King Dominion’s Volcano Goes Extinct

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King Dominion’s Volcano Goes Extinct

Photo: Joey Mistretta ('19)

Photo: Joey Mistretta ('19)

Photo: Joey Mistretta ('19)

Photo: Joey Mistretta ('19)


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After 20 years of erupting in Hanover County, Volcano: The Blast Coaster is no more. Kings Dominion shocked the region last Friday by announcing its decision to remove the beloved ride.

According to a statement by the theme park, the ride had become nearly impossible to maintain and failed to meet the park’s “high standards of reliability and guest satisfaction.”

Volcano held a special place in the hearts of park guests and was an icon not just for the park, but for the entire region. It was the world’s first and only full-circuit inverted launch coaster. In English, that means a coaster where the cars dangle under the track, the track completes a full loop, and electromagnets rapidly propel trains forward in lieu of a traditional chain lift.

Better yet, it was the only roller coaster in the world to shoot riders straight out the mouth of a fiery volcano. Those lucky enough to experience the ride know there was no other sensation quite like Volcano—its two 70 mile-per-hour launches whipped riders up and out of the fire-spewing artificial mountain with such dizzying force that the entire journey was an unforgettable blur.  

Sadly, it’s not surprising Kings Dominion had to make the tough decision—the coaster had a reputation for being a technical nightmare. Late openings, rollbacks (when the train doesn’t launch fast enough uphill and literally falls backwards), and sudden breakdowns were a daily occurence. It spent the majority of the 2015 and 2017 seasons closed. And a major technical malfunction in April 2018 caused the ride to shut down for the last time, never to open again.

Like paramedics futilely trying to revive a dying patient, the park did everything they could. Since 2014, Kings Dominion had invested millions of dollars into renovating the ride’s infrastructure. After the 2018 mishap, the park even brought in the coaster’s manufacturers from Switzerland, but it was no use. Nothing could fix the irreparable ride, and after years of life support, the park had to pull the plug.

Volcano leaves behind a lasting legacy and a fascinating history. Believe it or not, the enormous mountain was built in 1979—two decades before The Blast Coaster opened in 1998. The beautiful, 200-foot tall fiberglass mountain was then known as The Lost World and housed three separate attractions simultaneously: an indoor mine train called Journey to the Land of Dooz (later renamed Smurf Mountain), a zero-gravity spinning ride called The Time Shaft, and a themed boat ride called The Haunted River. When Paramount Pictures purchased Kings Dominion in 1993, it shuttered The Lost World and lopped off the top of the mountain to begin construction on the new coaster.

Paramount liked to use Kings Dominion as a testing ground for prototypes (see Hypersonic XLC, the park’s short-lived, rarely-open coaster which ran on compressed air and airplane tires, for example), and Volcano was no exception. It was certainly an ambitious project. Back then, launch technology was still in its infancy, and combining LIM with the then-recent innovation of inverted (under-the-track) coasters was unheard of. Add the difficulty of building around and theming a pre-existing concrete mountain and you’ve got a recipe for constant technical difficulties.

But you’ve also got a recipe for a one-of-a-kind experience. For 20 years, Volcano: The Blast Coaster invited guests to voyage with the fictitious Volcano Tours expedition company over lagoons, under waterfalls, and through tunnels to the heart of the volcano. And with that journey, millions of guests experienced the ride of a lifetime. The looming presence of the mountain and its coils of yellow track, the deafening rumble of the simulated eruption, and the breathtaking thrill of soaring along the skyline won’t soon be forgotten.

With the closure of Volcano, nobody knows what’s next to come. The park has announced no plans for a replacement, and the fact that a new coaster takes four to five years to plan combined with the last-minute decision to kill Volcano may mean that plot of land in Kings Dominion’s Safari Village may sit dormant for years to come.

So long Volcano, and thanks for such an explosive run.

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