A new roller coaster that briefly leaves riders hanging 150 feet above the ground will pack a lot of thrills into a small space when it debuts next summer at Knott's Berry Farm.
The HangTime dive coaster coming to Knott's will feature a vertical lift hill, a beyond-vertical first drop and five inversions.
Coaster enthusiasts have been waiting more than a decade for a major new coaster at Knott's. HangTime looks like the answer to those thrill-ride prayers. Blueprints for the new German-made Gerstlauer Infinity coaster depict an impressive and intense twisting steel coaster built on a compact footprint in the Boardwalk area of the Buena Park theme park.
"We haven't done any really high-thrill coasters in quite some time," Knott's vice president of maintenance and construction Jeff Gahagan said during an interview with The Times. "We said, 'Let's get something in here that has a lot of thrill.' "
HangTime begins with a vertical climb up a 90-degree chain-driven lift hill. At the 150-foot precipice, the train hangs over the edge for two tantalizing seconds before plummeting down a 96-degree beyond-vertical first drop. The train navigates five inversions, including a negative-G stall loop, a corkscrew and a cobra roll. The coaster reaches a top speed of 57 mph over the 2,200-foot-long course.
The beach-themed ride will feature 16-seat trains with T-bar lap restraints and surfboard-style headrests. Knott's plans to run two trains at a time with a third car held in reserve. At night, LED lights will appear to chase the HangTime train along the track.
"The whole ride structure will be lit up," Gahagan said. "It's actually a light show at the same time. The lighting package can be programmed different throughout the whole year."
HangTime replaces the 1990 Boomerang coaster and 2004 Riptide thrill ride. Boomerang was sold to a Denmark ride refurbisher and reseller. Riptide's passenger gondola went to Minnesota's Valleyfair amusement park.
The new Knott's ride is expected to be similar to the $9-million Monster coaster that opened in 2016 at Iowa's Adventureland. The 133-foot-tall, 2,500-foot-long Monster is currently the only Gerstlauer Infinity coaster in the United States, according to Roller Coaster Database.
Other Gerstlauer Infinity coasters can be found at amusement parks in the Netherlands, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Finland and England. The Smiler, a $23-million Gerstlauer Infinity coaster at the United Kingdom's Alton Towers, holds the record for the most inversions on a roller coaster: 14. A 2015 collision on the Smiler coaster left five riders seriously injured and forced the closure of the ride for several months.
HangTime marks the first Gerstlauer coaster installed by Cedar Fair, which operates 11 amusement parks, including Knott's, California's Great America and Cedar Point. The new partnership with the ride maker is a major departure for Cedar Fair, which has a long-standing relationship with Switzerland-based Bolliger & Mabillard. Since the debut of Silver Bullet at Knott's in 2004, Cedar Fair has made the installation of a new B&M coaster at one of its parks a near-annual event, with the new ride typically marking the chain's largest investment of the year.
Silver Bullet was the last extreme coaster built at Knott's, which briefly flirted with the idea of going head-to-head with Six Flags Magic Mountain for coaster supremacy. In the decade since, Knott's has opted to introduce inversionless horseback (Pony Express), spinning (Sierra Sidewinder) and wild mouse (Coast Rider) coasters geared toward the family market.
Ride enthusiasts have long lobbied for a big, new Knott's coaster to rival the $16-million Silver Bullet, only to be disappointed year after year. Plans for a major coaster running throughout Ghost Town were scrapped in the early 2010s, Gahagan said.
"It was going to destroy the park," Gahagan said. "Ghost Town would not have been Ghost Town anymore."
The budget for the big new Knott's coaster that never happened was used to revitalize the Calico Mine Train, Timber Mountain Log Ride, Boardwalk themed land and Camp Snoopy kiddie area, Gahagan said. The coaster planned for Knott's eventually materialized as the $25-million GateKeeper at Ohio's Cedar Point.
Now, after more than a decade, a major new coaster is heading to Buena Park. If HangTime is anything like Monster or Smiler, Knott's new coaster will have been worth the wait.