Measuring a Great Economy by the Number of Amusement Parks it Has: Kings Island’s new Orion giga-coaster

As I’ve spoken about on many occasions, the amusement park of Kings Island is near my home and it’s not at all unusual for me to go there during the day, or after a hard day at the office to ride a few roller coasters to relax. I consider the place a considerable asset to my life to have something like it in my neighborhood. So it was, I spent the past Friday night sort of celebrating the recent announcement of their 20/20 roller coaster, Orion—which will be a tremendous asset to the park, and I couldn’t help but arrive at a few conclusions about the nature of amusement parks in general and what role they play in our economy. Kings Island under the management of Cedar Fair Amusements has actually improved over the years, as opposed to a gradual slide into decline which seems to be the case with most other businesses, and it is now very much on par with the amusement parks that are so popular in Orlando, Florida. The roller coasters alone in Ohio between Kings Island and Cedar Point are just fantastic and the perfect complement to a personality like mine that runs off adrenaline and intensity.

My favorite rides at Kings Island is Mystic Timbers and Diamondback so it’s not unusual to find me in that part of the park on a Friday night. My wife and I enjoy eating in the new Brewhouse or in line for one of those rides thinking about things. I was feeling particularly reminiscent on the night of Friday August 16th while in line at Mystic Timbers thinking about the new coaster Orion and the general construction of the entire amusement park. All summer long I was able to go with my family to Kings Island and get away from the stuffy world outside enjoying many long days at the waterpark. Just to think of Orion which will have a 300-foot drop traveling at 91 miles per hour it was certainly something to look forward to, but I couldn’t help but consider the meaning of it all.

Everything at Kings Island, or any amusement park for that matter is there for the creation of intellectual enjoyment. Whether or not it was the thrill of a new ride, or the joy of the many food options, or even the relaxing travel through the woods on the stream driven train that is so popular at that park, everything is geared purely for the enjoyment of the human mind to think and conceive of some form of leisure that is specific to our species. And that so many millions and millions of dollars of investment into that leisure time activity could be gathered in one place. Particularly while in line at Mystic Timbers is so much of that joy on display. The Diamondback is very prominent on the skyline, the Miami Valley Railroad, the log ride, parts of the kid land, the Eiffel Tower, there is a lot on display. After visiting Paris recently and wanting to see the Eiffel Tower there I was quite amazed that there wasn’t more to the real Paris monument. I was used to Kings Island that had the tower there surrounded by so many exciting rides. To have such a collection anywhere in the world is amazing and it is something I appreciate every time I visit the place, no matter how many times in a season I do. It’s not that Kings Island is there to make anything useful in the world other than entertaining its guests and that we have a society that can afford to do such a thing is simply something to behold.

Amusement parks are quite common in America. Ohio and Florida have an above average representation. It’s not like they are on every street corner, but compared to other places around the world, they are common. But you can go for thousands and thousands of miles anywhere else in the world and never see anything so dedicated to the human imagination and entertainment as we find in the United States, an entire park dedicated to the indulgence of human beings specifically—purely for entertainment. There is a little amusement park outside of London and there is a pier in Brighton that is similar to the Santa Monica pier in California, but those places don’t come anywhere close to Kings Island which has become an international destination over the years, and it certainly deserves the recognition.

I think it is worth noting that a place like Kings Island is the byproduct of capitalism, and that is such a wonderful thing. Most people attending probably don’t think about it much, because as human beings they are used to life at the top of the food chain. It is their minds that put them there, not their sheer physical strength or any other factor. The ability to think makes humans the dominate life form on planet earth, and it is to relax and entertain those minds that these amusement parks serve. To be able to take so much acreage and power resources just for the entertainment of people could only happen in a culture where capitalist excesses are generated is amazing. And for the continuance of such an enjoyment to always be expanding, as things are at Kings Island says a lot about the success of our culture. I think about it every time I visit the park and as I am reminded that there are others around the country it goes a long way to making the positive argument for the success of American culture.

To think that the new Orion roller coaster will cost more than the entire Kings Island park cost in 1972 when it opened is to say that the market for human recreation is so high that it can justify such an investment. You won’t see economies in Peru or Brazil making such leaps just for the heck of it, or anywhere in Europe for that matter, unless the Disney company is putting up the money. It’s just not something that is done, because the excess money and need for the product couldn’t be enjoyed any other place. In that context I still enjoy the indulgence of Mystic Timbers which essentially is a wild rollicking bronco ride through the woods and back. The ride itself and its theming are almost showing off. It is such a casual ride that not even the many attractions in Vegas or Gatlinburg, Tennessee can compete with it. Yet in Mason, Ohio which was essentially a community that exploded into its present-day form because of Kings Island, Mystic Timber is just one of over 100 attractions that are there just for the enjoyment of them, and nothing else. And that’s what does it for me, to step out of the real world and to just spend time in the enthusiastic world of Kings Island for a few hours or an entire day is something that is very special to me, and it’s not lost to me how special it is. I’m very happy that Kings Island can still be enjoyed throughout Halloween and into the Christmas season with Winterfest. But every year for me the end of summer happens when Kings Island is no longer open daily, and I await each year when it starts opening on weekends once again in April. Because I love having it open to me when I need it, and all the many evenings I have spent there by myself and with my family just being entertained. For minds with a lot going on, an amusement park is the perfect thing, and I never tire of it.

Rich Hoffman

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