Last fall I joined thousands of other theme park fans as exciting new rides and roller coasters were announced one after another and also in large waves like Six Flags big announcement day. Our jaws dropped as some rumors proved to be true and other rides came completely out of left field. Many commented that 2012’s lineup of new rides could be the best in recent memory. I thought I’d tackle the tough job of comparing the new roller coaster classes of the last 6 years. I chose that range as that’s how long I’ve been blogging and covering new rides. For simplicity, I’ve limited this coaster class comparison to North America only. Also, if a coaster got a significant upgrade with a name change, then I’m considering it as being a part of that year’s class of new coasters.
#6 Class of 2010 – The Intimidators and Not Much Else
Now that I look back at it, 2010 was shockingly weak year outside of just a few exceptions. The popular Intimidator at Carowinds and Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion were much hyped and didn’t let us down. Outside of those two skyscrapers Kennywood gave us the well-received Skyrocket, but that was about it. Other notable 2010 coasters: There were a number of junior/kiddie coasters including Air Grover, Cosmos Curve, and Lil Dipper. Verdict:It’s a good thing Cedar Fair had big plans for two parks.
#5 Class of 2011 – New Texas Giant and a Cast of Good, but not Greats
2011 wasn’t the best year for new roller coasters in U.S. I had high hopes for Cheetah Hunt as it was my most anticipated new coaster. So-so reviews have dampened my excitement a bit. But my second most anticipated coaster from last year, the New Texas Giant, delivered and then some. I heard good things about Wooden Warrior and Zippin Pippin. Also, Dare Devil Dive was good, but not great (7.5 out 10 for me). The Green Lanterns opened last year and Untamed brought some modern thrills to an older park. Verdict: A world-class ride (New Texas Giant) and a cast of good rides.
#4 Class of 2009 – A Variety of Great Coasters
SeaWorld Orlando gave Kraken a partner in thrills with the B&M flying coaster Manta. It’s easily a world-class coaster with a fun, custom layout, great marine life theming, and a showstopping water splash down. Speaking of water elements, another strong addition in 2009 was Kings Island’s Diamondback. The long rumored hyper coaster had finally joined the King Island lineup and made quite a splash of its own that year.
On-board audio enhancement and other ride effects really took off in 2009. Rip Ride Rockit was a much anticipated addition. In the end, it had mixed reviews, but definitely left an impact letting riders be the deejay for their ride. Six Flags went make-over crazy adding special effects to Great Adventure’s B&M floorless coaster and the world-renowned Intamin hyper at the New England park. Both became Bizarros. Another re-mixed ride was the short-lived Freestyle Music Park’s Time Machine.
We even got a dose of new wood with two well-received GCI woodies in Prowler at World of Fun and the then Terminator (now Apocalypse) at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Verdict: 2009 was a very good year.
#3 Class of 2008 – Plenty of New Rides
X2 improved on the revolutionary X and made the woman who I rode it with see her life pass before her eyes. Also on the extreme thrills front, Steel Hawg with it’s eye-poppingly steep drop opened at Indiana Beach. A wild-looking Intamin looper with own it’s relatively steep drop, Fahrenheit debuted at Hersheypark that year too.
The Gravity Group’s Ravine Flyer II at Waldameer brought coaster enthusiasts from across the globe to a small park in Erie, PA. B&M churned out another great hyper coaster in Behemoth at Canada’s Wonderland. Two compact family-launchers opened: Pony Express at Knott’s Berry Farm and MotoCoaster at Darien Lake.
And a brand-new, but ill-fated, theme park (Hard Rock Park) opened in Myrtle Beach with five roller coasters. Led Zeppelin – The Ride was a B&M looper that served as the park’s signature ride. The themed-indoor wild mouse coasters dubbed, Dark Knight garnered a lot of hype, but resulted in the worst reaction I’ve ever seen to a new roller coaster. Other notable 2008 coasters: Evel Knievel, Spongebob Rock Bottom Plunge, Avatar Airbender, Possesed Verdict: A bit of a mixed bag, but plenty of great new rides slips 2008 just past 2009.
#2 Class of 2007 – Three World Class Coasters
Now we’re getting into some years that produced a number of excellent rides. Cedar Point backed off of the Coaster Arms Race. They didn’t rocket us to 500 feet or try to break the sound barrier, instead in 2007 they delivered a very, very popular roller coaster in Maverick. On a side note, does anyone remember that sick looking in-line twist that was removed?
In 2007, Busch Gardens Williamsburg added the dive coaster Griffon after a pretty long hiatus. Sure, it was similar to SheiKra, but it wasn’t a complete clone. Plus it gave us yet another drop to the park’s Rhine River. Dollywood stepped up its game with a completely unique attraction in Mystery Mine. The ride’s still popular today and it helped give the park a 1 to 2 punch with Thunderhead. Other notable 2007 coasters: Renegade at Valleyfair, Boardwalk Bullet, Wicked at Lagoon, Sierra Sidewinder at Knott’s Berry Farm, and Firehawk at Kings Island Verdict: 2007 was an excellent year.
#1 Class of 2006 – El Toro, Everest, & The Voyage – Oh My!
In my opinion, 2006 had the best roller coaster class of the past 6 years hands down. From a quality standpoint, no other recent year can measure up. I’m not a family coaster guy, but the highly anticipated and highly-themed Expedition Everest opened in 2006. And we were blessed with not one, but two incredible wooden roller coasters that year. I was more of a steel coaster fan by a wide margin until I made it out to Holiday World for The Voyage and went up to Six Flags Great Adventure for El Toro. Like many, my top ten coaster list had two new entrants right away. It’s been interesting to watch El Toro’s slower climb up the coaster poll charts. I’m not sure if it’s because of the nerd love for Holiday World or just the scale and size of The Voyage.
B&M took flyer coasters to a new level with the massive terrain coaster, Tatsu. The altitude, maneuvers, views, and that crushingly intense pretzel loop make Tatsu unforgettable. Six Flags was back with its bland theming ways giving us two new B&M hyper coasters with the same name. The still highly-regarded Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia opened as did Six Flags-affliated La Ronde’s Goliath. Other notable 2006 roller coasters: Backlot Stunt Coaster at Kings Dominion, Kentucky Rumbler, Patriot at Worlds of Fun, X-Coaster at Magic Springs Verdict: Two Hall of Fame-Worthy Coasters and a number of other great rides.
As great as 2006 was, 2012 has the potential to match it. Only time will tell, but 2012 be that year that we talk about as THE year for new roller coasters.
What’s your take? What order would you put these roller coaster classes? Did I miss any notable new coasters? See a list of new North American roller coasters sorted by year at the Roller Coaster Database. Image 1 courtesy of The Coaster Critic. Images 2, 4, & 5 are courtesy of CoasterImage. Image 3 is courtesy of Six Flags.