Six Flags Over Texas has revealed that the Texas Giant rollercoaster will receive a completely new steel track as part of its $10 million renovation.
The Texas Giant, which is due to reopen in time for the park's 2011 season, will be the first coaster in the world to use the "Iron Horse" track system. Although the wooden support structure of the ride will remain in place (and will be extended as part of the renovation), the all-steel track design calls into question the ride's status as a wooden coaster - potentially placing it in a new "hybrid wood-steel" bracket.
Traditional wooden rollercoasters feature wooden tracks with steel running rails overlaid on top. However, the Iron Horse system will be made up of multiple pre-fabricated steel sections (each 40-53 feet in length), and a unique new "backbone" which supports the track. The overall weight of the system is similar to the previous wooden track, allowing much of the existing Texas Giant structure to remain in place.
Six Flags says that the updated ride will feature the steepest drop of any wooden rollercoaster in the world at 79 degrees (though coaster enthusiasts may dispute this given the unique track design). It will also see height increased by 10 feet to 153 feet, a new top speed of 65mph and a 95-degree banking section.
New trains, plus updated braking and control systems will round off the redesign. However, much of the existing ride layout will remain in place with up to 85% of the original support structure being reused.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Steve Martindale, the president of Six Flags Over Texas, promised riders "a lot more air time" and a ride "as smooth as glass". Acknowledging the hybrid design, he said "what we've got right here is a new crossbreed. It's going to take the entire industry by storm." Martindale claimed that the total number of riders on the Texas Giant could top 1 million in the 2011 season.
The Texas Giant opened in 1990 and was the tallest and fastest wooden rollercoaster in the world at the time. However, it has since suffered from frequent complaints by riders that it offers an violent, painful ride. The renovation will see it return in time for the start of Six Flags Over Texas' 50th anniversary season.
It is the second time the Texas Giant has been renovated, following a previous renovation nearly ten years ago. The cost of the latest renovation is greater than the original $5.5 million construction cost for the coaster, even when adjusted for inflation.
Six Flags over Texas begins it 2010 season this weekend, opening from 10:30am to 6pm on Saturday and 11am to 6pm on Sunday.