Record-breaking Banshee roller coaster debuts at Kings Island

Kings Island starts getting a return on the biggest investment in its 42-year history today when the amusement park opens its doors for the 2014 season.

Roller coaster enthusiasts gave Banshee, the park’s new record-breaking $24 million roller coaster, their seal of approval Thursday during a sneak peek event.

Chris Heim of Beavercreek, who came to the park with the Great Ohio Coaster Club, said he’s been on every thrill ride at amusement parks Cedar Point and Kings Island, Carowinds and Kings Dominion, but Banshee “tops them all.”

“It’s smooth, it’s fast and it’s just awesome,” Heim said.

Jarred Drennen of West Virginia, who came with online forum Theme Park Review, said his first ride on Banshee was “very extreme. Unlike anything I ever rode here before.”

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“It’s something the park really needed, I believe,” he said.

The Warren County park’s 15th roller coaster features seven inversions and is 4,124 feet long, making it the world’s longest inverted steel coaster. It gets its name from the mythological screeching messenger from the underworld.

Banshee’s scream-inducing ride includes a 167-foot lift hill, 150-foot curved first drop, a dive loop, a vertical loop encircling the lift hill, a zero-gravity-roll, a pair of batwing inversions, outside loop, spiral, in-line roll and carousel with an elevation change of 208 feet. Unlike most roller coasters, Banshee doesn’t reach its top speed of 68 miles per hour until the second half of the ride.

Building a new ride like Banshee is a way the park keeps people coming back, said Greg Scheid, the park’s vice president and general manager.

“You’ve got to stay fresh,” Scheid said. “Everybody holds onto their dollars even tighter and tighter every day, so what we have to do is give them a reason to come to Kings Island and spend that money.”

The park designed Banshee with a completely different seating configuration, one that allows movement even as the ride plunges, loops, twists and rolls, he said.

“It makes the entire ride feel like you’re in one giant shock absorber,” Scheid said. “It’s just smooth.”

Kings Island is hoping that smooth ride will attract customers old and new to the park and provide a revenue surge that will help it recoup its biggest ever capital investment, he said.

“You hope to make that up in two to three years time, although it’s always a challenge. That’s why you cannot afford to put in a new coaster every year,” Scheid said.

Kings Island having a new ride not only boosts the park’s bottom line, it also draws tourism dollars to the area, according to Bridget Kochersperger, spokeswoman for the Warren County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau.

“It does absolutely help to bring the excitement level way up,” she said. “Anytime you have something new … people get excited. Everyone wants to try something new.”

On top of that, having a record-holding ride adds excitement not only for roller coaster enthusiasts nationwide and worldwide, but even for local and regional residents, too, Kochersperger said.

One of those regional residents, Sharon Leitner of Newport, Ky., said she’s only been into thrill rides for a few years but Banshee is “by far” the best inverted roller coaster she’s ever been on.

“It’s very smooth,” said Sharon Leitner of Newport, Ky. “It’s the first one I’ve ever been on that doesn’t knock my head around. It’s great.”

Derek Potter of Chillicothe, who came to the park with his wife Kim, said he’s been going on roller coasters for 25 years and Banshee is “one of the more aggressive ones.”

“It doesn’t let up, it doesn’t stop from start to finish and it doesn’t let down ever,” Potter said.

As spine-tingling as Banshee is by day, night rides offer a completely different experience, complete with multiple state-of-the-art lighting effects that have never before been used on a ride in the United States, Scheid said.

“You’re going to see some fog effects, you’re going to see lighting and special animation that only comes out at night,” he said.

Banshee was designed exclusively for Kings Island and joins a number of renowned inverted roller coasters built by award-winning, Switzerland-based Bolliger & Mabillard.

When constructing the new ride, parent company Cedar Fair solely used local companies, electricians and carpenters, park officials said. Clermont Steel Fabricators in Clermont County fabricated its steel, R.E. Middleton of Mason installed its foundation and Adena Corporation of Mansfield erected its frame. Other local contributors include Steven Schaeffer Associates, Inc. and Reece-Campbell of Cincinnati, Beacon Electric of Cincinnati, Denier Electric Company of Harrison, and Ashley Fence Enterprises Inc. of Morrow.

“Our new CEO said let’s keep the money in the state of Ohio whenever possible,” Scheid said. “With this project we were able to do all the major spending it went back to the state of Ohio.”

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