Friendly competition and the desire to lure new guests fuel theme parks to strive to the coolest, wildest, or more unique new coasters. Roller coasters have become marvels of engineering, combining speed, height, and intricate design elements to provide riders with an exhilarating experience.
However, what happens when the desire to create a stand-out coaster actually hinders a park’s success? Let’s look at the history of Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion in Virginia and you can decide if this coaster is fantastic or a flop.
Start Your Engines
Manufactured by Intamin, Intimidator 305 is a giga coaster, a classification reserved for rides that exceed 300 feet in height. It was the second giga coaster in the United States following the opening of Millenium Force a decade earlier.
Standing at a towering 305 feet, this roller coaster dominates the park's skyline, making it a focal point for thrill-seekers and onlookers alike. The coaster features a heart-pounding drop of 300 feet at an 85-degree angle. The initial descent is just the beginning of the thrills, as Intimidator 305 reaches a top speed of 90 miles per hour.
Intimidator 305, named in honor of the legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, opened its gates to the public on April 2, 2010. Rather than reuse many of the elements utilized in the very successful Millenium Force, Intamin decided to take a different approach with Intimidator 305 focusing on speed rather than sweeping airtime hill and large banked turns.
The coaster's track spans 5,100 feet, and riders experience a series of high-speed twists and turns that keep them on the edge of their seats from start to finish. The sheer intensity of the ride and its relentless pace have earned it a reputation as one of the most intense roller coasters in the world.
The roller coaster quickly gained a reputation for its nearly overwhelming intensity. In fact, the coaster had to undergo several modifications in its first year to decrease the intensity following the first drop as many guests reported blacking out. Temporary trim breaks were added to decrease the speed around the first turn following the drop shortly after the coaster opened.
During the first off-season, the turn was adjusted to decrease the G-forces. Though this decreased some of the intensity, many riders still state that they “grey out” or lose partial vision during the first turn. While the coaster is popular among enthusiasts, many of the general public don’t care for the intense experience that Intimidator 305 delivers.
Was Intimidator 305 A Bad Investment?
When Intimidator 305 was being built, Cedar Fair also decided to add another Intimidator coaster at Carowinds. Intimidator at Carowinds is a Bolliger & Mabillard hypercoaster featuring a drop of 211 feet and speeds of 80 miles per hour. These B&M hypercoasters are generally quite popular among guests and provide great speeds and airtime. They aren’t overly intense and offer quite a fun coaster experience.
So why did Cedar Fair opt for a new Intamin giga coaster at Kings Dominion over a known-to-be-successful B&M hypercoaster? It is believed that the proximity of Kings Dominion to Busch Gardens Williamsburg played a role in this decision.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg already had its own B&M hypercoaster and Cedar Fair likely saw the opportunity to go bigger and faster than its competitor. However, it seems Intamin may have gone a little too extreme with Intimidator 305. It was the last coaster that Cedar Fair would entrust Intamin to build indicating that the lack of expected success may have been the final nail in the coffin when it came to a partnership between Cedar Fair and Intamin.
Additionally, since Intimidator 305 opened in 2010, Kings Dominion has only gained two smaller coaster investments, while other Cedar Fair parks like Carowinds and Kings Island have seen several large coaster investments. The park even had one of its fan-favorite attractions, Volcano: The Blast Coaster closed without any fanfare or even an announcement for a replacement.
Even competitor, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has seen a great push to incorporate several new coasters over the last several years.
Is Kings Dominion falling behind its sister parks and rivals? Whether or not Cedar Fair’s disappointment in Intimidator 305 is to blame, it is apparent that the theme park giant owes some attention to Kings Dominion before it falls too far behind.
Over the years, Intimidator 305 has become a fan favorite and a must-ride attraction for thrill enthusiasts. But those who prefer more fun over intensity don’t seem to be adding this coaster to the top of their list.
Have you ridden Intimidator 305? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page and be sure to tell us if you think this coaster lived up to expectations.