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Thunder Run (Kentucky Kingdom)

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Thunder Run
Thunder Run Kentucky Kingdom edit.jpg
Kentucky Kingdom
Coordinates 38°11′44″N 85°44′51″W / 38.19556°N 85.74750°W / 38.19556; -85.74750Coordinates: 38°11′44″N 85°44′51″W / 38.19556°N 85.74750°W / 38.19556; -85.74750
Status Operating
Opening date August 1990 (1990-08)
General statistics
Type Wood
Manufacturer Dinn Corporation
Designer Curtis D. Summers, John Fetterman
Model Custom
Lift/launch system Chain lift hill
Height 90 ft (27 m)
Drop 74 ft (23 m)
Length 2,850 ft (870 m)
Speed 53 mph (85 km/h)
Inversions 0
Duration 1:54
Height restriction 48 in (122 cm)
Trains Single train with 6 cars. Riders are arranged 2 across in 2 rows for a total of 24 riders per train.
Thunder Run at RCDB
Pictures of Thunder Run at RCDB

Thunder Run is a wooden roller coaster at the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park in Louisville, Kentucky. The ride originally operated from August 1990 through to October 2009, when then-operators Six Flags abandoned the park. After remaining standing but not operating since 2009, Thunder Run reopened in May 2014 when Kentucky Kingdom reopened under new operators.

The ride was manufactured by Dinn Corporation and designed by Curtis D. Summers and John Fetterman. With 2,850 feet (870 m) of track, Thunder Run stands 90 feet (27 m) tall and features a top speed of 53 miles per hour (85 km/h).


Kentucky Kingdom opened on May 23, 1987, leasing 10 acres (4.0 ha) at the Kentucky Exposition Center property.[1] The Texas investors who operated the park filed it for bankruptcy after only one season of operation.[1] The Ed Hart-led Themeparks LLC firm purchased the rights to operate the park in 1989, reopening the park the following year.[1] As part of the reopening the new operators added a collection of new rides including Thunder Run, which opened in August 1990.[2] Early in Thunder Run's operating life, its train had derailed from the lift hill and the ride's lap bars were found to be unsafe. No injuries were reported from either incident.[3] The original ride was retracked by Martin & Vleminckx prior to its closure in 2009.[4]

Thunder Run operated until the end of the 2009 season on November 1. Amid a corporate bankruptcy, on February 4, 2010, Six Flags announced the park would cease operations immediately due to the rejection of an amended lease by the Kentucky State Fair Board.[5] Many attempts were made to reopen the park under new operators.[6][7] Eventually, on June 27, 2013, a group of investors led by Ed Hart negotiated an agreement to reopen the park. The group would spend $36 million to reopen the park in May 2014. Thunder Run would be part of the opening day lineup of attractions.[8] Rocky Mountain Construction was hired to refurbish the ride,[9] resulting in the existing wooden track to be replaced.[10][11] On October 10, 2013, Kentucky Kingdom invited members of the media and amusement industry to ride the refurbished Thunder Run. The ride reopened to the public on May 24, 2014.[11] After the 2016 season, Kentucky Kingdom announced that Thunder Run would get new trains from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company for the 2017 season. These trains would replace the ones first put into service in 1990.


The 2,850-foot-long (870 m) Thunder Run stands 90 feet (27 m) tall. With a top speed of 53 miles per hour (85 km/h), the ride featured a ride duration of approximately 2 minutes. The ride would operate with a single train featuring six cars. Each would seat riders in two rows of two, totalling 24 riders per train.[2] Thunder Run features 70 degree banked turns.[12]

Thunder Run's design was originally intended for Americana Amusement Park in the late 1980s; Dinn Corporation was contracted to manufacturer a wooden roller coaster designed by Curtis D. Summers and John Fetterman, before the plans fell through.[2] The design was later used as the foundation for International Coasters' only two roller coasters which are located at Carowinds and Kings Dominion, both named the Hurler.[13][14][15]

Ride experience[edit]

Thunder Run features a double out and back layout. It begins with a left turn out of the station. This leads to the 90-foot-tall (27 m) chain lift hill. Once at the top, riders go down a small dip and along a 180 degree turn to the left. The first drop of 74 feet (23 m) leads into a near-ground level 70-degree banked turn to the left. A series of small camelback hills are followed by a turnaround. The train proceeds back towards the station with another hill. This process repeats a second time leading back into the brake run and station.[2][16]


In 1993 and 1994, Thunder Run was cited by Amusement Business as the "Most Terrifying Roller Coaster" on a top 10 list.[17] The American Coaster Enthusiasts' Inside Track magazine ranked Thunder Run as the "fourth best of its kind in the nation".[18] In 2007, the Lexington Herald-Leader described the ride as having "a few nice drops and that jerky, clicking wooden coaster feel that some people love, but it never gets too wild".[19] Tim O'Brien, formerly of Amusement Business, rode the inaugural run of the ride in 1990, as well as the first cycle of the refurbished ride in 2013. O'Brien describes the updated ride as "a better ride today than it was back then", commending the ride's ability to give a classic wooden roller coaster feel, yet run smoothly. He states Thunder Run "is one of the top wooden roller coasters in the world".[11]

In Amusement Today's annual Golden Ticket Awards, Thunder Run has appeared four times from 2001 through to 2004. It debuted at position 34 in 2001 before dropping to 49 in 2004.[20][21]

Golden Ticket Awards: Top wood Roller Coasters
Year 2001 2002 2003 2004
Ranking 34[20] 39[22] 35[23] 49[21]

Mitch Hawker's worldwide Best Roller Coaster Poll is an annual survey of roller coasters from around the world.[24] It is widely regarded as the best and most accurate of any roller coaster poll available due to its ranking algorithm which prevents the poll from becoming a popularity contest.[25][26][27] In the poll, Thunder Run entered at position 30 in 1994, maintaining an average of 54 for the 17 years that followed. The ride's ranking in subsequent polls is shown in the table below.[28]

Mitch Hawker's Best Roller Coaster Poll: Best wood-Tracked Roller Coaster[28]
Year 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Ranking 30 56 41 47 54 50 53 52 39 41 48 46 59 60 64 86 87[nb 1] 99[nb 1] 100[nb 1] 100[nb 1]


  1. ^ a b c d Thunder Run was SBNO for this poll so the position shown here is assuming the ride was operational.


  1. ^ a b c Kleber, John E. (2000). The Encyclopedia of Louisville. University Press of Kentucky. p. 32. ISBN 0-8131-2100-0. 
  2. ^ a b c d Marden, Duane. "Thunder Run  (Kentucky Kingdom)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved June 30, 2013. 
  3. ^ Fritz, Mark (September 1, 1996). "Thrill-a-Minute Can Mean Spill-a-Minute". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Associated Press. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Retracking". Martin & Vleminckx. Archived from the original on November 25, 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013. 
  5. ^ "Kentucky Kingdom Rejects Lease Park to Close". RCDB. February 4, 2010. Archived from the original on September 8, 2011. Retrieved November 15, 2010. 
  6. ^ Karman, John R. (July 26, 2010). "Fair board strikes deal for Kentucky Kingdom property". Business First. Retrieved November 15, 2010. 
  7. ^ Brown, Joey (February 23, 2012). "Kentucky Kingdom reopening as Bluegrass Boardwalk in May 2013". Wave 3 News. Retrieved February 23, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Kentucky Kingdom operators announce expansion plans for amusement park reopening in 2014". The Telegram. Transcontinental Media. Associated Press. June 27, 2013. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  9. ^ Kentucky Kingdom (July 28, 2013). "Timeline Photos". Facebook. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  10. ^ Rocky Mountain Construction (October 11, 2013). "Thunder Run is now running again at...". Facebook. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c Boxley, Mark (October 11, 2013). "Thunder Run at Kentucky Kingdom up and running". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Thunder Run". Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Archived from the original on November 18, 2007. Retrieved June 30, 2013. 
  13. ^ Marden, Duane. "International Coasters, Inc.". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved June 30, 2013. 
  14. ^ Marden, Duane. "Hurler  (Carowinds)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved June 30, 2013. 
  15. ^ Marden, Duane. "Hurler  (Kings Dominion)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved June 30, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Thunder Run Front Seat on-ride POV Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom". Coaster Force. YouTube. February 9, 2010. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  17. ^ Dunkin, Zach (July 13, 1995). "Louisville offers zoo, thrill park". The Indianapolis Star. Gannett Company. 
  18. ^ "Kentucky Kingdom Making Waves: Water Attractions Part of Growth at Louisville Park". Lexington Herald-Leader. The McClatchy Company. April 26, 1992. 
  19. ^ "Screeeeeeeeeeam Test". Lexington Herald-Leader. The McClatchy Company. July 27, 2007. 
  20. ^ a b "Top 25 wood roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today: 6B. August 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2013. Retrieved May 1, 2013. 
  21. ^ a b "Top 50 wood roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today: 14–15B. September 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 3, 2007. Retrieved May 1, 2013. 
  22. ^ "Top 25 wood roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today: 6B. September 2002. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2013. Retrieved May 1, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Top 50 wood roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today: 10–11B. September 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2013. Retrieved May 1, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Best Roller Coaster Poll". Best Roller Coaster Poll. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  25. ^ Antuan (December 8, 2003). "Mitch Hawker's Roller Coaster Poll results posted, Balder tops list". Coaster Buzz. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  26. ^ Wilson, Richard (January 24, 2007). "Superman Escape ranks in worldwide coaster vote". Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  27. ^ Wilson, Richard (March 13, 2008). "Motocoaster comes in second last in worldwide coaster poll". Parkz. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  28. ^ a b Hawker, Mitch. "Wooden Roller Coaster Poll 20 Year Results Table (1994–2013)". Best Roller Coaster Poll. Retrieved August 18, 2013. 

External links[edit]