The Grizzly - Kings Dominion

Located just outside Richmond, Virginia, Kings Dominion opened in 1975. Eight years later the theme park introduced The Grizzly, a double-eight wooden roller coaster modeled after The Wildcat from Cincinnati, Ohio’s Coney Island park. The coaster which opened in 1981 is 87 feet tall, reaches speeds up to 51 mph, and runs riders through a dense forest for two-and-a-half minutes over 3,000 feet of track. 

The Grizzly is located in the Old Virginia section of Kings Dominion, the only land in the park to maintain its original theming. Themed after the Blue Ridge Mountains that run through the western part of the state, the land has a rustic look relying heavily on wooden buildings and a country style.

The Grizzly - Updated Track Curve - Kings Dominion
Credit: Kings Dominion

Beyond the Grizzly, the area features a classic antique car ride (the Blue Ridge Tollway) and a log flume ride (the Shenandoah Lumber Company). The entrance and queue for the Grizzly are housed in a log cabin-style building and are accompanied by a related merchandise location, the Grizzly Gulch General Store.

The ride was originally built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company which has constructed over 100 roller coasters across the United States dating as far back as 1904. The Grizzly has been through three refurbishments in the past - 2009, 2011, and 2016 - and closed once again on Labor Day 2022, this time for a major update.

The main theming element of the ride is its path through and closeness to the forest. The majority of the track is concealed from guests giving a thrilling experience of unexpected drops and turns. However, like most older wooden roller coasters it has required frequent maintenance. But this latest rebirth of The Grizzly features a new ride technology to help bring this historic coaster into the 21st century. 

Grizzly, Kings Dominion
Image: Kings Dominion

Based out of Cincinnati, Ohio the Gravity Group was brought in to not only modernize the Grizzly but redesign large sections of the track. The Gravity Group has helped build or update roller coasters across the US, as well as in Sweden, France, Ireland, & China. Using their custom Precut Engineered Track technology the wood planks will have less inflection (bending), which leads to a smoother ride. Due to the more durable materials, the ride should have less downtime, maintenance needed, as well as wear-and-tear on both the structure and the ride cars.

Gravity Groups’ new track design and build process ensures a more consistent ride and a more straightforward installation process, compared to in the past when carpenters often had to make on-site adjustments at great heights. 

Beyond re-tracking The Grizzly, the first noticeable change riders will experience is the altered first drop. Originally built higher off the ground, the track now runs closer to the ground with the descent increasing from a 45-degree angle to a 55-degree angle. The Gravity Group has slightly modified several turns as well as the small bumps and drops to create a more comfortable overall experience. 

The new and improved Grizzly roller coaster is now open at Kings Dominion and has had mixed reviews so far. The new sections of track are reported as being extremely smooth but the older track which has not been replaced creates a unpleasant alternation of smooth and then uncomfortable, smooth and then uncomfortable which certainly doesn't give guests the best ride experience.

We assume the only way to completely solve this issue is to replace the rest of the track but this ultimately will be extremely costly. We will just have to wait and see what is decided. Have you ridden the new Grizzly at Kings Dominion? 


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