Geauga Lake removes two roller coasters

Ryan Haidet

X-Flight and Steel Venom vanish, to reappear elsewhere

It’s a common summer tradition — spending a good ol’ day at the local amusement park.

When guests arrive at Geauga Lake and Wildwater Kingdom in Aurora this summer, however, they will see that two of the 10 roller coasters are gone.

The park has announced that X-Flight and Steel Venom (formerly called Superman — Ultimate Escape) will be removed from the park.

“We believe that these two great roller coasters will be excellent additions to other Cedar Fair amusement parks,” said Bryan Edwards, public relations manager for Geauga Lake and Cedar Point, in an e-mail. “In fact, X-Flight is going to be introduced at Kings Island this year.”

X-Flight has already been dismantled and taken to its new home near Cincinnati. Kings Island was purchased when Cedar Fair, the owners of Geauga Lake and Cedar Point, bought all the Paramount Parks last May.

X-Flight will become Firehawk, Kings Island’s 14th roller coaster. The newly painted red track is currently being rebuilt.

“Guests of Kings Island are very excited about the addition of Firehawk,” Edwards said. “Response has been very positive.”

X-Flight was Ohio’s first and only flying roller coaster when it opened in 2001 during the Six Flags era. It stood right next to state Route 43, its green track jutting into the sky. Once at the top of the lift hill, the train would flip over, forcing riders into a flying-like position.

Steel Venom, which is currently being dismantled, was the first roller coaster of its kind. Its red and blue structure had two spikes poking more than 180 feet into the sky in a U-shaped track. Located near X-Flight, Steel Venom would blast riders 70 mph back and forth between the two spikes.

“Steel Venom is being removed from Geauga Lake and will be put into storage,” Edwards said. “It will be reintroduced at another Cedar Fair Entertainment Company amusement park in the future. However, I do not have any additional information on where it will be going or when at this time.”

Costly coasters

Aurora Mayor Lynn McGill said the reason for the removal is because of the cost to operate the rides.

“They’re expensive rides as far as maintenance when you have 700,000 people coming to the park,” McGill said. “They were put there by Six Flags, built almost on the street and they require high ridership in order to maintain them. Since they don’t have high ridership at Geauga Lake, they are moving them to the Paramount Parks where they have just purchased property.”

McGill said he is pleased with the decision to get the rides out of the park.

“I’m sure the people up in the Geauga Lake area and the city are happy because they won’t have all that noise,” McGill said. “They were loud rides. Not so much the ride being noisy but everybody screeching and yelling.”

He said he’s happy Cedar Fair is now in charge of Geauga Lake because Six Flags “ran a lousy park,” leaving many customers unhappy with their experience.

“Cedar Fair knows how to run parks, but will it always be here? I don’t know,” McGill said. “They have to make money or it’s not going to be here. As far as the park, it doesn’t mean that much to the city of Aurora. I mean it used to, but not now. We’re receiving hardly any benefit from the park – at the most, $30,000 a year. We used to receive $700,000 a year. It would be wonderful for families to come, and those seeking the rides as well as the waterpark. It would help this community as well.”

The removal of the scream machines came as a surprise to some. Whether the decision was right or not is a roller coaster of opinions in itself.

Jeff Putz, chief editor and Web master at the popular, said he thinks the removal of the rides was the right decision.

“It doesn’t surprise me that they decided to remove two coasters, because Six Flags overbuilt the park,” the roller coaster enthusiast said in an e-mail. “Building big rides can score a temporary rise in attendance, but it doesn’t give you any assurance that people will keep coming back. That’s a mistake the former executives at Six Flags made over and over.”

Changing focus

Putz, who goes to the park every other week during the season, said the rides didn’t fit the park’s focus.

“I think the focus on the park is the right one overall, because they’ve become the only game in town,” Putz said. “With the right marketing approach, I think they’ll be a winner in the long run. The only real problem is that the park has is its layout around that big lake. They solved this partially by moving the floating bridge right down the middle. It would be neat if they added a train or something to get people around as well.”

Mike Piechuta, another visitor to the park, said he wasn’t upset about the news on X-Flight, but was shocked about Steel Venom.

“I feel that Geauga Lake is heading in the wrong direction because they are a park that is overshadowed by Cedar Point, and if they want to bring in more customers then they have to have something that will appeal to people in order for them to visit the park,” Piechuta said. “I think that the park is not going to last much longer and it will end up closing. This is sad because it was convenient to a lot of people that live two to three hours away from Cedar Point and now the appeal for the park has dropped even more. Hopefully with the removal of these rides they will have room to build a new coaster.”

Rosie Dietz, who has been a season-pass holder at Geauga Lake for the last few years, said she was surprised, but isn’t upset.

“I like Steel Venom but I think it’s an overrated ride and the line is usually too long for it,” Dietz said. “Plus they have a ride at Cedar Point that is exactly the same it just has a different name.”

A former employee of the park, Craig Rosenthal, said he thinks the park has other intentions.

“When I heard that Steel Venom was being removed, I immediately thought that they have two ideas for the park,” Rosenthal, the junior theater major said in an e-mail. “One idea being that they are getting rid of the rides and making Geauga Lake more of a waterpark rather than an amusement park. The second idea being that Cedar Fair is trying to close down Geauga Lake for good. Six Flags ruined the reputation of that park by keeping it a mess and not maintaining it properly, and when Cedar Fair moved in and took away the animals, I knew that Geauga Lake wasn’t going to last long. The removal is proof of it, I think.”

According to a press release from the park, the Bel Aire Express, better known as the monorail, will also be removed.

New for the season will be the 3-D movie “LEGO Racers,” more pool-side cabanas, and several other new and updated attractions.

“We are planning on adding video cameras to the Thunderhawk roller coaster so guests can purchase a video of themselves riding the coaster,” Edwards said. “We are also doing our routine winter maintenance to our roller coasters, including some retracking of The Villain roller coaster.”

Also this year, a season pass is available that allows access to all of the Cedar Fair parks — including Kings Island.

These new attractions can be seen when Geauga Lake opens its gates on May 26.

Contact features correspondent Ryan Haidet at [email protected].