Safari, Sky Ride, Vortex and more: Multiple Kings Island owners brought new visions

The ride, Vortex, at Kings Island on opening day, Friday, April 18, 2014. GREG LYNCH / FILE

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The ride, Vortex, at Kings Island on opening day, Friday, April 18, 2014. GREG LYNCH / FILE

Differing operators changed up entertainment options at park

Like most everything in our world since 1972, Kings Island has gone through many transformations and additions.

But the other things in our lives haven’t been witnessed and experienced by millions as the well-attended Kings Island has been for the last 50 years.

The first version of Kings Island was carved out of farmland and woods in Warren County, only to set a stage for decades of coming additions to the popular amusement park.

From a series of expansions, new structures, new rides and the addition of a water park, Kings Island has seen many changes in the last half century.

And with most of the changes — often brought on by new ownership — some fans lost beloved park features from their youth they still fondly reminisce about decades later.

“Some time in the 1970s I got my first Kings Island pass and I’d go with my teenage friends all the time to hang out there,” said Mason resident Amy Godsey Alexander, who worked at the amusement park for five years starting in 1981.

When Kings Island became the first amusement park in America to add a winter holiday season — Winter Fest — Godsey Alexander was there as she and her family were for the first Halloween Haunt.

She misses the former and popular Lion Country Safari elevated mono-rail ride, which featured lions and other African-native wildlife.

Amy Coats of Indianapolis started going to the park when she was a little girl in the 1970s and joins many others in missing the old Sky Ride, which allowed visitors to travel across the park from high overhead.

“I remember the family meeting up at the Sky Ride and we would all get on and go to the other side of the park, where we would eat, watch the dolphin show,” said Coats.

Mason High School graduate and author Evan Potstingle — who wrote the first history book on Kings Island — said the many additions to the park happened under multiple owners through the years.

“Kings Island is a magnificent park, but it’s gone through 50 years of ownership and management changes,” Potstingle told the Journal-News.

“Each owner, each general manager, each parent company CEO has brought their own vision of what they want Kings Island to be,” said Potstingle, who chronicles the many changes and additions to the park in his book Kings Island: A Ride Through Time.

“During the tenure of Paramount Parks from 1992 to 2006, the park was operated as a platform to bring Paramount’s movies and TV shows to life, without much focus on the park as a brand itself.”

“Under Cedar Fair’s ownership, we’re fortunately seeing a return to the core values of the park as laid out by founder Gary Wachs. (There is) an increased focus on theming, placemaking, and activating neglected areas of the park has paid off in spades, creating a more enjoyable guest experience and the closest the park has been in decades to its original vision,” he said.

With millions of fans over the years, differences of opinions can be nearly as diverse.

Lifelong fan and park visitor Kara Ervin said she liked the Paramount ownership years.

“We loved the theme when it was Paramount and all the characters would walk around the park and they would play the movie theme music. My son, however, thinks the park is much better ever since Cedar Fair took over. He doesn’t think we would have some of the rides we have now if Paramount still owned it,” said Ervin.

“I really miss the Vortex. That was the first ‘big’ ride that my husband and I were able to get my son to ride. We were sad when that got torn down. I also miss King Cobra. It would have been neat if my kids could have experienced a stand-up coaster.”

“I’ve loved it ever since I was a little kid, and I still get to enjoy it in my 40s with my own kids. I have so many memories there from a little kid with my parents, to amazingly, fun times with my friends as a teenager, and now with my husband and kids! That place will never get old. And they somehow are able to keep the magic alive through each stage of life,” she said.

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