Darien Lake Theme Park
Corfu, New York
Negative-G 2012 Road Trip
May 25, 2012
Page One

10-26-12:  Darien Lake has contacted me apologizing for our less than stellar day at Darien Lake and has asked that we visit them again for hopefully a much better visit.  They understand that there's work needed to be done to bring this park up to the standards of Hirschend Family Entertainment and are committed to get the job done.  So some time in the future we will revisit Darien Lake.  I will leave my trip report that follows as is but as a reader please keep in the back of your mind that maybe we hit everything at Darien Lake at just the wrong time creating the "perfect storm" of a bad day at a park.   

Darien Lake is a pretty park with fun rides and the additions that Hirschend have added are top notch just like those they have added to Dollywood and Silver Dollar City and they have more in the pipeline for this park.  So like I'm going to do please give Darien Lake a try.

Darien Lake Theme Park, Corfu, New York

The second half of the second day of the Negative-G 2012 Road Trip found us in a new state for Bond and a new amusement park for both he and I; Darien Lake Theme Park in Corfu, New York. 

Darien Lake has an interesting and confusing history.  It began as a campground and picnic area in the 1950's.  In 1979 a few rides were added and Darien Lake Fun Country began.  In 1983 Funtime Parks; a small park operator that owned Geauga Lake and Wyandot Lake Parks at the time added Darien Lake to their burgeoning chain.  Funtime developed Darien Lake by massively expanding it's rides and entertainment offerings.  In the mid 1990's a competing park chain known as Premiere Parks purchased many parks across the country and eventually they set their sites on Darien Lake and shortly after purchasing it they acquired the entire Six Flags chain.  Premiere/Six Flags transformed Darien Lake to Six Flags Darien Lake in 1999 and further added to the park with a infrastructure and the Superman Ride of Steel hyper-coaster (now known as "Ride of Steel").  Darien Lake was not to be a Six Flags for too long as eventually all the debt Premiere built up by purchasing park after park and the entire Six Flags chain caught up with them and Darien Lake and a few other parks were put up for sale to reduce the debt.  Darien Lake ended up being owned by Parc Management who shortly afterwards turned ownership over to CNL Income Properties.  Despite not owning the park Parc Management ran Darien Lake until 2011 when CNL contracted with Hirschend Family Entertainment, the owners of Dollywood and Silver Dollar City to manage Darien Lake and a few of their other parks.

The Mind Eraser Roller Coaster at Darien Lake Theme Park, Corfu, New York

This is a Suspended Looping Coaster (or SLC in coaster geek speak) made by the company Vekoma.  This one, like all of the four Vekoma SLC's that Premiere Parks purchased in the late 1990's and named Mind Eraser.   It's a perfect name for the ride as I'll explain in a few.

The Mind Eraser Roller Coaster at Darien Lake Theme Park, Corfu, New York

Vekoma is kind of the poor park's steel coaster manufacturer.  Back in the 90's they didn't invent rides, they took other companies ideas and made inexpensive copies of them so that parks who didn't have the budget of a Cedar Point or a Six Flags could have a facsimile of the newest hottest thing. 

In 1992 B&M invented the inverted roller coaster when they opened Batman: The Ride at Six Flags Great America and the ride blew the entire amusement world away.  You didn't ride on the track; you rode under it and looped with nothing beneath your feet but the sky as the track was on the inside of the loop.  With parks scrambling to have their very own inverted looping coaster Vekoma threw their hat into the ring with the SLC design.  It looked awesome and cool and had a big "wow" factor with the general public so Vekoma started a production line and eighteen years later we have 39 of these (some with a few modifications to the general layout) all around the world.

The Mind Eraser Roller Coaster at Darien Lake Theme Park, Corfu, New York

The problem with SLC's is to most coaster enthusiasts is, well they suck.  They are not smooth and not fun to ride like the B&M, or the Intamin designed inverted coasters.  The words enthusiasts use to describe these rides have became a nick name for the SLC's themself.  Those words are "hang & bang" and there's a lot of "bang" especially your head bangs into the restraints as you "hang" under it's tracks..

Before visiting Darien Lake Bond had never experienced the horror that is a Vekoma "hang & bang".  Having known of these rides reputation he was not too excited to hop on it for a ride.  Being one of us coaster geeks he'll take a couple of minutes of pain in order to add one more coaster to his list in the unachievable goal of riding all of the coasters in the world.  So here we are getting ready to take Mind Eraser for a ride.


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Paul B. Drabek