By Andy Guinigundo
The year was 2009. My 7-year-old budding coaster enthusiast asked to ride Son of Beast at Kings Island amusement park in Ohio. It wasn’t too many years prior that I had ridden that particular wooden coaster – once. I am a huge fan of The Son’s predecessor, The Beast. Ask anyone who grew up around southern Ohio and they’ll tell you the same thing. We all love The Beast and swear it is the best wooden coaster ever. Unfortunately, The Son of Beast never lived up that same promise and expectation. I rode Son of Beast, looped its wooden loop, had my teeth nearly rattled out of my head and decided the attraction was not something I had to subject myself to ever again. So fast-forward a few years, the loop was gone and heavier cars were being run on the Son of Beast. My daughter and I rode the Son of Beast and honestly, it wasn’t terrible. It was rough, but normal wooden coaster rough. There was no loop, but it pulled some great Gs and provided some nice thrills. My daughter and I declared that The Son would be entered into our coaster rotation. Two weeks later, however, the coaster closed forever.
In the fall of 2012, Son of Beast was finally, mercifully dismantled. The site was cleared and last summer, the speculation began. I think I went up the park’s Eiffel Tower more times last summer than all years prior. The replica French monument offered the only view into the construction zone. Footers. That’s really all there was for months, footers. Rumors were rampant. It will be a winged coaster. No way, too close to Cedar Point who just opened GateKeeper. It will be a 300-foot giga coaster. No, while the Diamondback is not a giga, it doesn’t make sense to make something so much like it. I personally wanted a Gravity Group wooden coaster. Gravity’s home office is less than 15 miles from Kings Island. I wanted the promise of a wicked-great wooden coaster fulfilled. But, it was not meant to be.
Early last August, all speculation ended when hundreds of coaster enthusiasts showed up for the big announcement. Banshee would be the longest inverted coaster in the world. An animated video shown at the announcement depicted a coaster imploding into rubble while The Banshee rose from the ashes. While many had correctly speculated it would be an inverted coaster, others scratched their heads over the decision. It had been nearly 10 years since a new inverted B&M coaster had debuted in the U.S. Arguably, most of the best B&M inverts had opened in the ’90s. Raptor at Cedar Point, Alpengeist at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and Dragon Challenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure had all opened in that era. It was as if the Kings Island folks turned all the way to the back of the B&M catalog pointed to a black and white photo as said, “Can you make one of these for us?”
When I was 10, there was a coaster I never was able to ride at Kings Island. In the early ’80s, The Bat was an early attempt at an inverted coaster, but it failed miserably due to constant mechanical breakdowns. There had been talk that The Banshee was to have been called The Bat. Kings Island did end up retheming the inverted Flight Deck coaster to The Bat with a fresh coat of orange paint and new signage. Fittingly, it sits just a few hundred yards from Banshee. The Banshee name itself is a throwback of sorts. The Mantis standing coaster at Cedar Point was to have been called Banshee. At that time, however, the public was not ready to have a new coaster named for a female harbinger of death and the name was changed.
Finally, after the snowiest winter in memory, Banshee Media Day arrived last Thursday. I had the distinct privilege of attending with my now two young coaster enthusiasts. The two already have a deep coaster pedigree, having ridden the aforementioned inverts Raptor, Alpengeist, and both the Chinese Fireball and Hungarian Horntail at Universal Orlando. So, what did we think? All of our expectations were surpassed. I was no longer thinking, why an invert? I was thinking the speedy lift hill is the last time in 2:40 that you take a breath. One gets the feeling that each and every twist and turn was thought out and planned. However, rather than feeling contrived or robotic, it felt exciting, exhilarating and relentless. When I ask my girls how the ride compares to other inverts they have been on, they want to jump to trying to decide if it is the best coaster they’ve ever ridden.
The Son of Beast might have been relegated to distant memory except for the rather large tribute near the entrance of the ride. A “memorial” with the wordless Son of Beast eyes logo with the dates 2000-2009 and an eternal flame atop sits as a reminder of what came before.
The Banshee stats:
Length: 4124.1 feet, a record
Height: 167 feet
Speed: 68 mph, reached in the second half of the ride
Ride time: 2:40
Features: vertical loops, dive loop, zero-G roll, pretzel knot (dive loop followed by an Immelmann), heartline roll.
Restraint System: Lap bar and vest
Capacity: 32 riders/train, 1,650 riders per hour
Designer: Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M)
Investment: $24 million, the most in park history
Video ride-through of Banshee at King Island:
• Andy Guinigundo is the author of the Out of The Loop column in “Orlando Attractions Magazine”. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and three daughters. He grew up frequenting theme parks around Ohio and making trips to Orlando with his family. While for most of the year, he’s out of the Orlando loop, he tries to visit Florida at least once a year. You can follow Andy on Twitter at @AttractionsOOTL.