New roller coaster lifted by Kings Island past

It happens on that first lift, right after the chain pulling the roller coaster train clicks and clacks for the last time on the hill.

The rider's anticipation becomes experience, expectation becomes reality. Just as up becomes down.

That's an extraordinary space to occupy because that moment is both about a fan's past memories and a memorable future.

Mike Koontz, Kings Island's vice president and general manager, sees that space Thursday morning. And on Mystic Timbers, the Mason park's new wooden roller coaster, he felt it, too.

"It's nostalgic," Koontz said of the new ride's traditional appeal.

Wooden roller coasters, after all, used to be the only roller coasters around. But with its 16 airtime hills and 53 miles per hour speed, the ride generates new thrills and new memories for the enthusiast, he said.

The ultimate aim is for those new thrills and new memories to not be enough, said Adam House, design engineer for Mystic Timbers creator, Great Coasters International Inc. of Sunbury, Pennsylvania. House's ambition is for visitors to want to keep discovering new thrills, keep making new memories.

So the best reaction House heard Thursday? The sound of riders getting right back in line after completing the two-minute journey, he said.

Mystic Timbers, which will debut to the public Saturday, is the fourth wooden coaster at the park.

Watch: Ride Kings Island's new Mystic Timbers wooden roller coaster | 2:07

It's in prestigious company. Wooden coasters have been the jewels in Kings Island's crown since the day gates opened in 1972. The Racer and the Woodstock Express – although it went by Scooby Doo back then – are original and enduring visitor favorites.

And, since 1979, Kings Island has been home to The Beast, the world's longest wooden roller coaster.

The new ride also grants Kings Island a new accolade. The park has the longest collective footage of wooden tracks in the world at 18,804 feet, with 3,265 feet from Mystic Timbers.

But Mystic Timbers is not a Beast 2.0. The ride is a brand new animal.

"It's a story-driven attraction," Koontz said.

The narrative begins before the safety bars lower, however. Near the entrance, speakers blare warnings about some mysterious danger at the Mystic Timbers setting, the fictional Miami River Lumber Co.

It ends on a bit of cliffhanger: There is something spooky, yet undefined, in the shed at the ride's conclusion.

Koontz didn't ride a themed attraction like that the first time he visited Kings Island. That was in 1974 and Mystic Timbers, of course, was still decades away from being a sketch on a notepad.

For 25 years, he kept going through that gate at Kings Island. And he didn't do it alone.

First, he went with his girlfriend. They kept going after she became his wife and when they became parents.

In 1999, he didn't have to go through that admission gate anymore. That's when he joined the staff as the head of finance.

Koontz didn't stop loving roller coasters once he got a Kings Island name tag.

He's already planning a ride with his grandson.

At 8, Mystic Timbers will be his "first big coaster," Koontz said.

So that moment the boy gets to the top of the 109-foot lift hill, it will be a true first for him.

It will be a memory, an experience almost as young as Mystic Timbers.

The Cincinnati Enquirer


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