I had to take a quick break from my review of the 2013 TPR Texas/Midwest trip
to jump to a slightly more recent event -- Banshee Media Day at Kings Island.
This was the first media day event I've participated in, and I am very happy that I was able to go. These events make a lot of sense for everybody involved. The park opens the new roller coaster for the media, who film and take pictures, covering the event on television and on the internet. The media wouldn't want to take pictures of empty coaster trains, so why not invite the enthusiast community to come along? Through several coaster clubs and enthusiast groups, I'd estimate (very roughly) an attendance of around a thousand people, coming from three countries and 28 states. Furthermore, valuing the word-of-mouth publicity the enthusiast community can provide, the park made this an event worth attending for reasons well beyond a brand new multi-million dollar B&M. Here's a look at the gifts we all received.Artifacts:Scorecard:
BansheeMedia Day Review:
The biggest complaint anyone could possibly have about media day was the cold conditions through the first half of the event. Low temperatures (near sunrise) were in the mid-30s, and without any buildings opened up, we all had to keep extra layers on and do our best o stay warm. I know a thing or two about wind chill, and I just had to run the calculation -- Banshee (68 MPH) at sunrise (temperature of 35 degrees) worked out to a wind chill of about 16 degrees at its worst. Easily the coldest coaster ride I've ever had, and with my first ride of the day at around 7 AM, it's also the earliest in the morning I've ever been on a ride.
I have the advantage of living very close to the park -- only about 25 minutes from Kings Island. I arrived in the parking lot just after 5 PM. By that point, I found a huge line already in place, though everyone seemed to be in good spirits. A weather guy from a Dayton TV station did a live shot from my area of the line, and those who were waiting and not asleep (myself not included) gave a few cheers to the bright lights of the camera. I got into the park about 45 minutes later, making a left turn and heading into the vastly-altered Action Zone. I had to take the chance for a few minutes of "night" photography before I rode Banshee for the first time, and I barely scratched the surface of the incredible photo opportunities the new area provides in the dark. I put the camera away, had a quick chat with Robb, and got in line for Banshee. My first ride of the day required a wait of about 30 minutes, which would be the longest wait of the day. Though I was getting to the point of not being able to feel my fingers, it was great to get in my first coaster ride since last August at Cedar Point.
With the line swelling up fairly large at around 7:30 AM, I opted to break for breakfast, waiting in a line that was almost as long as Banshee's.
Hoping to let things warm up a bit, I also decided to wait to ride Banshee again until after the media day ceremony. While waiting, I was happy to meet up with a couple people I'd been on the Texas/Midwest trip with -- Doug, who's making some amusement park magic of his own, and Stacy, who is totally rooting for the wrong team in the NHL's metro division playoffs. Stacy is with me on the Banshee on-ride photo.
The opening ceremony got underway at about 9:45 AM, and our group heard from four individuals with plenty of good things to say about Kings Island and Banshee. Don Helbig
(Kings Island public relations manager) kicked things off, followed by Greg Scheid
, the park's general manager. Rob Decker (Cedar Fair corporate vice president of planning and design) gave us insight into the coaster's construction, and Mary Cusick (director of TourismOhio) had some very positive remarks about Kings Island's contributions to the state as a major attraction. Don closed the ceremony by inviting us to ride one of four
attractions for the rest of the day -- Banshee, The Bat, Delirium, and Xtreme Skyflyer (free of charge).
After that, the rest of the day was a mix of photography and Banshee rides, with some time for lunch and ice cream.
I also took one ride each on The Bat (which I'm finally ready to admit is better than Draggin' Iron, sans perhaps the misty finale over the pond) and Delirium (which I was probably wise to only ride once on an out-of-practice stomach).
Banshee's line generally hovered between 15-30 minutes after the opening ceremony, but there were times when it got as short as 10 minutes. Despite a couple attempts, I wasn't able to get a ride on the front seat -- there was a limited amount of room on the station for row 1 waits, and the ride operators understandably wanted to keep things moving. As it turns out, most of the media work ended up occurring in row 2, with a camera rig (including some extremely bright LED lights) set up on the back side of row 1. In fact, I didn't see much in the way of working media on the ride during the second half of the day. As the crew got better and better with dispatches, the waits moved much quicker later in the event. In fact, I got three rides in about 35 minutes to close out the day -- including a row 2 run on the final train of the afternoon!
Banshee is a fantastic ride, and really exceeded my expectations. My first ride was actually my least favorite, and not just because of how cold I was. I really feel like the ride picked up speed as the day went on, with temperatures increasing by about 30 degrees from 7 AM to 2 PM. My most intense rides were in the late morning and afternoon. Banshee's features are fairly large, and it probably needs to be running at top speed to keep up the intensity. Once it got going, that intensity was surprising! Banshee definitely makes good use of the terrain it's built on, picking up speed between inversions, and providing the ride's most interesting element -- the drop into the ravine out of the zero-g roll. That was my favorite part of the ride, with a well-paced twist that feels pleasantly floaty, transitioning into a big drop (which comes with air near the back of the train).
Banshee's forces are definitely different from front-to-back, which makes it worth riding several times in several places. The transitions aren't especially snappy, since they're so large, but the speed still allows them to be forceful. However, the back of the train does provide some snap, especially on the first drop and coming out of the zero-g roll. The ride's strongest force might actually be in the front row, coming out of the second vertical loop and into a right turn -- it hits the tight curve with a lot of speed. The high (and slow) points of the two halves of the batwing / pretzel element were the only parts that I thought felt a little too drawn out, but the sense of speed in the valley between the two makes up for it. I'm indifferent about the inline twist at the end -- it's a neat sensation and it's fun, but it's paced strangely compared to the rest of the course. Thankfully, the final spin before the brake run provides some final thrills before the end of the ride.
Banshee earns its title as the world's longest invert -- the ride lasts a while, and covers as much ground as you'd want to have covered from one cycle. The pacing is great, and the order of elements is nearly perfect. I'm actually really happy that the ride doesn't have a cobra roll or a corkscrew -- those are my two least-favorite elements on inverted coasters. I'll close my review of the ride with the ride's beginning -- the first drop is the best on any inverted coaster I've been on. It's incredibly steep, with no pre-drop, and provides the stomach-in-throat feeling every time.
To get the Ohio-based comparison out of the way, I think Banshee is easily better than Raptor, a coaster I'm very fond of. My highest-ranked invert has always been Montu, and though I haven't been on it in three years, it has some nostalgic appeal to me that might skew its place in the standings. Banshee is, at least, right with Montu on my list of favorites. That's going to put it in my top 10 for all steel coasters.
I drive past Kings Island once a week on I-71, and as I watched Banshee rise above the ground, my anticipation was muted. I knew the reservations that the enthusiast community had about the ride, and I agreed with several of them. Read some posts from the Kings Island topic here if you want to revisit them -- or, better yet, save your sanity and don't. I thought it'd be a very good coaster, but not a great one. I thought the restraints would leave me sore, unable to ride more than a couple times. I didn't think Banshee would rise above its mix of elements to become a full circuit of intensity and fun. I was wrong. Banshee is all of the above -- a great package of theming, force, length, and comfort.
B&M and Kings Island did a great job on Banshee, and Kings Island especially did a great job on the media day. My sincere thanks goes to Don and Greg and their staff, though I know they don't need it specifically -- Banshee's universally-positive reception is the best gratitude that Kings Island could ask for.