What’s in a Name?

Early coaster names were often named after animals or weather events like the Wild Cat and the Twister. I’m sure originality was a problem back in the Golden Era of roller coasters. At one time in the first half of the 20th century there were around 1500 coasters operating in the U.S. (In comparison, today there are only about 600.) So you had the Coney Island Cyclone and the Riverside Cyclone, etc. So as time went by parks decided to get more original and as a result there are some badly named coasters out there.

For a quick rundown of some of the worst names I can start with my home park, Paramount’s Kings Dominion. They’ve got the terribly named coaster that’s shorter than a sneeze the Hypersonic XLC. What does XLC stand for anyway? It sits next to the aging Wayne’s World-themed Hurler. Most of the kids and teenagers that climb aboard the coaster’s trains have probably never seen that movie, much less the SNL skit it was based on. Not a bad name in 1994, but I wouldn’t call it timeless. Now timeless would be the Rebel Yell. In case you forgot PKD was in Virginia (the state where I grew up “celebrating” Lee-Jackson-King Day instead of MLK Day), look no further than this coincidentally old, white, racing, wooden coaster.

Corporate giants like Six Flags have partnerships with entertainment companies like WB. So they brand their coasters after DC comic characters that are owned by WB. Not a bad idea initially, but then they botch it by using the same few super heroes over and over again. There’s Batman: The Ride, Batman Knight Flight, Batman: The Escape, Batman and Robin: The Chiller, and the Batwing (which isn’t so bad). Instead of being original you sound like you’ve named your coasters after rejected movie titles. The same goes for Superman. Why can’t the Flash, Wonder Woman, or Aqua Man get some love? Anyway, this all might be slightly confusing to the average park-goer who’s been to more than one Six Flags park. He doesn’t know if the Superman coaster is an exact clone of the one he’s ridden or something completely different. The same goes for Six Flag’s several Goliath coasters. Those poor marketers can’t think passed: “Hmmm . . . What’s BIG?” Kudos to the Hershey and Beech Bend that offered naming contests. At least they admit they don’t have all the answers. Acceptance is the beginning.

My favorite park chain, Busch Gardens knows how to name coasters. As they stick with the theming of the two parks (the recently renamed Busch Gardens Africa & Busch Gardens Europe), offer names true to the countries or park sections they are located in. The European-themed park in Williamsburg, VA is home to the Alpengeist (Aquitaine, France), Big Bad Wolf (Oktoberfest, Germany), Loch Ness Monster (Heatherdowns, Scotland), and the one Fabio would like to forget the Apollo’s Chariot (Festa Italia, Italy). Why’d Fabio have to strike that poor goose with his face like that? Anyway, I won’t boast about how great these coasters are right now, but those are obviously some pretty unique and well thought out names.

Ditto for BGA in Tampa, FL which offers great theming and interesting names. A family-owned park called Mt. Olympus Theme Park in Wisconsin Dells has some interesting names too. Coasters there bear names related to Greek mythology. There you’ll find Atlantis, Opa, Zues, Pegasus, Cyclops, and the aptly-named wooden monster Hades which spends a lot of time underground.

Now that I’ve given some examples, I’ve come to grips with the reality that badly named coasters aren’t going anywhere. Here’s to the badly named coasters, which without a doubt are here to stay. So to the Magnum XL-200, the Dominator, the Screaming Squirrel, the Atomic Coaster in Japan and the now defunct Rainbow Chaser at Gayway, I salute you.