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16 Stunning New Roller Coasters Opening in 2016

5. Galactica (Alton Towers, UK)

Galactica concept art

Image: Alton Towers

Manufacturer: Bolliger & Mabillard
Type: Flying Coaster / Virtual Reality Coaster
Top speed: 47mph
Height: 66 feet

Technically speaking, Alton Towers' "new" roller coaster for the 2016 season is nothing of the sort. Instead, it is a major overhaul and retheme of the existing Air coaster, which has been at the park since 2002 when it debuted as the first ever Bolliger & Mabillard Flying Coaster. It sees riders rotate into a position facing the ground in what is a remarkably smooth simulation of "flying", but the original Air faced criticism for its general lack of theming after cost overruns forced the scenery to be scaled back.

Air

Air in its original form.

Galactica (as the coaster is now known) merits its inclusion in this list because of a fundamental change to its ride experience. Riders now have the option of wearing a virtual reality headset, which is attached to their seat. As the train travels around its circuit, they experience a "flight" into outer space, with the movements of the coaster being synchronized to what they see on screen. A number of different destinations are on offer, with guests able to choose which one to head to.

Chris Hadfield on Galactica

Astronaut Chris Hadfield tests the Galactica experience.
Image: Alton Towers

There are issues with the new system. Early reviews suggest that loading times (already pretty slow on the original Air) are now extremely lengthy, due to the need to wipe down the headsets after each use. And it seems there's still work to do to create a truly coherent simulation of a flight into space. But as a proof-of-concept, Galactica works.

Six Flags has also introduced virtual reality headsets on a wide range of its coasters in the US this year, so it looks like this could be the year that virtual reality coasters take off.

4. Wildfire (Kolmården Wildlife Park, Sweden)

Wildfire artwork

Image: Kolmården Wildlife Park

Manufacturer: Rocky Mountain Construction
Type: 
Wooden Coaster
Top speed:
 70mph
Height: 
187 feet

Due to open in June, Wildifre is yet another Rocky Mountain Construction creation - the firm's first in Europe. Vekoma will help out by manufacturing the power and control systems, with RMC producing the track and trains.

Wildfire artwork

Image: Kolmården Wildlife Park

Wildfire will be the fastest wooden coaster in Europe at 70 miles per hour, and the second tallest in the world at 187 feet. Like many modern wooden coasters, it will include inversions - 3 of them - and a series of 12 airtime hills.

Wildfire artwork

Image: Kolmården Wildlife Park

The Kolmården Wildlife Park is primarily a zoo, and riders on Wildfire are likely to feel close to nature as they race through a spectacular woodland setting.

3. Mako (SeaWorld Orlando, USA)

Mako concept art

Image: SeaWorld Orlando

Manufacturer: Bolliger & Mabillard
Type: Hypercoaster
Top speed: 73mph
Height: 200 feet

SeaWorld hasn't been having the best time of late, given the volume of negative coverage it has received since the release of the highly critical Blackfish movie. This has led to the subsequent decision to stop breeding killer whales in captivity, and to management doubling down on an existing strategy of supplementing aquatic exhibits with high-tech thrill rides.

Mako concept art

Image: SeaWorld Orlando

Enter Mako, the 2016 addition at SeaWorld Orlando. Headlining a new shark-themed area, the ride will become the tallest, fastest and longest in Orlando. Manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard (who also built the park's most recent coaster, Manta), the hypercoaster will stand at some 200 feet tall, and will hit a top speed of 73 miles per hour as it races around a 4,760 feet circuit. The coaster will boast a number of airtime hills, as well as a unique new feature dubbed the "Hammerhead turn" (a tight U-turn to the right).

Mako concept art

Image: SeaWorld Orlando

The sheer height of Mako means that it won't be integrated into its surrounding environment in the same way that the visually impressive Manta is, but SeaWorld claims it will give guests a sense of the awesome speed of the real-life Mako shark. And concept art suggests that the train will dip close to the water on the park's lake on several occasions.

2. Lightning Rod (Dollywood, USA)

Lightning Rod concept art

Image: Dollywood

Manufacturer: Rocky Mountain Construction
Type: Wooden Coaster
Top speed: 73mph

Dollywood has splurged an estimated $22 million on its new addition for 2016, and Lightning Rod is certainly an ambitious concept. Themed after a tricked-out 1950s-era hot rod, the ride is billed as the first wooden coaster in the world to use a launch system instead of a traditional lift hill.

Lightning Rod concept art

Image: Dollywood

Riders will be launched from 0 to 45 miles per hour before racing around a 3,800 foot circuit that includes a 165 foot drop. At the foot of the hill, the trains will reach 73 miles per hour, making Lightning Rod the fastest wooden coaster in the world.

Lightning Rod concept art

Image: Dollywood

As is often the case with "world's first" coasters, Lightning Rod has encountered some teething issues. Originally due to open with the rest of the park in March, the ride's opening was delayed after Rocky Mountain Construction found that the third-party launch system "would not be able to perform at the level required for proper operation."

1. TRON Lightcycle Power Run (Shanghai Disneyland, China)

Tron Lightcycle Power Run train testing

Image: Disney

Manufacturer: Vekoma
Type: 
Motorbike Coaster

It's been a long, long road to get to this point, but Disney's first theme park in mainland China will finally open to guests in June 2016. It'll feature a mix of classic attractions such as Peter Pan's Flight and Dumbo the Flying Elephant, modern takes on old favorites (a high-tech update of Pirates of the Caribbean will be a headliner) and all-new experiences. TRON Lightcycle Power Run, which will dominate the Tomorrowland area of the park, falls into the latter category.

Tron Lightcycle Power Run canopy concept art

Image: Disney

The ride will be housed inside an impressively huge color-shifting canopy, which will be the signature element of Shanghai Disneyland's Tomorrowland in the same way that Space Mountain dominates the area at several of Disney's other parks. The undulating canopy will be covered in a translucent material that reveals the pulshing glow of Lightcycle trains as they race around the interior.

Tron Lightcycle Power Run concept art

Image: Disney

Inside, guests will board a motorbike-style coaster, boarding individual Lightcycles that are launched across the initial section of track (dubbed the Upload Conduit) before diving into the "game world", packed with light and sound effects.

Tron Lightcycle Power Run concept art

Image: Disney

Even at this late stage, there are few hard statistics on the coaster itself, although it will be a customized variant of Vekoma's existing motorbike coasters (Vekoma has partnered with Disney on numerous coaster projects in the past). The ride won't be contained completely indoors, with the trains bursting outside in one section.

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