The amusement and theme park industry has always been a game of one upsmanship, with each park trying to have bragging rights to the biggest, fastest (and presumably) best ride. Roller coasters have constantly been the ammunition in this battle, with each year one park outdoing the others with the new coaster that can claim the title even if it's only for a brief shining moment. Great Adventure has long been on the front lines of these "wars" often claiming stake to world records for periods of time, but in 2004 plans were unveiled for an attraction that would hold multiple records for more than a decade to come.
|In September 2004, Six Flags Great Adventure unveiled the BIG secret they planned for the 2005 season. An entirely new themed area was being created- the mysterious and exotic Golden Kingdom. Looming over the Golden Kingdom and the entire park was its crown jewel, the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster, Kingda Ka.
|The press release for Kingda Ka and the Golden Kingdom helped build anticipation and excitement for the new area and all of its attractions, but most of all for Kingda Ka.
|Renderings of the new area and Kingda Ka furthered the excitement of the press releases, treating the public to previews and simulated rides on the yet to be built coaster.
|The media announcement was an
event by itself, using state of the art computer animation to show
off the biggest transformation in
Great Adventure's history.
Once the announcement was made for the Golden Kingdom and Kingda Ka, the park began promoting it everywhere. The announcement was made on a weekday while the park was closed, and when it reopened the following weekend
signs appeared throughout the park and a Preview Center was setup in the Mall area taking over the Season Pass Processing building.
Parts for Kingda Ka began arriving months before the announcement of the
coaster was made causing great speculation among park and coaster
enthusiasts. The massive supports and their similarity to those of the
Top Thrill Dragster built the year before at Cedar Point quickly led to
speculation of a big new record breaking launched coaster. Daily
shipments of containers from Europe meant the parking lot filled up
quickly with pieces.
|Site preparations for Kingda Ka had to begin long before any announcements were made. Most of the area for Kingda Ka was taken from the parking lot which had been used for Season Pass Holder parking and the Season Pass Holder entrance.
In order to create the jungle setting for Kingda Ka and to make way for construction, several trees had to be removed along the edge of the parking lot. The area of clearing stretched from the Season Pass Entrance to the Safari Hospitality Area.
|Out at the Safari
Hospitality Area, not only trees were removed, but also the park's
kennel facility Park-A-Pet. The footprint of Kingda Ka's tower
would be positioned almost on this same exact plot of land.
|Over the weeks and months clearing of the site was continuing and building materials began to arrive for the new construction. Wood for the concrete forms and rebar for the footers arrived in huge quantities hinting at the size of the coaster long before any kind of announcement of the specs were released to the public.
|Along with the construction materials, intriguingly three large refrigeration units also arrived on the site. While it was never confirmed, the speculation was that they were brought in to help with the curing process for the huge footers required for the tower. Masses of concrete are often cooled to help the concrete set since it gives off a tremendous amount of heat when it's poured.
|As time passed with the site preparation, patterns of the footers became evident, with two straight lines of square footer cutouts appearing in the pavement. This fit the pattern of a launched giga-coaster, but unlike the Top Thrill Dragster a third set of footer holes was also coming between the two tracks.
|As the holes were being dug, cages of rebar were being welded and wired together to go into place in preparation for the tons of concrete that would soon be delivered.
|Part of the steel
framework of the footings were the rings of steel plates onto which the
supports would be bolted.
The massive pit dug for the tower footing was enormous in width and depth. Workers needed ladders to get in and out of the hole as they performed the prep work required.
|With the holes dug, rebar frames in place, and form work complete, the footers were ready for truck after truck load of concrete to start arriving.
|As the summer came to an end and September approached, the construction ramped up into high gear, though what exactly was being built remained a mystery until the time was right for the grand unveiling of the new coaster and the whole new themed area.
|The pouring of the concrete began and the footers really started to take shape, while tons and tons of track and supports kept arriving daily as cargo containers from Europe continued to arrive.
|After the media announcement was made for the Golden Kingdom and Kingda Ka, Season Pass Holders were given the opportunity to sign a piece of the track for the new coaster once they processed their 2005 season pass. The track was part of the maintenance track where the trains would be parked when they were out of service or having maintenance performed.
|As the season was drawing to a close the footings were nearing completion. The first of the massive support column sections were installed at the base of the tower in mid-October.
|By the last weekend of the season the progress on the tower was very impressive. The teal structure could be seen from inside the park, giving a small hint of what the new skyline of the park would look like in 2005.
|The lattice structure of the tower came together quickly at the base, with four cranes on site to help lift the pieces. The crews were racing the onset of winter weather, trying to take advantage of the remaining days of warmth.
|Over the winter months the structure of Kingda Ka continued to grow, quickly becoming visible from miles around. It kept getting taller and taller, dwarfing the park's other massive rides. Week by week, level by level the workers raced towards the top trying to finish before the harshest winter weather arrived. By Christmas the top of the tower started taking shape as the tapered part of the structure became apparent. Just after the first of January the highest point of the structure was in place.
|Less than two weeks into 2005, the highest piece of track at the top of Kingda Ka had been placed, completing the most difficult part of the building process. The work continued with all of the mechanical systems and wiring taking weeks to complete. The four trains arrived on site, ready to load onto the track.
|As spring of 2005 arrived and the park reopened for the season, Kingda Ka was still a work in progress. While the structure was complete so much work needed to be completed on the ride along with the surrounding Golden Kingdom area. The massive cranes were still on site as things like the elevator were assembled.
|Kingda Ka towered over everything else at Great Adventure. The park's already impressive skyline was forever changed with the addition of the 456 foot tall giant, and the ride was visible from just about every place inside the park as well as from outside the property.
|The first weeks of
the 2005 season saw Kingda Ka sitting silently as work on the Golden
Kingdom was completed and the final components of the coaster came
together so testing of the ride could begin.
Even though construction took a month longer than originally planned, the massive roller coaster project came together and would finally be ready to welcome its first eager riders on May 21, 2005.
|The construction of Kingda Ka was well documented, and a time lapse video of the process was created showing the development of the record breaking ride.
|A documentary film of Kingda Ka's construction was produced for the National Geographic Channel's program Mega Structures.
|The images below are courtesy of Six
Flags Great Adventure.
Clicking on the these images will not result in a larger image.