(Let me just preface this by saying that Cedar Plains is not dead, I still have plans to update it more. After getting RCT2 on steam and implementing OpenRCT2, I was blown away by the sheer amount of new features and things I could do with the game compared to vanilla RCT2. That's when I decided to make one of my park ideas for Planet Coaster in RCT2...and you know what? I think it worked better in RCT2 than it would have in Planet Coaster! Anyway, without further ado....)
I’m pretty sure that every single roller coaster and theme park enthusiast out there knows about the thrills that the state of Virginia has to offer. From the beautiful surroundings and exhilarating terrain coasters of Busch Garden’s Williamsburg to the tall, fast, “push-it-to-the-limit” X-Treme thrill rides of Kings Dominion….These two parks have become a pinnacle to coaster fans, with the white-knuckle Intimidator 305 and Twisted Timbers at Kings Dominion, to the beautiful and thrilling Griffon and Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens…. However, there was once was a third park major park in Virginia…one that stood proud amongst its competitors in the same state, and was once considered the best park in Virginia, having some of the biggest, baddest, and most thrilling coasters in the state…. I’m telling you now, this story does not have a happy ending….Not all stories about theme parks do. However, there are so many great memories from coaster enthusiasts and Virginia natives about this place…It’s still a beautiful story… Its name was Six Flags Over Virginia, or as some remember it, Greenwood Lake Park. This is a story not dissimilar to those old Ancient Greek epics about hubris being man’s downfall. That is exactly what happened to Six Flags Over Virginia….the quest to be the best theme park in the world brought about it’s downfall… Let us start at the beginning, shall we?
ERA 1: The Bodacious Beginning (Park owned by Walters’ Amusments Inc./Premier Parks)
In the mid 1960s, Greenwood lake was a prominent fishing location in Burkeville, a town located in southern Virginia. Featuring landscaped grounds, a beautiful arboretum, and walking trails. However, by 1970, a wealthy entrepreneur by the name of John Walters looked upon the land around the lake and had big plans for a tourist attraction to draw people into Burkeville. Initially, the plan was for an old west themed open air museum around the lake, similar to Colonial Williamsburg or Old Bethpage Villiage Restoration in Bethpage, Long Island. However, plans quickly changed from that, to an amusement park surrounding the lake….
Greenwood Lake Park officially opened in 1973, featuring the double-decker Grand Carousel, a Ferris Wheel, a mini-cars ride, a Chance Rides Rotor, and Haunted Mansion, a large, extensively themed dark ride, widely considered to be one of the best haunted houses ever built in terms of atmosphere and ride experience.
In 1975, Greenwood Lake Park opened their very first roller coaster, Old Shenandoah Mine Coaster, a mine train coaster built by Arrow Dynamics. The Old Shenendoah Mine Coaster was a terrain hugging coaster that had two lift hills and a 42 foot tall drop, going at a top speed of 38MPH, a thrilling, yet family friendly attraction.
In 1977, Greenwood Lake Park built their very first wooden roller coaster. John Walters called upon William Cobb, who was known for building the Texas Cyclone at AstroWorld, to build their very own version of the famous Coney Island Cyclone. The result was the Virginia Cyclone, a huge wooden coaster based off of he Coney Island Cyclone, but slightly taller with a height of 95 feet.
1979 brought the very first roller coaster with inversions in the park. John Walters, now head of his own company, Walters’ Amusuments Inc. or WAI for short, called upon Arrow Dynamics to build a new roller coaster at Greenwood Lake Park. The result was the Virginia Tornado, a steel looping coaster with two loops and two corkscrews. This helped bring in a new demographic into the park, thrill seekers.
In 1980, WAI had purchased a portable steel looping coaster designed by none other than Anton Schwarzkopf. Initially this coaster was going to debut during Oktoberfest, but instead it was sold to the United States where it was built at Greenwood Lake Park as Lightning Looper. Lightning Looper instantly became a fan favorite with its forceful loop and its intense turns and helices. 1981 saw the opening of Fun Forest, the park’s children’s area, featuring a small E.F Miler kiddie coaster named Mini Tornado, based on the Arrow looper close by.
However, after 1981, a five year coaster drought had taken place…The drought ended in 1986 when WAI called upon the Japanese coaster manufacturer TOGO to build one of their Ultra Twister models at their park. TOGO accepted the proposal and in 1986, Hurricane opened to the public. Hurricane was a cutting edge coaster at the time with several moving track sections and stomach-churning heartline twists.
By the early 1990s Walters’ Amusements Inc. was bought out by Premier Parks, meaning that Greenwood Lake Park was now a Premier Parks property, alongside parks like Kentucky Kingdom and Darien Lake. The market demand was researched for a second wooden coaster at GLP and in 1992, Premier Parks got into contact with fledgling manufacturer Custom Coasters International to build one of their first major coasters at Greenwood Lake Park. The result was a large out and back wooden coaster similar to Judge Roy Scream at Six Flags Over Texas. The coaster was named Wild Dog and opened to the public in 1992. Wild Dog was known for its extensive amounts of airtime throughout its layout.
After Wild Dog, Greenwood Lake Park experienced another short coaster drought which ended in 1997 when the park opened Boomerang, a compact shuttle roller coaster that inverted riders six times, more than any other coaster at the park. While the Vekoma Boomerang model is not a favorite amongst coaster enthusiasts, the addition of a more “modern” steel coaster at GLP was a small taste of what was to come….
By the time the new millennium rolled along, Premier Parks had bought the world famous Six Flags Entertainment Corporation from Time Warner Cable and started to convert their parks into Six Flags parks….Darien Lake became Six Flags Darien Lake, Kentucky Kingdom became Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, and so on and so forth. Naturally, in December of 1999, Six Flags announced that they had bought Greenwood Lake Park, which was to be renamed to Six Flags Over Virginia, a name based off of Six Flags’ properties in Arlington, TX and Austell, GA. Alongside the news of the acquisition, Six Flags announced a large park expansion for their new Virginia property which included a total of five new rides, including two new coasters!
A Huss Maschinenfabrik Top Spin named Twister was built next to the old Haunted Mansion ride, Twister was an exhilarating X-Treme thrill ride with multiple gut wrenching inversions and quickly became the most popular flat ride at the park.
The entire western half of the park was expanded to make room for DC Universe, a massive themed area featuring several major new attractions. The first of them was a 180 foot tall Intamin second-generation drop tower by the name of Superman- Tower of Power. DC Comics Theatre was an IMAX Dome Screen theatre dedicated to playing movies based on the DC Comics characters!
One of the two new coasters for 2000 was a clone of Batman-The Ride, a small yet intense Bolliger & Mabillard Inverted coaster that can be found at several other Six Flags parks such as Six Flags Great Adventure, Six Flags Magic Mountian, and who can forget the original at Six Flags Great America? Like other Batman clones, this coaster is known for its snappy inversions and high intensity.
However, the coup de grace of the new additions was Superman-Ride Of Steel, an absolutely MASSIVE Intamin AG hyper coaster with a height of 220 feet and a drop of 216 feet, making it the tallest attraction at the park! Superman-Ride Of Steel was also the fastest at a top speed of 77MPH and the longest at a length of over 5,000 feet! Superman-Ride Of Steel instantly became known as an airtime machine with a total of nine bunny hills throughout the ride, leading to moments of complete weightlessness.
These five attractions opened up in 2000 to rave success, putting Six Flags Over Virginia on the map for coaster enthusiasts around the world! SFOV’s Superman-Ride Of Steel was deemed to be the best one out of the other Superman-Ride Of Steel mega coasters throughout the Six Flags chain, some even argued it was better than Millennium Force at Cedar Point! However Six Flags was not done yet…not by a long shot…
2001 brought a much more modern sit-down looping coaster to SFOV, Goliath. Goliath is a large Bolliger & Mabillard floorless coaster with a 120 foot tall first hill and a 110 foot tall drop. It also reaches a top speed of 62MPH and features six exhilarating inversions! Goliath opened to rave reviews and positive feedback, all praising its forcefulness and grace. Most considered Goliath to be the second best coaster in the park behind Superman-Ride Of Steel.
2002 saw the removal of an older ride and the addition of two new ones! Over the years, Hurricane, the park’s TOGO Ultra Twister had become extremely costly to maintain. It was plagued with so much downtime in 2001 that it was pretty much considered SBNO, only operating for a few days at a time per month. With TOGO’s bankruptcy in 2001, Six Flags decided it was no longer profitable to try and maintain the ride and they dismantled the attraction before the 2002 season. Sending the salvagable parts to Six Flags AstroWorld for their own Ultra Twister coaster. One of the two new rides for 2002 was a flat ride that took the place of Ultra Twister, a Chance Rides Double Inverter by the name of Insanity. Insanity was an extremely thrilling new attraction for the park, giving riders the sense of being twisted around while also flipping upside down.
The second of the new attractions was the one that really got the most attention…Joker’s Revenge, an outdoor version of Disney’s famous Rock n’ Roller Coaster. Joker’s Revenge is a Vekoma-built LSM launch coaster, the very first launch coaster to be built at the park. Like its sister coasters and its Premier Rides-built cousins, it features a 0-57MPH launch into a convoluted mess of inversions and helices. Joker’s Revenge features a large sea serpent roll and a corkscrew traveled a high speeds, making for a forceful ride experience.
However, even after all these new additions to the park, Six Flags was STILL not done! After hearing about reports of people complaining that both the Virginia Cyclone and Wild Dog were getting rather rough and uncomfortable, they researched the market demand for a third wooden roller coaster at Six Flags Over Virginia….And as a result, in 2003, Outlaw opened. A medium sized GCI compact wooden coaster jam packed with twists, turns, and airtime hills. Outlaw became known for being uncannily smooth for a wooden coaster and soon became a fan favorite at SFOV.
From 2000-2003, Six Flags Over Virginia became known as one of the fastest growing theme parks in the world. In a span of three years, the park had added two new thrill rides, a drop tower, an IMAX movie theatre, a B&M Batman clone, an Intamin Megacoaster, a B&M Floorless coaster, a Vekoma Rock n' Roller Coaster clone, and a GCI wooden coaster! SFOV seemed to be an unstoppable force of nature, successfully stealing crowds away from both Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Paramount’s Kings Dominion, who simply couldn’t compete with the sheer growth of Six Flags Over Virginia…
However, this period was short lived….as it is known that everything that goes up, must come down....
ERA 3: Pride Cometh Before A Fall (The Downfall of Six Flags Over Virginia)
The year 2005 started off like any other year for Six Flags Over Virginia, with the big coasters attracting massive crowds and the park being filled with families and thrill seekers….However, big trouble was on the horizon for not only SFOV, but the entire Six Flags chain as a whole…
For starters, while Six Flags Over Virginia was a loved park, it wasn’t without it’s hitches though. By 2004-2005, complaints about the park’s cleanliness, its overall atmosphere, clientele, and operations started to sprout up. Frequent complaints of one-train operations on major coasters on busy days became common. Also, complaints of rowdy teenagers causing problems and dirty, trash filled paths also weren't uncommmon. By the beginning of 2005, parkgoers complained that the seatbelts on Superman-Ride Of Steel had been shortened by at least four inches, meaning that guests of a larger size could no longer fit on the ride, increasing instances of “walks of shame”.
In August of 2005, Six Flags New Orleans suffered horrific flooding damage after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans. Six Flags deemed SFNO too costly to repair and subsequently sold the abandoned amusement park back to the city of New Orleans where it sits abandoned to this day. Also, Six Flags had started to suffer from serious financial issues due to the rapid development of both Six Flags Worlds Of Adventure in Aurora, Ohio and of course, Six Flags Over Virginia in Burkeville, Virginia. As a result, Six Flags sold Six Flags Worlds Of Adventure to Cedar Fair in 2004. However, the financial problems still persisted…as the company had amassed billions of dollars in debt.
Then…it happened….September 12th, 2005…a day that will forever live in infamy in the Six Flags chain. It was announced on that day that Six Flags AstroWorld was to permanently close after the 2005 season and that Six Flags Over Virginia was going to be putting two of their major roller coasters up for sale…
The two coasters for sale were Goliath and Superman-Ride Of Steel, two of the biggest fan favorites at SFOV. Fans were shocked, angry, and appalled at this decision. Why would a company sink so many millions into building these huge scream machines within two years of each other just to get rid of them a few years later? The reaction to the removal of these two coasters was so negative that some people even considered boycotting Six Flags for their decision to get rid of these loved coasters.
Goliath was sold to Cedar Fair where it would find a new home in Harmonic Hills, their property in Orting, Washington the following year as “Renegade Run”
Meanwhile, Superman-Ride of Steel sat in storage at Six Flags St. Louis in St. Louis, Missouri for three years after its closing before being sold to a company overseas. The future looked bleak for the Intamin hypercoaster, until it finally resurfaced in 2009 at a newer theme park named Prati Mistici in Turin, Italy under the name “Blue Fang hyperrollercoaster”
Six Flags Over Virginia was desperate to try and recoup after the loss of two of their major roller coasters. With the loss of their Superman themed coaster, the DC Universe section of the park was rebranded to Gotham City and would only feature rides themed after Batman and the villains in Batman. Superman-Tower Of Power was repainted black and was named Bane: The Ride. The DC Comics Theatre’s name still remained the same, but would only feature Batman movies.
However, the loss of Goliath and Superman-Ride Of Steel still left a major hole in the hearts of the people of Burkeville and coaster enthusiasts everywhere, as attendance in 2006 was only half, sometimes not EVEN half of their attendance in 2005. In 2006, one of SFOV's rival parks, Busch Gardens Williamsburg opened Griffon, which was the tallest and fastest B&M Dive coaster at the time, effectively stealing back crowds from Six Flags Over Virginia.
There was still more devastating news to come though…Halfway through the 2007 season, it was announced that due to ongoing financial problems with SFOV, Joker’s Revenge was put up for sale and was going to be dismantled after the 2007 season. This lead to another very angry reaction by fans of the park, as the park seemed to be erasing all the progress it made from the last few years. Joker’s Revenge had become a fan favorite at the park, as it was not only an outdoor version of the famous Rock n’ Roller Coaster, but the only launched coaster at the park.
Joker’s Revenge was put in storage for several years after the ride closed before opening overseas in 2012 at a theme park named Midori Gardens in Kyushu, Japan as a replacement for their aging Meisho jet coaster. Joker’s Revenge still operates at Midori Gardens under the name “Bullet”.
By 2008, the future was positively bleak for Six Flags Over Virginia as rumors and predictions started to swirl around the coaster enthusiasts, all saying that the closure of the park was imminent. Citing Geauga Lake as an example of what was happening to Six Flags Over Virginia. The rapid downsizing of the park seemed to only point in the direction of an eventual closure and sale of the property. The Gotham City area had been a particularly dead corner of the park now that two of the three major coasters in the area were now gone, only leaving the DC Comics Theatre, Bane-The Ride, and Batman-The Ride as the sole survivors…..
And then…in the beginning of 2009….The event that all fans of SFOV feared had come true….Six Flags had made the formal announcement that not only was Batman-The Ride put up for sale, but that the 2009 season would be Six Flags Over Virginia’s very last. The park would not be opening in 2010. While not surprising news, it was still devastating to the coaster community. With the loss of their major steel coasters, a cult following had surrounded the legendary wood coaster, Virginia Cyclone. The closing of Six Flags Over Virginia would mean the closing of Virginia Cyclone, a coaster that was considered to be superior to all the other Cyclone clones.
Labor Day weekend of 2009 saw the end of Six Flags Over Virginia. Crowds on the last day were massive as lines for all the roller coasters got up to three hours. While the rest of the park was closed and cordoned off to the public at 7PM, the Virginia Cyclone remained open until almost midnight, all giving people their final rides on the legendary woodie.
Then…it was all over. Six Flags Over Virginia was no more…Six Flags scrubbed any and all references to SFOV on their website…it was like the park never existed. Batman-The Ride was dismantled from the closed park just mere days after its final closure. It would later resurface at another Six Flags park in 2010, Six Flags Arizona Adventure in Scottsdale, Arizona under the same name, albeit painted purple, yellow, and blue as opposed to the old yellow and indigo color scheme.
Strangely enough though, while the former Six Flags Over Virginia laid derelict throughout 2010, it came to light that while the park was permanently closed, Six Flags still owned the property….they never sold it…..
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