Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Blast From The Past – Kings Island’s King Cobra

January 14th 1984, Chicago Illinois – This country’s only stand–up, looping roller coaster now has a name - The King Cobra.

Located in the Wild Animal Habitat section of Kings Island theme park, north of Cincinnati, the $3 million King Cobra opens at the park this April. The steel coaster carries riders in an upright,standing position rather than a sitting position.

The name and official logo was unveiled today at the Midwest meeting of the American Coaster Enthusiasts, a national club of more than a thousand roller coaster enthusiast.

A lot has changed since that chilly day over a quarter of a century ago; ACE is still around, as is Kings Island. But, both the Animal Habitat area (now Action Zone) and King Cobra are gone.

Then marketing director Robert A Schultz was quoted as saying, “The King Cobra name was selected as a result of research the park conducted with teenagers and young adults who chose their favorites from a list of proposed names.” He went on to comment on how fitting the name was, conjuring up an image of a powerful snake, twisting, turning… darting here and there, and coiling through a 360 degree loop. And, with riders standing up, it could remind one of a cobra holding its body erect before striking.

Fluff aside, King Cobra wasn’t the first stand-up in America, but it was the first coaster designed specifically to carry riders in a standing position. Plus, it was also the first looping stand-up in North America. Designed by TOGO Inc of Tokyo, Japan, King Cobra boasted 2,034 feet of track, a 95 foot lift hill and a 66 foot tall 360 degree loop. It also featured a 540 degree helix, with the track banked 80 degrees, over a lake. At 80 degrees, the standing riders were virtually parallel to the ground. With a top speed of approx. 50mph, the 2 minute ride featured a two twenty four “seat” trains with an hourly capacity of 1240 riders.
It’s interesting to note that King Coaster was introduced as a major part of the park’s Coaster Centennial celebration (honoring of the June 13th, 1884 opening of LA Thompson’s Switchback Railway at Coney Island in New York.) King Cobra opened, with the park, on Sunday April 22nd, 1984; the park’s catch phrase was “Can You Stand It” And, interestingly enough King Cobra had grown some 176 feet since the announcement.

While King Cobra was a fun ride, it didn’t age well and had many problems, wheel issues and metal fatigue among them. The ride was dismantled at the beginning of the 2002 season, when maintenance proved to be too expensive. It boiled down to the fact that it was cheaper to tear it down than to open it. At one time it was listed for 1 million on several used ride sites, unfortunately there were no takers. Some parts were shipped to other Paramount Parks for their TOGO stand-ups. And, some are still rusting away at Kings Island.

King Cobra will always hold a special place in my heart, it was my first stand-up! And, while stand-ups got more complicated, with more twists, turns & loops, the thing that I loved about King Cobra was its simplicity. It seems as though stand-ups have become passé and I will be the first to admit, there are some I won’t ride. But, strolling down the path between Action Zone and Coney Mall, I can’t help but smile, as we pass by Delirium, and remember fondly the big yellow and green snake of a coaster that once occupied that spot.


Anonymous said...

I never had the chance to ride King Cobra as I visited Kings Island for the first time in 2003. I also didn't get the chance to ride its brother over at Kings Dominion. With the hour plus for Volcano: The Blast Coaster, I didn't have the time. Part of me wishes I could have experienced this ride, and the other part of me is just trying to avoid a headache!

By the way, the manikins in the coaster car a really creepy. Are you sure that wasn't their Halloween themeing starting in 2003? Hah.

Thanks NPN!