Texas Giant Goes Steel: Abomination or Giant Improvement?

Six Flags’ Texas Giant Gets a Steel Makeover for 2011
For months we’ve known that Texas Giant was closed and would not be open until the 2011 season. It was pretty clear that Six Flags was going to give the 24 year old woodie some needed rehab and/or re-tracking. But recently it was announced that Rocky Mountain Construction Group is going to give Texas Giant a first-ever upgrade. The company has been working for three years on a new steel track that will sit on top of the wooden coaster support structure. They’ve described it as a “Super Hybrid”, as the wooden coaster will have steel track. Read more about the new steel track at Rocky Mountain Construction’s website.

Goofy Titles, Marketing-Speak, & Real Classifications
So, does Texas Giant really become a new breed of roller coaster? Will it’s classification be switched from wood to steel? Here’s my take starting with the definition of a wooden coaster. According to Wikipedia a wooden coaster is defined as:

A wooden roller coaster or woodie is most often classified as a roller coaster with laminated steel running rails overlaid upon a wooden track. Occasionally, the structure may be made out of a steel lattice or truss, but the ride remains classified as a wooden roller coaster due to the track design.

If you like this definition, Texas Giant will no longer be a wooden coaster as it will have a completely steel track. There are other steel roller coasters with wooden support structures. (That’d be a great quiz question.) The odd looking Excalibur at Valleyfair! and the twin track racing coaster, Gemini at Cedar Point come to mind first. RCDB lists 22 Steel (Hybrid Structure) Roller Coasters. Many of them are mine train roller coasters. Included in the list is Texas Giant. So, as I figured, the Roller Coaster Database has now classified Texas Giant as a steel roller coaster. Although, it will be the strangest looking steel coaster on the planet!

A Real Super Hybrid
Texas Giant might be worthy of a new classification or the moniker of “Super Hybrid” if it had both steel and wooden track sections. That could be the best of both worlds. The fastest and most intense sections could be at the beginning of the ride as the steel track would lessen the abuse on the riders. Then, the coaster could finish the final third or so with traditional wooden track like in a ‘magic carpet-like’ or bunny hill section towards the end. Son of Beast had a steel section when it had a loop. Why couldn’t it be done again only with hills and turns and not with an inversion?

A Giant Improvement or An Abomination?
My first reaction to the news was excitement. I’ve never hesitated to share my disdain for being punished by wooden coasters. So, anyone that’s out to make them smoother and require less maintenance is doing the right thing in my eyes. I do wonder whether the end product will be too smooth. Even so, I’m not the type of enthusiasts that will mind. El Toro is my top wooden coaster and it’s as smooth as glass. That’s an odd wooden coaster in it’s own right with it’s fast and quiet lift hill and steel-like ride. Some woodie purists don’t like El Toro for that reason and I’m sure there will be some Texas Giant detractors for the same reasons. I would imagine there are some that are going as far as calling the overhaul plans an abomination! Where do you fall on the rehab? I’m just glad that I haven’t been to the park yet so I’ll get to experience it along with everything else that will be new to me like Titan, Shockwave, and Mr. Freeze.

Six Flags Continues the Era of Rehabs/Re-Themes
This news continues Six Flags trend of rehabbing roller coasters instead of cranking out new ones. Texas Giant’s rehab is reported to cost $10 million. That’s easily equivalent to the cost of a small to medium sized new roller coaster. Personally, I like the move and I’d like to see them continue to improve what they already have in their parks. While, I haven’t ridden either of the Bizarros yet and while they may not have “needed” those upgrades, I do like the thinking behind the revamps. I just hope that they focus their attention on more of the older rides that really need the enhancements. Coasters like Cyclone at Six Flags New England and Rolling Thunder at Six Flags Great Adventure could really use a new lease on life.¬†Increasing the popularity and ridership on older rides is a great idea.

What’s Your Take?
What do you think of the Texas Giant hybrid makeover? Have you ridden Texas Giant? Do you like Six Flags’ rehab/re-theme business model? Leave a comment below.

I’ve got to thank Eric for his News Flash on Theme Park Syndicate on the Texas Giant. It spurred me to write this post.