Super Loops or "Ring of Fire" rides are common among many fairs and carnivals around the world. Six Flags began to purchase Giant Loops for their parks because of low cost, ease of assembly, portability, and small in-park footprint.
|In the summer of 2014, Great Adventure began teasing park fans by sending out a collection of carefully selected images including plush dragon toys and numerous circular items. From the clues it became apparent that whatever we were getting was going to somehow be related to a loop. As clever as these clues were, we would need to wait until Six Flags' official announcement on August 28th, 2014 to learn what was in store for 2015.
After weeks of anxious waiting, Six Flags Great Adventure's official
announcement came proclaiming that the park would be installing their
13th roller coaster - Looping Dragon. The Asian-inspired ride was
to be located in the Golden Kingdom area between Kingda Ka and El Toro
near the Watering Hole refreshment stand.
Plans changed however and on January 14, 2015 the name of the ride became "El Diablo," taking inspiration from folklore of the Jersey Devil and the location of the ride moved to the Plaza Del Carnaval as El Toro's new neighbor.
The specific ride site would be the former home of Rolling Thunder's station house which had been leveled during the 2013/2014 off-season. The area sat vacant and untouched since its removal behind a tall stockade fence. The only remnants of the former wooden coaster in the area were a timber arch which marked the entrance to the ride's queue and supported its ride sign, and the queue bars themselves. In the distance, a small segment of track from the ride also remained where it crossed under El Toro.
Once the worst part of winter was over site preparation was underway and right around the start of the 2015 season track for El Diablo began to show up in the backstage parking lot near Zumanjaro and Kingda Ka. Construction fences and signs would line the former Rolling Thunder area by opening day.
|The new attraction was manufactured by Larson International and known as a "Giant Loop," The ride model was added to Great Adventure to round out attraction offerings on the western side of the park. Although being marketed by SIx Flags as a coaster, the ride was considered by many park-goers and enthusiasts to be a flat ride.
Construction did not last long as the ride itself was small and had few
components. By early April of 2015, the main structure of the loop was
up and in place. The top half of the ride was a deep orange and the
lower half a vibrant red meant to evoke thoughts of fiery doom. A
bright yellow train complete with 24 seats and ride logo
decals on either end was added soon after the completion of the loop.
The mechanical carriage consisting of a continous loop of roller wheels was mounted inside the loop structure and the drive mechanism installed at the ride's base.
Similar to the former Looping Starship swinging pendulum ride, riders
sat in a
"face-off" style, looking at other riders as they ultimately
looped upside down. The train would rock back and forth, going higher
which each sweep of the station until a full 360 degree rotation brought
them up and over, seven
stories in the air.
Though a simplistic ride, theming was very much a focus for El Diablo.
Flames would line the upper edge of the structure and its outer queue
fence, with LED lights outlining the loop on both sides of the structure.
|The old Rolling Thunder queue bars would be repurposed as an extensive line for El Diablo's visitors. A realignment of the bars had to be made as the previous configuration was for two mirror image lines for each side of Rolling Thunder's dual coaster tracks. The new queue merged the two sets into one which lead to a wooden deck loading platform.
|Once installed, finishing touches were placed on the ride and the attraction went through its rigorous testing program. With the final construction walls removed by mid May 2015, El Diablo was ready to go.
|El Diablo opened to the public before Memorial Day on May 14, 2015. A ceremony was held with the park president, public relations representatives, and special guest appearances by the New Jersey Devils' mascot "N.J. Devil" along with former NJ Devil Colin White.
|After the official introductory speeches had concluded, a countdown to the launch of the ride followed culminating in a blizzard of shiny red, orange, and yellow streamers, blasts of spooky fog, and the first train of NJ Devils season ticketholders rocketing on their way for the inaugural ride.
|With access to the area around the ride it quickly became evident that vibrant fiery colors of El Diablo along with the flame accents helped to boost the demonic theming of the ride. The roaring, almost growl-like, sound of the train furthered that experience.
The ultimate piece of theming was a big surprise. Installed just before the ride opening, El Diablo received an elaborate devil statue which sat just outside the main entrance. Etched into a boulder at its base was the ride name "El Diablo" with a demon perched atop it with glowing red eyes. Huge black horns protruded from the sides of its head and tattered wings extended from its back. A smoke effect was added to the base of the creature for the media event but was removed shortly thereafter.
|Unlike most rides that are programmed for a predetermined sequence of ride events, El Diablo's control was at the mercy of the ride operator. A simple joystick was used to control the left and right motion of the train and assisted in determining the amount of hang-time riders experienced at the top of the loop.
|In the evening, El Diablo was a spectacle of light as patterns would alternate and light up the midway below. The LED strips would blink in various patterns creating swirls and flashes to illuminate Great Adventure's skyline of rides and heighten the thrill of onboard rides.
|Despite it being a fairly simple and common flat ride, El Diablo was a prime example of how theming could enhance a ride experience and be a great fit for those who like a moderate thrill ride. While not the biggest, fastest, or wildest ride in the park, the ride did serve a purpose as a moderate "coaster" experience for those younger adventurers tired of the Runaway Train but not yet up to tackling the large looping roller coasters.
|Through its four years at the park El Diablo operated consistently and brought in its fair share of patrons. The ride never really packed them in though - the queue line was rarely more than half full. This may have been because of bigger ticket items like El Toro next door or because the line did move fairly slowly given the ride's limited capacity.
In the fall of 2018, El Diablo ended operations and was quietly
dismantled. The first thing to be removed were the flames which
had adorned the outside of the ride's loop and its operating controls.
By the time Holiday in the Park kicked off in mid-November the majority
of the ride had been removed and was noticeably absent on the park's
horizon as seen from the Skyway.
Several sightings of flatbed trucks with segments of El Diablo on the New Jersey Turnpike and traveling through New England popped up on the internet. It is suspected that the ride is heading north of the border to take up residence at LaRonde as their new Chaos attraction in 2019.
Over the years, some have been critical of this ride because they felt it belonged more at a carnival instead of a major theme park. However, that could also be said of a carousel, a kids ride, bumper cars, a Scrambler, and so much more, These are all things that add to the overall park experience and without them many would gripe if they weren't there.
Besides, El Diablo was installed in a carnival - Plaza del Carnaval!
|While very little merchandise was made available for El Diablo, a drink coaster was given out at a local American Coaster Enthusiasts event to silence anyone who had any doubts that El Diablo was a coaster!
|Original Spotlight: January 7, 2019. GAH Reference #: RIDE-2015-001