2013 - Theme Park Year in Review
Here’s a wrap up of 2013 including the state of roller coasters and some of the biggest news stories of the year.

The Year of the Wooden Coaster Comeback

If 2012 was the year of the wing roller coasters, then 2013 was definitely the year that wooden roller coasters Outlaw Run 153 Turn - Silver Dollar City - Smmade a comeback. We saw genre-bending roller coasters with wooden coaster characteristics, but elements like loops and other inversions that have been the territory of steel coasters. It led to a categorization controversy and finger-pointing at theme parks for their record-breaking wooden coaster claims. Annoying theme park geekery aside, these roller coasters were very well-received and are not going anywhere. Examples include the Golden Ticket Winner for New Ride of the Year, Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City, Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas (a re-born version of the Rattler), and Hades with its ground-breaking corkscrew.

It was also good to see a few traditional woodies like Gold Striker at California’s Great America and White Lighting at Fun Spot Orlando. And, one of the most highly anticipated rides of the past decade finally opened. – Flying Turns Finally Opens Video & Reviews

See the 2013 version of my annual list of the Best New Roller Coasters Part 1 & Part 2

The Biggest Theme Park News Stories I Covered

Insane Coaster Wars returned with an international edition. I quickly got tired of the silly rating system that didn’t seem to fit the rides and the terrified experts (?!) they recruited for the show. I will say that I did enjoy the great footage. It was cool seeing rides I was less familiar with in HD on my living room TV. – Insane Coaster Wars World Domination Teaser

New Texas Giant Accident - Six Flags Over TexasThe biggest story of the year, from a mainstream coverage standpoint, was tragic. On July 19th, a woman fell from the popular New Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas. There was a swirl of speculation about what the ride ops did or didn’t do, whether the woman complained about the restraints, and how safe we really are when riding roller coasters. – Woman Dies After Accident on New Texas Giant

Oddly, on the same day as the New Texas Giant accident, seven people were injured on the Shoot the Rapids ride at Cedar Point when the ride came backwards down its lift hill and flipped over. – Accident at Cedar Point; Shoot the Rapid Rides Flips Over

While I’ve seen many proposed parks come and go in the years I’ve been blogging, it’s not every day that we actually get to see a new theme park come to life. Well, Louisville’s Kentucky Kingdom may not be new, but it is being revitalized and it will re-open in 2014 with a new roller coaster (Lightning Run). – Kentucky Kingdom to Reopen with New Coaster in 2014

Leviathan - Canadas Wonderland - Giga CoasterThere was BIG news in my backyard as Cedar Fair decided to boost their investment in Charlotte, NC’s Carowinds. Then, there was news of a 300+ foot tall giga coaster (similar to Leviathan in the picture to the right) possibly coming in 2015. The ride’s rumored to be named, Centurion, and it might be incorporated into the park’s front gate. Look for signs of construction throughout 2014. – Plans for Carowinds’ 300 Foot Tall Giga Coaster Surface

There was also some huge news out of the amusement industry event IAAPA. A new record-breaking roller coaster was planned for somewhere in Florida. – Worlds Tallest Roller Coaster Coming to Florida

Most Viewed Post of 2013 – Speculation about Son of Beast’s Replacement

Theme parks are smart to tease new rides. Building hype well before an official announcement can really boost interest in new attractions. I was somewhat surprised to see that the most viewed post of the year was: Kings Island Teases 2014 Roller Coaster. While other pages on the site were viewed more, this was the single most popular post with over 8,000 page views and it was also the most commented with 36. Not far behind it was another related post with nearly as many comments. – Mysterious Figures at Kings Islands 2014 Coaster Site Congrats to Kings Island for generating some great buzz around their new Banshee roller coaster.

Personally Interesting News Stories

Dinosaurs Alive - Intimidator - CarowindsI wrote my most detailed non-roller coaster review ever in my coverage of Carowinds’ Dinosaurs Alive! attraction. I also bumped into Lance, the man behind Scream Scape (The biggest theme park news site on the Web). Carowinds Dinosaurs Alive! Review

While this was a blip on the theme news landscape, I was floored by even the prospect of a theme park in my hometown of Stafford, Virginia. With some of the worst traffic in the nation, I’m not sure we’ll ever see it happen, but it was really neat for me to imagine what it would be like even though I don’t live there anymore. – Legoland Considers Theme Park in Stafford, Virginia

A study about how children are injured at amusement parks was published and I was asked to speak about it on Fox Business’ The Willis Report.
Appearance on Fox Business
An important take-away was that parents should be more mindful of their small children as they get in and out of rides at shopping malls and entertainment centers like Chuck E. Cheese. I was glad that I was able to contribute some context to the study. And personally it was a thrill and hopefully good experience for the future. – Fox Business Interview, Study on Childhood Injuries at Amusement Parks

In Memoriam – Roller Coasters We Lost This Year

2012 was a busier year for the roller coaster grim reaper. Kings Island finally took down Son of Beast, Cedar Point’s Disaster Transport was taken out to make room for GateKeeper and Hurricane Sandy washed Star Jet out into the ocean.

But the only roller coaster that I recall being closed this year was the twin racing woodie, Rolling Thunder at Six Flags Great Adventure. Surprisingly, it was close in a “classic or clunker poll”. More voters considered the rough woodie a classic.- Poll: Great Adventure Removes Rolling Thunder – Classic or Clunker? Can you think of other coasters that were announced to be closing for good this year?

What were some of the biggest and most interesting theme park news stories for you this year? Leave a comment below.

6 Responses

  1. DRU

    Man I’m gonna miss your posts Joel! Thanks again for all of your hard work on this site, and helping me become an enthusiast. I was inspired by this site alone. Also thanks for taking the time to read and respond to all of my help requests. You have gone well above and beyond!
    I have tried the other sites but they just don’t do it for me. I do believe all of your efforts to keep the discussions civil has been very important. I hope you would consider still doing a random new post every once in a while when you have the time and desire. [you never know if some new ride or news might tickle your interest enough to comment again]
    Thanks again,

    • Joel

      Thanks Dru. I’m actually going to be in Hershey in June to speak at the iRetreat Conference. So, I’ll finally get to ride Fahrenheit and Skyrush. Maybe I’ll post my take on Theme Park Hype as I could use that site to scratch a theme park itch if I have one since it’s so easy to just do a quick post.

  2. Judy P in Pgh

    I have to agree with DRU (and others) about your ability to keep discussions civil. I love sharing my coaster passion with my high school special ed. students, so when I manage to “hook” a new one, this is the site to which I refer them with no worry that they will be exposed to rude behavior or crude language. Your blog has impressed them enought that today, our last day of school, they were not discussing Christmas gifts and activities … they were debating whether the pending end to the blog was MY fault 🙂 “You know, Judy, we think you got lazy about posting replies so no wonder he wants to quit!” Geez … talk about pressure!! They made me promise that I would continue to use coasters and parks in math, reading and English while I gave them a homework assignment to come up with a list of feasible coaster-related New Year’s resolutions for me. I expect that their ideas will prove interesting!

    • Joel

      Thanks again Judy. I’m glad to provide a “safe place” for coaster fans. I’m hoping to do the same with my next site.

      It sounds like you have some fun conversations with you students. Thinking of coaster-related New Year’s resolutions? I’m sure you’d be my favorite teacher. 🙂 Those are going to be harder to come by as your coaster count has been growing. How about riding a coaster in another country? Have you been to Canada’s Wonderland yet?


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