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A Thrill With a Twist

Other roller coasters can't stand up to Riddler's Revenge, set to open Saturday at Magic Mountain.

April 02, 1998|IRENE GARCIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Want a thrill? Try a ride on which you hang upside down six times, then fly over a 124-foot vertical loop and a 360-degree loop before heading into a 250-foot speed spiral.

All this while standing in a sleek green bullet-nosed train that travels 65 mph and reaches a height of 156 feet.

Welcome to Riddler's Revenge, Six Flags Magic Mountain's latest state-of-the-art roller coaster, scheduled to debut Saturday at the Valencia amusement park.

Its massive green steel track--featuring a variety of twists, loops and spirals--can appear intimidating, even to a thrill-seeking roller coaster buff.

The ride is the centerpiece of Magic Mountain's 4.9-acre expansion project called the Movie District, which includes a new restaurant, a movie back lot, studio facades and retail shops.

Riddler's Revenge is Magic Mountain's attempt to top last summer's blockbuster Superman ride, the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster.

The new ride won't match Superman's speed--65 mph compared to 100 mph--but it's the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster in which passengers stand instead of sit.

And the effect of standing is incredible because the less confined riders feel as if they're actually flying.

Though padded harnesses go over the shoulders of all riders to keep them safely in the train, this is the next best thing to jumping out of a plane.

"It's the bomb!" said 15-year-old Alex Robinson after a recent test ride on Riddler's Revenge. "It feels like you're hanging in midair!"

Trista Clem, 14, believes standing, rather than sitting, on such a ride makes the experience all the more exhilarating.

"It really feels like you're floating! I've never been on anything like it before," she said.

Another thing that makes Riddler's Revenge unique is that the ride lasts three minutes, which is long compared to most roller coasters of its kind. It's still designed, however, to accommodate 1,800 riders per hour.

So, how do the folks at Magic Mountain come up with these ideas?

Inspiration for Riddler's Revenge came in part from a much milder stand-up roller coaster Magic Mountain had in the 1980s.

"We did away with it in the late '80s, but in all our focus groups, people asked about a stand-up coaster," said Jim Blackie, Magic Mountain's vice president of design maintenance. "So we designed a cutting-edge version."

And surrounding ambience is just as important as the ride itself, which is themed to the diabolical character Riddler of the popular Batman comics.

To enter the ride, guests will walk through a glaring neon entrance and deep into the confines of the Riddler's lime green industrial laboratory.

Inside, mysterious and chaotic experiments will be conducted to entertain guests, who must be 54 inches tall to ride, while they wait in line.

"We picked Riddler as our theme because he has a twist, and there's a twist to the ride," said Patrick Kruger, who designed the area surrounding the roller coaster. "It took about a year to put together."

Magic Mountain officials won't disclose the cost of Riddler's Revenge, but Six Flags theme parks executive officer Larry Bouts said, "It's the most we've ever spent on that park."

To get an idea of what that means, the Batman roller coaster cost $11 million to build in 1994 and Superman was estimated to have cost between $20 million and $25 million by industry insiders.

According to 13-year-old Sheldon Slusher, who got an early preview of Riddler's Revenge, it's well worth it.

"I would totally wait in line for two hours to ride it," he said. "That's how long I've waited for some of these rides in the summer, and this is way better."

BE THERE

Six Flags Magic Mountain at Magic Mountain Parkway, Golden State Freeway, Valencia. Riddler's Revenge is scheduled to debut Saturday. Park is open daily at 10 a.m., closing hours vary. Admission, $35; children under 4 feet, $17; children 2 and younger, free. Parking $6. Information: (805) 255-4111.

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