At One Point, These Two Theme/Amusement Parks Weren't So Different
Two parks from two different chains, yet there was a lot that was the same.
Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township, New Jersey, and Kings Dominion in Doswell, Virginia, are two amusement/theme parks in the Mid-Atlantic that garner much deserved attention from coaster enthusiasts, each with its own different reasons. When you mention Kings Dominion, people instantly think of the ultra-intense, high g-pulling, gray/blackout-inducing Intimidator 305, or perhaps the RMC (Rocky Mountain Construction) conversion of former wooden coaster Hurler, that is now Twisted Timbers. Now, bring up Six Flags Great Adventure, and people think of the Intamin pre-fabricated wooden coaster featuring tons of airtime and hairpin turns that is El Toro, or perhaps the tallest (and second fastest) roller coaster in the world, Kingda Ka.
I have had the privilege to visit and read all about both of these parks, and something I've noticed that I feel tends to fly over the heads of most people, is that at one point, even if it was for a brief moment, these two parks weren't so different. Unfortunately, my visits to these parks weren't during the year where they were quite similar: 2010.
The year was 2010, the year Apple first released the iPad, blockbuster hits Despicable Me, Tangled, How to Train Your Dragon, and Toy Story 3 struck theaters, the tragedy that was the BP oil spill happened in the Gulf of Mexico, and the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifia, opened in Dubai. In the theme park world, this year would see a major addition to one park, Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion, as well as a major subtraction from another, Great American Scream Machine at Six Flags Great Adventure. But for the months in between said addition and subtraction, let's dive into the many similarities between these great parks...
The "Insane Intamins"
We'll begin with the pair of coasters that are most likely in the top tens and bucket lists of many, if not all, coaster enthusiasts, the insane Intamins: El Toro (Six Flags Great Adventure), and Intimidator 305 (Kings Dominion). Right now you're all probably wondering, "why are these two paired up? Aren't they very different from one another?" Well, yes, one's wood and the other is steel, but if you think about it: both are manufactured by Intamin (duh); both feature a cable lift hill as well as a steep drop; both feature airtime and sharp, hairpin turns (Toro focusing primarily on the former, and I305 focusing on the latter); and both feature a twister section for a finale. I've had the honor to ride both of these, and though I prefer Toro, I can see why enthusiasts love these two!
The "Popular but Unreliable" Intamin Launched Coasters
Yep. Both parks had Intamin launched roller coasters in the forms of Kingda Ka (Six Flags Great Adventure) and Volcano: The Blast Coaster (Kings Dominion). Both are Intamin launched coasters, and although completely different models, the former being a strata-coaster (standing over 400 feet tall) with no inversions and the latter being a suspended looping coaster, both proved to be very successful in drawing in the crowds, but had reliablity that made getting on them seem equal to scoring Bruce Springsteen tickets! Funny enough, both were located in a safari/jungle-themed area, in Golden Kingdom at Great Adventure and Congo (now Jungle X-pedition) at Kings Dominion. Unfortunately, Volcano is no longer at Kings Dominion as of 2019 because of said unreliability. Luckily, Kingda Ka is still thrilling guests at Great Adventure as of 2022. While I never got to ride Volcano, I was lucky to get not one, not two, but three rides on Kingda Ka during my first (and currently only) visit to Great Adventure back in 2016.
The B&M Floorless Coasters
The pair we'll be discussing next, is the pair of floorless roller coasters made by Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M), in the forms of Medusa (Six Flags Great Adventure), named Bizarro at the time, and Dominator (Kings Dominion). Dominator has five inversions (a loop, cobra roll, and two corkscrews) and a speed of 65 miles per hour, while Medusa has seven (the aforementioned five plus a dive loop and zero-g roll), and a speed of 61 miles per hour. While both have similar statistics, I do slightly prefer Medusa, as it's smoother and does more with its layout. Both are solid coasters, nonetheless.
The Racing Wooden Coasters
Both parks featured a pair of racing wooden roller coasters with Six Flags Great Adventure's Rolling Thunder and Kings Dominion's Racer 75 (known as Rebel Yell at the time). The only one I've been able to ride between these two was Racer 75/Rebel Yell. Rolling Thunder has been scrapped as of 2013 and has been replaced by Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom.
The Arrow Dynamics "Mega Loopers"
Yep, in 2010, both Six Flags Great Adventure and Kings Dominion had a large, looping roller coaster manufactured by Arrow Dynamics, with Great American Scream Machine at Great Adventure, and Anaconda at Kings Dominion. Both coasters featured a sweeping drop, at least one vertical loop, an Immelmann loop (half loop, then half corkscrew) of sorts, and a double corkscrew. For Scream Machine, however, the Immelmann was merely part of its batwing element, which is a dive loop and then an Immelmann loop. Scream Machine also had two extra vertical loops in its layout. On that note, I wish Scream Machine lasted longer, or that Anaconda had a batwing element instead of its current figure-eight maneuver. Word has it that there were originally supposed to be six inversions instead of four, and I think people would actually like and appreciate the old serpent more if it lived up to what it was advertised to be. On a funny note, both coaster tracks were colored red. The only of these two I've ridden is Anaconda, and I'll admit, I enjoy it, even with its flaws and weirdness.
With all these similarities I mentioned, it seems as if these two parks were mere counterparts to each other at some point in their respective lives. Today, it seems like Six Flags Great Adventure has the answer to Kings Dominion's loss, even if it's a completely different type of coaster (Kingda Ka), and Kings Dominion having the answers to Great Adventure's losses (Racer 75 and Anaconda). This all makes me truly appreciate Kings Dominion as one of my home parks more than ever, especially with the closest I'll ever get to an Arrow mega looper. The only other true mega looper as of 2022 is Viper at Six Flags Magic Mountain, all the way in Valencia, California (side note, that coaster looks awesome). A trip to California is definitely in order one day, but for now, the best I can do is enjoy and appreciate the flawed guilty-pleasure that is Anaconda at Kings Dominion, or should I say, Six Flags Great Adventure in Virginia.