Home » Why Are So Many Roller Coasters Breaking in 2023?! Inside the Issues at Fury 325, El Toro, Top Thrill Dragster & More…

Why Are So Many Roller Coasters Breaking in 2023?! Inside the Issues at Fury 325, El Toro, Top Thrill Dragster & More…

“So… what exactly is going on with roller coasters recently?”

By now, we wouldn’t be surprised if even your friends and family who typically don’t know a thing about theme parks have begun to ask you, because the news is hard to ignore. Across the industry, there’s been a significant rash of standalone ride closures – and sometimes, photos of snapped cables, splintered track, and cracked supports to go with it.

While no one has all the answers, today we’ll do our best to explain six significant recent ride closures that have struck coasters across the world. While these issues are all completely disconnected, it sure does take a lot of explaining to be a coaster fan today!


STATUS: Standing, not operating, and awaiting a “new formula for thrills”

On a list of iconic roller coasters, few rides can top Top Thrill Dragster. Opened in 2003, the Intamin Accelerator coaster was Cedar Point’s final stand in the “Coaster Wars” of the ’90s and 2000s, unthinkably surpassing the 400-foot height ceiling (and just three years after the park’s own Modern Marvel: Millennium Force had finally crested 300). A brief 17 seconds of white knuckle bliss, the ride famously accelerated guests from 0 to 120 miles per hour, rocking them vertically up a 420-foot tall top hat, then spiraling back down to the finish line.

We explored the landmark ride’s high octane life (and its unexpected pit stop) in our full Modern Marvels: Top Thrill Dragster feature. But suffice it to say that after a lifetime of technical problems, a last straw in 2021 saw the ride shutter for the season. Then, in September 2022, Cedar Point announced that a decision had been made and that Top Thrill Dragster would be retired permanently. Kind of.

As Theme Park Tourist has been following, it’s now clear that the first (of two) 400+ foot “stratacoasters” on Earth isn’t heading for the scrap heap. Instead, Cedar Point is in the midst of a major reimagining that will allegedly see the remains of Dragster reborn with a new launch system, a new ride experience, new trains, and almost certainly, a new name. Stay tuned as more details emerge and construction picks up, because all signs point to the park’s promised “new formula for thrills” serving as its headliner for 2024.

2. NEMESIS (Alton Towers)

STATUS: Dismantled… for now

Alton Towers in the U.K. is a park with a legendary coaster collection anchored by 1994’s Nemesis – an ultra-intense, hyper-customized, very iconic B&M inverted coaster. Famously, Alton Towers’ location in the English countryside comes with significant restrictions, like requiring coasters to remain below the treeline and unheard by neighbors. Nemesis fits the bill by being nearly entirely contained to subterranean caverns and rocky chasms, twisting and diving through the petrified exoskeleton of an alien beast.

A massive marketing effort in 2022 led up to the ride’s closure in November, after which the ride was swiftly demolished. Kind of. In fact, Nemesis is in the midst of the same treatment Universal gave to Islands of Adventure’s Incredible Hulk from 2015 to 2016. That is, it’s being precisely rebuilt but with all new track and supports (in this case, switching from rusted white to black with “veins” along the steel spine).

We don’t yet know exactly when the “reborn” Nemesis will emerge… but at least we know that this coaster’s closure was planned, and so is its return… the same can’t be said for…

3. EL TORO (Six Flags Great Adventure)

STATUS: Re-opened after a very rough set of years

When El Toro opened in 2006, it seemed like the future of wooden roller coasters could be riding on it. El Toro is unusual among its wooden siblings because it’s “pre-fabricated,” meaning that instead of pieces being sawed and assembled on-site (like nearly all wooden coasters), El Toro’s track was laser cut, then shipped to the park with every piece labeled for precision assembly. That unusual process gives Intamin’s pre-fabricated wooden coasters their nickname (“plug-and-play”) as well as their unique experience of being ridiculously smooth and nimble, able to tackle elements that most wooden coasters can’t.

Like too many of Intamin’s more boundary-pushing rides, El Toro has hit some rough spots. In June 2021, a train partially derailed on the ride. No one was injured, but El Toro remained closed for the entire 2021 season.

As a result, it was a cause for celebration when it was announced that the ride would re-open in spring 2022… But just four months later, another incident with an allegedly misaligned “pothole” on the track saw 14 riders injured (including five who were sent to a local hospital). The state regulation board’s inspection reported that El Toro was “structurally compromised,” leading many to wonder if – like other problematic Intamin rides – El Toro might’ve unknowingly ridden its last.

Much to fans’ relief, El Toro officially re-opened June 17, 2023. Let’s just hope this time, everything’s in tip-top shape. Meanwhile, just as El Toro finally returned to operation, another Six Flags Great Adventure icon closed…

4. KINGDA KA (Six Flags Great Adventure)

STATUS: Back up and launching…

The story of Top Thrill Dragster has been a turbulent one, matched only by its one and only sister ride, Kingda Ka. Clearly meant as Six Flags’ solution for winning back the title of “world’s tallest and fastest roller coaster,” Kingda Ka has had plenty of its own issues, including several periods of months-long closures. One might’ve expected that Top Thrill Dragster’s 2021 issues would cause Six Flags to suspend operation of their own stratacoaster, but Kingda Ka has continued to operate…

Until June 2023. Right as El Toro was readying for its return after a lengthy closure, Kingda Ka closed itself. Photos surfaced of what appeared to be (but has never been confirmed as) a snapped launch cable. It’s not necessarily unheard of for the launch cables on Intamin Accelerators to finally fray after hundreds of high-tension, high-speed reeling-and-unreeling day after day. (In fact, the problematic launch cable issue is one reason fans suspect Cedar Point’s own Top Thrill Dragster could be switching to a friction-less electromagnetic launch system in its design.)

Still, the frustration of yet another massive ride closure seemingly out of the blue just added to the weirdness of coaster issues we seem to be in the midst of. Thankfully, Kingda Ka did manage to re-open after just a month (somewhat confirming that the issue was a fixable, mechanical one). But its reopening was just in time for a coaster closure that captured the media’s attention in a very big way…

5. FURY 325 (Carowinds)

STATUS: Braced for repair

On the whole face of the Earth, only six full-circuit coasters have ever been classified as “gigacoasters” – with a height between 300 and 399 feet. One of the most interesting is Fury 325 at Carowinds. Though fans haven’t exactly fallen in love with B&M’s take on the gigacoaster model (which critics claim relies too heavily on the manufacturer’s out-and-back, airtime-hill focused hypercoaster model, just bigger), Fury seems to be an exception. That makes sense since its layout mixes in unexpected banking, speed runs, and low-to-the-ground elements that help it stand out from B&M hypers.

On June 30, video footage emerged of a full, oblique fracture through one of the coaster’s steel supports, just where the track is bolted on. Obviously, Carowinds halted operation of Fury 325 immediately upon being informed of the break (located on a support beam fan out in the ride’s out-and-back course). Online detective work and incidental photos retroactively suggest that a visible crack had been slowly growing at the stress point over the course of at least a week, but the video footage of the fully detached track with a train racing along it was certainly a staggering visual.

It’s an especially surprising error for B&M – Cedar Fair’s apparent preferred coaster manufacturer precisely because of their renowned quality and consistency versus the more experimental, issue-prone, and technologically-complex creations of Intamin.

At present, Carowinds has braced the support with what appears to be welded steel plates. But of course, the ride isn’t running. Thankfully, a statement released by Carowinds on July 6 (above) gives a peek into their plans, confirming that a new support is being manufactured, after which time the ride will be re-commissioned through an extensive testing process (including running 500 ride cycles and getting final approvals from B&M).

We don’t yet know when Fury 325 will be back up and running, though the park’s statement seems to indicate that it could happen quickly. Thankfully, the “redundancies” the park cites did indeed work to keep riders safe in what could otherwise have been a catastrophic incident. 

6. XCELERATOR (Knott’s Berry Farm)

STATUS: Freshly painted, standing, and not operating…

Given that both Top Thrill Dragster and Kingda Ka have both made our list, it may seem like we’re picking on Intamin by now including Xcelerator at Knott’s Berry Farm. But even if it’s often overlooked, this ride’s ongoing closure remains one of the most long-running and notable in the industry.

Sure, like its (much bigger) sisters, Xcelerator has had its own issues. The most notable was in 2009 when its launch cable frayed mid-ride, spraying riders with metal shards and leading to an eight month closure. It was then closed for nearly the entirety of 2017 for maintenance. In October 2021, the ride was closed for a repaint.

It only re-opened briefly until closing again in March 2022. The park reported that it was awaiting a replacement part… but more than a year later, fans are beginning to wonder if Xcelerator has been quietly retired altogether… Given Cedar Fair’s issues with Dragster, it’s fair to wonder if they’ve simply decided that this model isn’t worth the upkeep. The result is that the freshly-painted ride has been standing but not operating for a very long time, making this particular closure a very odd one indeed…