Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Kentucky is not one place that came to thrill seekers’ minds back in the 1980’s until ten acres of land near the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville were developed into a theme park and in 1987, Kentucky Kingdom opened for its first season. A relatively small park though at the time and with competition from nearby Kings Island in Cincinnati, Ohio (now Paramount’s Kings Island). One question remained, would the park survive with what little it had?
Opening in 1987 with four themed sections and plenty to do, the first section is Carousel Plaza. This section has the Crystal Carousel as its only ride and numerous gift shops as well in the entrance area. The next section is Old Louisville, plenty of amusement rides galore in this section, which included the parks only coaster, Starchaser. Starchaser was a Schwarzkopf Jet Star II coaster that was relocated from nearby Beech Bend park in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Other rides in this section included Smash-Crash-Bash’em bumper cars, Kentucky Whirl wave swinger, Whirlaway Chance Trabant ride, Pontiac’s Tin Lizzy Junction (now known as Tin Lizzy’s) Arrow Dynamics antique cars, and lastly Round-Up, a Hubertz made round-up ride.
The next section that opened in the park was the Kentucky Frontier. It had one of the parks’ big thrills, but only two rides. The first of these was the park’s log flume, Ohio River Adventure and the other ride in the section being a flat ride called Tornado (not to be confused with the water slide). And what is a theme park without a kids section? Kentucky Kingdom’s answer to that was with The Enchanted Forest. Four pint sized rides were in this section, which included Kentucky Barron, Rascal’s Retreat, Butterfly, and Fantasy Float.
With a great lineup for a new park, it sadly didn’t hold up well. One reason to blame was for wacky weather. That summer was known to have heavy rains and when it was not raining, it was extremely hot and muggy, making the weather unsuitable for a comfortable, fun day at the park. With that bringing in a lack of money and guests, the park closed and filed for bankruptcy after only one season. Possibly one of the biggest failures in the industry, in 1988, the park sat dormant never to be opened again and the rides were auctioned off to other parks. 1989, the park still sat dormant, only with no rides and only buildings as the remnants. One man would make a difference to the park, the man, Ed Hart, purchases Kentucky Kingdom and would end up reviving the park.
With no rides and only buildings, Ed bought back Starchaser for the park after the ride was auctioned off. New rides and conversions were made for the park before finally reopening in 1990 again as Kentucky Kingdom. The themed areas were abandoned and thirteen new rides were built. The first included Enterprise a Huss Enterprise ride, Ranger (Huss Ranger), Bumper Cars, and Whirling Dervish (Huss Breakdance).
The Log Flume was removed and four new rides were put in the spot it once stood, which included a roller coaster. The biggest thrill at the park became The Vampire, a Vekoma Boomerang relocated from a park in China, was moved to Kentucky Kingdom when the Chinese thought the ride was haunted. Also, four wet and dry slides dominated the area as well with a slide complex called The Squid and a Huss Pirate Boat ride called Pirate‘s Bounty. Kids were not left out from new rides, as new kids rides such as Dukes of the Road, Queen’s Quadrille, The Castle Walk, Merlin’s Magic Wheel, Jester’s June Bugs, and Royal Air Force rides were built. A successful season was finally pulled off in 1990, though the park was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
More big thrills came in 1991 as a giant wooden coaster came to the park in an area of newly purchased land located across a road from the park. In 1991, Thunder Run struck down at the park. Thunder Run is a Summers/Dinn wooden coaster that was originally intended for LeSourdsville Lake in Middletown, Ohio. But for those that weren’t up to the challenge of Thunder Run, a Vekoma Giant Ferris Wheel called Giant Wheel was built. But, one question remained, how would guests cross the road? A footbridge was being built during the season, but to get guests across, crossing guards happily guided guests across until the bridge was completed.
In 1992, a hurricane hit Louisville, literally, when a brand new water park for Kentucky Kingdom was built. Hurricane Bay opened in 1992 and as a part of the new water park, a brand new entrance and parking lot is also built for guests of the water park. More wet thrills came the year after as Hurricane Bay was expanded again in 1993. In 1994, two thrill rides came to the park, one of them being a brand new coaster. The first addition was a brand new Hopkin’s Shoot-the-chute’s ride called Mile High Falls. Also, younger thrill seekers now have a coaster of their own when Roller Skater is built. Manufactured by Vekoma as their Roller Skater model, families and younger thrill seekers twist through a steel tracked circuit in cars that resemble roller skates.
1994 would also bring two pieces of bad news. The first piece of bad news being Ranger, a Huss Ranger ride, being removed and to rot away in a field in Indiana known as Old Indiana. Second, the park’s Starchaser ride ends up in an accident where two cars collide on the ride. The incident injured a seven year old girl who suffers a collapsed lung and lacerated kidney. Five lawsuits would follow the incident and the ride would remain temporarily closed. In 1995, Starchaser was sold to Darien Lake (now Six Flags Darien Lake) and became Nightmare at Phantom Cave.
In 1995, terror was taken to the second power as T2 was built. Bringing the areas first inverted coaster and being one of the first Vekoma SLC’s (Suspended Looping Coasters) in America. Over five inversions pack the twisted course of one of the most cloned coasters in the world. Two more thrills would come that year, as Rainbow, a Huss Rainbow ride, was built and a new freefall ride at the entrance to the park where the Crystal Carousel once stood. The freefall ride became known as Hellevator, and as an appropriate opening, it opened in October for the park’s Halloscream weekends. Hellevator would take riders up sixteen stories in the air before freefalling down at speeds over sixty miles per hour.
In 1996, two more thrills came to the park. Replacing what used to house Starchaser came Thrill Park Theater, which housed motion simulator rides. Also added in 1996 came a new upcharge attraction called Top Elimination Dragsters.
1997 Brought the park’s biggest thrill ride, so big, it became a world record holder. Opening in the water park’s old parking lot and converting the area around the new ride came the world’s tallest, fastest, longest, tallest loop, and most inversions found on a coaster of its type, a B&M stand-up coaster called Chang. The ride became an instant hit with enthusiasts and the general public, though unfortunately, Chang breaks it’s chain on the second day of operation. The year 1997 couldn’t be bigger for the park, as on September 27th of that year, Premier Parks (now Six Flags Parks) bought Kentucky Kingdom for sixty four million dollars. Thus, that was the last season the park was known as Kentucky Kingdom.
In 1998, under new management of Six Flags, in June, the park opens up a brand new dueling CCI wooden roller coaster. Twisted Sisters (now known as Twisted Twins) opened up in June 1998 as the world’s first dueling wooden coaster. Originally called Double Trouble, Twisted Sisters had a unique and twisted layout in which trains dashed past each other a few times during the ride’s course. One day after Twisted Sisters opened up to the public, the park becomes Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. June 21st, 1998 was the day the Six Flags banner was added to the park’s name and brings a new era into the park’s history. During the 1998 season, The Squid, a wet/dry slide complex added to the park when it reopened, stands abandoned during the season and is removed in 1999.
What is a Six Flags park without Batman? In 1999, a new Hopkins River Rapids ride called Penguin’s Blizzard River was built. Though the ride was nothing but salvaged part’s of Opryland’s rapids ride, it gave the park what would almost become a newly themed Gotham City area. The plans for the new area included Chang and T2 to be renamed Riddler’s Revenge and Batman: The Ride. The plans fell through, but T2 got a fresh black paint job and Chang got a new green and purple scheme.
In 1999, the park certainly had troubles with one of its star coasters. For three days in a row, Vampire, a Vekoma Boomerang coaster, had numerous incidents that involved guests getting stranded on the ride. After numerous incidents, the ride was removed and it moved northward to Six Flags New England as Flashback. Alongside Vampire, The Squid was also removed at the end of the season after two years of SBNO status.
The new millennium came and in the spot of Vampire and Squid came a brand new family coaster. A new Wild Mouse style coaster came from Maurer Sohne known as Road Runner Express. Expansion slows down in the park as Ed Hart’s ten year plan is over and in 2001, a new S&S Skycoaster came to the park as another upcharge attraction. More upcharge attractions are added in 2002 with Slingshot, also from S&S. Another big change in 2002 would end up in one of the park’s coasters being renamed when the rock band Twisted Sister threatened to sue the park regarding the name Twisted Sisters. Twisted Sisters gets renamed into its current name of Twisted Twins.
In 2003, a Schwarzkopf classic comes to the park. A Schwarzkopf Shuttle Loop ride known as Greezed Lightnin’ was built. The ride was formerly at Six Flags Great America as Tidal Wave and at Six Flags over Georgia as Viper. The ride only has one inversion and short, but launching riders sixty miles per hour through a loop twice and two spikes, Greezed Lightnin’ became a hit with enthusiasts especially. In 2004, nothing was built, but various park improvements were made and Quake, Turbobungy, and Slingshot gets removed from the park. The slingshot was originally going to be moved to Six Flags New England for 2005, but local government in New England due to the ride not being approved.
In 2005, a brand new water slide for Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom is added. Whirling into Hurricane Bay is Tornado. From ProSlide Inc., Tornado is a new water slide that has riders going into cloverleaf tubes sliding into a giant funnel before splashing into a pool. Along with that, more park improvements came with various renames of food stands and shops.
A park with a roller coaster of history and a lack of space. Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom houses unique thrills such as Chang and Twisted Twins and classics such as Greezed Lightnin’. Looking for a thrill seekers kingdom? Head over to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom!
The park is set to reopen in 2014.
Present Roller Coasters (5)Edit
|Lightning Run||Chance Rides||Hyper||2014||Operating|
|Thunder Run||Dinn Corporation||Wooden||1990||Operating|
|Twisted Twins||Custom Coasters International||Dueling||1998||Removed|
Past Roller Coasters (5)Edit
|Chang||Bolliger & Mabillard||Stand-Up||1997||2009||Six Flags Great Adventure|
|Greezed Lightnin'||Anton Schwarzkopf||Shuttle||2003||2009||N/A|
|Road Runner Express||Maurer Sohne||Wild Mouse||2000||2009||Six Flags New England|
|Vampire||Vekoma||Shuttle||1990||1999||Six Flags New England|