The Racer vs. The Beast: The Great Debate
It’s an age old argument that every avid roller coaster enthusiast has a particular, and usually fervent, opinion – which Kings Island roller coaster had the most significance on the amusement and theme park industry – The Racer or The Beast?
Both are among the elite all-time wooden roller coaster legends. Both are not just admired, but loved by Kings Island fans and roller coaster enthusiasts and among the park’s signature attractions.
While the argument is still clearly undecided, I thought it would be a fun topic for our Kings Island Blog readers to debate.
There may be more attention focused on other roller coasters these days at Kings Island and throughout the industry than the Racer, but once upon a time it was the most talked about ride in America.
Prior to the Racer, the demand for roller coasters, and more specifically wooden roller coasters, had been in decline since the Great Depression. Literally hundreds of roller coaster built from 1890-1930 met the fate of the wrecking ball. By 1965, only about 200 of the 2,000 roller coasters built through the 1920s remained in operation. Then along came the Racer with the opening of Kings Island in 1972. The ride’s instant popularity rekindled America’s interest in roller coasters, sparking the “second golden age” of the roller coaster.
The Racer acted as the catalyst for other potential high-capacity racing coasters including Racer 75 (formerly Rebel Yell) at Kings Dominion and Gemini at Cedar Point. It has also been 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. In 1982, one side of the Racer was transformed into the world’s first full-length, backwards traveling roller coaster, offering a unique ride experience that lasted for 26 seasons.
Who can say how many roller coasters would have been built if the Racer had not paved the way?
Seven years after the Racer opened, the phenomenon known as The Beast debuted. The ride’s opening in 1979 shook the roller coaster world to its very foundations, breaking all existing records as the longest, fastest ride in the world. In roller coasters, there had been nothing else like it anywhere. It took riders to a place they’d never been before, delivering the next level of big thrill, adrenaline-pumping excitement. For sheer size, speed and thrills, The Beast stood alone in a class by itself.
The record-breaking features of The Beast included a 7,359-foot long track (1.4 miles) and ride time of four minutes, 10 seconds; vertical drops of 135 feet (at a 45-degree angle) and 141 feet (at an 18-degree angle); a 125-foot long underground tunnel at the bottom of the 135-foot drop; eight banked turns, some to 45 degrees; a massive, 540-degree helix tunnel near the end and speeds up to 64.77 miles per hour. It is still listed in the prestigious Guinness Book of World Records as the longest wooden roller coaster.
A legend in its own time, you will always find The Beast in the top 10 in just about every annual industry and enthusiast poll. In fact, it’s one of only two roller coasters that have been on every top 10 list Amusement Today has published since the inception of the Golden Ticket Awards in 1998.
While the Racer served as the inspiration for the roller coaster renaissance in the 1970s, authorities credit The Beast for starting the “Coaster War” with parks around the world trying to build roller coasters that were taller, faster and more innovative than the others.
The Racer or The Beast? Share which Kings Island roller coaster you think had the most significance on the industry in the comments below.