What Was: Vortex

Well, I personally didn’t anticipate that I would be writing a post about this ride anytime soon. However, after recent events, I figured it would be interesting to dive into the history of this record breaking attraction that was loved by many. In this month’s post, we’ll be looking into the history of one of Kings Island’s most iconic attractions, Vortex.

Vortex going through it’s second loop.

Vortex going through it’s second loop.

What was: Vortex

Let’s begin by looking at the basics. Vortex was a massive Arrow Dynamics Custom Looping coaster, introduced to Kings Island on April 11, 1987. The ride cost $4 Million USD and required 750 tons of steel to construct, making it Arrow’s largest attraction at the time of its debut. Vortex stood 45m (148ft) high and featured a 55º drop, 42m (138ft) towards the ground. Throughout the 1,158m (3,800ft) long layout, riders reached speeds of approximately 89kmh (55mph), and experienced a total of six inversions. This consisted of two vertical loops, a double corkscrew, and a batwing.

All six of Vortex’s inversions.

All six of Vortex’s inversions.

Interestingly, Vortex was not the first roller coaster to occupy the land it resided on. Rather, it used to be home to Bat, a prototype suspended coaster constructed by Arrow Dynamics. Unfortunately, due to increasing maintenance costs and reliability issues, Bat was retired and removed after only three seasons. Except, not all of it was scrapped. Vortex reused the queue-line, station building, and transfer area from Bat, as well as various footers throughout the ride area. Vortex acted as a replacement to Bat and proved to be wildly successful.

Vortex’s station and queue once used to be Bat’s.

Vortex’s station and queue once used to be Bat’s.

Vortex’s success came from its statistics, as upon opening it claimed three world records. Most famously, it was the first roller coaster to feature six inversions, beating out Six Flags Darian Lake’s Viper by one inversion. Vortex also held the title of the world’s tallest full circuit coaster alongside the title of the tallest drop on a steel coaster, taking both of those records from Mindbender at Galaxyland. Although these titles were lost the following season (to both Shockwave at Six Flags Great America, for most inversions and tallest drop; and Bandit at Yomiuriland for tallest full circuit coaster) Vortex attracted national attention. Various news outlets from around the country did features on the ride and the public went wild. In fact, Vortex was a major reason, if not the reason Kings Island had over three million guests enter through their gates that season, the most in the parks history at the time. 

Notice how massive Vortex appears from the Eiffel Tower!

Notice how massive Vortex appears from the Eiffel Tower!

THE RIDE EXPERIENCE

So outside of the rides’ stats, what did Vortex have to offer? As mentioned before, this ride was huge! Probably among the largest ride most guests would have seen at this time. Alongside its sheer scale, it was also able to theoretically thrill 1,600 riders every hour through the use of three, seven car trains that sat 28 riders a piece. Once guests had been seated, they would pull down their ratcheting over the shoulder restraint and buckle their seatbelt. At this point they’re sent onto the lift hill. After a slow climb, the track makes a quick right hand turn and the train hits the record breaking drop. Interestingly, it doesn’t then immediately go into inversions like many other Arrow loopers of the time, rather it makes a massive banked turn to the left high in the air. After turning roughly 270º, guests would enter their first two inversions, two back-to-back vertical loops. The first of these loops was 22m (72ft) tall, while the second one was 19m (62ft) tall. After a quick ascent and banked turn to the right, the train then entered the block brake, and dipped into the double corkscrews and Batwing, which dives down into a little trench. The last element Vortex had was an upward 360º helix to the left, eventually leading the train into the final brake run. From the top of the lift to the brake run, Vortex lasts for a little over a minute, which for a roller coaster is about average. For a more visual experience of what the ride experience was like, check out the video below from davidiellis which features both off ride footage and a pov (and be sure to subscribe to his channel!).

Why did it close?

It’s pretty clear Vortex was an important ride for Kings Island. As of September 2019 over 45 million riders have experienced it, while it has become an icon for the park. Despite the ride’s age, guests and enthusiasts are both fond of Vortex, and some claim it to be one of their favourites. So if the ride was so popular and beloved, why did Kings Island decide to remove it? To many the decision appeared to be somewhat sudden. Many felt the ride was still fine, but Kings Island saw the situation differently. The reason the park gave for the removal is its age. It‘s no secret that Vortex was becoming noticeably rougher as the years went on and rides of similar size including the aforementioned Shockwave at Six Flags Great America have been retired years ago. The ride had simply reached the end of its serviceable life cycle. It’s also completely possible Kings Island didn’t see it financially viable to keep on investing in its upkeep.

Vortex going through it’s batwing.

Vortex going through it’s batwing.

As I said in the beginning of this post, I didn’t anticipate this removal happening either. It was pretty shocking to me when I found out. Though, I was fortunate enough to be one of the 45 million riders to experience this attraction, and my opinion on this ride was… well… not that great. I only got one ride on Vortex back in 2014 when I was still getting into the hobby and I found it to be a very unpleasant ride. For years it had placed very low in personal rankings for me and for a period of time I did want it to be removed. More recently my taste in coasters has changed and I wanted to give Vortex another try, but I simply never found the opportunity to get back to Kings Island. So despite my unfavourable opinion on the ride, I am disappointed to see it go and I am sure Kings Island had difficulty making the decision. 

That will be all for this months post! Overall, Vortex is a ride that will leave a lasting impression on the park, and was one of the attractions responsible for kicking off what would be known as the “Coaster Wars”. Finally, in true Coaster Bot fashion, what’s your opinion on Vortex? 

Until Next Time,

- Andrew