Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Goodbye Hypersonic XLC.... Goodbye Gimmicks

Today the CoasterCrew broke the news that Kings Dominion will be dismantling Hypersonic XLC before the 2008 season begins.

When it was unveiled in March of 2001, Hypersonic became the very first Compressed Air Launch coaster. Its claim to fame was the quickest acceleration for a roller coaster... 0-80 mph in 1.8 seconds.

I rode this roller coaster on its second day of operation. I remember waiting over two hours in line, but I didn't care. I was excited to try out this ride which was one of the first to be hyped in the internet era. Besides the fast launch, the park touted the a new design which included special shock absorbers and pneumatic (air-filled) tires that were designed to provide a smooth ride. Whether or not they actually worked is still up for debate.

People can say what they want about Hypersonic.... but the launch was simply amazing. It beat the launch on Kingda Ka, Top Thill Dragster, Speed: The Ride, Flight of Fear, Xcellerator or any other launch coaster you want to name.

But after the launch and the climb up the first hill, the ride was a disappointment.

After that first ride, I never felt it was worth a two-hour wait. Slow operations, frequent downtime and the fact that the ride itself had a duration of 30 seconds were all major turn offs. During its seven seasons in operation, I only rode Hypersonic XLC three times.

So, as we say goodbye to Hypersonic XLC, perhaps it also time to say goodbye to the age of the roller coaster gimmick.

Perhaps the days are done when parks care about setting records for speed, height or the strangest element. Perhaps we're not going to see any more Top Thrill Dragsters, Son of Beasts, Xs or other rides that put an emphasis on gimmicks instead of just showing people a good time.

There are many roller coasters out there that divide people... and Hypersonic was no exception. Some loved it and others hated it.
But, regardless of what camp you were in, you have to admit that its launch was the best anywhere. That's what I'll miss.

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