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Most surprising addition to a theme park?

Matt N

Strata Poster
Hi guys. In recent days & weeks, the enthusiast community seems to have been reeling over Chessington’s newest announcement regarding its 2023 coaster, and while mixed opinions are floating around, a common emotion seems to be one of huge shock and surprise. I think it’s safe to say that when Chessington revealed they had a 2023 coaster in the works back in April, most people (myself included) were certainly not expecting the B&M shuttle wing coaster with a potential Jumanji theme that we’re seemingly getting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the ride will be great, but it certainly made me look twice when it was first revealed and details were coming out about it, and it’s certainly the most surprised I’ve been by a theme park installation in a while! So the recent chatter surrounding that project got me thinking; what have been some of the most surprising additions to a theme park, in your opinion? What additions made you do a complete double take when they were rumoured or announced?

As well as the aforementioned example of Chessington’s 2023 coaster, I can think of a few examples of announcements that really surprised me, off the top of my head:
  • Tempesto at Busch Gardens Williamsburg: Even though Sky Rocket IIs are now known to be a favourite of SeaWorld’s, this one certainly came out of nowhere at the time! Prior to Tempesto’s installation, a Sky Rocket II did not seem like the type of coaster BGW would typically have gone for, and I remember many were absolutely incensed by this decision at the time! While I certainly understand the rationale behind the addition now, and the ride gets praise from those who’ve done it, it certainly surprised me at the time of it being rumoured, and combined with the fact that it wasn’t announced until a month before it opened, with Busch pretending they weren’t even building a new coaster throughout 2014, it has to be one of the most bizarre projects I’ve ever followed…
  • Wildfire at Kolmarden: I certainly did a double take when this was announced! At the time, I was genuinely a bit mind-blown by this announcement; my overriding thought was “how on earth can a zoo that few have previously heard of be building Europe’s first RMC, and one of Europe’s largest wooden coasters?”. I don’t think many were expecting this prior to its announcement, and I for one was certainly very surprised by it!
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout at Disney’s California Adventure: Prior to the announcement of this one in 2016, I and many others thought that Tower of Terror would be one of the Disney icons that would never get touched, but we were clearly wrong! This announcement came as a huge surprise to me at the time, and rightly or wrongly, I seem to remember it being hit with almost universal hate (even those in the audience at the time of its announcement booed…). Despite having now ridden Florida’s Tower of Terror for myself since this announcement and absolutely adoring it, I think the ride looks great, and undeserving of the huge panning the announcement received at the time, but this was certainly an addition that surprised me hugely!
  • Ride to Happiness at Plopsaland de Panne: Now this is an interesting one. In spite of the ride itself being bigger & arguably more thrilling than anything else Plopsaland had built prior to it coaster-wise, I wouldn’t say the ride itself was the most surprising element of this project for me; it wasn’t Plopsa’s first foray into thrill rides, and in spite of me still being rather surprised by it, Mack coasters aren’t usually the most intense, so a Mack fit nicely with Plopsa’s target audience. The bit that surprised me most about this project was the theme; as much as everything I’ve seen of this coaster aesthetics-wise looks absolutely gorgeous, I can’t have been the only one who thought that Plopsa building a coaster themed to an 18+ music festival was a surprising choice, if nothing else; it seemed completely at odds with the rest of the park. While I certainly get the rationale behind the choice (maybe they’re looking to appeal to the older demographic a little more?), and the ride looks amazing, this one certainly surprised me!
But what additions to theme parks have really surprised you?
 

gavin

Administrator
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Social Media Team
Phaethon at Gyeonju World. It was a small park with the most major coaster being an awful Japanese corkscrew thing, then a huge B&M invert appeared from nowhere. I was living in Korea at the time and got a friend to call the park after I saw what I thought were exaggerated/stolen pictures for advertising of their upcoming ride (B&M invert track and train), only for them to confirm it was actually a B&M.

Dinoconda is another strange one. A huge, very expensive, intimidating, intense coaster at what is essentially a family park.
 

Hyde

Matt SR
Staff member
Moderator
Social Media Team
  • Top Thrill Dragster - Cedar Point - at the height of the Six Flags vs. Cedar Fair coaster wars, this definitely felt out of the blue. To stay on track for construction, they actually had to start building the coaster the entire season before - we only received the announcement in August/September 2002, leaving an entire perplexed season as to why Cedar Point was building two tall spires of track.
  • Powder Keg - Silver Dollar City - "S&S is building a what launched coaster where using what log flume track!?" was the general discussion on the forums when Powder Keg got announced. It just felt so odd-ball reusing old splash boat track, as part of such a large coaster integration. And speaking of Silver Dollar City, can Wildfire's non-floorless-floorless trains get an honorable mention? Still surprised SDC hasn't ripped that band-aid off and fully swapped for a proper floorless train.
  • Demon Drop - Dorney Park - while the rest of the world got busy burying Gen 1 Intamin drop towers, Cedar Fair somehow felt it good conscious to relocate this bad boy from CP. Proof that love conquers all.
  • The entire retheme of California's Adventure - still seeing it fully through, there was a genuine intrigue and surprise at the notion to drop the entire original theme and vibe of the park.
 

emoo

Mega Poster
Everyone seamed surprised and confused when Cedar Fair brought Gigas to parks that already had Hypers. Has worked out well in my eyes so happy with that.

When Phantasialand started adding a hotel into the mix of a densely packed new ride and land.

A few grumpy answers would be surprise at:
  • 13 and the disconnect between marketing and ride
  • VR anywhere
  • Whenever a brick is laid at the London Resort
 

Tulum

Roller Poster
Black Mamba at Phantasialand was a real surprise. At this time no one would have expected any inversions at the park and of course no B&M.

Hansapark adding Kärnan still is stunning and impressive. Especially the effect inside of the tower.

Toverland building Fenix, a B&M Wing Coaster for a park that opened as a small children's playland only some years ago, wow.

Port Aventura building Ferrariland except for Red Force this park is so bad that it still surprises me in a bad way.
 

Matt N

Strata Poster
Now they’ve been mentioned, I certainly agree with many of them! Especially the likes of Fenix, Baron 1898 and Ferrari Land; Baron 1898 in particular was just a real double take moment, and I remember that many thought the park meant a free fall drop coaster! But no, they actually meant a B&M dive coaster… it looks like a great one, but I’ll admit that one surprised the hell out of me when they first announced it! I also agree with Icon as well; I certainly wouldn’t have expected the UK’s first multi-launch he coaster to go to Blackpool!

Another one was the LaLiga project (I don’t know the official name) at PortAventura; that was an announcement that seemed very bizarre and not what I was expecting at all. I still don’t entirely know what it is…

I’d also say Monster at Gröna Lund was a big surprise for me, even if it was only surprise at Gröna Lund somehow fitting another coaster onto their plot of land!
 

chainedbanana

Mega Poster
A couple more

Velocicoaster at IOA, the park had just seen lots of investment with Hagrids etc and it was just like 'oh yeah and we're just going to build another huge coaster' and then they just got on with it!!.......... like okay? really? sure go for it!

Mission kepler at Futuroscope.... a park that had been successful with what it did and seemed 'proud' to be different and not have a cred.....and then.....!!!

Tron coaster at Shanghai Disneyland namely the IP! like that seems a left field franchise for Disney to pick! but hey it's worked!
 

Matt N

Strata Poster
The saga of the unfinished Intamin 10 looper and the journey of the parts around the world has been interesting - and surprising that Flamingo Land would build such a coaster (although logical to replace the old Corkscrew).
Ooh yes, this one was a surprise; practically no one expected an Intamin 10-looper at Flamingo Land prior to it being announced!

The saga that seems to have happened to it since its construction and how such a major ride has been almost forgotten about is all the more surprising again, but that’s a story for another day…

And while I know it’s yet to be built, I think Pleasureland Southport’s recent Zamperla Thunderbolt announcement was pretty surprising too!
 

oriolat2

Giga Poster
Namazu at Vulcania. I mean, how on Earth a park with no rides starts off with a custom launcher with a drop track!?

I am surprised nobody mentioned Fun Spot Atlanta. Biggest shock from RMC since probably Wildfire at Kolmarden. I am really intrigued by the project and why would such a park focused on go-kart tracks and small rides invest in a full-fledged balls-to-the-wall RMC hybrid.

Also WCR at SFMM. Jokes aside, this felt awkward from an enthusiast POV. Having essentially Full Throttle and Twisted Colossus it feels redundant and kind of unnecessary.
 

Scott Lannigan

Mega Poster
A fairly recent one for me would be the new RMC coming to Fun Spot Atlanta. I mean, the fun spot parks aren't exactly known for getting huge coasters (some decent woodies at their best) but the fact that a lot of people thought it would just be a family RMC and it turning out to be a Goliath-sized one really surprised a lot of us!
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
I'd like to nominate Intimidator 305 at King's Dominion.

Until that point, there had really only been two Giga coasters: Millennium Force at Cedar Point, and the even bigger Steel Dragon 2000 at Nagashima Spaland. Both of them were built at "coaster capital" parks, to celebrate the new millennium, and they dwarfed every existing coaster out there by quite a large margin. Coasters at that scale had been a short blip on the timeline, which only made sense to build at really large parks for a really special occasion, and nothing quite like them had been built in the years to follow. 2003 saw Thunder Dolphin in Tokyo, at 80 meters, but it was still a far cry from the giants built in 2000. Also in 2003 Top Thrill Dragster was built, displaying a new way to build super-tall and super-fast coasters. The age of the giant lifthill coaster seemed over. Other Hypers were capped out around 70-80 meters, but 90+ was clearly out of everyone's comfort zone.

And then in 2009, almost a decade later, pieces of Intamin track and supports started appearing at King's Dominion. Large pieces. It turned out that the concept of a Giga Coaster had awoken again, and this time even at a regional park. The coaster wasn't quite as big as the ones from 2000, but still big enough for the coaster type to make a triumphant return. Er, sort of return. A decade later, Intamin has yet to build another coaster anywhere near that size. Hyperion comes the closest at 77 meters, but I305 is still 16 meters taller.

Also, @emoo mentioned it first, but I'd like to mention Leviathan at Canada's Wonderland again. The construction thread is still in our archives, and the first few pages are an interesting read. Before it was announced, rumours were abound claiming the new coaster to be a Giga, but we were all fairly certain it would be ridiculously redundant with Behemoth, and that a Flyer or Invert were safe bets instead. I mean, B&M had never built anything taller than Silver Star (73 meters) at that point, and old quotes floated around saying even that was beyond their comfort zone. And what kind of park buys a huge B&M Hyper, then makes it obsolete with an even bigger B&M only four years later? Canada's Wonderland, it turns out.
 
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