Top 6 Roller Coaster Makeover Ideas

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These days, some roller coasters are getting more than just a fresh coat of paint in the off season.

Some, are undergoing massive million dollar renovations that I’ve compared to the Six Million Dollar Man’s re-birth. I know there are a lot of younger readers out there and an old Lee Majors television show from the 70’s might be too old of a reference. How about Robocop? No? Is Wolverine current enough? That’s better.Wolverine - Marvel Island - Islands of Adventure

Some coasters are undergoing massive Weapon X, Logan-to-Wolverine-like transformations. If you haven’t noticed, we are smack dab in the middle of the Six Flags Makeover Era. Sure, new rides and roller coasters are being built, but there’s been a particular emphasis on renovating, re-inventing, and re-branding older rides. Examples include the critically acclaimed New Texas Giant, Bizarro (Great Adventure & New England), X2, and Apocalypse to name a few.

Any park can take a similar approach to give new life to an old, forgotten or just stale ride. Here are the top six roller coaster makeover ideas that I would like to see parks do more often.

6. Adding a Sound System

In recent years we’ve seen sound systems added to roller coaster trains. Some play songs as if you were riding down the highway in your car, while others attempt to add to the experience with a mix of movie quotes and sound effects. The defunct Hard Rock Park had a looping B&M coaster (Led Zepellin – The Ride) that blasted a Classic Rock hit. The next year, during the park’s Freestyle Music Park phase, the re-mixed Time Machine roller coaster gave you a mix of songs from one of the past four decades randomly. The song-based systems I’ve ridden have been successful in my opinion, but some have complained about speakers being too loud and obstructing your view (Bizarro at Six Flags New England) or being too random and non-sensical (Bizarro at Six Flags Great Adventure). For more on sound systems check out this post I wrote pitting Rip Ride Rockit’s soundtracks against Time Machine’s.

Medusa - Bizarro - Six Flags Great Adventure

5. Backwards Trains

I feel like we don’t see this one too often anymore, but the old backwards train trick can really spice up a ride. It may seem like a bit of gimicky concept, but when Kings Dominion’s Rebel Yell was running backwards trains, I preferred that track over the standard one. If I remember correctly, the very last seat in Rebel Yell’s backward facing train delivered some great airtime on the first drop. The backward traveling portion of the those Vekoma Boomerangs and Giant Inverted Boomerangs can be pretty fun too. There’s just something about a vertical loop backwards that I really enjoy.

4. Heavily Themed Trains & Lights

[onehalf] [/onehalf] [onehalflast]While the overall theming of a train may not improve the actual ride, they could add to the experience. Take the New Texas Giant’s Cadillac Deville trains or 2012’s Wild Eagle that’s coming to Dollywood. I’ve always wondered why there aren’t more lights on coaster trains. I remember old TV commercials of the Loch Ness Monster where both trains passed through the interlocking loops with glowing lights. Talk about a unique experience. It looked amazing! I was also hoping for headlights on the Intimidator at Carowinds or Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion, since the trains were themed after cars. After thinking about it more, it made sense that the trains didn’t have working headlights as real NASCARs have headlight decals, not working headlights like our cars. Maybe we’ll see them next year on Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Verbolten. [/onehalflast]

3. Tunnels & Covered Sections

Underground tunnels and covered sections above ground can add so much to a ride. There can be a good head-chopper effect when they’re done well. Also, darkness can really disorient riders and hide the ride’s next elements. Hades at Mt. Olympus is the most extreme example with long and intense underground section. It was so dark and wild down there I didn’t know I was actually riding on the wall of the tunnel until I saw daylight ahead and had a reference point for which way was up! Makeovers are likely going to involve excavating and creating underground tunnels, but I’d like to see more covered sections. I’ve ridden so many rides and wished they’d added something for the trains to fly through. I’d have to imagine it’s a relatively cheap thing to add.

2. Open Restraints for Old Rough Loopers

Carolina Cobra Train - CarowindsWhy hasn’t a manufacturer created an open over-the-shoulder restraint that could be retro-fitted to the steel loopers out there? Parks have to know that guests commonly complain about head banging on a lot of these old loopers. Vekoma’s started in this direction with the restraints found on my home park’s Carolina Cobra. It makes the otherwise typical Vekoma boomerang, not only ride-able, but actually fun. Sure, it won’t give every rough looper B&M-like smoothness, but you’d be surprised how much more fun a simple Boomerang coaster can be when you’re not having to ride it defensively.

1. Rocky Mountain Iron Horse Track for Old Rough Woodies

As much as I’ve gushed about the ride that the New Texas Giant delivered, I wouldn’t want all wooden roller coasters to go hybrid. There is something to that natural, imperfect out-of-control ride that should be preserved and can be very enjoyable. I’ll just say that there A LOT of candidates out there that could be vastly improved with a similar transformation. Some of those candidates include: Mean Streak at Cedar Point, Son of Beast, and Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. See more candidates including the top picks as voted by fans in this article: POLL – Pick the Next Coaster to Get the New Texas Giant Treatment

I’d also like to add Gravity Group’s Timberliner trains to the list, but to my knowledge they haven’t been added to any existing rides yet. Which of these trends are you most excited to see more of in the future? What are some makeover ideas you have? Leave a comment below.

Founder of CoasterCritic.com. My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.

4 Comments

  1. Great piece! Love it!

    Reply
  2. I LOVE tunnels and underground segments. Too bad the break run on intimidator didn’t have a checkered flag tunnel. That would have added theme and effect!

    Reply
  3. “Sure, it won’t give every rough looper B&M-like smoothness, but you’d be surprised how much more fun a simple Boomerang coaster can be when you’re not having to ride it defensively.”

    Love this quote and it’s so true. Great article!

    Reply
  4. These are all great ideas and would be welcomed by me on just about any older ride that is starting to show its age.

    Reply

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