Orion Giga Coaster Drops into Kings Island
Orion, the world’s seventh giga coaster, debuted at Kings Island during the First Riders Auction on July 1st, 2020. The first official riders of Orion raised $160,00 for A Kid Again, a nonprofit organization which exists to foster hope, happiness and healing for families raising kids with life-threatening illnesses through fun-filled group activities and events. Coaster101 is proud to have been able to contribute to such a worthy cause.
We’d also like to thank Kings Island for rescheduling the event. When the pandemic struck, it would have been easy and understandable for the park to cancel the First Rider event completely. Not only did they reschedule the event, they expanded the originally scheduled time slot of 6-9pm to 5-10pm.
The same safety protocols put into place for regular park operations were also in place for the event. Before you reach the front gates you’ll have to answer some health screening questions and have your temperature taken. The security checkpoint is a breeze too. Masks are required by everyone and there are markers in the queue to keep 6 feet from the group in front of you. I thought the crowd that night generally did a pretty good job of following the social distancing rules.
After hiking to the back of the park, I witnessed the first train of riders leaving the station around 5:15pm. With a full, socially distanced queue it took me about an hour to get on the coaster, and that includes a ten or fifteen minute delay for cleaning. Every row of the train is being filled but only two riders per row with staggered seating: two on the inside seats, then two on the outside seats. Around every half hour the trains were cleaned then did several laps with no passengers to dry off. If Kings Island can improve the amount of time to clean the trains, even by a reduction of just 25% it will -help keep the sure-to-be long line moving.
Favorite Elements and Surprises
The first drop is sooo good. I think the other giga coasters were just practice and now B&M has perfected the design. They’ve figured out the calculations for the perfect curvature for the track. It just feels like you’re falling forever. I know the other giga coasters have bigger drops statistically but somehow Orion’s feels longer. This might be my favorite first drop on any roller coaster.
Second favorite element is the short 56 foot tall speed hill after the turn around. Consistently great airtime every single ride, no matter where you’re sitting. The 147 foot tall airtime hill that follows is also fun with great floater air despite the trim brake hitting pretty hard (as it is designed to do). You get a surprisingly good pop of air going into the 83 foot tall brake run as well. The first flat section of brake track at the end of the ride is essentially the mid course brake run, it’s just that it goes directly from the MCBR into the final brake run instead of another element.
I was surprised by the intensity of the ride, especially the helix. The bottom of all the drops is pretty forceful but the helix cranks up the positive Gs for a prolonged duration that doesn’t let up until you peak on the following hill.
The biggest surprise on Orion for me was the three moments of “off-axis” airtime. While airtime on the majority of B&M speed coasters is perpendicular to the track where you get pulled straight up into the lapbar, Orion puts you on your side so you get sideways airtime into the side of the seat.
The biggest unknown for me before riding Orion was how would that second hill feel? Would there be any airtime while banking? After plunging down the amazing first drop, you climb a 174 foot tall hill that banks to the left. And the answer is yes, you get a little floating airtime that pushes you into the side of the seat, a pretty unique feeling. This happens again at the top of the 202 foot tall turnaround and again in the final 90 foot hill after the helix.
Orion Stats and POV
- Height: 287 feet
- Drop: 300 feet
- Speed: 91 mph
- Length: 5,321 feet
- First drop angle: 85 degrees
- Cost: $30 million USD
I know one of the common complaints from coaster enthusiasts and people just watching the POV video are going to say “it’s too short.” In my opinion, you can’t make the argument the length of the track is too short. In my sample size of the 219 coasters I’ve ridden, the average length of a roller coaster is 2,822 feet, and the majority are less than 3,800 feet long. Orion is 5,321 feet long, putting it into the top 10% of all the coasters I’ve ridden, so track length wise it is a long coaster. (Check your own stats using our Coaster Counter spreadsheet).
Now, if you want to argue about the number of elements within that track, that is understandable as every other Cedar Fair giga coaster seems to have at least one more element than Orion does.
I was a little bit underwhelmed on my first ride, in the back of the train. But with each successive ride it kept growing on me, and as I moved towards the front of the train I thought it just kept getting better and better. I definitely recommend try sitting in the front half of the train if you can.
Area 72 and Theming Details
I was impressed with how well themed the new Area 72 section is. The space flight research theme is reinforced by testing equipment and meteors scattered all over the place. There’s even a building with a pre-show video that the line passes through (you don’t have to stand and watch it).
Copperhead Strike might be the best themed recent Cedar Fair coaster but Orion isn’t far behind. We’ll probably do a separate article soon on all the details and Easter eggs dropped in the area.
My biggest complaint is there is not a single drinking fountain in the entire Area 72 area, or anywhere remotely close by that I could see. This is a problem. If guests are going to wait in an hour plus line in ninety degrees heat to ride an intense roller coaster, all while wearing masks and without an opportunity to get a quick drink of water, that is a big problem. There’s also no full size restrooms either. There are two family rooms on the end of the Meteor Canteen but I think the area would really benefit from a full size restroom (with drinking fountain).
See more Orion pictures on our Facebook page.
Want to see Orion climb the 287 foot tall lift hill over and over from different angles? Watch our video below!
Orion, my 219th coaster overall, is the sixth roller coaster I’ve been on with at least a 300 foot drop (the others being Millennium Force, Leviathan, Fury 325, Top Thrill Dragster, and Kingda Ka). It was also my first time wearing a mask on a roller coaster and it wasn’t a problem at all. How does Orion rank compared to other giga coasters? I’m actually planning on writing an article about why I can’t rank coasters fairly anymore. I will say although I think Fury 325 is still my favorite Orion might be #2, though that just may be because I was happy to be riding a good coaster again after months of not knowing when that would happen again. I can say Orion is officially the best roller coaster I’ve ridden in 2020 (out of four).
How does it fit in at the park? For those thinking it is too similar to Diamondback I think the sideways airtime moments, the speed, and the intensity differentiate it enough to complement the shorter B&M quite nicely. I would take Orion over Firehawk and Vortex (two recently removed coasters) any day. Why? Re-rideability. Vortex and Firehawk were fine but they were “one and done” rides for me while Orion giga coaster you’ll want to ride multiple times.
Kings Island has a winner on their hands. Orion is a ride we should all be thankful for. Giga coasters are rare as it is. Before the virus hit, I think Cedar Fair’s strategy was to make huge coaster investments fewer and farther between. Post virus I think they’ll double down on this plan. It could be quite some time before someone builds a ride of this magnitude again.
Coaster101 is proud to have been able to participate and want to thank Kings Island for having event like these and continuing to support organizations like A Kid Again.
Do you plan on riding Orion giga coaster this year? If you have ridden it, share your thoughts with us in the comments below!