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Meet the latest contender for best new roller coaster of 2016

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom plans to transform the existing Roar wooden coaster into a taller, faster and steeper wood-steel hybrid dubbed the Joker that looks like a contender for best new ride of 2016.

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Set to debut in the spring, the renovated coaster at the Vallejo amusement park will feature 15 airtime hills and three inversions, including a zero-G barrel roll.

The Joker will also include a world's first element called a “step-up under-flip inverted roll” that twists riders upside down as they head uphill before emptying them into a 270-degree hairpin turn.

Another marquee element dubbed the “breaking wave” will carve a line through the sky like a surfer on a wave as the Joker train navigates an upward curving overbanked turn.

Compared to Roar, the Joker will be a little taller (100 feet) and faster (53 mph) with a slightly shorter track (3,200 feet). The renovated ride will also feature a steeper 78-degree first drop.

The Joker theme will be incorporated into the coaster's design by painting one rail of the track purple and the other green, the signature colors of the DC Comics supervillain and Batman foe.

Like many wooden coaster renovations in the Six Flags chain, the Roar-Joker makeover will be handled by Rocky Mountain Construction. The original 1999 Roar wooden coaster was built by Pennsylvania-based Great Coasters International with Millennium Flyer trains.

If recent history is any guide, the Joker will battle two recently-announced Rocky Mountain creations for the title of best new coaster of 2016: Storm Chaser at Kentucky Kingdom and Lightning Rod at Tennessee’s Dollywood.

Rocky Mountain-modified coasters won Amusement Today's best new attraction awards in 2011 (New Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas) and 2013 (Outlaw Run at Missouri's Silver Dollar City). Amusement Today's 2015 Golden Ticket awards will be announced Sept. 12 with the Rocky Mountain-renovated Twisted Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain a strong contender to take the top prize. 

The Roar-Joker renovation announcement also solves another riddle that intrigued the coaster community. A recent advertisement by the Idaho-based company seeking a surveyor for a California coaster project had stoked speculation that Roar or GhostRider at Knott’s Berry Farm would be getting a Rocky Mountain makeover.

It now seems clear that a Six Flags contract with Rocky Mountain is likely preventing Knott's parent Cedar Fair from working with the coaster company. Which begs the obvious question: Which Six Flags park is next in line for a Rocky Mountain makeover? 

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