Kings Island Trip Report & Don Helbig Interview

RexandtheBeast Official Trip Report
Tuesday, July 1 2014
Kings Island – Mason, OH

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Unfortunately Rex was unable to make our most recent trip to Kings Island in Mason, OH, but a friend of was able to step in, so I am very happy to introduce RATB fans to TODD.


Todd and I hit the road at 8:00 am toward Cincinnati in anticipation of riding KI’s newest roller coaster, Banshee. The ride has been receiving positive critical reviews and is the longest inverted roller coaster in the world. After parking our car and failing to notice the row number of our vehicle, we made our way into the park precisely when the National Anthem was being sung. Absolutely perfect timing on our part and in seconds after walking through the turnstiles, we were making our way through the queue for Banshee and virtually walked on to the front row.

The queue for Banshee isn’t much to behold. The line begins through a small gate with the words “Haunted Hill” and guests walk through a very small graveyard of sorts with tombstones scattered here and there. The most appealing aspect of the queue is a nice looking plaque on what appears to be a foundation block remaining from the infamous and defunct Son Of Beast displaying the numbers “2000-2009.” Once arriving at the loading station, the theme is a strange combination of a very clean, almost modern design coupled with a slight gothic/haunted touch. A small facade of what appears to be the cutout for a stained glass type window is visible next to the front row loading station, but the window and the brick of the wall are very clean with very straight lines. Although we are perhaps too spoiled by such rich and detailed themeing in all aspects of attractions at parks such as Disney and Universal, I nevertheless felt like KI could have increased the attention to detail during the wait. The same is true for the ride itself; apart from a terrific Banshee scream at the top of the lift hill (which can be clearly heard throughout all of Action Zone), there was zero additional themeing on the ride itself.

That fact is made up for by the brilliance of the ride. The first drop is a beauty and the accompanying elements make Banshee one of if not the best inverted coaster I have ever experienced. Due to the terrain on which the ride is constructed, the middle part of the ride is lower than the beginning. This creates a terrific increase of speed in the middle of the ride that is clearly noticeable. Banshee is worthy of its “fastest” description and whereas most inverted coasters are thrilling you more with elements than with speed, Banshee brings both to the party. Again, I would have liked to have seen banshees lunging at you throughout the ride or some kind of interaction happening, but the coaster is a big hit in my book and an absolutely perfect addition to the KI roller coaster line up. With the success of Diamondback in 2009, their next coaster had the potential to be a noticeable let down. Thankfully, KI has avoided such a possibility in a big way. Banshee rocks.

Todd and I moved on to ride Diamondback and The Beast. Interestingly The Beast was the attraction with the longest wait, but still only about 15 minutes. The first minute of Diamondback is as good as any coaster in the world and The Beast remains the best coaster in the world for a variety of reasons. Thus, with the addition of Banshee, Kings Island not only has a substantial number of roller coasters, but they pack a 1-2-3 punch with The Beast, Diamondback, and Banshee that not many, if any park is able to match.

Although I normally skip the suspended coaster at KI previously known as Top Gun and Flight Deck, I wanted to ride it once again since the name had been changed to The Bat. Unfortunately, the name change did nothing to help the sub-par nature of this attraction. Kind of like Wrestlemania 18 – sometimes I re-watch the Hogan/Rock match in hopes Hogan will win. So far, he keeps losing. Same is true for The Bat. I have written elsewhere about my uneasiness with bringing back the name of a legendary coaster and tacking it on to a very mediocre ride, but oh well. Don Helbig briefly addresses this in my interview with him below. The paint and logo for The Bat look excellent, except for one strange portion at the exit of the attraction – would it really be so hard to paint over this remnant of the Flight Deck theme, or are they intentionally keeping it as a keepsake? I think probably not.

flight deck

We ate at Panda Express inside the Festhaus in Octoberfest and although the main entrance of the food court (well, not really much of a “food court”, they actually only have 2 restaurants, but a nice stage is inside the building), the back entrance needs some serious help in pointing people in the right direction. Todd and I both thought the court was closed and almost moved on from eating there.


During our time in the park both Drop Tower and Windseeker were not operating. The attendance on this Tuesday afternoon was very moderate, no long wait times on any of the attractions. As a matter of fact, we rode Banshee again at about 1:30 pm and it was virtually a walk on. I was surprised by that. A quick trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower gave us a nice birds eye view of the place for kings and we had fun remembering where the old, dismantled attractions used to be.

Finally, I couldn’t help but notice how the themed areas of KI have really become nonexistent. With the exception of Coney Mall and of course Planet Snoopy, the other areas, such as Octoberfest and Rivertown, are more historical than they are practical. KI has been so determined to bring in quality attractions in the available space that maintaining boundaries around themed areas has taken second place. This could work in favor of KI if they decide to rebrand and rename some areas to more interesting and engaging themes. For example, and Don Helbig mentions this in the interview below, but we have been hoping for a re-themeing of the “Action Zone” to something of a haunted nature. That has the potential to be unbelievably cool.

Finally, always pays attention to the water design elements inside parks. Not sure why we do this, but we always have. I am so thankful to say that KI had their opening fountains looking absolutely spectacular. Every element of the fountain was working perfectly and it was simply gorgeous. KI has one of the more beautiful entrances in the world. Take a look at the video below to see the fountains in action.

Since the primary purpose of our trip was to ride Banshee, we took off around 2:00 pm. RATB will be back to KI in September for a review of the Haunt, of the seasonal theme park haunted events we have not yet experienced.

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