Sunday, September 28, 2014

Kentucky Kingdom - Part 1 of 2

I made a promise to post a review of Kentucky Kingdom's Hurricane Bay water park a long time ago, so I apologize for it being so belated... in fact, I'm positive that Kentucky Kingdom's season will have finally ended while I'm still typing up and proofing this review. Oh well, better late than never... I guess?

We'll get to a review of the water park in the second part (a separate post). I'd like to talk about the whole park (and the dry-side of the park) in general here.

Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay is an amusement park in Louisville, Kentucky, that has a water park included with admission. The amusement park is notoriously know for being shuttered after Six Flags' sudden abandoning of the park in winter of 2010, due to problems with negotiating a lease agreement with the State Fair Board who leased the land to the company. The park simply sat dormant for 4 straight seasons. The first two years saw no activity, until the third year when businesses and investors were pulled in to seek negotiations in possibly reopening it.

Of course all failed, until the fourth year when the State Fair Board agreed to the plans businessman Ed Hart, former Kentucky Kingdom owner, had presented. Him and his crew revamped, refurbished, and restored many of the parks rides and attractions, clearing the overgrown plants and rust and bringing life back into the park. Along with that saw new attractions, including the brand new Chance Rides brand steel roller coaster Lightning Run, a sea lion show, a 129 foot tall Larson/ARM brand drop tower, a flying scooter ride, and doubling the size of the water park!

First of all, if you don't know, Kentucky Kingdom is my home park, and has been since I was a little kid. I've made multiple trips to the park with family and friends since the time the park owned a Vekoma Boomerang coaster titled Vampire, an Intamin drop tower titled Hellevator, a HUSS Rainbow (self-titled), and a prototype Vekoma Waikiki Wave titled Quake. Each were eventually removed for separate reasons. Let's not forget the park's once-dominating monstrosity, Chang, which was a 154 foot tall steel Bolliger and Mabillard brand stand-up roller coaster that had 5 inversions. That coaster was removed late 2009 with the promise of a water park in its replacement, just a few months before Six Flags announced the entire park would close for good. It now operates as Green Lantern at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey.

I'm sure you could understand my disappointment when, one night, I turned on the news to hear the park's gates would not open the following season... or the many seasons after that. I'm also sure you could understand my excitement when I learned the park would finally be reopening, and heard the plans the park was going to receive from the Kentucky Kingdom revitalization team in 2014.

With that, I immediately started making plans to visit the park on its first official public opening.

The line to enter the Kentucky Kingdom on it's first public opening day. It actually didn't take very long since this line was only for those who had tickets and season passes.
It was great being able to walk through the park once again! Compared to what the park looked like before (and what it looked like during its dormancy), I can tell you firsthand that the crew did an excellent job in breathing new life into the park! There were some noticeable, but minor hiccups on the first few weeks of operations, but virtually all were taken care of as the park progressed through the year.

Many of the park's older rides were brought back into operation. This included the park's signature wooden roller coaster Thunder Run, which actually felt like it ran far smoother compared to the last time I rode it in 2009.

The park's newest additions to the dry side of the park were excellent as well! The new film in the 5d theater, the restoration of the family/kids area (King Louie's Playland), and Prof. John's Flying Machines (flying scooters) were good solid additions to the park lineup. The new 129 foot tall drop tower is terrifyingly fun, considering the fact that you normally never know when you're going to drop! And lastly, the brand new steel roller coaster went above and beyond many people's expectations (and still does for any first-time riders)!

Lightning Run is a Hyper GT-X steel roller coaster manufactured by Chance Rides of Wichita, Kansas. The ride's peak, the lift hill into a drop, stands at 100 feet tall and is followed by numerous hills and high banking curves. While the ride's statistics or size aren't impressive on their own, the ride's experience is a completely different story. The compact coaster has an insane amount of airtime, which turns to ejector-airtime nearing the end of the ride!

For the two minutes this ride lasts, it never lets up. It starts with the coaster's incredible airtime-inducing drop bringing riders into a floater airtime hill and a nearly-inverted camelback turn before completing the rest of the course. The final stretch, three back-to-back bunny hops before a final uphill bit into the brake section, has the strongest moments of airtime, which is noticeable from off ride when you can see people's hair standing up! It's an incredible coaster for its size, and many enthusiasts tout it being in their top ten favorite list (myself included, and not for the reason it's at my home park!).

Kentucky Kingdom practically put itself back on the map of parks for enthusiasts to someday visit, and is showing signs that it will only get better as its years progress. The next year is looking to install two brand new major flat rides, and get three major rides that were inoperable for the 2014 year operating by 2015! By 2016, one of the park's biggest inoperable roller coasters will be undergoing a refurbishment and be brought back to life as well! Along with that are more minor improvements, like the focus on landscaping and bringing more green into the park.

A big thank you goes out to the Kentucky Kingdom crew on getting the park reopened. It now looks far better and friendlier than ever! Click here for the second part, with the review focus being on the water park and its doubled size!

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