A classic ride that was once the fastest and tallest roller coaster in the world will retire this summer after thrilling generations of riders at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
But will Colossus rise again?
The 1978 wooden racing coaster will "end its 36-year reign" on Aug. 16 to make way for "exciting future plans" that the Valencia amusement park will announce at a later date.
The curious phrasing of that brief announcement raised more questions than it answered and left many in the coaster community to speculate about what might be next for Colossus.
Most of that speculation has centered on a potential transformation by Idaho-based Rocky Mountain Construction that would turn the twin 4,325-foot tracks into a record-setting 8,000-foot-plus looping wood-steel hybrid coaster.
Of course, Magic Mountain could simply demolish Colossus to make room for another ride. Indeed, Six Flags tore down the 1979 Rolling Thunder wooden racing coaster last year at its New Jersey park to clear space for a new ride.
But an Iron Colossus transformation has been talked about since early 2012 when park officials acknowledged they were "seriously considering" a Rocky Mountain makeover.
At the time, the coaster community was abuzz over the RMC renovation of Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas that introduced a steel track and overbanked turns. The remade coaster went on to win the Amusement Today Golden Ticket Award for best new ride of 2011.
Rocky Mountain has since added inversions to Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas (2013) and Six Flags Mexico's Medusa (2014) while building two new looping wooden coasters: Silver Dollar City's Outlaw Run (2013) and Goliath at Six Flags Great America (2014).
Screamscape's Lance Hart speculates that an RMC renovation combining the twin tracks of Colossus into a single 8,650-foot-long course would shatter the record for the world's longest coaster.
"Iron Colossus could be RMC's most epic project of all time," Hart wrote on his well-respected theme park industry website.
At 8,133 feet, Steel Dragon 2000 at Japan's Nagashima Spa Land is the reigning longest coaster in the world. The 7,395-foot-long Beast at Ohio's Kings Island holds the wooden coaster record.
Of course, any modifications or additions to Colossus could shorten the overall length of the combined tracks. Nonetheless, a record-setting Colossus could set a mark that stands for the ages – especially with the increasingly high cost of building materials.
The quandary any park faces with an aging ride is whether to invest in rehabilitation or cut their losses with a demolition to make room for a new attraction.
The difficulty with any rehab is the return on investment and the ability to market the makeover as a "new" ride.
Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park has spent millions over the past two years renovating the 1960s-era Timber Mountain Log Ride and Calico Mine Train with new animatronics and show elements but has been hesitant to market the revitalized classic attractions as new experiences.
Next door in Anaheim, Disneyland has become a master at making the old seem nostalgically new again, building extensive marketing campaigns around the makeovers of Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World.
Wooden coasters are a particular challenge for parks, with annual maintenance costs typically rising with each passing season. In the past, the solution has been to trim the speed of the ride to prevent the trains from tearing the aging structures apart, which typically diminishes the popularity of a ride already experiencing waning ridership.
Rocky Mountain Construction’s solution is appealing because it renews an old asset and strengthens it against future wear and tear while literally adding new twists to an old ride in a way that causes the turnstiles to spin all summer long.
The $7 million Colossus opened in 1978 as the world's tallest and fastest coaster and the first with two drops exceeding 100 feet. The ride gained pop culture fame as Screemy Meemy in 1983's "National Lampoon's Vacation" with Magic Mountain standing in for Walley World.
Coaster purists who marvel at the smooth ride and big airtime of Colossus have lobbied Six Flags to restore and preserve the traditional wooden racer rather than remake or demolish it. Others wouldn't mind seeing the removal of the despised mid-course brake run or the return of the double up-double down element eliminated in 1979 following a fatal accident.
A massive makeover of Colossus into a hybrid giant could include several exciting new elements. In recent renovations, Rocky Mountain has added near-vertical drops, barrel rolls, overbanked turns and zero-G rolls – all elements once thought unfathomable for wooden coasters. One or both of the lift hills could get taller to set records or add speed in the second half of the ride. Some have even suggested that the "high five" element introduced at China's Happy Valley park – where the riders on dueling trains reach out toward each other as the tracks tilt inward – could be added to Colossus.
And then there's the matter of the name. Will it be Colossus Reborn, Mega Colossus, Colossus X, Colossus Forever, Son of Colossus or Iron Colossus? (Take our poll and vote for your favorite.)
We won't know for sure which direction Magic Mountain heads until Six Flags makes its annual new ride announcement just before Labor Day weekend.
As a final farewell to the classic ride, the park plans a Colossus coaster-riding marathon for Aug. 14 and 15 with closing ceremonies scheduled for Aug. 16 on National Roller Coaster Day.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times