500' Barrier Ever to Be Breached?

Monday, July 2, 2012 3:31 PM
LostKause's avatar

lol... COST a lot more... COST! :D


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Monday, July 2, 2012 7:08 PM

Now that the reasons for why a 500' coaster would not be worth it for a park have been discussed, I would like to talk about another aspect of roller coaster height. I may be wrong, especially since I wasn't even born during the start of the coaster war for height, but it seems like things got ramped up when Magnum was built in '89 and kept going until Kingda Ka in 2005. It seems ridiculous that they blew right through 300' and then 400' all within 10 years, but maybe that's just me. I'm curious what the reasons were for why parks just competed so hardcore for the height title during this time period and then just stopped abruptly after KK. Does anyone know the reasons for why it got started and then stopped? Maybe I'm perceiving this height war to be something that isn't even really an actual thing, but based on the fact that there were no 200' coasters before '89 and then they had a 456' roller coaster by '05, it just seems strange that all that went on in such a short time span. I'm guessing the whole thing stopped because it would just become ridiculous and unnecessary to go beyond 400' as the first page of posts has already done a good job of explaining why it would be so.

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Monday, July 2, 2012 7:22 PM
Lowkae's avatar

The height wars were happening on a smaller scale ever before 1989. Rides like Gemini (CP), Revolution (SFMM), and the Loch Ness Monster (BGW) were all the tallest coasters at the time (or at least claimed to be). I get the impression that the height wasn't quite the main marketing point as it was later, as those rides had other things that were new for the time.

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Monday, July 2, 2012 10:50 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Didn't Kinzel say TTD was a mistake? And SF went bankrupt on the "build it and they will come" plan. Plus, neither TTD nor KK is really an outstanding ride by any stretch of the imagination and yet cost way more and are much harder to maintain than much better and more fun rides at the same park (Maverick, El Toro).


Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Monday, July 2, 2012 11:13 PM
Timber-Rider's avatar

In my opinion, I don't think parks see a need in building a 500 foot coaster, considering all the problems with KK, and other rides that have had to be rebuilt in order to ease stress on the trains and riders. And, that can't be cheap!

I also think that parks are more interested in giving people different was to ride coasters these days, rather than how high they are. The new wing coasters that are popping up, are a prime example of that. And, we will see more of those as the parks try to have the biggest and the fastest of those, as we saw with the rush to build bigger stand-ups and Floorless coasters.

I do think we will continue to see more Leviathan coasters popping up, and maybe a few that might try to tough the 400 foot level. But, I don't think any 500 foot coaster will come any time soon. I would actually be happier to see more unusual ways to ride, and maybe more launch coasters like Volcano come around, only longer and better.

I wonder whatever happened to the pipeline? Why haven't we seen any of those yet. That looked like it might be cool.


I didn't do it! I swear!!

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Monday, July 2, 2012 11:23 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Timber-Rider said:

I also think that parks are more interested in giving people different was to ride coasters these days, rather than how high they are.

Yeah, I actually think this is dead on.

I think we're going to see more novelty in layouts and design than in height and speed.


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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 8:49 AM

I think we ARE seeing this trend. Just to name a few: Cheetah Chase (hunt? Why did they name two coasters at the same park with SUCH similar names?), Verbolten, Superman:UF in SFDK, Green Lantern in Cali...I mean, just in the past three or four years, how many Gigas has North America seen? 2? Hypers? Definitely seen a change in what parks consider "bang for the buck".


"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 8:58 AM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Though, once the former Paramount parks all got their hyper/giga, the market for parks that can reasonably support one but don't have one all but saturated. CGA being the one exception, but honestly...not going to happen.

Seriously, which parks don't have a hyper that could reasonably support one? SFFT maybe? SFSTL maybe? DW and SDC?


Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 9:12 AM

I always tell my wife it isn't the size but the force. Glad that has been verified in this thread.

I think the problem with going over 400 or 500 feet is the space necessary to bleed off the speed if you aren't simply going to come to a quick stop like on Dragster. Look how long Millennium Force is. go up another 200 feet and you are looking at needing an awfully long track.

More to the point, I think the higher you go the smaller demographic you cater to. I think the list of those who won't go on a ride grows as the height grows. Then you have to ask yourself, is it worth spending $20-$30 million on a ride that may not be of interest to a significant number of your guests?

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 9:14 AM

LostKause said:

I imagine that a 500' drop would probably be just as intense as a 300' drop, but the feeling of freefall would last longer.

Is the extra free fall even that noticeable though?

Distance = (
(gravity = 32.2 ft/s^2)

If distance = 300ft... time = 4.3 seconds
400ft... 5 seconds
500ft... 5.6 seconds

So, is the extra hardware/cost for the hundred feet worth it?

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 10:14 AM
rollergator's avatar

So, is the extra hardware/cost for the hundred feet worth it?

Ride construction costs might say no, but *imagine* what the marketing department would say...

The real question to me isn't *IF* a 500' coaster will be built, but when, by whom, and for what park/chain.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 10:20 AM

Jonnytips –– very nice point. Yay science.

Furthermore, I don't think anyone here is interested in 500-foot "ramp"-like drops a la many of the Chance-Morgan or Giovanola hypers (or the recent Divertical), so another important question is for what duration the coasters can deliver the awesome "oh $&#%" moments of, say, El Toro or Skyrush? Constraining a drop to be no steeper than 90 degrees, will the 500-foot drop make that those moments last longer, or are those moments intrinsically split-second experiences?

Last edited by cdude3, Tuesday, July 3, 2012 10:21 AM
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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 10:25 AM

The real question to me isn't *IF* a 500' coaster will be built, but when, by whom, and for what park/chain.

Rollergator- you seem to believe that small feet margin will generate substantial marketing hype. Perhaps to substantiate that we might look at the performance of record-breaking rides, like Forumula Rossa, or older rides like Hypersonic SLC, Millenium Force (for its brief record). Have the record-holding statuses of these coasters tended to increase park-visitors on the margin? Figuring this out is difficult because the sample size is so small and there's lots of park and time idiosyncrasy for which you'd need to control to be rigorous.

Last edited by cdude3, Tuesday, July 3, 2012 10:26 AM
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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 10:26 AM

I think cost is definitely the factor in a couple of ways. First, the price of steel is high and the higher you go the more steel you need. It's interesting to see how over recent years designers and engineers have figured out a way to reduce the amount of steel used. Compare Millenium Force to Intimidator 305 and you'll see identical drops, but on the latter a lot less support structure. Still, as mentioned in several places above, factors like maintenance, customer interest, and overall design make it a fine line balancing act for parks. Eventually it becomes a losing proposition.

The other is real estate. Since coasters must be designed to eliminate injurious forces on the riders, the lift, pull out, etc. on a 500 foot ride would take up so much space that most parks couldn't afford it. Intamin "solved" that problem with devices like launches and bent paper clip layouts to reach 400+ but with questionable success, particularly with Kingda Ka. After that, what's left?

I have always held on to the idea that est isn't always best. My coaster boys accuse me of favoring the "runts" wherever we go, and I guess it's true. I'll take a small compact coaster with an interesting layout over a monster with no features any day.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 10:27 AM
Vater's avatar

rollergator said:

The real question to me isn't *IF* a 500' coaster will be built, but when, by whom, and for what park/chain.

Precisely my thoughts. After Magnum, most people said we'd never see a 300-footer. After Millennium, most people said we'd never see a 400-footer. Personally, I think a 500-footer is inevitable. I'm not about to predict when, but I wouldn't be surprised to see one in the next 5 or 10 years.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 10:45 AM
matt.'s avatar

Vater said:After Magnum, most people said we'd never see a 300-footer. After Millennium, most people said we'd never see a 400-footer. Personally, I think a 500-footer is inevitable.

Yeah, I think 300 ft. was pretty unimaginable in the mid-90s, for instance. Also in the mid and late 90s, we saw that huge influx of small to medium sized wooden coasters from CCI and other designers which people were heralding as the end of the coaster wars (at least when it comes to pure size). I think record breakers will always matter to some extent.

Still, I wouldn't be surprised if Gonch were right. If someone does break the 500' mark within the next few years, I bet it will be at a relatively new park in the Middle East, China, Europe, etc. looking to make its mark on a world-wide level, much like what we've seen with the recent speed record breakers.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 11:09 AM

RCMAC said:

I have always held on to the idea that est isn't always best. My coaster boys accuse me of favoring the "runts" wherever we go, and I guess it's true. I'll take a small compact coaster with an interesting layout over a monster with no features any day.

I honestly feel like one is not a true enthusiast if one's favorite coasters are just all the big ones. I mean, many of my favorites are probably on the bigger side, but then there are the junior coasters that I insist on riding at certain parks. There are the old wooden coasters like Rebel Yell, newer wood like Lightning Racer...there are people that LIKE coasters, and then there is the well rounded, true enthusiast. I would rather see just about any other type of coaster than a 500 foot phallic symbol that runs once every two seasons.


"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 11:19 AM

Vater said:
Precisely my thoughts. After Magnum, most people said we'd never see a 300-footer. After Millennium, most people said we'd never see a 400-footer. Personally, I think a 500-footer is inevitable. I'm not about to predict when, but I wouldn't be surprised to see one in the next 5 or 10 years.

If this logic were sound, we'd eventually see a 5,000 foot coaster. That just doesn't seem reasonable to me.


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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 11:24 AM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Enh. I don't care about distinguishing real vs. non-real enthusiasts, but your point stands. The more coasters you ride, the quicker the novelty of going fast and/or high and nothing else wears off. Then again...http://xkcd.com/915/


Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 11:24 AM
Break Trims's avatar

It's also interesting to note that, concurrent to the coaster wars, companies like CCI and its successors were revolutionizing what one could expect from a 100' wooden coaster. It took a bit longer for the steel coasters to catch up to this philosophy, but the opening of Maverick signals to me, as much as anything, the full blossoming of the "size doesn't matter" ethos that's more common today.

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