By now you’ve probably heard the news… for the first time in many, many years, a major theme park in the United States is going to be wiped off the map.
The future of California’s Great America has always been in doubt. Located in the country’s hottest real estate market (California’s Bay Area) and inconveniently sharing a parking lot with a local football stadium who’d like very much to expand, Great America has found itself between a rock and a hard place quite a few times. Especially given that none of the park’s operators – from Marriott to KECO to Paramount Parks to Cedar Fair – actually owned the incredibly valuable land the park sits on. But in 2019, on-again off-again rumors about the park’s potential closure were briefly quieted when the park’s current owner and operator – Ohio-based Cedar Fair – announced that they had officially purchased the land the park resides on, seemingly cementing its future.
Image: Cedar FairIf you’ve been following the news on Theme Park Tourist, you know that that didn’t last. In 2022, Cedar Fair announced that they had agreed to sell the land to a new buyer, beginning a six year countdown (with an optional five year extension) to the park’s closure. And just like that, a major theme park with several significant rides (and nine roller coasters) will disappear. The good news is that Cedar Fair has gone through this before. (The tragic tale of Geauga Lake saw the ride’s roller coasters reassembled across Cedar Fair parks.) So even as we prepare to mourn Great America, the obvious question becomes… what will happen to this doomed park’s roller coasters? Here are our ideas for where in the Cedar Fair chain we think Great America’s coasters would find great new homes…
Image: Six FlagsLest we forget, it was 1976 (America’s Bicentennial) that hotelier Marriott decided to get into the theme park game with its two amusement parks meant to celebrate all things Americana. Both Great Americas (near Chicago and San Jose) opened with classic Arrow double-corkscrew coasters called Turn of the Century – a fitting installation for the quasi-historical parks. In 1980, though, both got a thrilling upgrade when double loops were added to their layouts, they were painted black, and they both became “Demon.” Even now that the two Great Americas are fully separated (Cedar Fair owns California’s, and Six Flags owns Illinois’), the two Demons remain one of their shared traits!
Arrow multi-loopers are becoming rarer and rarer. That makes sense since these coasters – largely from the ’70s – are definitely “throwbacks” in terms of their comfort, design, and experience. Especially into the ’80s, when Arrows got bigger, meaner, and more radical (right before B&M and Intamin smoothed out and modernized what roller coasters could do),
SEND IT TO: Kings Island
Busch Gardens Williamsburg recently announced that for 2024, its Arrow multi-looper, Loch Ness Monster, will be getting a major overhaul, proving that these historic icons aren’t necessarily doomed to be scrapped. So looking across Cedar Fair’s chain, an interesting option arises in Kings Island, who just closed its over-built ’80s multi-looper, Vortex. That makes it weird to consider adding another Arrow, but Demon has some things going for it… it has a very narrow, slender footprint making it much easier to fit into an existing park. It also would fit perfectly in Kings Island’s Action Zone, which already features two “creepy”-themed rides, The Bat and Banshee. Bringing a historic Arrow back to this park could be a very cool win-win!
2. Flight Deck
Image: Cedar FairCedar Fair acquired five theme parks at once in 2007 when it purchased the existing Paramount Parks chain – including Great America. That meant “de-theming” several rides named after films. Case in point – TOP GUN: The Jet Coaster becoming the hilariously-generic “Flight Deck.” Four of the five Paramount Parks ended up with “Top Guns,” but Great America is lucky that its version is a top-tier B&M inverted coaster.
Great America’s Flight Deck isn’t a record breaker – it’s got “only” a 91 foot drop, and passes through “only” three inversions. But it’s a good roller coaster by a good manufacturer, and includes a flourish you won’t find on many inverts: a finale helix over a lagoon. It seems highly unlikely that Flight Deck would be scrapped, leading to the inevitable question of which Cedar Fair park would lay claim to it… Because it’s not a huge ride, it might make sense to send it a park that’s also not huge. At Worlds of Fun or Michigan’s Adventure, it would feel like a headliner. But Worlds of Fun already has a (bigger) B&M invert, and Michigan’s Adventure has a Vekoma SLC that fills the same kind of gap in the park’s lineup. So we’ll get controversial…’
SEND IT TO: Valleyfair
It’s easy to forget about Minnesota’s Valleyfair, one of Cedar Fair’s “legacy” (that is, pre-Paramount Parks) properties. Valleyfair is definitely a smaller seasonal, regional park – not a destination one. And certainly, it’s a second (or third) tier park in Cedar Fair’s 11-park portfolio. Its newest major coaster was a GCI woodie in 2007 – over 15 years ago. Valleyfair feels like a park where a B&M (even a “Used” one) would make a very big impact, so we’d love to see Flight Deck rebuilt there.
3. Gold Striker
Image: Cedar FairDisassembling, moving, and re-assembling a wooden coaster isn’t exactly easy to do. Rather, it’s a laborious process that frankly feels more ceremonial than anything. (Ship-of-Theseus wise, if a wooden roller coaster is disassembled into planks and shipped across the country to be rebuilt, is it even still the same roller coaster? At that point, why not just source new wood and build a fresh version of the ride?) But for a moment, let’s just think Blue Sky about what could happen to this relatively new (2013) CGI gem.
SEND IT TO: Cedar Point
Very rarely would we bother to suggest adding another roller coaster to the already-stuffed Cedar Point. But the one-time “Roller Coaster Capital of the World” has run into an unusual situation… Of its record-breaking and much-celebrated 16-coaster collection, just one is wooden – 1964’s classic Blue Streak. (The park’s only other contemporary wooden coaster, Mean Streak, was “RMC’ed” into Steel Vengeance in 2018.) It’s a little wild that a park so renowned for its coaster collection is missing such an essential ingredient as a modern woodie, and a fantastic GCI terrain-hugging coaster like Gold Striker weaving and bobbling along the boardwalk would be a welcome way to remedy that.
But on the next page, we’ll get to some of the park’s biggest thrills…