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How Scary is the New Steel Curtain Coaster at Kennywood?

The ride claims records for the world’s tallest looping coaster and tallest inversion; it also has more inversions than any coaster in North America. We rode it this morning. Here's what we have to say.



 

There are plenty of roller coasters named for movies. There are rides themed after TV shows, comic-book characters and rock bands. But at Kennywood — a longtime roller-coaster innovator — there is the world’s first coaster dedicated to a football team.

The Steel Curtain, Kennywood’s newest and tallest coaster, welcomed its first riders at 6:30 a.m. today. The inaugural thrillseekers were winners of the park’s 2018 “Project 412” contest, which gave fans the chance to guess the theme and features of the new ride.

The ride’s Pittsburgh Steelers theme goes far beyond the title and the black-and-gold paint on the ride. Announcements at the beginning and end of each ride are made by Bill Hillgrove and Tunch Ilkin of the Steelers broadcast team. “There’s the whistle, Billy!,” Ilkin exclaims as the ride starts to roll. “The kick is up, and this one is underway,” Hillgrove replies.

The seats of the coaster look like footballs; the front of each car is styled like a Steelers jersey. A sign bearing the roman numerals of each of the team’s Super Bowl wins awaits riders at the end of the journey — and, of course, a sprawling new Steelers gift shop sits just beyond the exit.

The trappings should draw black-and-gold faithful (and plans are in place to keep the ride open on game days well into the fall), but the impressive size, scale and speed of the ride should attract thrillseekers from far beyond Steelers Country. The ride claims records for the world’s tallest looping coaster and features the world’s tallest inversion; it also has more inversions than any coaster in North America.

Those inversions are thrilling. Rather than the teardrop-shaped loop of coasters past, the ride corkscrews smoothly at multiple points throughout the ride, leaving riders unexpectedly upside-down — often at times when no twist was expected. The ride’s design makes these turns especially thrilling; with no shoulder harness (riders are restrained twice at the lap and once at the shin), the open air surrounding you is delightfully terrifying.

The 220-foot height of the ride eclipses anything in Kennywood — and renders the rest of the park miniscule by comparison. As you ascend the first hill (which feels as though it’s a straight vertical rise), look to your left for a bird’s-eye view of the Jack Rabbit. In comparison, it’ll look like Kiddieland.

VIP rides will continue at Kennywood through today, including appearances by former and current Steelers. The Steel Curtain opens to the public tomorrow.

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