by Paul Ruben
On my way to Kennywood to report on its new Sky Rocket rollercoaster I stopped in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for a two-hour tour of the city on a Segway. You know, those two-wheeled electric vehicles that are perfect for unbalanced individuals because their gyroscopic sensors are self-balancing.
As seen in the photo below, even I could remain upright on a Segway. Walt Disney World offers Segway tours, and now so does Pittsburgh. I thought they might find a place as an amusement park attraction. But that was before the Segway operator had me sign a liability release and insisted I don a protective helmet. Just try to offer Segway bumper cars or a Segway racetrack and watch your insurance rates skyrocket.
Which brings me to Sky Rocket, the new LSM-launched coaster at Kennywood. From Premier Rides, it’s modest-sized by steel coaster standards, 95ft tall and 2,100ft long, with three inversions and a zero-to-50 mph launch within three seconds. Moderately priced, this may be the answer for mid-sized parks looking for a sexy steel coaster. It is fast and smooth; a coaster that can readily be ridden over and over again. So I did, with my niece who lives in town, then boarded the Lil’ Phantom with my grandnephew. That’s two new coasters for me, numbers 795 and 796.
Kennywood has a world-class wooden coaster, the Thunderbolt, and several smaller but thoroughly entertaining woodies, the Jack Rabbit and the Racer. I love the ‘Rabbit because it has the world’s best double-down, and I love the Racer because the other train is always within range of my water pistol. They also have a world-class steel coaster, the Phantom’s Revenge. To my mind the Sky Rocket is to Phantom’s Revenge what the ‘Rabbit and Racer are to the T-bolt. In other words, it’s a perfect fit for Kennywood.
It’s a thoroughly entertaining steel coaster, a joy to ride. There is no over-the-shoulder restraint, but several comfortable inversions, two straight-down drops and a “Surf Curve“ that I had never before encountered. It’s a series of perfectly banked S-curves that have you wobbling through an otherwise level stretch of track. What fun!
In case you haven’t guessed, Kennywood is my favourite traditional American amusement park. Besides its seven coasters there are three distinct dark attractions, an assortment of classic flat rides and lots of mature trees providing shade.
The park first opened in 1898 as a trolley park for the Monongahela Street Railway Company. Owned by Kennywood Entertainment, which until December 2007 was a closely held family business owned by the Henninger and McSwigan families, Kennywood Entertainment is now operated by Palace Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Spanish Parques Reunidos group.
Kennywood is the very best of Pittsburgh. Why the town can’t fix its dreadful traffic congestion, however, remains a mystery. Everyone should just leave their cars home and ride Segways.