Six Flags Great America
|Location||Gurnee, Illinois (50 miles north of Chicago, Illinois and 50 miles south of Milwaukee, Wisconsin)|
|Owner||Six Flags, Inc.|
|Opened||May 29, 1976|
|Previous names||Marriott's Great America 1976–1984
Six Flags Great America 1984–present
|Operating season||May – early November|
|Area||304 acres (1.23 km2)|
Six Flags Great America is a Six Flags theme park in the Chicago metropolitan area, located in Gurnee, Illinois. It first opened in 1976 as Marriott's Great America. Six Flags purchased the park from the Marriott Corporation in 1984, making it the seventh park in the chain. As of 2012, the park has nine themed sections, a 20-acre (81,000 m2) water park, two specially themed children's areas, and various other forms of entertainment.
- 1 Marriott era (1974–1984)
- 2 Six Flags era
- 3 Fright Fest
- 4 Areas and attractions
- 5 Related parks
- 6 Former rides/attractions
- 7 Appearances in media
- 8 Gallery
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Marriott era (1974–1984)
Marriott Corporation began construction on the park in 1974 and opened it on May 29, 1976, as "Marriott's Great America" (a sister park, with almost identical layout and attractions, opened in northern California in Santa Clara the same year). The park was an immediate success due in part to its Americana themes and grand opening during the American Bicentennial. It originally consisted of six themed areas: Carousel Plaza, the first section beyond the main gates; small-town-themed Hometown Square; The Great Midwest Livestock Exposition at County Fair, with its early 20th century rural-fair theme; Yankee Harbor, inspired by a 19th-century New England port; Yukon Territory, resembling a Canadian/Alaskan logging camp; and the French Quarter-modeled Orleans Place. A seventh area, The Great Southwest, was planned but was not built until 1996, when it opened as Southwest Territory.
Each themed area had its own staff costumes, and the design of buildings, shops, and restaurants were also all unique to each theme. For example, the Klondike Cafe in Yukon Territory served beef dishes in large pans like those used for panning for gold.
From the beginning, the park made use of the Looney Tunes characters as costumed figures to interact with the park attendees, a tradition that continues since Time Warner took over maximum ownership of the park in the 1990s.
Chronology of the rides and attractions
Originally the park included three roller coasters: Willard's Whizzer (named after Marriott executive J. Willard Marriott and now simply known as Whizzer), Turn of the Century (now re-themed and renamed Demon), and Gulf Coaster. Gulf Coaster lasted only one season due to its unpopularity and a small fire. The park's other signature attractions were the elaborate double-decker Columbia Carousel; Sky Whirl, a unique, 110-foot (34 m)-tall "triple Ferris wheel" custom-designed for Marriott and visible from the adjacent Tri-State Tollway as well as from miles away; and the two one-way gondola sky car rides, Delta Flyer and Eagle's Flight. Eagle's Flight was a very commercially successful ride and was considered a top 10 ride by Roller Coaster Weekly magazine. Since the removal of Sky Whirl after the 2000 season, Six Flags Great America has continued to operate without a Ferris wheel.
An original 1976 Marriott's Great America ride, Orleans Orbit, still spins today at the park. While resembling a Ferris wheel, it delivers a far different ride experience. The entire wheel rests flat, just above ground level, to allow simultaneous loading and unloading of all passenger cabins. Once riders are locked in, the wheel begins to rotate. The spinning wheel picks up speed and is lifted on an arm to a nearly vertical position, sending riders upside-down as they go over the highest point. "Enterprise" is the common industry name for such a ride.
Originally installed in Orleans Place, the ride has since been relocated to Hometown Square, occupying the former home of the Bottoms Up ride. It made way for White Water Rampage, now known as Roaring Rapids. Orleans Orbit is now known simply as The Orbit.
Another original 1976 Marriott's Great America ride, Rue Le Dodge, is known as the world's largest operating bumper car floor. An exact copy of the ride under the same name opened at California's Great America in Santa Clara, California. In 2005, however, its bumper car floor became a one-way traffic ride (as most bumper car floors have started doing). To determine the flow of traffic, a concrete island was added to the center of the floor, removing floor space. This left Rue Le Dodge at present-day Six Flags Great America as the largest operating bumper car floor in the world. The floor currently sits at 51’9” X 124’9” or 6,455 sq ft (599.7 m2). Six Flags Great Adventure's Autobahn is the largest bumper car floor, but it has not operated since 2008.
1977 saw the installation of several new rides. The 330-foot (100 m)-tall Sky Trek Tower — one of the few rides to survive today under its original name — opened in Carousel Plaza. Sky Trek Tower was built as, and still remains, the tallest freestanding structure in Lake County, Illinois. Along with Sky Trek Tower, a few new spinning rides were added, such as Big Top, Davy Jones' Dinghies, and Hay Baler. Southern Cross, a third gondola sky car ride — round-trip and much taller than Delta Flyer/Eagle's Flight — also made its debut in 1977, with its station located where Gulf Coaster stood. The park's first kids section, dubbed Fort Fun, opened in Yukon Territory, which caused the Saskatchewan Scrambler to be relocated to Hometown Square and renamed Hometown Fun Machine.
Tidal Wave, Great America's first roller coaster added after the park opened in 1976, was added in 1978. It consisted of a single vertical loop and was located in Yankee Harbor, where Batman: The Ride now stands.
The Turn of the Century roller coaster closed and took on a new look in 1980. Two loops were added, along with three tunnels, and the "new" ride was re-themed and renamed The Demon. In the summer of 1980, the park broke ground for a massive new wooden roller coaster that would eventually come to be known as American Eagle. Today this twin-track racing roller coaster stands at 127 feet (38 m) tall and reaches speeds of 66 mph (105 km/h). The bottom of the first drop is built 20 feet (6.1 m) below ground level, bringing the height difference of the first drop to just over 147 feet (45 m). The American Eagle debuted in 1981. At the time it had the longest drop, and was the fastest of any wooden roller coaster in the world. Today it remains the tallest, fastest, and longest twin racing wooden coaster.
The Picnic Grove was added in 1982, allowing for more company outings and corporate events to take place at the growing theme park.
No new rides were added in 1982; however, several were removed. In 1983, The Edge, an Intamin first-generation freefall ride, was added to much fanfare. However, after an accident in 1984 that resulted in the hospitalization of three teenage riders, the ride was shut down while safety mechanisms were installed. The Edge never regained popularity, however, and was removed in 1986, eventually ending up at Geauga Lake in Aurora, Ohio. Bottoms Up and Traffique Jam were removed at the end of the 1983 season.
Marriott's final ride added to the park was White Water Rampage, an Intamin-built rapids ride. This ride took over the spot occupied by several rides, including Davy Jones' Dinghies, Le Bump (a children's bumper car ride), Traffique Jam, and the original Orleans Orbit (although it would re-open the next season in the Hometown Square area simply as The Orbit). Later renamed Roaring Rapids, it remains the park's most popular water ride.
Southern Cross was removed in 1983.
Six Flags era
Marriott sold the park to Six Flags, then owned by Bally Manufacturing, in 1984. Thus the Bally's Six Flags Great America era began. It started darkly when a software failure caused a car on the drop ride The Edge to be stalled at the top of the lift shaft before moving forward into its drop position. The car was stuck in this position for a short period of time before it dropped back down the lift shaft, causing injuries to all three occupants. Despite many attempts to reopen The Edge with installation of anti-rollback devices by Intamin, the ride was never able to escape the stigma of its 1984 accident. The ride was removed in 1986 and sold to Rocky Point Amusement Park before reaching its final location at Geauga Lake as Mr. Hyde's Nasty Fall. The ride was dismantled and scrapped in 2005.
In 1985, Six Flags added Z Force, a one-of-a-kind Intamin space diver roller coaster that closed in 1987, and was the only one ever manufactured. It was followed by Splash Water Falls in 1986 in the County Fair area which closed in 2007.Z Force was relocated to Six Flags Over Georgia as part of Six Flags' (now discontinued) Ride Rotation Program. At the end of 1991, the ride went to Six Flags Magic Mountain, where it operated as Flashback before being demolished in 2007.
Power Dive was added in 1987 to take over the spot where The Edge had stood. Power Dive was an Intamin Looping Starship ride; it swung back and forth before eventually rotating a complete 360 degrees a few times. It was eventually removed at the end of the 2002 season due to maintenance issues.
Wesray era (1987–1991)
Many programs and quick acquisitions attempted in the mid-1980s were a failure, and Bally looked to sell the company. In 1987, the company was purchased by Wesray Capital Corporation and a group of Six Flags managers. Several acquisitions were re-sold or closed while a focus was returned to attractions. This ushered in an era of new major attractions at the park and a transformation of focus from the park's themes to its roller coasters.
Most of the original themed staff costumes began to be retired at this point in favor of more modern unisex garments more akin to uniforms — basic short sleeve shirts with slacks or walking shorts during the warmer months. Some of the costumes survived longer than others, with the Yankee Harbor striped crew shirts and clamdigger pants being retired last. Also the restaurants became more aligned and offered basic fast food cuisine and lost the dishes that were unique to individual themed areas. While a few specialty restaurants survived, almost all were abandoned in favor of cheaper, mass-produced food items. Similarly, merchandise throughout the park became homogenized at this point as well.
1988 saw the first of the new coasters with the addition of the massive roller coaster Shock Wave (sometimes also written as Shockwave or ShockWave), an Arrow Dynamics mega-looper, opening in the Orleans Place section of the park on June 3, 1988. Shock Wave was the world's tallest roller coaster at the time it opened (and held it for one year before Magnum XL-200 was built at Cedar Point) and featured seven inversions — the most on any coaster at that time. Shock Wave stood on the site now occupied by Superman: Ultimate Flight. White Water Rampage was renamed Roaring Rapids.
Rolling Thunder, an Intamin Bobsled roller coaster, was added for 1989 after having been relocated from Six Flags Great Adventure, where it operated as Sarajevo Bobsled from 1984 to 1988. It was built between Demon and Whizzer. Rolling Thunder was taken down prior to construction of Southwest Territory. The ride was stored in the back parking lot (between American Eagle and Washington Street) from 1996 to 1997 before being relocated to The Great Escape in New York, where it continues to operate as Alpine Bobsled.
Iron Wolf which is now Apocalypse in Washington D.C, a stand-up coaster, opened April 28, 1990, and was Bolliger & Mabillard's first-ever roller coaster. The company has since become one of those most prolific roller coaster manufacturers, later creating four other coasters for Great America: (Batman: The Ride, Raging Bull, Superman: Ultimate Flight, and X-Flight). Iron Wolf was a compact steel stand-up roller coaster that took over Z-Force's spot in County Fair.
The Condor took to the skies in 1991 in Orleans Place next to Shock Wave, the IMAX screen in the Pictorium was upgraded to allow 650 people to view 3D movies, and fans said goodbye to Tidal Wave at the end of the season. It was relocated to Six Flags over Georgia where it operated as Viper from 1995 to 2001. Tidal Wave last operated as Greezed Lightnin' from 2003 to 2009 at Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville, Kentucky, before Six Flags decided in February 2010 to close the park. Kentucky Kingdom reopened in May 2014 without Greezed Lightnin' as, Lightning Run is in its place.
Warner Brothers era (1992–1997)
The major attractions did not come without their cost, and by 1991 Six Flags was close to bankruptcy. Warner Brothers, a major influence at Great America since the beginning with the featuring of Looney Tunes characters, and a minority owner in the company, purchased an additional share of the company for a controlling interest of 50 percent. The entrance of the entertainment and communications conglomerate gave the company not only a much-needed influx of new capital, but a chance for increased usage of the Warner cartoon characters as well. With the purchase came additional prominence of Time-Warner properties.
The first of these occurred in 1992 when the historic Batman: The Ride was built, a first-of-its-kind B&M inverted roller coaster to replace Tidal Wave. Batman was unlike any other roller coaster at the time; its outside-looping trains rode below the track and took riders upside-down five times. It was a very tightly squeezed ride but was so popular that lines stretched past East River Crawler (formerly The Lobster, the new name in accordance with a re-theming of the area around Batman), through the bridge to Yankee Harbor, and all the way back to the bridge near Power Dive (across from Shock Wave). On June 20, 2005, Batman was awarded landmark status by the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) at their annual convention, Coaster Con XXVIII. To add to the Batman theme, the park's swing ride, Whirligig, was renamed Gotham City Swinger. However, this lasted only for the 1992 season, with the original name returning in 1993.
The Batman Stunt Show opened in 1993 in a brand-new amphitheater located past Demon; the amphitheater currently houses the Starburst Summer Concert series.
Space Shuttle America, a motion simulator ride, was built in 1994 near Sky Trek Tower. "Shuttle" re-created the inter-planetary escapade provided via "Space Shuttle America." Since its introduction, Space Shuttle America has been home to four different films: Space Shuttle America, Escape from Dino Island 2 - 3:D, Stargate - SG:3000, and Superstition during the yearly Fright Fest Event. The original Space Shuttle America film returned for the 2006 season. As of December 17, 2009, the Space Shuttle America building and Space Shuttle themed facade have been removed.
In 1995, Viper, a wooden roller coaster with a layout based on a mirror image of the Coney Island Cyclone, was built next to Rolling Thunder, which was removed later that year. Although significantly smaller in stature than American Eagle, this twister-style coaster features many more instances of negative gravity, or "airtime," during the ride.
In September 1995, Rolling Thunder was removed to make way for the new themed area "Southwest Territory," which opened in 1996. The new western-themed area was originally proposed in 1976 but took nearly twenty years to resurface. Ironically the sky ride "Southern Cross," which was specifically designed to transport guests to this area, had long since been removed by the time this section of the park was developed. Three new rides (River Rocker, Chubasco, and TrailBlazer) were added, while Big Top was moved in from County Fair and renamed Ricochet, opening in 1996. Rolling Thunder was removed from its location next to Viper for the construction of this area and currently operates at Great Escape in New York as Alpine Bobsled. Viper's entrance was moved from Hometown Square to Southwest Territory.
Also in 1996, the Batman Stunt Show was replaced by The Warner Bros' Western Stunt Show. This show followed the misadventures of three outlaws as they tangled with characters from the Maverick movie, Blazing Saddles, and F Troop. The Western Stunt Show ran for three seasons and was replaced in 1999 by the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Stunt Show.
Giant Drop, an Intamin second-generation drop tower, and Dare Devil Dive, a skycoaster, were added in 1997. Giant Drop was placed on the southwest side of Southwest Territory, and Dare Devil Dive was added in Big Top's former location in County Fair. In August 1997, a hitch bar connecting the third and fourth cars on the blue side of the American Eagle roller coaster separated as the ride was braking, causing the rear two cars to bump into the front three cars. Several people were sent to local area hospitals. The ride re-opened in time for Fright Fest.
Premier Parks era (1998–2005)
Time-Warner sold its stake in Six Flags in 1995, and in 1998 Premier Parks had its IPO and became the parent company of Six Flags. Premier Parks opted to follow the trend set by Bally's and began acquiring more properties.
1998 saw many family-friendly additions. Yukon Territory welcomed Camp Cartoon Network, with five new rides, including Spacely's Sprocket Rockets (a Vekoma junior roller coaster), Scooby Doo's Mystery Machine, Yogi's Yahoo River, Rocky Road's Rescue Service, and Bedrock Boulder Roller. Bugs Bunny Land was renamed Looney Tunes National Park and included the Looney Tooter Choo Choo Train, the Waddaview Charter, Porky's Buzzy Beez, Petunia's Lady Bugz, Looney Tunes Lodge Foam Ball Factory, Pepe Le Pew's Peak, and the Nature Trail. An accident occurred on Demon, stranding 23 passengers upside-down on the black train for nearly three hours.
1999 saw Bolliger & Mabillard return to construct Raging Bull, a hyper-twister roller coaster. This 202-foot (62 m)- high, 73 mph (117 km/h), and 5,057-foot (1,541 m)-long ride immediately changed the Great America skyline forever, quickly becoming one of the most popular attractions at the park.
Great America celebrated its silver (25th) season in 2000. This was the last year for the much-loved Sky Whirl, as well as the Hay Baler ride. An accident involving a guest occurred on the Cajun Cliffhanger ride, which caused its eventual removal.
In 2001, Great America added two new roller coasters. First was an Intamin impulse coaster named Vertical Velocity, or V2. Riders are launched at speeds over 70 mph (112 km/h) up a twisted vertical tower, then fall backward and climb up another straight tower. The ride repeats, but on the second time up the back tower, riders are held facing straight down for a moment before being released. The ride was added to Yankee Harbor, and the swing ride Whirligig was moved closer to the lift hill of Batman: The Ride to make room for the coaster. Vertical Velocity continues to be one of the park's most popular attractions. The park's second ride for 2001 was Déjà Vu, a Vekoma Giant Inverted Boomerang ride to replace Sky Whirl and Hay Baler. On Déjà Vu, the riders were pulled backwards up a vertical tower and dropped through the station and into a cobra roll inversion, followed by a loop over the station and up another vertical tower. After being pulled up a bit more, the ride then repeated the course in reverse. The ride did not debut until October 7 that year due to mechanical and design issues, causing a public relations nightmare for Six Flags, including being threatened with lawsuits regarding false advertisement of the opening date of the ride. Déjà Vu continued to be problematic maintenance-wise, with guests frequently finding it closed. Due to increasing operating costs, Six Flags announced in 2007 that the Déjà Vu coasters at this park and Six Flags Over Georgia were going to be removed for the 2008 season.
2002 was a quiet year for the park. The highlight was the announcement that American Eagle would once again run the blue side backward. (The configuration of Forwards Red and Backwards Blue would stay put until the end of the 2005 season and then put back again in the 2011 season.) The park's original Imax film "To Fly" was once again shown in the Pictorium. In June and July, rumors that the park was planning to remove Whizzer surfaced. These proved to be true, as the park put a banner on the ride's entrance sign informing guests that the final ride would be on Sunday, August 11. However, on August 3, the park announced that due to public outcry, they would keep Whizzer. It was soon decided that Shock Wave would now be the coaster to be removed for a new attraction to open in 2003. Major additions to the entertainment department included brand-new parade floats. Power Dive was removed due to maintenance problems.
In 2003, Bolliger & Mabillard built Superman: Ultimate Flight on the plot of land where Shock Wave originally stood and was the Midwest's second flying roller coaster (the first was X-Flight at Geauga Lake). While the layout of the ride was not original, the unique flying position continues to be a hit among guests. The parking lot on which Shock Wave had stood was replaced with a more lush, landscaped look for Superman: Ultimate Flight. The historic Ameri-Go-Round in County Fair was removed at the end of the season.
The area between where Power Dive and Cajun Cliffhanger had stood was transformed into Mardi Gras for 2004. The wild-mouse roller coaster Ragin' Cajun was added, along with a HUSS Top-Spin model named King Chaos, Zamperla Rockin' Tug named Jester's Wild Ride, and a Zamperla Balloon Race named Big Easy Balloons. Also, a HUSS Frisbee named Revolution was taken from Six Flags Great Adventure and opened in County Fair, replacing Ameri-Go-Round. Batman: The Ride was repainted for the 2004 season, going from black track and supports to yellow track with dark purple supports. Vertical Velocity received additional support structures on both its forward and rearward spikes. After sitting (and rusting) on a hill unused since 2002, the dismantled pieces of Shock Wave were finally scrapped at the end of the 2004 season.
In 2005, Six Flags Great America built its own Hurricane Harbor water park. The new 13-acre (53,000 m2) water park, located on the former site of a parking lot adjacent to Viper and Raging Bull, features attractions such as Hurricane Bay (the 500,000-gallon wave pool), Bahama Mama and Bubba Tubba (two family slides), and many more. The new water park was a success and boosted attendance by 24% in 2005. In 2006, a new "Tornado" water slide was opened, although to some scandal, as reports surfaced of rider injuries early in the 2006 season.
Great America celebrated its 30th anniversary (the beginning of its 31st season) on May 29, 2006.
Shapiro era (2006–2010)
In December 2005, stockholders approved a plan offered by Daniel Snyder to take over management of the Six Flags chain, who appointed former ESPN employee Mark Shapiro as CEO of Six Flags. Shapiro began to change the parks to give them a more family-friendly environment. These changes were very visible in the 2006 season. The classic Triple Play ride was dismantled prior to the start of the season because Six Flags Over Texas had received a similar HUSS Troika that was damaged during the hasty demolition of AstroWorld and needed a part from the Great America ride. Triple Play did, in fact, return for 2007.
The film Space Shuttle America returned in 2006. The previous film, Stargate SG-3000, had its last showings in September 2005, when the contract with MGM expired. Superstition returned for Fright Fest 2005, followed by Space Shuttle America in spring 2006.
Also in 2006, the blue trains on American Eagle were turned forward again.
On 14 September 2006, Six Flags announced it would replace its sign that sits along Interstate 94. The sign, which had been standing since the park opened in 1976, was replaced with a smaller one featuring an LED screen. The new sign went up within a week after the old one was taken down in December 2006 and uses the old sign's post.
Revolution sat dormant for most of the season. It reopened on October 20 after being down the whole season due to maintenance problems with rides of similar types at other parks.
In November 2006, Six Flags announced a new stunt show for 2007, "Operation SpyGirl," a new original live-action adventure show from the creators of Fox's hit television show 24. Operation SpyGirl opened in May 2007. Reception was subdued, but after tweaking it the entire season, crowds got larger and larger until it closed for the year in August. Operation SpyGirl marked several new ventures for Six Flags, including pre-show entertainment in the waiting area — setting up the storyline that the evil archvillain Max Condor had stolen the "Super Viper Rocket" from the agency for which Spygirl works — as well as a merchandise cart outside selling "SpyGirl" themed merchandise. Spygirl was not popular, however, and did not return for 2008.
In January 2007, it was announced that the American Eagle tent area would be converted into Wiggles World, a third children's area themed after the kid sensation the Wiggles. Wiggles World featured five new rides, Henry's Splash Fountain, the USS Feathersword Play Area, the Yummy Yummy Cafe, and the Get Ready to Wiggle Stage show. The area was a revolution for the back of the park, converting the musty dark tent area into an explosion of color. American Eagle's entrance was relocated to the right of the tent, utilizing part of the entrance building for the adjacent Dare Devil Dive skycoaster, to accommodate the Wiggles area. Wiggles World was considered a success almost immediately.
Also in 2007, the FlashPass system switched from the punch card format to the electronic Lo-Q format and renamed "The Flash Pass" after the DC Comics character. The system is a virtual queuing system that allows customers to wait in a virtual line for an additional fee, thereby allowing them to engage in other activities while they wait. It was offered for: Batman: The Ride, The Dark Knight Coaster, Demon, Fiddler's Fling, Giant Drop, King Chaos, Logger's Run, Raging Bull, Roaring Rapids, Rue Le Dodge, Superman: Ultimate Fight, Vertical Velocity, Viper, and Whizzer.
As part of the new focus on entertainment, several new shows debuted in 2007. "Spirit of America" is similar to the shows preceding the nighttime parades. Positioned near the reflection pond, Spirit of America is a musical welcome to the park. "Show Stoppin'" debuted in the Grand Music Hall as the first fully in-house production in years, utilizing the "Six Flags Great America Singers and Dancers" as they presented pop hits including "Hit me up," "Listen," "Candyman," and many more.
In August 2007 the 20-year-old Splashwater Falls closed early and was removed in March 2008. On 27 September 2007, Six Flags announced the addition of The Dark Knight Coaster, a Mack wild mouse roller coaster. The ride is located indoors, mostly in the dark, and themed with Batman and The Joker scenery. The Dark Knight Coaster's queue utilizes portions of the old Theater Royale. The ride was constructed in promotion of The Dark Knight, and its preshow features Aaron Eckhart reprising his role as Harvey Dent from the film.
Other 2008 improvements included the addition of a second Johnny Rockets (replacing the Bayou Grill in Mardi Gras), and a second Cold Stone Creamery across from Crazy Buffalo Saloon (renamed Crazy Buffet-lo) in Southwest Territory. Raging Bull was repainted the same colors. There are now mandatory lockers at: Superman: Ultimate Flight, The Dark Knight Coaster, Batman: The Ride, Iron Wolf, American Eagle, and Raging Bull. In 2009, these lockers were also added to Demon, Viper, and Vertical Velocity. These lockers have a $1 cost and are required to be used by guests with loose articles, as there is no longer storage for such articles on the ride platform. As of the 2011 operating season, these lockers were no longer required to store loose articles—but they are still strongly recommended to prevent loss of items and theft.
For 2009, Six Flags announced the addition of Buccaneer Battle, a MACK Rides Interactive Freeflow Boat Ride. The ride is located in County Fair on the former site of Déjà Vu. The ride consists of 14 eight-passenger boats navigating a channel 450 ft (140 m) long. During the ride, there are numerous interactive water elements. The park also added a third, smaller Johnny Rockets, replacing Demon Nachos. This location only serves fries and shakes. Sign changes were made for Raging Bull, Roaring Rapids, and Hometown Fun Machine, making them more noticeable.
Weber/Anderson Era (2010–present)
Six Flags officially emerged from bankruptcy protection on May 3, 2010, and announced plans to issue new stock on the New York Stock Exchange. Amid suspected disagreements regarding the future of the company with the board, Shapiro left the company and Al Weber, Jr. was brought in as interim President and CEO. Six Flags announced that Jim Reid-Anderson would replace Weber and become Chairman, President, and CEO on August 13, 2010.
The park installed the Little Dipper, a "kiddie" wooden roller coaster that had previously operated at Kiddieland Amusement Park in Melrose Park, Illinois, from 1950 until 2009. It was placed outside Bugs Bunny National Park and opened to the public on May 27, 2010.
MagiQuest was added to the County Fair Games Gallery in place of the Wii Experience.
Space Shuttle America, the park's motion simulator ride that had been closed for two years, was removed during the 2010 season. On May 26, 2010, Great America filed a petition with the Village of Gurnee seeking to exceed the village's 125 feet (38.10 m) height limit. Six Flags was considering installing the Chang roller coaster from a closed Six Flags park in Kentucky on the vacated site. However, the park confirmed it was abandoning those plans in July 2010 and announced a 3-acre (12,140.57 m2; 130,680.00 sq ft) expansion of its Hurricane Harbor water park called Riptide Bay on September 2, 2010. In late 2010, Six Flags began removing licenses from concessions and attractions including those of Papa John's and The Wiggles. As a result, Wiggles World was renamed and re-themed as KIDZOPOLIS for the 2011 season, and Papa John's was replaced by Famous Famiglia Pizzeria. MagiQuest was removed due to a lack of popularity, and Great America Raceway, which opened in 1976, was closed and in the process of being removed.
During the 2011 season (the park's 35th anniversary and 36th season), the park screened a show called Screams and Dreams: Volume 1 in the Pictorium. The 30-minute program detailed the history of Great America from its construction to its acquisition by Six Flags. Volume 2 of the series was screened for the 2012 season and included the period from the construction of Z-Force in 1985 until the construction of Raging Bull in 1999. Volume 3 of the series was screened for the 2013 season and included the period from the construction of Vertical Velocity (V2) in 2001 until the construction of X-Flight in 2012.
On August 5, 2011, Six Flags Great America informally announced on their official Facebook page that the Iron Wolf roller coaster would be closing on September 5, 2011; "After a long 21-year history at the park, we will be removing Iron Wolf. Make sure to get your last rides in – Iron Wolf’s Last Stand is September 5." The coaster has moved to Six Flags America, now known as "Apocalypse."
Six Flags announced on September 1, 2011, that they would add a revolutionary Wing Coaster that would feature 5 inversions, a 12-story drop, and speeds of up to 55 mph. "X-Flight" was the second roller coaster of its type to debut in North America and only the fourth in the entire world. The ride officially opened to the public on May 16, 2012. The ride is located in the park's County Fair section, on the former site of Splashwater Falls and parts of Great America Raceway. The East River Crawler flat ride in Yankee Harbor was closed for the 2012 season to be refurbished.
2013 brought IgNight — Grand Finale to the park. IgNight replaced the Glow in the Park parade as Great America's nighttime entertainment. The show officially premiered on June 15, 2013 in Hometown Square, directly in front of the scenic railway's Hometown Station. The spot in County Fair, previously home of Iron Wolf, remained empty with the addition of the County Fair Stage in front of the old station. Batman: The Ride ran backwards from opening day until July 7, 2013. Viper ran backwards from June 24 until September 2, and American Eagle ran the Blue Train backwards starting August 31.
On August 29, 2013, Six Flags officially announced the addition of Goliath, a 165-foot-tall (50 m) wooden roller coaster for the 2014 season. Goliath will feature two inversions and occupy the area where Iron Wolf was formerly located. The roller coaster will also take three world records including the steepest drop, fastest speed, and longest drop on any wooden roller coaster. Also after the 2013 season Ragin' Cajun closed and will be relocated to Six Flags America for the 2014 season.
It was announced in fall 2014 three kiddie rides would be reinstalled in the park for the 2015 season along with a festival of the park's history.
Weekends in October, Six Flags Great America features its annual Halloween event Fright Fest. The event started small in the early nineties, and has expanded significantly since then. During the event the entire park goes under the knife to be decorated into several different “Scare Zones” featuring haunted houses, frightening street characters, Halloween themed shows, as well as transformed rides.
The event features several haunts for an additional fee as well. The Mausoleum of Terror, located inside a special scare zone called Necropolis, has been with the event for many years, while the other haunts change every few years with past themes including Sleepy Hollow, a “dead” and breakfast, and a horror movie house called Studio 13. Past haunted trails have included an industrial area taken over by Demons, Area 51, and a Fallen Giant.
One of the most unique things about the event compared to other parks’ Halloween events is the transformed rides. Many of the park’s rides receive special theming, notably Chubasco - the park’s teacup ride transformed into Terror Twister 2: A turn for the worse, in which the ride building is enclosed and a custom lighting design matched with a custom club style music mix is played. Also of note, Condor, Revolution, and King Chaos some of the park’s more thrilling flat rides actually run different cycles during the event and are known as The Birds, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Dying Trapeze respectively.
Another facet of the event is the shows. Love at First Fright has been presented in the Grand Music Hall every year since the events inception and follows the story of a couple on a dare to spend the night in a cemetery who get caught up in crazy antics when several classic Halloween creatures rise from the grave. The show is extremely popular often playing to capacity audiences during the event, and it is known for changing the show up each year to include various pop culture and newsworthy references. Other shows include Dead Man’s Party, Fantome, a parade featuring all the park’s various creatures, and Susan Rosan - a popular hypnotist who has been with the event for many years.
For several years a third party called JPM Productions provided street characters and haunted house actors for the event. While the company was praised for its costumes and makeup, in 2010 Six Flags moved the entire production in-house for greater creative control.
Areas and attractions
Entrance area to the park. There are shops and restaurants themed to the area. In Carousel Souvenirs, guests can see a 1978 model of Marriott's Great America.
|Columbia Carousel||1976||Chance Rides||Double-decker carousel, horses by Bradley & Kaye||Mild|
|Sky Trek Tower||1977||Intamin||330 ft (100 m) gyro tower 1200. On a clear day the Chicago skyline can be seen from the top of the tower.||Mild|
County Fair is one of the largest sections of the park. There are many shops, stalls, and attractions themed to a fair. There are four roller coasters in this section: American Eagle, a wooden racing roller coaster built in 1981; Goliath, a record breaking wooden roller coaster built by Rocky Mountain Construction, opened in 2014 on the former site of Iron Wolf; The Demon, a 1976 Arrow Dynamics looping coaster, and X-Flight, a Bolliger & Mabillard wing coaster.
|Demon||1976 (as Turn of the Century)||Arrow Dynamics||Riders are turned upside-down four times through two loops and two (clockwise) corkscrews. Originally known as Turn of the Century from 1976 to 1980.||Max|
|X Flight||2012||Bolliger & Mabillard||The first announced Wing Coaster to be built in the United States||Max|
|Goliath||2014||Rocky Mountain Construction||The world's fastest and steepest wooden coaster featuring the tallest wooden coaster drop||Max|
|Buccaneer Battle||2009||Mack||Located on the former site of Deja Vu, 14 eight-passenger boats navigate a 450 ft (140 m) channel featuring interactive targets and water effects||Mild|
|American Eagle||1981||Intamin||Prepare to drop 147 feet at 66 mph on the world's tallest, fastest, and longest wooden racing coaster.||Max|
|Dare Devil Dive||1997||Skycoaster||Take a flying leap from 125 feet in the air. Note: Additional fee required.||Max|
|Revolution||2004||Huss Rides||Frisbee attraction.||Max|
|Fiddler’s Fling||1976||Anton Schwarzkopf||Calypso 3 attraction.||Moderate|
|Great America Scenic Railway||1976||Custom Fabricators, Inc.||3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge train ride through the park. Also has a station in the Hometown Square section of the park.||Mild|
- This area is a sub-section of County Fair. It was added new in the 2007 season. This section was originally named Wiggles World and themed to The Wiggles through the 2010 season.
Ride Year opened Manufacturer
Description Rating ZoomJets 2007 Zamperla (Aero Top Jet) originally named Big Red Planes Mild Bouncer 2007 Zamperla (Jumpin' Star) originally named Bouncin' With Wags Mild Up, Up & Away 2007 Zamperla (Samba Tower) originally named Yummy Yummy Fruit Salad Mild Splish Splash Zone 2007 Pop Jet Fountain, originally named Henry's Splish Splash Mild Krazy Kars 2007 Zamperla (Convoy) originally named Big Red Cars Mild Krazy Kups 2007 Zamperla (Mini Tea Cup) originally named Dorothy's Rosy Tea Cups Mild Pirate's Playship 2007 Interactive Play Ship with nets and slides, originally named SS. Feathersword Note: Does not appear on ride list on current park map. In other parks, it is a part of Splish Splash Zone.
One of the park's original areas. Guests walk through many shops and stalls, and can ride many classic carnival-style rides. A popular attraction is the Whizzer, a Schwarzkopf spiral-lift coaster that is one of the last of its kind in the world.
|Triple Play||1976||HUSS Rides||Troika||Moderate|
|Hometown Fun Machine||1976||Eli Bridge||Scrambler. Opened in 1976 as Saskatchewan Scrambler in Yukon Territory. Relocated to Hometown Square as Hometown Fun Machine c. 1977.||Moderate|
|The Orbit||1976||Anton Schwarzkopf||Enterprise attraction. Opened in 1976 as Orleans Orbit in Orleans Place.||Moderate|
|Whizzer||1976||Anton Schwarzkopf||This Classic ACE Coaster Landmark is one of the last "Speedracer" coaster models ever built.||Moderate|
|Great America Scenic Railway||1976||Custom Fabricators, Inc.||3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge train ride through the park. Also has a station in the County Fair section of the park.||Mild|
- This area is a sub-section of Hometown Square. This section previously existed from the park's opening in 1976 until the rides were removed after the 2001 season. In 2015, three of the original rides are returning as part of the park's 40th season celebration.
Ride Year opened Manufacturer
Rating Lady Bugs 1976 Mild Red Baron 1976 Mild Tots Livery Surrey Carriages 1976 Hampton Mild
One of the park's newest themed areas. Much of the area is themed the classic annual New Orleans celebration. The most popular attraction is King Chaos, a HUSS top spin.
|Roaring Rapids||1984||Intamin||River rapids ride location formerly hosted Traffique Jam (an antique car ride) through the 1982 season.||Moderate|
|King Chaos||2004||Huss Rides||Top Spin attraction located on former footprint of both "The Edge" (Intamin 1st generation Free-Fall ride), and PowerDive (looping starship), which took its place.||Max|
|Big Easy Balloons||2004||Zamperla
|Twirling balloon ride.||Mild|
|The Jester’s Wild Ride||2004||Zamperla
|A gentle rocking and rotating adventure.||Mild|
Orleans Place is themed around 1800s New Orleans. Guests can fly on Superman: Ultimate Flight, a Bolliger & Mabillard flying coaster that flies through 2 inversions. A popular family attraction is The Dark Knight Coaster, a MACK rides indoor wild mouse that is themed around the popular film The Dark Knight. A popular attraction is Condor, a HUSS condor attraction. Rue Le Dodge is a Soli bumper car ride which has one of the largest bumper car floors in the world.
|Condor||1991||Huss Rides||Condor attraction. Opened in 1991. Relocated from Six Flags Great Adventure.||Moderate|
|The Dark Knight||2008||Mack Rides||A Wild Mouse coaster where riders dip, turn, and dive within the confined darkness of an enclosed building.||Moderate|
|Superman: Ultimate Flight||2003||Bolliger & Mabillard||Suspended beneath a steel track, riders experience banked turns, 2 inversions and sweeping drops at 60 miles per hour while harnessed in a prone flying position.||Max|
|Rue Le Dodge||1976||Soli||Bumper Cars||Moderate|
Themed around an old wild west town. There are many shops and games themed to the wild west. Raging Bull, a Bolliger & Mabillard hyper coaster, is one of the park's most popular attractions. Viper, a wooden roller coaster based off the infamous Coney Island Cyclone, is also in Southwest Territory. Giant Drop, an Intamin drop ride, is also a popular attraction.
|Raging Bull||1999||Bolliger & Mabillard||Rise 202 feet before dropping 208 feet at 73 mph on the world's first Hyper-Twister Coaster.||Max|
|Viper||1995||Six Flags||Modeled after the world famous "Cyclone" roller coaster.||Max|
|Giant Drop||1997||Intamin||227 ft (69 m) tall gravity-driven descending thrill ride.||Max|
|Chubasco||1996||Zamperla||Spinning tea cup attraction.||Moderate|
|Ricochet||1977||Huss Rides||Swing Around attraction originally named Big Top and located in County Fair until moved in 1996. Former location is currently Dare Devil Dive.||Moderate|
|River Rocker||1996||Zamperla||Swinging ship ride||Moderate|
Yankee Harbor is themed around a harbor. A guest favorite is Batman: The Ride, which is the world's first suspended looping coaster, travels through 5 inversions at high speeds. V2: Vertical Velocity, an Intamin inverted impulse coaster, is also located in Yankee Harbor. Yankee Clipper is an Arrow Dynamics flume, but is constantly broken down and not running, and some guests say it should be removed, even though that is very unlikely.
|Vertical Velocity||2001||Intamin||Floorless coaches suspended beneath an overhead track traverse the track forward and in reverse. Launches riders 0-70MPH in less than 4 seconds.||Max|
|Whirligig||1976||Zierer||Swing ride Wave Swinger attraction. Originally located on the Iron Wolf site, also operated where Vertical Velocity is.||Moderate|
|Yankee Clipper||1976||Arrow Dynamics||Water ride with twin flumes.||Moderate|
|East River Crawler||1976||Anton Schwarzkopf (Monster III)||Opened in 1976 as "The Lobster." Renamed and repainted in 1992 for the opening of the new Batman: The Ride. East River Crawler was removed for refurbishment for the 2012 season and has returned to service on 7/5/2013.||Max|
|Batman: The Ride||1992||Bolliger & Mabillard||This Ace Landmark Coaster is the world's first inverted, outside looping coaster. Drop from 109 feet at 50 mph through 5 inversions.||Max|
This area is themed around the famous forests and mountains in northwest Canada. Logger's Run, an Arrow Dynamics log flume, is one of the section's most popular attractions.
|Winner’s Circle Go Karts||2011||These go carts originally opened in 1999 in Carousel Plaza. The go karts were relocated to Yukon Territory in 2011 in the former site of Bugs Bunny National Park to make way for Riptide Bay. Note: Additional fee required.||Moderate|
|Little Dipper||2010||Philadelphia Toboggan Company||Built in 1950, this junior coaster has been honored with the "Ace Coaster Classic" Award. This coaster was purchased by Six Flags Great America from Kiddieland Amusement Park in 2009. Six Flags Great America opened "Little Dipper" in 2010 as the park's 14th coaster.||Mild|
|Logger’s Run||1976||Arrow Dynamics||Water attraction with twin flumes.||Moderate|
- This is a sub-section of Yukon Territory. It was formerly known as Camp Cartoon Network when added new in 1998.
Ride Picture Year opened Manufacturer
Description Rating Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine 1998 Zamperla
Mild Yogi’s Yahoo River 1998 Allan Herschell Herschell kiddie ride Mild Spacely's Sprocket Rockets 1998 Vekoma Junior roller coaster. Mild Bedrock Boulder Roller 1998 Zamperla Kiddie Ferris wheel, formerly located at the now defunct Six Flags Astroworld. Flintstones - Rocky Road Rescue Service 1998 Hampton Rides
The water park adjacent to the park. Guests have access to the water park through Southwest Territory. Guests without a season pass must pay a separate admission fee to enter the water park.
|Wahoo Racer||2005||Proslide Technology Inc.||6 lane "OctopusRacer"||Moderate|
|Hurricane Bay||2005||Aquatic Development Group Inc.||WaveTek wave pool||Moderate|
|Hurricane Mountain||2005||Proslide Technology Inc.||“Pipeline” - 4 tube slides||Mild|
|Tornado||2006||Proslide Technology Inc.
|Funnel shaped tube slide that uses four person “cloverleaf.”||Max|
|Buccaneer Bay||2005||Kiddie area||Mild|
|Surf Rider||2011||Surf simulator featuring 5-foot (1.5 m) waves with speeds up to 30 mph (48 km/h)||Moderate|
|Castaway Creek||2005||Lazy river||Mild|
|Mega Wedgie||2011||A pair of ProSlide Plummets featuring 50-foot (15 m) drops and a top speed of 40 mph (64 km/h).||Max|
|Monsoon Lagoon||2011||A 14,000-square-foot (1,300 m2) pool featuring two play elements, a waterfall, and seven spray columns||Mild|
|Paradise Plunge and Riptide||2005||Proslide Technology Inc.||2 separate "Turbo Tunnels" - speed slides||Max|
|Dive Bomber||2011||A pair of ProSlide Superloops featuring a 50-foot (15 m) drop and a top speed of 40 mph (64 km/h) through horizontal loops while sliding through transparent tubes.||Max|
|Vortex and Typhoon||2005||Proslide Technology Inc.||2 separate "CannonBowls" slides||Moderate|
|Wipeout||2011||A ProSlide Tantrum featuring a 35-foot (11 m) drop and two funnels.||Max|
|Skull Island||2005||Proslide Technology Inc.||SCS Interactive Discovery Treehouse/WaterColors with slides||Mild|
|Bahama Mama and Bubba Tubba||2005||Proslide Technology Inc.||2 separate “Mammoths” - family raft rides||Moderate|
|Riptide Bay||2011||This 3-acre (12,000 m2) area features a double-sided surf simulator, a Caribbean-inspired activity pool, 5 thrilling new waterslides, luxury cabanas and more.||Moderate|
|Hammerhead and Barracuda||2005||Proslide Technology Inc.||2 separate "Atomic Coasters" - tube slides||Max|
Marriott also opened a sister park 9 days earlier in 1976 in Santa Clara, California with nearly identical attractions and layout. The Santa Clara park was purchased originally by Taft Broadcasting/KECO in 1985 and renamed as Great America. Then in 1992 it was purchased by the Paramount Park Group and was known as Paramount's Great America from 1993 until in 2006, when Paramount Entertainment decided to sell its amusement parks, wherein the Santa Clara park became the property of Cedar Fair Entertainment Company. The park is now called California's Great America.
Ragin' Cajun: A Zamperla/Reverchon Spinning Wild Mouse coaster that opened in 2004. The ride was removed at the end of the 2013 season and has been relocated to Six Flags America for the 2014 season.
Iron Wolf: Opened in 1990 as the world's tallest and fastest stand-up coaster. This was Bolliger and Mabillard's first roller coaster. The ride closed in September 2011, and it now operates as Apocalypse at Six Flags America. It opened in 2012.
Déjà Vu: A Vekoma Giant Inverted Boomerang that opened along with V2 in 2001. Due to maintenance problems, the ride was removed at the end of the 2007 season. The ride now operates at Silverwood Theme Park where it is now known as Aftershock. It opened in 2008.
Shock Wave: An Arrow Dynamics mega looper that broke many records. This coaster was the "Tallest and Fastest looping coaster in the world." The coaster was also the first to break 7 Inversions, and had the highest inversion in the world that stood 136 feet high. In 2002, Six Flags Great America announced they would remove Whizzer from the park to prepare for Superman: Ultimate Flight, however a large public outcry caused the park to have Superman: Ultimate Flight replace Shock Wave instead. The ride was officially scrapped in 2004.
Z Force: An Intamin space diver which opened in 1985. The ride was relocated to Six Flags Over Georgia in 1988, and then relocated again to Six Flags Magic Mountain in 1991. The ride stayed at Magic Mountain before being closed and scrapped in 2007.
Tidal Wave: A Schwarzkopf shuttle loop that debuted in 1978. In 1995, the ride was relocated to Six Flags Over Georgia where it operated as Viper from 1995 to 2001. It was then relocated to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom where it operated as Greezed Lightnin' from 2001 to 2009. When Kentucky Kingdom closed in 2010, the ride stood SBNO from 2010 to 2013. The ride was finally dismantled and scrapped in 2013.
Gulf Coaster: A small children's coaster that lasted only one year due to unpopularity and a small fire. The ride was scrapped at the end of the park's first season.
Rolling Thunder: An Intamin bobsled coaster that originally stood at Six Flags Great Adventure from 1984 to 1988. It operated at Great America from 1989 to 1995. It reopened as Alpine Bobsled at The Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdom in 1997 where it continues to operate to this day.
Appearances in media
- Iron Wolf was featured in the movie Richie Rich.
- On August 26, 2009, the park was featured on Dinner Impossible.
- In a July 2011 episode of the soap opera The Young and the Restless, Jack Abbot offers to take his son and his baseball team to the park after pitching a no-hitter.
- In the late 1970s, the park, then owned by Marriott, was featured in a television special starring actress Lisa Hartman.
- In 1977, the park's circus show, Circus Fantastic, had one of its performances broadcast on Captain Kangaroo with Captain Kangaroo (Bob Keeshan) himself as the ringmaster and special guest star Bob Denver of Gilligan's Island fame.
- In 2013, the park was featured in the Hindi movie Dhoom: 3.
- Six Flags Great America - History
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- Misce-Looney-ous: Bugs Bunny's Las Vegas Review
- "GULF COASTER at Marriott's GREAT AMERICA parks". Great America Parks. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
- Big Movie Zone - Six Flags Great America Pictorium
- "Reference for Business - Six Flags Theme Parks, Inc.". Retrieved 23 September 2011.
- "Six Flags Great America (Timeline)". Roller Coaster Database (rcdb). Retrieved 13 September 2010.
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- "James Reid-Anderson Named Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Six Flags Entertainment Corporation". PR Newswire. 13 August 2010. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
- "Six Flags Great America Introduces "Glow In The Park" - A New Nighttime Parade". Six Flags Entertainment Corporation. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
- Filas, Lee (27 May 2010). "Kiddieland classic coaster finds new life at Great America". Daily Herald. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
- "MagiQuest". Six Flags Entertainment Corporation. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
- Filas, Lee (17 June 2010). "Six Flags seeks OK for super-sized coaster". Daily Herald. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
- Susnjara, Bob (9 July 2010). "Six Flags pulls plans for new roller coaster". Daily Herald. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
- Susnjara, Bob (2 September 2010). "Great America plans to expand water park". Daily Herald. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
- MacDonald, Brady (25 November 2010). "Six Flags amusement parks prepare for thematic makeovers". LA Times. Retrieved 27 November 2010.
- Kids' Rides: Six Flags Great America
- Facebook status about the closing of Iron Wolf
- Filas, Lee (1 September 2011). "X-Flight coming to Six Flags Great America". The Daily Herald. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- "Six Flags America's New for 2014". August 29, 2013. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
- "All Event: Six Flags Great America". Sixflags.com. Retrieved 2013-03-02.
- "Six Flags Fright Fest". Frightfest.sixflags.com. Retrieved 2013-03-02.
- "Park Information". SFGAmWorld.com. Retrieved 2013-03-02.
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- "Halloween Production Services". JPM Productions. Retrieved 2013-03-02.
- Great America parks
- "Six Flags Entertainment Corporation Investor Meeting Presentation". Six Flags. 4 November 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2010.
- Ri¢hie Ri¢h (1994) - Trivia - IMDb
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Six Flags Great America.|
- Six Flags Great America
- GREAT AMERICA parks - History of Marriott's Great America
- Six Flags Great America at the Roller Coaster DataBase