The bat is out of the bag. After months of teasing fans with subtle hints, purposeful misdirection, and a few misleading leaks, Kings Island announced its newest ride for 2014 – and it’s not a wing rider named The Bat.
Flashback to 1995, when mega-park Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio announced its newest attraction. In 1996, they would open a stand-up steel roller coaster from Swiss manufacturers Bolliger & Mabillard. A wave of promotional material (in an era before the Internet, mind you) was released, spreading word of the new attraction – Banshee.
Apparently, a local news source picked up on the ride’s name and criticized its origin – a spirit of Irish folklore whose ear-piercing shriek signaled doom for all who heard it. Seemingly overnight, promotional materials linked to Banshee disappeared, and the ride opened in 1996 with a different name: Mantis.
Four years later in 2000, Kings Island in Kings Mills, Ohio opened Son of Beast, the world’s tallest, fastest, steepest, second longest, and only looping wooden roller coaster. Suffice it to say, less than a decade later, the massive wooden monster was standing-but-not-operating, and year after year, the gargantuan silhouette of Son of Beast stood as a silent cloud over Kings Island. The structure was finally razed in 2012, and immediately, fences appeared around the enormous plot of land Son of Beast had occupied, warning that paranormal activity had been recorded in the area.
Nearly instantaneous with Son of Beast's dismantling, fans recognized that Cedar Fair had applied to trademark the name Banshee again. Despite the unlikelihood, rumors persisted that Kings Island would indeed become a permanent home for the shrieking she-demon.
Blueprints leaked showing what appeared to be a B&M inverted roller coaster (like Cedar Point’s Raptor or Alton Towers’ Nemesis). Shortly thereafter, a webpage appeared to leak on Kings Island’s official website, advertising The Bat – a grey and orange B&M wing rider roller coaster (like Thorpe Park’s Swarm or Cedar Point’s Gatekeeper). Fans split. Like Banshee, The Bat had a certain ring to it, given that it was the name of a famously defunct swinging suspended coaster that had briefly made Kings Island home in the 1980s.
So which would it be? Banshee, or The Bat?
Up until the very end, Kings Island teased by persisting that guests would “shriek” with delight at the unveiling, and that they would “wing it” at the announcement.
But at a unique, in-the-dark 10:00 PM unveiling on August 8, fans gathered before a casket to watch as the truth finally came out. An animation darted through a foggy graveyard, dodging trees to enter a clearing where the infamous Son of Beast – complete with wooden loop – stood. The structure crumbled (just as it did in real life) and massive blue steel supports shot up from the earth it had stood on.
Banshee will be the longest inverted roller coaster in the world at 4,124 feet. It will include seven inversions and, interestingly, will reach its top speed of 68 miles per hour in the middle of the ride’s course, not at the bottom of the 150 foot first drop.
The striking blue supports hold magenta track – fitting for the ride’s supernatural theme, and for its second calling card: being “the first female-inspired thrill ride at a Cedar Fair park.” You can take that to the bank! Which is good, because Banshee will also be the park’s largest ever investment at $24 million, beating out 2009’s B&M hyper coaster Diamondback ($22 million), and previous owner Paramount’s additions, Son of Beast and TOMB RAIDER: The Ride (now both defunct, neither lasting a full decade – and tragically so at $20 million a piece).
The ride’s station will take the form of an Irish cathedral with the loading track passing through the church’s shattered stained glass windows. Out of sync with early expectations, the ride will be placed in Kings Island’s Action Zone film-backlot themed area, which, it appears, will not be rethemed to accommodate the new attraction. Some had speculated that the entire area would be refreshed with a new "haunted" theme to match the coaster based on the fact that Cedar Fair has meticulously re-built each area of the park one year at a time, always pairing a new attraction with a refresh of the land it's located in.
Still, Banshee looks incredible. The sheer size of the ride’s layout is impressive, and its continuous gentle arcs and hills make it resemble an out-and-back hypercoaster... until you realize that each of those arcs is really a zero-G roll, barrel roll, dive loop, etc. And of course, the ride is designed specifically for Kings Island and the extreme terrain that Son of Beast previously occupied. The ride’s first drop, for example, will dive into a ravine, making the first drop longer than the lift hill’s height.
Another exciting development for the ride manufacturer is the new restraints that will debut on inverted coasters with Banshee, replacing the solid over-the-shoulder restraints found on other inverted models with the more flexible vest restraint on newer models. The new style of restraints has received generally positive reviews and will certainly be a welcome addition on an inverted roller coaster – well-known for “head-banging” during whip-like inversions), though we certainly hope they’ve addressed whatever it was that was making the restraints tighten to chest-compressing levels on Gatekeeper.
Banshee adds another invaluable thrill ride to Kings Island’s arsenal, and rounds out the park’s offerings exceedingly well. Diamondback in 2009 represented its first oversized, crowd-drawing steel roller coaster, and Banshee will provide the same reliability, throughput, grand scale, and attractiveness but with the added benefit of being intense and a draw for the thrill-seeking crowd with its seven inversions.
While I’m breathlessly excited for Banshee, I also have a confession. Personally, I can’t help but feel a bit drained by Cedar Fair’s bigger-taller-faster mantra. Son of Beast’s old stomping grounds certainly deserved and required a fitting replacement roller coaster, and Banshee fits the bill. But the theme-loving cynic in me asks why we can’t have a few foggy tunnels? A graveyard fly-through? A near-miss with a mausoleum? Why can't that zero-G roll be to "avoid" a cracked stone angel statue? While Banshee will be great, it’s an in-name-only kind of thing that become frustrating when we see how theme can be so minimally and yet successfully applied, like Busch Gardens’ Verbolten, Montu, and Alpengeist (the latter two of which are both B&M inverted coasters like Banshee, but use tunnels, props, and their environment to tell a story). All’s well that ends well, though, and Banshee will be a thrill.
Undoubtedly, Kings Island has a winner on its hands... Even if we were looking forward to a wing-riding Bat.
You can find more art, videos, and facts on Kings Island's Banshee, opening April 2014, here. So tell us, is Banshee was you expected? What do you think of the name? The colors? The ride experience? Comment below to let us know!