Commentary Track | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Commentary Track 

A local roller-coaster enthusiast looks at the ups and downs of Lagoon’s rides.

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Kim Bené claims he’s no hardcore roller-coaster buff. They’re the ones who argue over what kind of ride qualifies as a “roller coaster,” or rating attractions for “air time.” According to Bené, he’s just a guy who really enjoys a fun ride.


Such designations are somewhat relative. In his everyday life, he knows a thing or two about a different kind of “air time” as a writer and producer for Salt Lake City’s ABC 4. But as a member of American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE)—an 8,000-member-strong nationwide organization for folks who love high-speed thrills—he knows a couple of things about roller coasters, as well. He estimates that he’s visited nearly 100 parks over the years, and sampled over 200 roller coasters. And he knows his history, his manufacturers, and what can make for a truly memorable ride.


Bené agreed to sit down and evaluate the roller coasters at Farmington’s Lagoon amusement park from a connoisseur’s perspective. But he’s quick to offer the caveat that he doesn’t think Lagoon is designed—as many other amusement parks are—with the serious thrill junkie in mind. “Is it just good business sense [in Utah] to be focusing on family rides?” Bené asks. “Absolutely.”


Nevertheless, he presented his enthusiast’s-eye-view on the pros and cons of Lagoon’s five major roller coasters. He’ll leave it to the hardcore buffs to haggle over whose definition of “roller coaster” should be used.


The Roller Coaster


Year Installed: 1921


Building Material: Wood


Ride Duration: 1 minute 56 seconds


Top Speed: 45 mph


History/Trivia: One of the oldest roller coasters in America, it was partially destroyed by a fire in 1953 and rebuilt the following year.


The Downside: Presentation. “It doesn’t even have a particularly interesting name and the station is a metal quanset hut. What you basically have is a nice old roller coaster, which wasn’t an ‘A’-quality roller coaster when it was built.”


The Upside: Good for beginners and those who don’t like getting too scared. “My wife does not like roller coasters, but she’ll ride Roller Coaster with me.” Also very well-maintained, which isn’t true of a lot of wooden roller coasters around the country: “There’s an art to maintaining them that [Six Flags] doesn’t have. This one’s in about as good shape as an 80-year-old roller coaster could be.”


Jet Star 2


Year Installed: 1976


Building Material: Steel


Ride Duration: 1 minute 30 seconds


Top Speed: 45 mph


History/Trivia: Originally opened at the 1974 World’s Fair in Spokane, Wash., before it was relocated to Lagoon. Was an extremely popular “off the shelf” model created by the Anton Schwarzkopf Co. in the 1970s and later updated.


The Downside: Presentation again. “You’re standing in a line with no roof over your head, no place to sit. Presentation, I give them zero—sorry. They could be more visitor-friendly.”


The Upside: “Truly fun because of the centrifugal force. Very good ride for young people.”


Colossus, The Fire Dragon


Year Installed: 1983


Building Material: Steel


Ride Duration: 1 minute 45 seconds


Top Speed: 55 mph


History/Trivia: Built in 1981 by Anton Schwarzkopf Co. to be part of German traveling fairs before coming to Lagoon.


The Downside: Presentation yet again. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What presentation?’ You stand along a chain link fence, then you get up on this metal platform and you get on the roller coaster.” Also, no flying solo: “They make you double up, so you have to bring a friend along.”


The Upside: “Not a scary, pukey, disorienting kind of ride—you can ride it multiple times. And it’s a wonderful roller coaster for the first-time person who has never been on a looping roller coaster.”


Wild Mouse


Year Installed: 1998


Building Material: Steel


Ride Duration: 1 minute 10 seconds


Top Speed: 28 mph


History/Trivia: Replaced the original wooden Wild Mouse, which was removed in 1990. Another extremely popular “off-the-shelf” model, there are 11 Maurer Sohne Wilde Maus Classic coasters currently operating worldwide.


The Downside: Again, mostly for the family audience, and again, not much uniqueness to the presentation. “It’s fun, but thrilling? Once in a lifetime? Charming, like Pirates of the Caribbean? No.”


The Upside: “One of the better Wild Mice in the world, longer than average. Pretty well-maintained. It’s about as good as they [the Wild Mouse type] get.”


Spider


Year Installed: 2003


Building Material: Steel


Ride Duration: 1 minute 10 seconds


Top Speed: 38 mph


History/Trivia: First of its kind—spinning cars—installed in North America.


The Downside: “Once you get on, it’s not particularly thrilling. It’s not particularly boring, either. You get on and, ‘Yeah, that was kind of neat.’ It’s basically a good family ride.”


The Upside: It’s a fun ride to watch. And—finally—some presentation. “They put it back in the woods, so that when the line snakes around you’re actually in the shade, They spent a lot of money on a metal spider. You’ve got to give them an A for presentation ... so they’re learning.”

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