The screams are still reverberating on the midways at Six Flags. But the thrill ride maestros at the park chain are already orchestrating next year’s chorus of hoots and hollers. Six Flags recently unveiled all of its new rides for the 2017 season.
As has been the case for the past few years, every park will be getting something shiny, new and scream-inducing, although not necessarily a marquee roller coaster. “It’s important that we stay balanced and have something for everyone,” says John M. Duffey, president and CEO of Sig Flags. He explains that the visitors coming through the turnstiles split about 50 percent family and 50 percent coaster-crazy teens. Also, since most Six Flags include water parks, some of the new capital will be directed to attractions for the swimsuit-clad crowd.
For 2017, new doesn’t mean hot-off-the-drawing-board rides. Virtually everything coming next year has already debuted elsewhere. “When something works well, we may duplicate it at some of our other parks,” Duffey says.
Take the coaster known as The Joker, for example. The innovative ride first appeared in 2015 at a Six Flags park and immediately wowed thrill seekers. On what is known as a 4-D Free Fly coaster, seats are located along either side of the track, or the wings, and independently spin 360 degrees to and fro. The track is a multi-level ribbon that sends the train racing back and forth in three dimensions while its seats randomly spin in the “fourth dimension.” Toss in some inversions and way-beyond-90-degree drops, and The Joker delivers a disorienting, wild experience.
“It’s a chaotic blur,” is how Brett Petit, the company’s senior VP, marketing and sales, describes the ride. This year, another Six Flags park started sending riders free-flying on a second rollout of the distinctive ride. For 2017, three more parks will be getting The Joker: Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Six Flags New England in Massachusetts, and Six Flags Over Texas near Dallas.
The cackling Joker makes an appearance in another attraction that has proven to be wildly popular, Justice League: Battle for Metropolis. The highly sophisticated interactive dark ride includes roving motion base vehicles that move in sync with 3-D media projected throughout the show building, animatronic characters, practical sets, and laser “stun guns” with which passengers can shoot targets and score points. A departure for thrill-happy Six Flags, Battle for Metropolis aims its sights on the story-based attractions more typically found at destination theme parks such as The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal Orlando.
The Justice League ride debuted in 2015 at two locations, and the chain added it to two more parks this year. For 2017, Superman and his Justice League buddies will battle baddies at Six Flags Over Georgia for that park’s 50th birthday as well as at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. Six Flags Magic Mountain, located north of Los Angeles, will also be getting a version of the ride. But as one of the chain’s, er, flagship parks, its Battle will be tricked out with extra goodies. Petit says the California attraction will include two pre-show rooms, an animatronic Harley Quinn (fresh from her role in the popular Suicide Squad movie), more immersive “4-D” sensory effects such as wind and mist, and an additional scene.
The water park at Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio will welcome Thunder Rapids. The “rocket blast” water coaster will use multiple water jets to propel passengers in rafts up a series of hills. The Great Escape, near Lake George, N.Y., will be getting Bonzai Pipelines, a couple of body slides, at its water park.
Over the past few years, the chain has been adding crazy-tall swing rides to its parks. For 2017, Six Flags America in Maryland will get a 240-foot version called Lasso of Truth. It will be themed to another Justice Leaguer, Wonder Woman, who (synergy alert!) will be featured in her own superhero movie next year.
Oddly, a second Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth will open at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in northern California, but it won’t be a swing ride. Instead, it will be a pendulum ride that will catapult passengers 147 feet in the air and reach a top speed of about 70 mph (which is extremely fast for this type of ride). The chain often mixes and matches its ride names with dissimilar rides across parks.
To make matters more confusing, similar rides sometimes bear different names. Case in point: In 2017, a second pendulum ride will open at La Ronde in Montreal, but it will be known as Titan. Rounding out the announcements, Six Flags St. Louis will be getting Spinsanity. Passengers will face outward on a spinning disc that will careen back and forth on a half-pipe-shaped section of coaster-like track.
None of the chain’s aging wooden coasters will be getting makeovers for the 2017 season. The ride manufacturer, Rocky Mountain Construction, had transformed a number of Six Flags’ past-their-prime “woodies” into wonderfully smooth and agile hybrid wooden-steel coasters over the last few years. Don’t fret, ride fans. “You will probably see more of [the coaster resurrections] in the future,” promises Duffey.
Arthur Levine, Special for USA TODAY