The fastest building in the world
In 2010 the sports-car manufacturer Ferrari opened a rollercoaster in their own amusement park in Abu Dhabi. The Formula Rossa is since the fastest coaster in the world. It accelerates the passengers to a top speed of 240 km/h in under five seconds. A car completes the 2 km track in a mere 90 seconds. This makes it so fast, that riders are required to wear safety goggles to protect their eyes.Ride video of the Formula Rossa
Amusement buildings are expensive and specialized
While Formula Rossa is not the longest coaster in the world, it requires a very high initial investment. The American Top Thrill Dragster, for instance, cost US$ 25 million (length 850 m). Extreme coasters and other extreme amusement rides show face exploding costs. High maintenance cost due to the great stress to the structure adds to the running costs. Even more, strict security requirements create additional expenditures. On the other hand, rollercoasters have moderate energy consumption in comparison to other amusement buildings.
Trend 1: Supersizing coasters
The dominating trend since the beginning of this century is supersizing. Most obvious is the amusement rides offer “Land of Giants” by Huss Rides. Also, coasters become bigger and bigger. But that is to a cost of excitement. Due to the high forces acting on very fast cars, the curve radii must be way larger than usual. Quick changes in directions or rolls on small space are impossible. Also, the ground area needed for these coaster becomes increasingly large. Many of the largest amusement rides only consist of conventional curves and hills. Elements like loops are unrealistic to employ on this size. The construction of extreme coasters is very difficult. There are only a few companies that are capable of building them. The biggest and most popular one is the Swiss company Intamin.
Trend 2: Original small footprint amusement rides
An opposing trend is disrupting the industry. Smaller sized German companies like Maurer & Sons or Gerstlauer create coaters on a small footprint. The innovation lies mostly in the tracks and the cars. While small tracks traditionally where Wild Mouse coasters a lot has changed. Meanwhile, inversed elements and vertical drops are possible. This allows for even more intense experiences than with big looping coasters reachable. A recent example of such a coaster is “Junker” in Finland. It not only has overhead elements but also an accelerated start.
“Junker” by Gerstlauer Amusement Rides
Diving machines and the fourth dimension
During the last twenty years, some companies experimented with more fancy designs. Former US pioneer Arrow Dynamics created the fourth dimension. Amusement rides of this type hang the passengers on the side of the car on movable arms. The result is a coaster that moves on the track as well as in the car itself. The complexity of the design is the reason why it is very rare. Big ride specialist Bollinger & Mabillard introduced the diving machine. The selling point in this coaster is the first drop. It is tilted over 90°, creating the illusion of a free fall.
Experiments with immersive amusement buildings
The family enterprise Mack Rides goes another way. Like some others, it tried out more immersive experiences. This includes dense track theming and interaction elements. This way, amusement rides are possible that not only thrill by their G-forces but also act as a shooting gallery. In particular, this helps to bring fame back to dark rides. Those weatherproof amusement rides can be built cheaply indoors. With the current advances in engineering, Mack is able to combine a round trip with a roller coaster.
A revival of the classical rollercoasters
In all this frenzy of high-tech temples of thrill, another trend is easily overseen. Big amusement parks start to build old fashioned wooden roller coasters again. Germany alone got the “Colossus” and the “Wodan“. Two major wooden roller coasters. The Great Coasters Inc. which was founded in 1994 is among the top tiers of wooden coaster buildings. The fact that the 90-year-old design from the Cyclone at Coney Island shows that the ride experience of this type of coaster stands the test of time.
“Wodan” in the Europa Park
Outlook: Two major trends
To wrap it up there are two trends we can’t neglect. The one is supersizing coasters, the other is small but innovative amusement rides. With engineers capable to build massive structures bigger coasters become people magnets. This, however, becomes so expensive that most parks can’t compete on this level. Therefore, those operators emphasize creative solutions on a small footprint. While this second kind can’t create that much marketing for the park they are very popular among fans. From an economic perspective, the classical medium roller coaster appears to be in a dilemma. It just doesn’t add any more value to the owner’s business. Hence everything points in the direction of either high and fast or small and special. Both ways, the thrill will win.