Okay....so now that my latest Planet Coaster park Whispering Cliffs has reached it's conclusion. I've kinda wanted to go back to my past when it comes to parkmaking and revamp some of my older projects. Initially I wanted to take my sole OpenRCT2 park and reimagine it into a 3D format. At first, I was going to make a rendition of it in Planet Coaster, but I decided against that. The reason being was that even though I LOVE Planet Coaster, one of it's biggest downfalls for me is the lack of third party support for CFR/CTR, and the fact that it's selection of coasters and flat rides does unfortunately have a lot of limits. Some coaster types that are in slightly older style parks aren't in PLC and probably will never be. Because of this, I decided to dust off my old copy of RCT3 Platinum, installed it into my new computer, transferred all my CFR/CTR/CS, and it works like a charm, steady 30FPS, barely any lag, just beautiful! And without further ado....I present to you, the story of Six Flags Over Virginia, retold via RCT3!
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 Grand Carousel, a giant slide, a Chance Rides Rotor, an Eli Bridge Scrambler, an old west themed comedy show, 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 Shenandoah 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. The following year 1993 had brought two thrilling Huss flat rides to the area. A Enterprise by the name of "Vortex" and a Condor by the name of "Phoenix Flight".
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 not one, not two, not three, but TEN new attractions!! Which included THREE 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. Another Huss built attraction, Vortex was renamed Viper in true Six Flags fashion.
A Moser Rides Top Star named Ninja was also constructed near Boomerang. This thrilling and vomit-inducing flat ride features multiple axes of rotation as the claw-shaped spinning gondola flips upside down while the entire structure also slowly rotates, making for a disorienting ride experience!
Fun Forest was renamed to Loony Tunes Village and received multiple new rides, including a new roller coaster designed for not just kids, but for the whole family! The new coaster was a custom Vekoma Suspended Family Coaster by the name of Road Runner Express, which features several helices and shallow drops in it’s layout, reaching a top speed of 32mph.
The entire western half of the park was expanded behind Wild Dog 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. The second of them was a Chance Rides swinging pendulum ride by the name of Catwoman’s Whip. The third was DC Comics Theatre, an IMAX Dome Screen theatre dedicated to playing movies based on the DC Comics characters!
The second of the three 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 76MPH 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 ten 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.
When Joker’s Revenge opened in 2002, it featured two six-car trains built by Vekoma, however the following year, those trains were replaced with two sleeker seven-car KumbaK trains, similar to those that were installed on Python in Efteling.
From 2000-2003, Six Flags Over Virginia became known as the fastest growing theme park in the world. In a span of three years, the park had added a multitude of new flat rides, a drop tower, an IMAX movie theatre, a B&M Batman clone, an Intamin Megacoaster, a Vekoma Suspended Family Coaster, a B&M Floorless coaster, a Vekoma LSM launched looping coaster, 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 just two years after Outlaw was built….everything started to go downhill....
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. 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 beloved 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, 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 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 Rock n’ Roller Coaster, but the only launched coaster at the park.
Joker’s Revenge was sold to a theme park in Japan known as Midori Gardens where it would remain in storage for several years before opening up in 2012 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, Catwoman’s Whip, Bane-The Ride, and Batman-The Ride as the sole survivors. Six Flags had released an official statement giving their reasoning for downsizing Six Flags Over Virginia, explaining that they had received complaints from Burkeville, VA locals saying that Six Flags made Greenwood Lake “too extreme for families” and that selling off most of their major coasters was Six Flags making SFOV more “family friendly”. Needless to say, coaster enthusiasts were NOT convinced whatsoever.
2009’s attendance was even worse than 2008…With coaster enthusiasts flocking to Busch Gardens (to say goodbye to Big Bad Wolf) or Kings Dominion, Six Flags Over Virginia was a mere afterthought…Halfway through 2009, Lightning Looper inexplicably closed and did not reopen….
And then at the very end of the season, 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 this past 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 mere days after the park’s 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, blue, and black as opposed to the old yellow and black 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…..
ERA 4: A Shell of its Former Self (Park operated by Six Flags, but not a flagship park)
Six Flags Over Virginia was officially classified as a Standing But Not Operating or SBNO amusement park on RCDB after it came to light that Six Flags never sold the property. This led to some interesting theories about the park’s future. Could it be possible that Six Flags had plans to redevelop the park? Was another Amusement company like Herschend, PARC, or Cedar Fair going to step in and buy the park?
In very late 2010…the answer was revealed. Six Flags had mentioned a few times that they were interested in running some more small, family oriented parks similar to The Great Escape in Queensbury, NY…It was confirmed on Christmas Day of 2010 that Six Flags was going to operate Six Flags Over Virginia again under the name Greenwood Family Park. A throwback to the old days as a family owned and Premier Parks property. At first, coaster enthusiasts were absolutely elated to learn that Six Flags Over Virginia was not going to suffer the same fate as Geauga Lake and Six Flags AstroWorld and that the Virginia Cyclone would live on.
However, more details emerged about the reopening of the park that did not sit well with the coaster enthusiasts at all. Out of the nine coasters that still remained, only six of them would reopen. Virginia Cyclone, Old Shenandoah Mine Coaster, Outlaw, Road Runner Express (Now renamed “High Flyer” since the loss of the Warner Bros licenses), Virginia Tornado, and Mini Tornado. They had no plans to reopen Lightning Looper, Boomerang, and Wild Dog. As a matter of fact, the entire western half of the park would remain SBNO, including Viper, Ninja, Twister, Phoenix Flight (Huss Condor built in 1991), Haunted Mansion, Insanity, and Bane-The Ride. This angered many parkgoers, as they felt like they were being gypped out of the more thrilling rides in the park.
Six Flags Over Virginia officially re-opened in 2011 as Greenwood Family Park. While the general public and coaster enthusiasts all flocked to the Virginia Cyclone, the fact that literally half of the park was abandoned left a very sour taste in the mouths of the people. As a result, attendance was way lower than expected.
To add insult to injury, in 2012, Lightning Looper met its end, as it was scrapped unceremoniously and without reason. This angered coaster enthusiasts even more, as Lightning Looper was a one of a kind Schwarzkopf portable looping coaster, not a mass produced model like Silverarrow or the Looping Star model.
By 2012 though, the SBNO half of the park looked absolutely awful. Weeds began to break through the paths, shrubbery and trees started to get gnarly and overgrown. Vines started to creep up the structure of Wild Dog. The abandoned coaster stations in what used to be the DC Unvierse/Gotham City area began to get choked with overgrowth as Mother Nature started to reclaim what was once hers...
Then…during the 2013 season, Six Flags started to sell off the abandoned attractions. They managed to salvage and sell Boomerang to a small mom-and-pop amusement park looking for a “big thrill”…Other parks and carnivals also took Twister and Insanity….However, they failed to find a buyer for Viper, the old Haunted Mansion, Bane: The Ride, the DC Comics Theatre, and Wild Dog…
Within the season…Enthusiasts who were hoping to have one more chance to ride Wild Dog had their hopes dashed. As all of it was leveled…..It was as if the entire western half of the park never existed. It went from being abandoned to just plain gone within months. Even Haunted Mansion, which has been at the park since 1973 was demolished on it’s 40th anniversary.
However during that same year, rumors started to fly that Six Flags was planning to add a new roller coaster to Greenwood Family Park for 2014, which piqued the interests of the enthusiasts. Was Six Flags planning on redeveloping the western half into something new?
First, Six Flags confirmed that a spinning coaster was coming to Greenwood Family Park….Then, it was revealed what the new “spinning coaster” really was… A Zamperla Disk-O named Whirlwind in the same spot where Lightning Looper once stood. In true Six Flags fashion, they labeled the tracked flat ride as a coaster, despite the fact that it’s totally powered and does not require gravity to operate. This was a move that thoroughly annoyed coaster enthusiasts.
Despite getting a new attraction, crowds at Greenwood Family Park in 2014 were even worse than before. People were sick and tired of being consistently let down by the way Six Flags was operating the park. Finally facing the fact that even though it was technically still around, the park known as Six Flags Over Virginia died in 2009…and all that remained was a mere husk of its former self. Especially as Virginia Cyclone and Outlaw began to get unbearably rough due to lack of upkeep….And despite all the negative press and attention the park was getting, Greenwood Family Park managed to continue to operate for a few more years. Until 2017, when Six Flags made the announcement that saddened many but surprised none. Greenwood Family Park was being put up for sale and would not be operating in 2018…After six years of operating as a mere shell of its former self, the park was finally being put out of its misery.
The last day of its operation in September of 2017 was a rather melancholy day. The saddest part was that even though Virginia Cyclone held a true place in their hearts, they simply could not enjoy it because of how unbelievably rough it had gotten. Making Psyclone at Six Flags Magic Mountain and Mean Streak seem smooth in comparison. Even the modern GCI woodie, Outlaw had gotten almost as rough as Lake Compounce’s Wildcat….. This…is the way the story ends with Six Flags Over Virginia/Greenwood Lake Park…A slow, drawn out, and painful death of what was once an elite park. As of 2018….the park is now owned by the town of Burkeville, and sits abandoned to this day….the SBNO Virginia Cyclone still stands strong, a sad reminder of what happened to the beloved park.
Someday...in the not-so-distant future, a construction worker and a businessman meet in Burkeville...
"Hey Andy! How the hell are ya?" "Yo, Tom! Good to see ya" "What's going on here?" "We're tearing down this old theme park...." "Oh you're kidding! Remember when we were kids and we used to go to Greenwood Lake every summer? We used to ride the Virginia Cyclone until we were sick!" "Yeah, I remember..." "What was she lost to?" "Oh who knows? Money, taxes, politicians....Such a shame." "It really is.....they don't make theme parks like this no more, no sir."
And so my friends, will say goodnight, for time has claimed his prize. But tonight can always last, so long as we keep alive the memories of paradise....
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