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Coaster enthusiasts get sneak peek of ‘Banshee’

Roller coaster enthusiasts knew they wouldn’t be able to ride the world’s longest inverted coaster, the Banshee, at Kings Island just yet.

But on Saturday they gathered at the amusement and water park, anyway, just for the chance to look at it.

Roughly 130 members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts, a non-profit network made up of 7,000 people from across the world, descended on the park, despite icy roads and freezing temperatures.

They braved the cold to snap photos of the Banshee, which is about 40 percent completed and set to debut in April, said Don Helbig, a spokesman for the park. The park is closed for the season but coaster enthusiasts got an exclusive look at the Banshee’s progress Saturday during the organization’s annual holiday party, hosted this year at Kings Island.

Bundled up in earmuffs, puffy coats and thick gloves, members said they were cold but not disappointed by their sneak peek of the Banshee. Barb and Bob Meluch, a Cleveland couple who was still a little rattled from their snow-ridden drive to Mason, said the trip turned out to be well worth their time.

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“The thought of getting the chance to ride this thing before it’s actually in process; we’ve been waiting all winter to see this. It’s awesome,” Barb Meluch said, standing under a completed track of the coaster.

The pair plan to return to Kings Island when the ride opens in the spring.

“It’s big, it’s tall, it’s super fast and it looks like your feet are going to almost scrape the ground when you go down the first hill,” Bob Meluch said. “We’ll be down here riding as many times as we can.”

The Banshee, with a length of 4,124 feet and a $24 million price tag, will be the most expensive project in the park’s history. The steel coaster was designed by Bolliger and Mabillard, a company out of Switzerland, which American Coaster Enthusiast member Sean Flaharty described as the “Cadillac” of course designers.

Flaharty said he’s traveled to 14 counties seeking thrill from coasters around the world, including inverted rides.

“My favorite coaster is in Japan but I think that might change with the opening of the Banshee,” said Flaharty, who lives in Columbus. “They’ll probably be sick of seeing me here.”

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