Scream leaves you dangling

Roller coaster fans have been watching eagerly as load after load of blue and yellow coaster track arrived in Magic Mountain's parking lot this month.

Now Six Flags has confirmed the rumors: The park's 16th coaster, Scream, will debut in the spring.

Scream will be a "floorless" design from Swiss coaster builder Bolliger & Mabillard. On these coasters, riders sit in individual seats mounted four-abreast above a steel tube track, with no floor between each row.

Scream will feature seven loops, a 150-foot initial drop, a high-speed helix and a top speed of 65 miles per hour.

While Six Flags declined to release the cost of the new coaster, similar floorless designs are priced at an estimated $15 million, according to Roller Coaster Database,

Scream will join a handful of floorless coasters in this country -- most notably the Medusa at Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo and Kraken at Sea World Orlando.

The attractions have proved to be popular with fans, particularly aficionados, who give high marks to the floorless coasters for giving them an unobstructed view of the ground below ... or, when heels-over-head, the sky above.

"It's kind of like being strapped in a high chair. You're got nothing underneath you," said Lance Hart, a coaster fan and editor of Screamscape, a Web site that tracks coaster rumors.

"It's just you and the track, and it gives you some nice visuals, especially in the front row."

Six Flags hopes that visitors won't be screaming about long wait times and shutdowns, which plagued Magic Mountain's last two coasters, Déjà Vu and X.

Fortunately, floorless coasters are a proven design with a reputation for reliability, according to Hart, which should go a long way to preventing long lines and delays.

For Six Flags, adding new attractions -- particularly thrill rides -- is one of the key ways to attract people to the park. "Our guests are pretty sophisticated," said Six Flags spokesman Andy Gallardo. "It's important to provide new elements for them, and different types of coasters. This [a floorless coaster] was really the missing link to our coaster collection."

Scream appears to be the only new thrill ride for 2003 at area theme parks.

A spokesperson for Knott's Berry Farm said the park has no plans for a new coaster in 2003.

Meanwhile, Disney plans to open a version of its popular "Tower of Terror" free-fall ride from Walt Disney World at California Adventure "sometime in 2004," spokesman John McClintock said.