Saturday, March 02, 2002

Adventure ride hints at thrills

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Officials at Paramount's Kings Island Friday offered the first sneak peek of the amusement park's newest thrill ride. But it was only a peek, as “Tomb Raider: The Ride” remains shrouded in secrecy.

[photo] Tomb Raider will debut in April. Kings Island spokesman Jeff Siebert conducts a tour.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        Kings Island calls the ride its most ambitious in the park's 30-year history because of the years it took to develop and design, as well as the attention to detail, special effects and number of partners involved. It remains mum on the cost.

        Friday morning, the ride site was noisy as workers “aged” the themed rooms by drilling holes into the fixtures and spray-painting the stone-like walls.

        “I guarantee it will be unlike anything you've ever seen,” park spokesman Jeff Siebert said of the ride, which will be ready when the 2002 season kicks off April5.

        “The actual ride experience is literally a physical adventure ride. It's not a video screen, it's not a 3-D projection. This ride literally can catapult you throughout the whole chamber.”

        Kings Island describes the ride as an iimmersing, 20-minute experience from start to finish.

        It begins with a walking journey into an ancient temple. As massive stone walls give way to others, guests will keep moving through strange chambers, engraved with runic symbols and debris of failed expeditions.

        A sense of impending doom magnifies, as the special effects — flames, lighting and fog — and music intensify. With seconds to spare before a catastrophe, guests strap into a vehicle that will take them through several twists and turns in an attempt to escape.

        Playing off scenes from the movie filmed in Cambodia and Iceland, the escape will include a near-clash in an ice cave and a head-first plunge toward a pit of red-hot lava.

        Though much of the experience was described during Friday's tour of Tomb Raider, the ride itself remained under lock and key.

        Why so much secrecy? Park officials say they're going for the element of surprise.

        Eric Minton, a Dayton, Ohio-based industry analyst, said there hasn't been as much talk about Tomb Raider as he expected.

        “On the surface, people don't really know what it is, so it's not something that you can look at in the industry and say, "Will this work?'” said Mr. Minton, editor of The Loop, an online trade publication. “As much as anything, it's a secret.”

        But Shirley Bonekemper, executive director of the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau, isn't worried. “Whenever they introduce a major new ride like this, their attendance goes up, the hotel business goes up, our revenue goes up,” she said.

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