All the hype about Kingda Ka, the new roller coaster that opened at Six Flags Great Adventure this month, is true. Well, almost everything everything...
HACKENSACK, N.J. — All the hype about Kingda Ka, the new roller coaster that opened at Six Flags Great Adventure this month, is true.
Well, almost everything.
True: The new 456-foot-high coaster — billed as the world’s tallest and fastest — is indeed awesome, stupendous, super-cool.
Always assuming, of course, that your idea of cool is to rocket straight up at 128 mph to about half the height of the Empire State Building, stare helplessly for a split-second at the distant landscape and then plummet face-down to earth so quickly you’ll feel like the earth is plummeting upward to meet you.
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“Oh, my God,” gasped one man, seconds before the green and yellow car shot to earth like a bullet.
Not true: a series of Internet-fueled urban legends that have bedeviled the management of Six Flags since it was announced a month ago that the opening of the much-hyped coaster had been g delayed because of “further testing.”
“These 12-year-olds have been making up stuff on the Internet,” said Steve Urbanowicz, coaster historian and author (“The Roller Coaster Lover’s Companion”) who rode the coaster recently.
Kingda Ka: At Six Flags Great Adventure theme park, Jackson, N.J., www.sixflags.com
Even savvy media people were repeating rumors they’d probably heard from their third-grader.
The favorite: That test dummies sent up in the coaster had returned with heads off and arms broken. (In fact, some of the test dummies have no heads, which may have led some impressionable observer to jump to conclusions.)
“I’ve heard every rumor,” said Six Flags spokeswoman Kristin Siebeneicher. “None of it is true. To make things up like that is very malicious.”
The delay in the opening, says Siebeneicher, was due entirely to construction difficulties brought on by winter weather. “We hadn’t had time to do all the testing we needed,” she said.
Worth waiting for
For coaster lovers, there’s no question that Kingda Ka was worth the wait. The 45-story-high main hill is unlike anything seen in the annals of coasterdom, and riders reeling from that first hydraulically propelled shock get even more, with a 13-story second hill. If it’s any consolation, it will probably happen too fast to make you sick.
“It took my breath away,” said Diana Reess, 33, of Lakehurst, N.J. “My eyelids were flapping.”
Many of the hard-core coaster fans who flocked to ride it likened the sensation of Kingda Ka to extreme sports — skydiving, drag racing, hang-gliding — more than the put-your-hands-up-and-shout “yaaaayyyyyy!” experience of a traditional roller coaster.
“It was incredible,” said Wade Jackson, 28, of Deptford, N.J. “It gives you the adrenaline rush of an extreme sport, without the safety fears.”
Imaginary safety problems aside, Kingda Ka isn’t free from technical problems of a more mundane kind.
An unusual sign posted near the waiting area proclaims: “Attention Riders: On occasion, Kingda Ka’s train will not travel over the hill. This is a normal occurrence — the train is designed to safely roll back and reset to be launched again.”
This happened several times last week — with visitors waiting around for considerable periods as the train was readied for another go.
“It depends on the weight of the passengers in the train,” Urbanowicz said. “As it’s climbing to the top, it slows too much.”
These are new kinds of technical issues that have beset the designers of so-called “super” coasters. For all their experience, they are in somewhat uncharted waters when it comes to designing a coaster as big as Kingda Ka — more than twice the height of Nitro, the “extreme” coaster that was the last word in thrills when it was installed at Six Flags four years ago.
The only comparable ride to Kingda Ka — the slightly smaller Top Thrill Dragster at Ohio’s Cedar Point Park — has experienced a great deal of offline time since it opened in 2003.
What all this portends for the hordes of thrill-seekers who will descend on Six Flags this summer to experience Kingda Ka remains to be seen. Siebeneicher doesn’t anticipate any serious problems.
“This coaster is obviously brand-new, and everyone will continue to be working out the kinks,” she said. “Certainly none of these are serious issues. We feel confident that this is going to run well this summer.”
The new ride brings to 13 the number of working coasters at Six Flags Great Adventure — and raises the high-stakes game of coaster one-upmanship to new levels.
Kingda Ka, estimated at $30 million to $40 million in cost (Six Flags doesn’t release official figures), is the centerpiece of a new 11-acre theme area, The Golden Kingdom, which features lush and elaborate tiki bar decor in its newly revamped “Balin’s Jungleland” kiddie-ride area, and a new Temple of the Tiger exhibit, featuring seven live Bengal tigers.
An integral part of the “theming” are names like “Kingda Ka,” according to Siebeneicher.
“It means, ‘King of Coasters,”” she said. “It is a Six Flags-created word, so you won’t find it in any dictionary.”