky Kingdom's gates were finally open again for thousands of thrill seekers, families, and water park junkies looking for a park to enjoy that was not an hour away. A not so coaster-enthusiast and I made two trips to the park this weekend. We were there mainly to ride Lightning and Thunder Run, and to see how the refurb of the park looked. Here's a trip report with some pictures. How does the New Kentucky Kingdom look; and can this park once again become successful and thrive?
The layout for Kentucky Kingdom has never been on the top of anyone's amazing lists; and I can see how they might have some issues with a visit this year. The front of the park is the same but the back is more tricky. I will start by saying one huge surprise is that the water park is completely integrated with the rest of the park. The Last time I went to KK, you needed to enter it through the entrance by Chang. Now, you can step right into the water park immediately after the crossing bridge. I actually really like how it is; it makes this area much more open. There is a bit of chaos happening in the area though.
The path leading to T2/river rapids is blocked, so if you're looking to get to Thunder Run you have to turn around. The last time my friend and I visited the park was the year before Deluge opened so I was a tad confused. There was a path that led to Deluge with a smaller path leading to the right. I thought this path would take us to the midway that passes under Thunder Run's lift. Instead, it led to the lazy river and then we ended up having to walk all the way back to the steps into the water park from the walk bridge. There is also a very abrupt dead end right past the exit of Mile High Falls; understandable considering nothing else in operation is past it. That means if you want to get back to the water park you will need to double back to the walking bridge since you cannot use the path under Thunder Run's lift hill that goes by T2. Enough on the layout, what about the park grounds?
Everyone involved with the cleanup, restoration, and renovation should be applauded for their work. The front of the park is beautifully landscaped; very nice floral arrangements can be found in and around the park. It is evident there was a huge focus on making the front half of the park very inviting/filled with attractions. When the plans for the new rides/etc were announced I found it weird that most of the new attractions where at the front left side but it makes sense now that I've had a chance to walk around (I'll get to that in a second).
There are definitely signs (literal and not) that there is still a lot of work to do. The flying scooters and it's queue use a portion of the old RRE queue and pad, but there is a sizable chunk left unused. That section is separated from the scooter's but still very visible and jarring. Right next to the scooter's is a nice big sitting area with tables/chairs that give a front row view of LR's meat and potatoes, but the area around it is not fully landscaped. It looks like they will be removing the rest of the RRE pad and extending the big garden between Lightning Run and the midway; wrapping around the scooter's and LR's main ride area.....at least I hope so. The grounds the garden occupies (Tin Lizzies travels through it) is beautifully done and would really make the are come together.
The second half of the park (excluding the water park) carries a completely different tone. The gardens are more "earthy" and subdued but for good reason. The Thunder Run/Roller Skater/Mile High Falls area has always been more wooded and relaxing than the rest of the park but 4 years of letting vegetation go unhindered has really affected that atmosphere....and it's not a bad thing. The tree canopy is a lot thicker; the trees have grown and matured to a point that really makes you forget you are right in the middle of an urban area. Roller Skater has now been hidden by tall trees, the area really is gorgeous. While the greenery is quite beautiful there are a couple of blemishes in the area. In front of the Pizzeria by Thunder Run, the concrete pad for an old concessions building in all of it's grey glory is jutting out of the pavers, complete with orange cone. I hope that is removed and replaced soon as it is pretty ugly to see in an otherwise lovely area. There is also a building no longer used between Thunder Run's lift hill and brake run that should really be removed. I'm not sure of it's dimensions but if there was any place a transfer table could fit to support 2 train operation for Thunder Run it would be that spot.
The water park is well....a water park, so there's fake rocks and stuff. There are plants but tbh I didn't really pay attention to that area outside of the walking paths/concession buildings.
During our visits we really didn't ride any flats. The only ride other than the two coasters was the 5D Cinema Showing Rio (which only happened because I didn't see the sign saying the showing was Rio). From our laps around the park there were only two rides (excluding what everyone knows will be closed) that we saw not operation. Those were the Enterprise and the Tea Cups in the kids zone. The Tea Cups definitely looked not ready to go, but the enterprise didn't appear to have any obvious reasons. I was kind of bummed out since the Enterprise is my favorite flat at KK (haven't done the drop tower yet).
Earlier I said I understood why the new rides were all located in the front left section of the park, this is my thinking. The dry side of the park in the back currently is a hot mess attraction-wise. Currently the operational rides back there are Thunder Run (1 train), Mile High Falls, Fire Engine #9, The Carousel, Flying Dutchman, and Roller Skater. Not a tone of high capacity offerings. I could see the park wanting to try to steer some of the foot traffic away from that portion of the park at least until they get T2 and the River Rapids up and going. During our visit Thunder Run had an hour wait; If more people were in that section, it'd be a mad house. With that said here is my ride reviews.
Thunder Run: The ride itself is running exceptionally well. The best I can remember. The ride is crazy fast, the pops of airtime are fantastic and it rides like a wooden coaster should. RMC did a very good job re-tracking the ride. The Ride Ops were fantastic. They were thoroughly enjoying what they were doing. They were interacting with the people in line and most importantly, they were dispatching trains as fast as they could. Even with all of that, wait times were still an hour (This ride seriously needs a 2nd train).
It's been said a few times on here but Thunder Run's queue has some serious issues. The main portion of the queue is out of sight of anyone in the station; and there is definitely a line jumping issue. I don't know if it's possible but they seriously need to get some eyes on that queue line before the summer starts. In the past I guess it was not much of a problem as the queue itself never really took up the switchbacks; since the only other open adult coaster is Lightning Run, Thunder Run is getting extra ridership.
5D Cinema: After our very first Lightning Run ride we decided to check out the theatre so we could get some cool air while riding a ride. The current showing is Rio. The movie is in 3D and I'm guessing it is an abridged version of the actually films. The ride portion is the two birds trying to escape a cage and the shenanigans that come with it. The 3D glasses you get are definitely tailored to kids...they were quite small which made for a pretty uncomfortable fit. Had I paid attention to the posters outside the attraction, I probably would have skipped it. The ride itself is alright, I'm just not into children's movies so it was kind of boring. It did have a nice hang gliding scene that was quite nice though.
Lightning Run: Hmm....what to say about KK's new star attraction? Here's what I'll say about it. The year Diamondback opened, my friend Michael and I went to Kings Island to ride it. I forced him into riding it....he did not like it. He didn't like the feeling of airtime. Now flash forward to 5/25/14. I had been telling him that this ride was probably going to have serious airtime; I told him we'd ride in the front so he wouldn't flip on the first drop. I really didn't think we were going to be friends after we left the station......here is what he said when we hit the brakes.
"Holy sh*t......holy sh*t. That was nothing like Diamondback. I hate this ride; well I don't but I do. I felt like I was being ripped out of my seat on every hill. I don't know, you'd think I'd never want to ride this again but the force going over those hills was crazy...I mean ridiculous...can we ride it again?"
We rode it 4 times after that. There's not much I can add to what has already been said on this forum before, but Lightning Run is one, if not the, best roller coasters I've ever been on. Operations were mostly fluid. Dispatches averaged around 2 minutes after the train reached the brake run, we waited around 30 min every ride which was not bad. The queue uses GL old queue which is pretty short so the line spills out onto the midway. Unfortunately there's not really and room for switchbacks/expanding the line unless redo it and have the line follow the direction of the lift hill, bridge over the last bunny hops and connect to the area by the flying scooters.
Ride ops did have to repeat over and over not pull down on the lapbars/stay behind the yellow line as people wouldn't listen. I hated that they had to keep saying it. It might help if they raise the volume of the overhead speaker since it can get quite loud in the station. They would really benefit from having signs hanging over the gates in big red letter saying to stay behind the yellow line/not to pull down the lap bars. Heck maybe they could do an automated spiel like Thunder Run has. Other than that though, there were a few walks of shame Sunday. It sucks but to be honest, even with me being stapled in, I feel like I'm being ejected from how intense the airtime is on this ride; I've never experienced anything like it (outside of Titan at SFOT, all other hypers I've been on are B&M). With the forces this ride pushes, I doubt stapling of the restraints will never go away...not without adding trims at least. It seems like LR is a SROS accident waiting to happen.
I'm glad to have the park back open; it's amazing the amount of work they've accomplished on such a restricted budget and schedule. There is still a ton of work to be done with the park, for this season and for the future, but the park looks promising. It won't feel complete until all existing attractions are back but if Ed and his team can keep the park interesting, relevant, enjoyable, friendly, and safe, KK will have a nice long future. Now here's some pictures!
Many thought this day would never come.
There's a nice sitting area you can get a grand view of LR from. You can also see that there is still landscaping work to be completed.
Lovely unobstructed views of Lightning Run from the Midway.
The flying scooters are posistioned on the old Roadrunner Express pad.
The colors in this section of the park really are beautiful.
The star attraction of the New Kentucky Kingdom.
The queue offers nice views of the coaster and Tin Lizzies. Gorgeous landscaping work has been done here.
This might have been accurate during the preview day; from this point, the wait is actually around 15 minutes.
The color of the track POPS on a cloudy day!
Tin Lizzie's, the landscaping, and seeing LR in the background gives you something help you pass time.
Purple train, Purple train!
Hairtime greeting us on an overcast 2nd day of seasonal operation.
Prince would definitely approve of Kentucky Kingdom.
This little hop provides some nice airtime.
Extreme hairtime; Lightning Run's finale is perfect!
I thought this hill would be more like Diamondback's floater....NOPE.
Floater airtime through the tree!
A few years from now Lightning Run will make a video in which it licks a sledgehammer. This ride can't be tamed....
Fear Fall from the parking lot.
The refurb to the Casa Mia building looks very good. The inside is very nice.
Fear Fall making it's presence known from the Main walkway, Casa Mia to the right.
There are a couple of these throughout the park. The Season Pass holder perks/discounts are nice to have.
The color schemes of LR and Fear Fall look really nice together.
I'm beginning to believe Prince would approve of Kentucky Kingdom.
Not much time for contemplation; you drop as soon as you reach the top.
Lightning Run will teach you what air is.
The Zeppelins are really close to the Aquatic Theatre. The tea-cups are still under "funstruction".
There are nice floral arrangements throughout the front side of the park.
One of the food stands, Captain Jack's Cantina is located near the walking bridge.
Pricing is not really outrageous; and with a pass you get a 20% discount.
Unfortunately this was not in operation opening day, or the day after. Hopefully the get it back soon.
The new colors are awesome sauce!
The "5D" Cinema, which was showing the 4D movie Rio which is in 3D. I've yet to watch the actual films but this appeared to be like an abridged version of the movies.
The bridge you use to cross over with John Edwards...err to the second half of the park.
The Giant wheel THROUGH THE TREES!
Up close and personal.
Not so close, not so personal.
The orange seems to be not quite as vibrant on cloudy days; when the sun is out it is vibrant though.
Thunder Run originally had a red train, then it became yellow. Looks like it has now settled on a mix between the two.
The shake and back watching over the big wave pool. Despite the cooler weather and clouds, there were quite a lot of people enjoying the waterpark.
This picnic grove is opposite Lightning Run across the road.
You will find some very bright colors around Hurricane Bay.
The old entrance to the Bay. Not as important now since the water park is no longer sectioned off from the rest of the park.
You can get your grub on here.
You can get your drunk on here.
For a price.
So about this slide.....
I'd marathon this before I ever get into that capsule.
The shake and back will return in 2015....
Not open, not sure if it's planning to be operational this year or not but it definitely looked like it needed some work.
McDonalds apparently wants to marinate your children. I think it was pouring Sweet & Sour Sauce on them today.
Hurricane Bay offers some really nice views of Thunder Run.
This side of the park has a completely different feel than the first half.
The park has left some of the more spectacular plant growth. It really makes you forget you're in a very urban location.
Drastically different from the front half and vibrant waterpark.
One of these is not like the other......
Swamp Water Jack's.
Didn't make it inside but the renovations on the outside looks very good.
Another side of the eatery.
The last trace of the long gone prototype "The Quake". Although I got stuck almost every single time I rode it, I really did love that ride.
The Roller Skater. Yes, there was a line; had there not been I probably would've given it a spin. Can anyone spot the nostalgia in this photo?
The one good thing that came out of the park being shuttered for 4 years is the vegetation in this area of the park.
The trees and plants were allowed to mature. It is very relaxing to walk through this area.
And here's the menu! Right next to this is the Flying Dutchman.
Wait....that's not the right Flying Dutchman.
Here's the Flying Dutchman I was looking for!
This is what you hear after Lightning Run....or that's what I'm told.
Mr. Hart, tear down these walls....so a transfer track could be installed so Thunder Run could get a second train.
There is so much wood in this picture.
Yep.....that didn't turn out the way I wanted it to.
Another angle of Thunder Run.
The ride seemed to run faster than I remember. It was definitely smoother than my last ride, and had some great pops of airtime. Why didn't this translate to the Hurler clones?
Like I said, this area is heavily wooded, kinda camp groundy.
This last ride in this area of the park that's open.
Camera didn't capture it well but the ride's colors are very rich; the boats particularly.
I love the sound of the boat slamming into the water.
Hey.......there's something back there!
One last look at the Giant Wheel, this time through a Dutchman, Tornado, and TREES!
Closing shot of some of the nostalgia that can be found around the park.