On this date in 1970, construction of The Racer roller coaster began at Kings Island.
The Racer – really its twin racers – has been the focal point of the Coney Mall sector of the park for the past 47 years, and with good reason. The Racer is credited for re-igniting the roller coaster building boom in the early 1970’s, thus beginning the second golden age of the roller coaster.
In addition to being considered an important part of the roller coaster renaissance of the 1970’s, the Racer was the site of several world-record riding attempts and is notable for its appearance in the “Cincinnati Kids” episode of The Brady Bunch, filmed at the park in 1973. On May 28, 1982, one side of The Racer became the world’s first full-length, backwards travelling roller coaster (both sides now face forward).
For a short time, The Racer was world's longest, fastest and tallest roller coaster. I remember seeing the sign pictured below promoting the ride during visits to Cincinnati’s Coney Island in 1971. Little did I know what was to come 10 years later with the Racer and I.
Kings Island officials coaxed John Allen of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company out of semi-retirement for the task of designing and building The Racer. He started to design the ride’s blueprints in December 1969. The first trial run came in September 1971. It worked perfectly the first time as Allen predicted it would.
The Racer was the first roller coaster built structurally on the ground with prefabricated sections lifted into position and bolted. It was one of the largest roller coasters ever built at the time, and the largest that Allen had built. He considered The Racer to be the finest roller coaster he ever built.
There’s more than 600,000 board feet of lumber in the ride. Nobody knows how many nails. The construction crew started with 6,000 tons of nails which lasted only 60 days.
The Racer has given more than 1 million rides each year since its opening in 1972, including this year. In total, more than 106 million guests have taken a ride on The Racer, far and away the most in park history. Its best year was 1976 when a park record 3,681,338 rides were given.
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