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New Vekoma Illusion or Suspended Coaster for Park


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As some of you may know from my earlier posts I am involved in ride engineering / maintenance at a senior level for a major theme park corporation.

 

I am often involved (and rarely listened too!!) in discussions regarding new build rides and major re-themes. It works like this...all of the corporate and marketing people pretend to want my insight and opinons because my department and people are liaisons during construction / install and keep the rides running long term. I say pretend because the corporate folks and marketing folks almost always do what they want and I just have to deal with what they have decided. Haha. It’s how the game is played.

 

So...I am in a high level brainstorming meeting with the dreamers...aka marketing, finance and corporate folks and discussing new ride concepts, theming and rebranding opportunities. There is a cycle in the theme park industry where you must introduce new and exciting rides and concepts to keep attendance high.

 

I’m literally the oldest in the room and the old saying what’s old is new really does ring true. I decided to make (2) “new” concept pitches. The fun part for me is everyone actually was really interested in my ideas and yes I immediately pointed out the concepts were actually rather old. Cough. Cough. The point is there was genuine excitement and thanks to some YouTube videos the discussions are continuing.

 

Concept one: Buolding a modern Vekoma Illusion coaster. There were only two ever made one at Opryland and the other at Bobbejaanland. Only the latter continues to operate and sadly not in top form. My pitch was to use updated technology and create the ultimate sensory experience. I showed video of the Opryland Chaos in its prime and the original teaser TV commercials. I really believe an illusion coaster with up-to-date technology would be outstanding and extremely unique. The budget is between $20-30m btw which seems to work since the original Opryland Chaos in 1989 was $8m

 

So many themeing concepts could be done with this ride. I suggested adding a Jo-Jo roll during the ascent and a powered cobra roll / batwing or loop during the decent. The disorienting effects taken at relatively slow speeds would further disorient. Some of the theme concepts that were discussed were time travel, multi dimension space exploration and traveling through a disturbed mind something along the lines of “insanity”. Dreams ...nightmares. There was some talk of approaching the private space rocket companies for sponsorship. I half jokingly suggested a serial killer themed attraction. (That didn’t go well except for our Halloween events hahah).

 

Concept two was commissioning a second generation suspended coaster—possibley launched. Arrow did their best but really didn’t have the computer technology to fully develop what the suspended coaster could have been. BBW was probably their best effort. New technologies in metallurgy and carbon fiber is available today as well. My suggestion was to make it launched and use terrain and themeing that is second to none. I also suggested the ride could be inside a dark building and possibley even include one or more inversions. Arrow was working on a second gen suspended with inversions before X bankrupted them. A dark suspended could really be done well.

 

I closed my pitch w video and info showing Kings Islands Tomb Raider. A simple Huss topspin made amazing with excellent theming as an example of what’s possible.

 

So many coaster records exist what’s the big deal if you are a few mph faster or have another inversion? The coaster industry has matured. Virtual reality hasn’t really been the holy grail as expected. My thought is take an older proven concept, push the limits and create a spectacular ride with unparalleled themeing.

 

Any thoughts?

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To be clear 99.9% none of the above will ever happen. It’s just pie in the sky brainstorming. Just being totally honest. Nothing has progressed at this time past throwing out ideas. No manufactures have been contacted specifically regarding these ideas. Of course each major player and a couple of minor players have made their own pitches for things they have been working on—and no I can’t share any of that inside info.

 

Just wanted to frame the reality of everything.

 

Cheers.

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I was just saying a few weeks ago that I'd love to see a modern take on a suspended coaster, but I think I'd love a modern Illusion coaster even more. I can only imagine how incredibly disorienting and fun it would be with modern effects, plus the ability to change the effects and create a different ride experience with different themese and screens would be excellent for the park and for local guests, change things every few years and it nearly becomes a new ride - similar to what Universal does with some of their larger VR platforms like Jimmy Neutron being changed to Despicable Me.

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I think a park can best impress just by building a custom, unique, and really fun coaster -- and that attraction can be overlaid with any kind of immersive theme or housed in a building, if that's what a park wants and can afford to do. Outside of Disney and Universal parks, Phantasialand and Efteling are examples of two parks that usually do a great job with their themed attractions.

 

If Vekoma or another manufacturer sells updated versions of its illusion concept or the suspended swinging coaster, then that might be cool to explore! But I don't think a park needs to dig into the past and commission a manufacturer to resurrect old coaster styles in order to build a spectacular and original ride. I would also be wary of wanting to bring back the long helix/80s layout of the illusion coaster, since coasters can do so much more these days. For example, Vekoma's warmly-received Lech Coaster is currently found nowhere else and has great aesthetics, and a custom coaster like it with an immersive theme or indoor section could be one of the best rides in the world. Premier Rides' Deep Space is an example of a newer indoor coaster, and TPR has taken nice footage of it if you want to pitch an indoor coaster with any number of effects/themes.

 

Intamin, S&S, and Vekoma have built "family-thrill" suspended coasters recently, and the right layout and theme could also produce a solid ride. If no manufacturer is currently offering the Arrow-style full swing, is it worth the investment to commission a modern prototype when there are so many coaster types already on the menu that can give your park a top coaster? If I want to build a coaster found nowhere else, I'd start with an original layout with modern engineering from a solid manufacturer.

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I prefer re-ridability over everything. Gimmicks, short layouts and uncomfortable seats/restraints quickly lose their initial charm and popularity after first couple of years, which is the opposite that parks should aim for. If a ride has an expected operating life of 25 years, it should remain popular throughout that whole time. This is why re-ridability is key. So having a layout that is thoroughly fun and interesting instead of some gimmick, is something I value. Naturally also if a ride is painful, it's not something guests want to experience again and again, so comfort is a major factor.

 

Re-ridability also connects to theming and storyline elements, since they need to be designed in a way that doesn't get boring even if you know what happens. For example, Raptor at Gardaland has the theme of 'something goes wrong', which turned me off already on the third ride of the day, let alone how it would feel after several years.

 

About how to develope coasters as industry, I like how newer coasters are showing to increase in intensity during the layout rather than just having two big elements in the beginning and crawling towards the end.

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I would be thrilled if the suspended swinging coaster made a comeback. The Bat at Kings Island is proof that the suspended coaster can be a thrilling yet still be a family ride for any park. Big Bad Wolf was popular all the way to the end. Even though Vekoma, Intamin, and S&S Sansei have family suspended coasters in their catalog, a suspended swinging coaster would still offer a different ride experience in comparison.

 

As for the Illusion coaster I think you can have the same concept with any coaster style. Even though Dark Knight at SFGAm has static props inside I would think adding screens to an indoor Wild Mouse style coaster could achieve the same effect you're looking for. Same goes for a spinning coaster like Exterminator at Kennywood or Laff Track at Hersheypark. It could still be a disorienting ride if done well.

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Designer representing, though I'm not speaking on behalf of who I work for...

 

From an accessibility and experience standpoint, the suspended coaster type already exists today - it's the Vekoma suspended family coaster. Low height restriction, fast sections, high-speed back-to-back turns... At least on the 453 m / Orkanen model, the formula is already there.

 

In my opinion, what made Big Bad Wolf (and I'm assuming Eagle Fortress) so good wasn't necessarily the swinging. It was the close calls with its surroundings. Because the trains had a fixed floor, narrow profile, and closed-in seats, the clearance envelope was ridiculously small.

 

If I owned a park and really wanted a retro-modern suspended coaster a la Knoebels' Flying Turns, I'd request a something along the lines of a more intense Vekoma or Intamin suspended family coaster with a custom train design that would prevent outward reaching and allow for a tighter envelope, and have it designed with terrain interaction and close calls in mind. The whole swinging aspect seems like it would be a problem item in the long run or something that would shorten the ride's effective service life.

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