Six Flags' Flashback coaster will live on (somewhere else)

Retired rides

Credit: WFAA

The Flashback roller coaster at Six Flags over Texas in Arlington is being dismantled and moved to the company's St. Louis theme park.




Posted on September 26, 2012 at 10:13 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 27 at 5:31 PM

ARLINGTON — Turns out, the ride isn’t over for the Flashback at Six Flags Over Texas.

The popular roller coaster is being moved to another amusement park — a common (if not well-known) practice within the theme park industry.

This week, ironworkers have been scaling the spiraling steel ride, loosening bolts and carefully dismantling the 23-year-old coaster deep inside the Arlington theme park.

“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” said crane operator Donny Penwell, who’s been taking apart and re-building coasters since 1976. Every segment that he removes must be marked so it can be reassembled later.

“We’re marking them as we take them down,” he explained.

The Flashback — one of the first "boomerang" style coasters in the country — will be painted and re-branded as the Boomerang at Six Flags St. Louis.

“It’s still a great ride, so why not pass it on and let one of our sister parks enjoy it?” said Sharon Parker, a spokeswoman at Six Flags Over Texas.

The Flashback — along with the Texas Chute Out — are both coming down to make room for the Texas SkyScreamer, which should open next year. The 40-story attraction will be the tallest swing ride in the world.

The Chute Out, thrilling visitors since 1976, will not be saved.

The SkyScreamer is part of a $100 million improvement plan Grand Prairie-based Six Flags Entertainment Corp. recently announced for all of its 19 parks in North America.

Reclaimed rollers coasters are a common practice within the industry, made more popular for operators by the tight economy.

“The life expectancy of these rides is quite long,” said Dennis Speigel, a theme park consultant and president of International Theme Park Services in Cincinnati. “So when there is burn-out — if you will — in the marketplace, the parks have that flexibility and capability to move them from park to park.”

When Six Flags shuttered and tore down AstroWorld in Houston in 2005, several of the rides were scattered to other parks across the country.

Coasters even survived Hurricane Katrina. After ten-foot deep flood waters submerged Six Flags New Orleans, the company removed the Batman ride and moved it to their San Antonio park. There, crews repainted it and renamed it Goliath.

A new amusement park ride can cost up to $30 million, Speigel said. Moving a ride — or buying one used — can cost as little as a few hundred thousand dollars.

There are several websites devoted to selling and buying roller coasters. One site recently advertised a “runaway train” ride that can carry 26 people for $75,000.

“If it’s new to the marketplace, it is new” to them, Speigel said, adding that safety inspectors ensure the re-assembled ride is safe.

“It is in [the park's] best interest to make sure they’re carefully cared for,” he said.

Yet customers are sometimes unaware that a “new” ride in their local theme park was actually recycled.

“To them it is a brand-new ride,” Speigel said. “I’ve never seen one marketed as, 'This is a used ride we’re bringing to you this year!'”