Orion at first sight
As the newest recruit for the Project X Initiative, I recently got the chance to get my first look at the brand new Bolliger & Mabillard creation, Orion. All I can say is that I was breathless taking my first steps into Area 72. The new soundtrack for Orion provided by IMAscore, a German recording studio well known for their theme park scores, really sets the atmosphere for the new testing grounds, and complements Flight of Fear as well.
So let's get you briefed on your mission before we carry on: 5,321 feet of track 300-foot first drop at an 85-degree angle, a maximum speed of 91 mph. The 13th fastest roller coaster in the world and one of only seven giga coasters. It took 160 truckloads of steel, 4,000 gallons of paint and 16,000 high strength bolts to build. This secretive project is so massive, that it cost comparably to what it took to build the entire park in 1972 and is the biggest single investment in the Kings Island’s 48-year history.
The real star of this ride will without a doubt be the back row. This thing hauls and is not messing around. The pacing is perfect and will project you straight past the stars, safely to your destination on the Orion constellation.
A fun thing to note is that the elevation changes throughout the layout are very noticeable. You WILL feel the forces as you plunge into the terrain down the 300-foot drop. As I traversed the landscaping, I was constantly having to watch where I stepped, as there were steep inclines all throughout the area.
Now, let's get one thing straight. I hear people trying to compare Orion to Diamondback. Diamondback is a B&M hyper coaster (a coaster that features an elevation change of 200-299 feet) that focuses on what we call “airtime”, which is defined as the feeling created by negative g-forces which gives riders the sensation of floating on a roller coaster. Remember that butterfly out-of-body experience you get when you go over one of Diamondback’s camelback hills? Yeah, that’s airtime. Orion specializes in speed and intensity. They may both be related as they come from the same manufacturer, but in reality are two of their own kinds.
Another great thing - this simulator is relentless. Rail-junkies will be pleased to hear that it maneuvers precisely from one element to the next, never letting up on speed. (Fun fact; Kings Island’s last three coaster additions - Banshee, Mystic Timbers and Orion - have not included a mid-course brake run where the trains’ speed are kept in check, allowing for full throttle).
The element that I consider the unspoken hero of the ride is what I call “Orion’s Belt”, or the 125-foot helix towards the end of the ride. At its highest point, it does not slow down, but rather it actually maintains its speed heading back towards the ground. You don’t always see that on many coasters that have helices.
If you are brave enough to volunteer this summer, do yourself a favor and get a sunset ride on this masterpiece. It will provide breathtaking views that you won’t find anywhere else. Trust me, the animation video does not do it justice.
In conclusion, Bolliger & Mabillard should not be underestimated, as their latest and greatest creation prepares to welcome riders starting July 2 through July 11 for season passholders. I’m curious. What aspect of Orion are you looking forward to the most?