Kings Dominion to remove Volcano: The Blast Coaster

After 20 years of being one of the most unique and overall well-praised roller coasters in the world, Kings Dominion announced last week that they have decided to remove the famous roller coaster, due to its increasing issues in recent years. The ride sat closed for nearly the entire 2018 operating season, after an incident early in the season, where a couple of reports suggested a major mechanical malfunction in the launch system.

Credit: daveynin- Flickr

One question that many shocked park fans have expressed thus far is "Why?" Which I think is actually not so shocking based off of the several issues that have hindered the ride since its debut. The curse of Intamin has indeed struck this coaster, starting all the way back in the ride's debut season, when problems with the LIM launch system caused the park to only be able to run each train with every other row filled.

While this problem was resolved by the following season, other problems began to show up over the years, which further hurt the ride's maintainability and uptime. The launch system, with its prototype nature would often require costly parts, which took a long time to ship from overseas, causing the popular ride to be down for weeks at a time. Also, due to the way that the ride's block system was set up, its operational capacity was very low. Even if ride attendants could load trains quickly, the system had to wait for the for each train to basically clear the entire ride track, with the lack of a mid-course block. A similar example of this operational issue is Xcelerator at Knott's Berry Farm.

Perhaps the most critical issue that Volcano suffered from over the years was the structural issues that caused many stress cracks, fatigue, and expensive repairs to the coaster. Unfortunately, several of Intamin's products manufactured around this time were prone to these types of structural problems, with several of their designs requiring train replacement or track repairs before the first 20 years of existence. Volcano, heightened by its prototype nature, saw many repairs, replacements, and welding of track segments over its lifetime, a very costly issue.

Along with these repairs, waiting for custom parts from Europe, and the general downtime caused by the ride and launch system itself, Volcano failed to satisfy the park's capacity needs and was often down as one of the park's largest and most popular attractions. Stemming form the ride's most recent issue, Kings Dominion has decided that the cost of repair was not worth it to keep pouring into a high maintenance ride, and its removal will lead to a better replacement down the road.

Park fans may be upset that Kings Dominion pulled the plug on the popular ride with no notice. However, they were likely unaware that such a large malfunction would occur, causing the ride to become "irreparable" early in the 2018 season. While Volcano was indeed popular, it's queue times were definitely inflated by the ride's lack of capacity, and several bugs that hindered efficiency.

In fact, according to an estimation of ridership data from 2016, Volcano had only the 7th highest throughput among Kings Dominion's roller coasters, generating under 500,000 riders. That's a small amount compared to the park's annual attendance, and likely due to the ride's issues.

We know that the coaster will be no more, but the question shifts to what will happen to the actual Volcano. This structure has been at the park since 1979, around 20 years before the coaster even appeared, and was home to multiple attractions over the years, including Smurf Mountain and The Lost World. It has not been officially confirmed by any sources, but some have been saying that the mountain itself has been suffering from structural issues the past few years caused by the stress put on it by the roller coaster.

I find this harder to believe, since the vast majority of the roller coaster structure is independent of the mountain. However, with the mountain being 40 years old this year, it may also be nearing the end of its intended lifespan regardless of the coaster's condition. The Volcano structure has been modified several times over the years for new attractions, and has been cut into and accessed for maintenance and repairs of the Volcano coaster.

Demolition costs would be much higher to remove the coaster AND the Volcano, because of the size and sturdiness of the building. Considering its historic significance to the park's history, the park may also wish to reuse it for yet another new attraction if possible. It really all depends what the park's plans are, demolition costs, as well as the condition of the 40 year old building. Does it still have the ability to be modified and reused again for another major attraction?

If the mountain indeed does have structural problems, they may also be able to be repaired or replaced cheaper with the Volcano coaster out of the way, allowing for easier access and lower forces put onto the structure. It's safe to assume that this show building was built to last, even with its age.

Personally, if it's possible I would like to see the mountain preserved and reused if possible due to its uniqueness for a regional park. Not many smaller scale parks can afford or have built  such a daring structure over the years, and it really heightened the theme and appeal to what would otherwise be just an average roller coaster.

All in all, I'm not as shocked or upset over this decision if it means a more reliable, and higher capacity attraction in the coming years. It would be nice to see an end to Kings Dominion's streak of removing roller coasters for replacements that do not live up to the same level (for the most part).


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