Home » Builder’s Blunders: Son of Beast’s Missed Shot at Greatness

    Builder’s Blunders: Son of Beast’s Missed Shot at Greatness

    Son of Beast

    The Son of Beast roller coaster formerly at Kings Island Amusement Park in Mason, Ohio, holds a unique place in the history of roller coasters. It was a colossal wooden coaster that was not only record-breaking in size and speed but also experienced a turbulent history of setbacks and missteps by those at the helm of bringing this behemoth coaster to life.

    Son of Beast wasn’t simply a bad coaster, rather it fell victim to cutbacks and simply being ahead of its time. Let’s look at the tumultuous journey of Son of Beast and how it had all the potential to be one of the best.

    The Son is Born

    Son of Beast
    Image: Jeremy Thompson; <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/rollercoasterphilosophy/3419016350/in/photolist-6ny6ne-6nC997-6ny4GZ-6QTser-6nmQpX-ooBLtQ-6iBbjG-6iwVdH-ooAKMR-oGRz8c-6nqWth-6nmGCH-6d8mrL-6nqK33-63DPfv-6nqUy1-6nmHzr-6nqS87-6nmKWM-6nmkze-6nqVzJ-5ZQWEw-6nqXoL-5ZLJGH/">Flickr</a>&nbsp;(<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode">Licence</a>)

    Son of Beast was a follow-up to the original Beast roller coaster, which opened in 1979 and quickly gained a reputation as one of the world’s best wooden coasters. At the height of the “coaster wars”, Kings Island decided to build Son of Beast, which was announced in 1999. This coaster was to be bigger and more intense than its predecessor.

    The coaster would also reach a height of 218 feet and a top speed of 78.4 miles per hour, making it the tallest and fastest wooden coaster at the time surpassing Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. It was also going to be the first hyper wooden coaster or the first wooden coaster to exceed 200 feet. However, its signature element was the steel vertical loop, which was a feat of engineering innovation. It also featured 2 large helixes including the “rose bowl” element.

    A Botched Partnership

    Son of Beast
    Image: Jeremy Thompson; <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/rollercoasterphilosophy/3835014603/in/photolist-6ny6ne-6nC997-6ny4GZ-6QTser-6nmQpX-ooBLtQ-6iBbjG-6iwVdH-ooAKMR-oGRz8c-6nqWth-6nmGCH-6d8mrL-6nqK33-63DPfv-6nqUy1-6nmHzr-6nqS87-6nmKWM-6nmkze-6nqVzJ-5ZQWEw-6nqXoL-5ZLJGH/">Flickr </a>(<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode">Licence</a>)

    Unfortunately, Son of Beast‘s road to completion was anything but smooth. The coaster faced numerous construction delays and design challenges. Kings Island which was Paramount’s Kings Island at the time hired the now-defunct Roller Coaster Corporation of America or RCCA to build Son of Beast. This seems to be the first in a series of missteps that would ultimately lead to the coaster’s eventual demise. Nowadays, the coasters built by this company are known for being poor quality. From rough rides to wonky layouts, the RCCA does not have a positive reputation among the roller coaster community.

    Still, Kings Island decided to go with the RCCA to build Son of Beast. During the construction of the coaster, it is said that the massive support structure was not built up to the standards needed to support the forces the coaster would exert. This would allow the coaster to move much more than would be normal, leading to issues down the road. Partway through the construction process Paramount fired the RCCA and would later go on to file a lawsuit against the company for defects in the coaster’s design (which would later be dismissed). The Roller Coaster Corporation of America would go out of business in 2005.

    The Short Life of Son of Beast

    Son of Beast Sign
    Image: WillMcC; <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Son_of_Beast#/media/File:KI_SOB_Entrance.jpg">Wikipedia </a>(<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode">Licence</a>)

    After several years of anticipation and setbacks, Son of Beast finally opened to the public in 2000. It was met with mixed reviews. Some riders praised its intensity and the thrill of experiencing a wooden coaster with a loop, while others found the ride to be rough and uncomfortable. The coaster would close after only a day of operation due to defects in a section of the track. The ride was closed for three weeks while repairs were made.

    Over the next few years, Kings Island would have to make several modifications to Son of Beast. First, the coaster was moving too much and exhibited signs of wear from very early on. The movement of the coaster structure paired with the extremely heavy trains that were required to complete the loop moving at high speeds throughout the track led to the coaster deteriorating much faster than other wooden coasters. This required the installation of anchoring and additional support modifications throughout the coaster throughout the ride’s operation.

    Tragedy struck in 2006 when a wooden support beam cracked, causing a portion of the track to sag. This would lead to 27 riders being sent to the hospital after experiencing a massive jolt which led to head and neck injuries. This incident led to an extended closure and a thorough inspection of the coaster’s structure. The inspection found that it was likely the numerous modifications that had been made to the coaster may have led to the crack. In trying to correct the mistakes made during the initial construction, Kings Island may have actually made the coaster more vulnerable to failure…

    Son of Beast eventually reopened in 2007 but with significant modifications. The coaster’s trains were replaced with lighter trains which could not complete the loop and therefore the loop was removed. This was a huge blow to the coaster’s reputation as the loop was one of the only praised elements of the coaster. Despite these alterations, Son of Beast continued to face issues with roughness and discomfort, and it struggled to regain its popularity.

    In 2009, following another injury related to Son of Beast, Kings Island closed the coaster and it would never reopen. Unfortunately, the park had put about $10 million in modifications into the coaster over the years, in addition to the initial $20 million cost. This is likely why, although Kings Island received proposals to repair Son of Beast, they ultimately decided to demolish the coaster in 2012. In its place now stands Banshee

    A Missed Opportunity?

    Son of Beast
    Image: Jeremy Thompson; <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/rollercoasterphilosophy/3526495744/">Flickr </a>(<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode">Licence</a>)

    It is likely that Son of Beast would have had an entirely different trajectory had Paramount gone with another company to build the behemoth wooden coaster. The issues and cost-cutting that came with the Roller Coaster Corporation of America doomed the coaster from the start. If the coaster had adequate support structures, it is likely that the ride may not have been as rough, would not have deteriorated as quickly, and wouldn’t have required numerous modifications.

    Popular wooden coaster manufacturers Great Coasters International and Custom Coaster International might have been better contenders. Great Coasters International was still new in the late 90s but had already built coasters like Wildcat at Hersheypark. In addition, Custom Coaster International was at its height by 1999 with 20 coasters built (18 of which are still operating today). If Son of Beast had been built by one of these manufacturers, would it have had the foundations to stand the test of time? 

    Perhaps, if the support structure had been sufficient and the coaster had not soaked up so much money over the years it would have been able to operate long enough to become the perfect candidate for the “RMC treatment”. It could have been the first hyper-hybrid years before the creation of Steel Vengeance. Not to mention, if Rocky Mountain Construction had developed their I-BOX track just a few years earlier, they would have been the perfect company to manufacture Son of Beast and create a coaster that would have stood the test of time and lived up to the hype.

    Son of Beast Gravestone
    Image: Kings Island

    The rise and fall of Son of Beast at Kings Island stands as a testament to ambition and innovation. While Son of Beast may have left the amusement park industry with mixed emotions, it serves as a valuable lesson. Roller coasters require a balance between daring design and responsible engineering. If it had been built by another manufacturer, the coaster may have had an entirely different legacy.

    Have you ridden Son of Beast? What are your thoughts on this infamous coaster? Let us know in a comment below or on our Facebook page.