Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kings Dominion Goes "Old School" for 2014

By Terry Mulcahy

"They're Baaaaaaack!"
There was once a time when bleach-blonde hair was all the rage, when flannel shirts weren’t just for hipsters and when Virginians could ride the movies. This time was known as the 90s, but for Kings Dominion fans it was the Paramount era.

The Outer Limits: Flight of Fear was once a terrifying ordeal in the dark void of outer space, complete with vindictive aliens and queue-line theming. Today The Flight of Fear (sans Outer Limits theming) is a jiggly journey through a well-lit maintenance shed, complete with ladders, cables and toolboxes. Once The Hurler was a hotbed of Wayne’s World humor. Now it’s a hot mess of rough turns and horrendous design.

These are two of the many attractions that suffered when Paramount sold the park to Cedar Fair in 2006, who had to flush out the movie tie-in theming. Attention to detail and character, (which were around long before Paramount took the reigns too) took a backseat to profit and marketing. But for the first time in years, that might be changing.

Here’s what we know so far:

• Singing Mushrooms. The two words that make Mike and EB giddy. They’re coming back, and that blurry picture that the park released on Twitter (that Screamscape thought might be a big dog) is a piano-playing frog. Families will also be glad to see the return of Candy Apple Grove as a themed midway area. This is great news as, with 2013’s huge overhaul of the only kids’ area, Planet Snoopy, this brings a touch of whimsy and magic back to the park.

• Blue Ice Cream. It was popular in the 70s and 80s, because it’s ice cream and IT’S BLUE. And while you’re battling a brain-freeze/sugar-high combo you can enjoy a restoration of the entry fountains, including a new LED light package.

• But the change generating the most hubbub so far is the restoration of the park’s Congo area (which features a lot of the park’s biggest and best thrill rides), to be renamed Safari Village (as it once was in decades past). The area is currently one of the park’s most well-defined, despite featuring two (admittedly great) coasters themed to race cars, The Flight of Fear and a bobsled coaster that cheerfully proclaims “this ride features live bees.” With a loving touch, a lick of paint and maybe (?) some new theming elements this area should start to shine again.

• But wait, there’s more! The park also promise improvements to Volcano and Anaconda, the parks Arrow loop-screw. Although the details of what that might entail are hazy at the moment, the latter is especially welcome. The ride is showing its age, if a re-track is on the cards that might smooth out some rough transitions, but even if its only a shiny new paint job and, hopefully, a restoration of the cool water-splash effect as the train dives “under” the water it can only do good.

Okay, it’s not a sparkly new GCI woodie, but it’s a start. They could have added another parking-lot coaster (looking at you, Dominator), they could have shoe-horned in another flat. Instead they’re injecting just a little magic back into a park that was once full of it.

More announcements are on the way. What retro icon would you like to see come back? Could The Hurler see a re-theme? Will anyone ever find Grizzly now that the entrance is hidden behind a gift shop? Will that helicopter on The Backlot Stunt Coaster ever do, well, anything? You know Mike and EB will be right on it when more details come to light.

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