Kings Island coaster named USA Today best new attraction

Across the country, people voted for their favorite new amusement park attraction for this year’s USA TODAY Readers’ Choice Travel Awards poll. Among the top 10 winners included, Universal Studios The Bourne Stuntacular and Catwoman Whip at Six Flags Over Georgia. Number one on the list was King’s Island’s newest coaster, Orion.

“Despite numerous lead changes, fans of Kings Island and the new ride rocketed Orion to the top spot by the contest’s end,” King’s Island Director of Communications Chad Showalter said in a press release.

For four weeks, readers from across the country were asked to vote on their favorite new attraction of 2020.

Orion opened in July this past year, is the the tallest and fastest steel roller coaster at Kings Island. The new attraction replaced Firehawk.

Project X: The giga coaster

Orion is one of only seven giga coasters worldwide, part of a class of coasters having a height or drop of between 300 and 399 feet. Riders on the new coaster plunge down a 300-foot first drop at a 85-degree angle, sending them on a high-speed journey over seven more hills and 5,321 feet of track at speeds up to 91 mph.

The project, two years in the making, got its start as “Project X.”

In August 2019, the park unveiled plans for the ride, now the 10th fastest roller coaster in the world. The $31 million project is almost equal in cost to what it took to build the entire park in 1972, making it the biggest single investment in the Kings Island’s history.

When Orion was developed, the area surrounding it was re-named Area 72. The area also houses Flight of Fear.

The name of the coaster and Area 72 were a theme from a special research area and features the latest prototype vehicle developed by the Project X initiative said Mike Koontz, vice president and general manager in a 2019 press conference.

Scientists are in a race against time to develop technology capable of weaving transport vehicles through a coming meteor storm and traveling to a new planet within the Orion constellation, he said.

Orion is the third roller coaster at Kings Island designed by Switzerland-based Bolliger & Mabillard. It joins Diamondback and Banshee coasters.

Seven of the top 20-ranked steel roller coasters in a 2018 poll by Amusement Today were designed by B&M, the most by a ride manufacturer on the list.

The newest attraction was slated to open in the Spring of 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic caused sweeping restrictions and closures.

Orion opens

Kings Island announced plans to open for the 2020 season in July following months of delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The amusement park opened to season pass holders on July 2 and to non-pass holders July 12.

“We are ready to welcome our guests back to Kings Island for some long-overdue fun,” said Koontz. “The safety of our guests and associates has always been and will always be our top priority. The park’s new health and safety protocols align with CDC recommendations, and have been shaped by information from company and industry health and safety experts, along with our state and local government officials.”

Park-goers had the opportunity in July to ride Orion with guidelines and protocols in place.

The amusement park season was cut short when the annual Halloween Haunt and WinterFest holiday-themed events were canceled.

“It has truly been a unique season. I want to thank our guests and associates for making Kings Island a fun and safe place to visit,” Koontz said. “The park’s new health and safety measures were supported by everyone visiting the park, and our associates have gone above and beyond expectations in creating a safe environment for families to spend time with each other.”

Orion makes headlines

The coaster has made headlines throughout 2020. Notably, one local roller coaster enthusiast lost 190 pounds to experience Orion.

In July, Jared Ream shared his experience and motivation to lose weight.

“Well as any big and/or tall roller coaster enthusiast will tell you, nothing is worse than the roller coaster ‘Walk of Shame.’ That’s the moment when you are asked to get off a roller coaster because the restraint cannot properly close around you because of your size. It’s painful, and I know all too well how it feels,” Ream said in a Dayton Daily News personal journey story.

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