|Six Flags Great America|
Gurnee, Illinois, USA
May 29, 1976
123 acres (49.8 hectares)
Six Flags Great America is a Six Flags theme park in the Chicago metropolitan area, located in Gurnee, Illinois. It first opened in 1976 as "Marriott's Great America". Six Flags purchased the park from the Marriott Corporation in 1984, making it the seventh park in the chain. As of 2011, the park has eight themed sections, a 16-acre (65,000 m²) water park, two specially themed children's areas, and various other forms of entertainment.
The year was 1976, America's 200th birthday. A familiar hotel chain, Marriott, decided to go into the theme park business by opening two theme parks with the same name and rides. Both were called Great America, one being located in Santa Clara, California and the other at Gurnee, Illinois. Both parks welcomed guests with picturesque entries with double-decker carousels named Columbia, Arrow Dynamics inverting coasters called Turn of the Century (both later converted into Demon), Schwarzkopf Speed Racer coasters named Willard’s Whizzer (now simply Whizzer) that whizzed in and out the woods of the park, Bradley and Kaye kiddie coasters with the name Gulf Coaster, log flumes, and many state-of-the-art flat rides.
After the 1976 season, Great America's Gulf Coaster was removed due to fires and maintenance problems and the spot that was occupied by the ride became a station for the Southern Cross Sky Ride (later removed for Roaring Rapids). The 1977 season brought another classic ride into Great America's Illinois location, the Sky Trek observation tower, manufactured by Intamin and still operating today. Also, an Intamin Flying Dutchman flat ride was added (not to be confused with Vekoma’s Flying Dutchman coaster), Davey Jones' Dinghies, and another flat ride, Ricochet. The Illinois park only had two coasters since Gulf Coaster's removal, so both parks in the chain got Schwarzkopf shuttle loops called Tidal Wave. The rides were fairly simplistic: passengers were launched at sixty miles per hour into a loop and up a reversing spike, then backwards through the station, up a second spike, then back into the station.
1979 Became another great season as Great America installed the "World's Largest Motion Picture Experience," the Pictorium. "To Fly" was the first movie shown and proved another great family hit for the growing thrill park. To prove that it truly was becoming a thrill park, Great America introduced more thrills while beginning to go off track with their theming. How you ask? In 1980, both parks' Turn of the Century coasters got a hefty retheme, repaint, and modifications by Arrow Dynamics so that the rides' two bunny hop hills became loops. Demon now boasts theming elements such as a drop into the Demon's head, and waterfalls. Great America was now becoming more of a thrill park, and the next season would prove this.
In the year 1981, Great America's Illinois location took advantage of their huge amount of space to build the world's tallest wooden racing coaster, American Eagle, measuring 127 feet tall with drops nearing 150 feet. Although it was Intamin's first wooden coaster, American Eagle is still widely-regarded as one of Great America's best coasters. But in the next two years, there was nothing new, only ride removals. 1982 Brought an end to Davey Jones' Dinghies as his ride was certainly taken to his locker, and the next year two more rides were removed as Bottoms Up, a Chance Trabant; and Traffique Jam, Arrow Dynamics antique cars left the park. But with 1984 would come a turning point in Great America's history for both parks.
1984 Brought the end of Marriott’s theme park division, so both Great Americas went up for sale after Marriott gave up interest in the theme park business. A major park-buying spender at the time, Six Flags sought to buy out the Illinois location and would have also bought the California location if not for Six Flags Magic Mountain a few hours away. Where did the California park go to? It went to Kings Entertainment Company (now Paramount Parks) and remained Great America until Paramount's buyout. So 1984 came and the park was now known as Six Flags Great America. But what major changes would come other than the new name? The park got one of the most popular rides at the time, an Intamin river rapids going by the name Roaring Rapids.
As the eighties went on, 1985 gave Six Flags Great America another unique coaster: Z-Force, the only Intamin Space Diver to be built. Located in County Fair, Z-Force consisted of six steep diving hairpin curves along with bunny hills throughout the compact layout. However, Z-Force didn’t last long inside the park, as Six Flags tried a new ride rotation program allowing a new ride at the park for only two years, so Z-Force closed in 1987 before heading to Six Flags over Georgia. The next year brought Splashwater Falls, a shoot-the-chutes ride found at a few Six Flags parks. And although 1987 would bring the end of Z-Force, one coaster lost would be compensated for.
A giant Goliath of twisted blue steel and white supports rose, inverting seven times and topping out at a world-record-breaking 170 feet. Shockwave, the classic Arrow Dynamics looping coaster, started the trend of over-sized looping coasters that would spark two similar coasters at other Six Flags parks: Great American Scream Machine at Six Flags Great Adventure and Viper at Six Flags Magic Mountain, along with inspiring Bolliger and Malibillard's famous coaster Kumba at Busch Gardens Tampa. Later on in its life, however, Shockwave would be removed and replaced with a clone of Superman: Ultimate Flight, and then eventually become recycled and scrapped in 2004 after spending two years laying in a field outside the park.
As we know, Six Flags tested a new ride rotation program in the 1980's, and 1989 brought a new coaster from Six Flags Great Adventure (where it had been known as Sarajevo Bobsleds). Rolling Thunder opened, manufactured by Intamin AG as one of the company's Swiss Bobs models, and located where Viper now stands. The 1990's came and brought the first coaster by a new coaster company, Bolliger and Mabillard (better known as B&M). Iron Wolf debuted in 1990 as B&M's first coaster, as a stand-up model boasting two inversions and many twists and turns that would become common to B&M's future coasters. It became a hit, and took over Z-Force's former location.
As the 1990's continued, Six Flags removed the ride that had made Great America popular for thrill seekers, the Schwarzkopf shuttle-looping Tidal Wave, for the next big thing in the coaster industry, but Tidal Wave would go onto other parks. It went on to Six Flags over Georgia as Viper from 1995 to 2001, then to its final location as Greezed Lightnin' at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in 2003. But 1991 also brought one of the few Huss Condors in existence, simply called Condor. Then, 1992 brought a revolution to the industry with the arrival of a certain superhero on the scene.
The Dark Knight invaded the park as one of the most revolutionary coasters at its time and rose in Tidal Wave's old spot. In 1992, Batman: the Ride opened as the very first inverted coaster in the world. With four-across ski lift-like seating and state-of-the-art technology at the time, Batman: the Ride began taking thrill seekers through an intense and forceful ride. With five inversions, a 110-foot-tall height, and a speed of fifty miles per hour, the world's first inverted coaster became a hit and attracted enthusiasts from all over. Over the years that followed, this coaster was cloned at Six Flags parks around the globe as a signature attraction.
In the mid-1990's, Great America slowed down on thrills for a little while, taking the 1993 season off and then adding Space Shuttle America in 1994. However, 1995 would bring another thrill to the park, a cyclone-type wooden coaster called Viper. Viper wasn't designed by Intamin or Custom Coasters International as many expected, but built by Six Flags themselves. Later that year, Rolling Thunder, was removed and sent to New York's Great Escape. But a new expansion would arise the next year.
The 1996 season came and Six Flags stayed with the America theme by adding the Southwest Territory. The Southwest Territory took over Rolling Thunder's land and took advantage of extra land that had been left undeveloped for many years. Flat rides such as Trailblazer and Chubasco were installed in addition to a water ride, the River Rocker. The next year brought another icon of the Southwest Territory, an Intamin freefall tower called Giant Drop standing at 200 feet tall. But Six Flags Great America hadn't forgotten about the kids.
In 1998, two, yes, two kids areas were built, the first being Looney Toons National Park, boasting the typical Six Flags Looney Toons mascots. The second area was Camp Cartoon Network, consisting of Hanna Barbera characters and various other Cartoon Network mascots that kids enjoy. Along with those two sections, the first new coaster for the kids since the late Gulf Coaster rose. Spacely's Sprocket Rockets, themed after the Jetsons, opened, manufactured by Vekoma as one of their popular Roller Skater models. With a height of only twenty-eight feet and a speed of twenty-two miles per hour, the ride made an ideal choice for families.
But in 1999 Six Flags Great America's biggest investment would come with the world's first ride with the world's first hyper-twister coaster, Raging Bull. Manufactured by Bolliger and Mabillard as one of their Speed Coaster models, Raging Bull boasted a height of 202 feet and a 208-foot drop. With its twists and turns, a lengthy ride, and top speeds of seventy-three miles per hour, Raging Bull became a fan favorite at Six Flags Great America. The new millennium would come next year, but only brought the removal of the park's classic Intamin Sizzlin' Wheel model, Skywhirl. Fans were shocked at the removal of this rare attraction, but it was replaced with one of two new thrills that would come to Six Flags Great America the following year.
The 2001 fiscal year was one of Six Flags' biggest spending years to date, providing Great America with two new inverted coasters, making the home of the first inverted coaster also home to the most inverted coasters in one park. The first of these additions came from Vekoma in the form of Deja Vu, a Super Invertigo model replacing Skywhirl. Other Deja Vus were also built the same year at Six Flags over Georgia and Six Flags Magic Mountain with an inverted shuttle-looping course and heights nearing 200 feet with two vertical spikes. The second inverted coaster came from Intamin AG as one of their Impulse coasters. V2: Vertical Velocity launched riders at seventy miles per hour up two vertical spikes at 185 feet tall. One of the spikes is twisted to intensify the ride, and passengers go up the spikes three times each, forwards and backwards, making V2 yet another fan favorite at the park.
Nothing new was added in 2002 though it was a major year amongst Six Flags Great America's fans and locals. Rumors started to go around about a new coaster being located in the classic Whizzer's spot. Locals and fans were outraged and many complained through e-mail and phone about this decision, pointing out that Whizzer was one of Six Flags Great America's unique charms and a sentimental favorite. The park responded by instead removing Shockwave instead of Whizzer, outraging others. The blue track came down at the end of the season to lay out in a field outside of the park to rust away and vanish from Six Flags Great America forever.
But with one coaster loss came another coaster to fill the void left. For 2003, Six Flags decided to clone the popular Superman: Ultimate Flight at Six Flags over Georgia to two other parks, this park and Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. Superman: Ultimate Flight became Great America's fourth coaster manufactured by B&M, and fourth inverted coaster as a Prone flying coaster model. Boasting a height of 115 feet, a speed of sixty miles per hour and a forceful pretzel loop inversion, it became a hit for the park, allowing people to finally fly like the Man of Steel. With the arrival of Superman, the area around the ride got a face-lift. The parking lot look that had surrounded Shockwave was finally removed and filled with plants and green grass.
The 2004 season brought a new section to Six Flags Great America, a sizzling new addition with Cajun flair and a slice of the Big Easy. Mardi Gras invaded Six Flags Great America boasting some new family flat rides and another family coaster for the park's large collection. Ragin' Cajun, a Zamperla Twister Coaster, resembles an average wild mouse coaster, but with a twist: cars spin around. But another big thing rose as well in 2004 in place of the Ameri-go-round: a new Huss Revolution simply called Revolution. And 2004 also brought Shockwave's fate, as it was scrapped and sent to the boiler. But a long-awaited and much-needed addition was announced in August of 2004 for the Great America property. The announcement was for a much-demanded Six Flags brand Hurricane Harbor water park that opened in 2005 with many wet slides and plenty of family fun. It didn't stop there for the water park. An addition of Tornado in 2006 was added along with 5 clones at other Six Flags parks across the US.
The 2014 season brought an innovative, record-breaking coaster named "Goliath," a 165-foot-tall (50 m) wooden-steel hybrid roller coaster. Goliath features two inversions and occupies the area where Iron Wolf was formerly located. Goliath claims three world records including the steepest drop, fastest speed, and longest drop on any wooden roller coaster.
Present Roller Coasters (19)Edit
|Déjà Vu||Vekoma||Shuttle||2001||2007||Silverwood Theme Park|
|Gulf Coaster||Bradley and Kaye||Kiddie||1976||1976||No|
|Iron Wolf||Bolliger & Mabillard||Stand-Up||1990||2011||Six Flags America|
|Rolling Thunder||Intamin AG||Bobsled||1989||1995||Great Escape|
|Tidal Wave||Schwarzkopf||Launched||1978||1991||Six Flags Over Georgia|
|Z-Force||Intamin AG||Sit-Down||1985||1987||Six Flags Over Georgia|