Six Flags Great America

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Six Flags Great America
Previously known as Marriott's Great America (1976–1984)
Six Flags Great America 2019 logo.png
Columbia Carousel at Six Flags Great America (2022).jpg
The Columbia Carousel, the icon of the park and the centerpiece of Carousel Plaza.
Location Gurnee, Illinois, United States
Coordinates 42°22′03″N87°56′04″W / 42.36750°N 87.93444°W / 42.36750; -87.93444 Coordinates: 42°22′03″N87°56′04″W / 42.36750°N 87.93444°W / 42.36750; -87.93444
StatusOperating
OpenedMay 29, 1976;46 years ago (1976-05-29)
Owner Six Flags
General managerJohn Krajnak
SloganThe Thrill Capital of the Midwest
Operating seasonApril to November
AttendanceDecrease2.svg 2.675 million in 2021
Area304 acres (1.23 km2)
Attractions
Total53
Roller coasters15
Water rides4
Website Six Flags Great America

Six Flags Great America is a 304-acre (123 ha) [note 1] amusement park located in Gurnee, Illinois, within the northern Chicago metropolitan area. The amusement park originally opened as Marriott's Great America on May 29, 1976, as one of two theme parks built by the Marriott Corporation. Six Flags acquired the amusement park in 1984 after the theme park division was an earnings disappointment for Marriott. The sale gave Six Flags rights to the Looney Tunes intellectual properties.

Contents

In 1972, the Marriott Corporation bought rural land near the Tri-State Tollway and had officially announced the theme park to the public the following year, in 1973. The new park would be built near identical to its sister park in Santa Clara, California, now named California's Great America. Designed by architect Randall Duell, the park was designed in a "Duell loop," in where the park was laid out in a full circuit circularly, as employees worked out of sight, in the middle of the park. Opening attractions and areas within the park were designed to be based around areas around North America, such as Orleans Place, a neighborhood located in the French Quarter during the 1850s and Hometown Square, a 20th century American town. This has since expanded to twelve themed areas, such as the Wild West themed area Southwest Territory, three kids areas, with the County Fair subsection, Kidzopolis and two DC Comics themed areas, one being DC Universe.

Featuring 15 roller coasters, the park ranks fourth-most roller coasters in the world, tied with Cedar Point. Additionally, the park features an adjacent 20-acre (81,000 m2) water park called Hurricane Harbor Chicago, which features 25 water slides and attractions and opened on May 28, 2005. Since 2017, over 3 million guests visited Six Flags Great America, ranking it among the top 20 amusement parks in North America for attendance. Running from April until November, the park features multiple annual events such as the Halloween events Fright Fest and Kids Boo Fest, and formerly hosted the Christmas event Holiday in the Park, which had extended the park's operating season until January.

The park has achieved multiple milestones, records, and awards. American Eagle was one of the first record breakers for the park, becoming the tallest, fastest and longest racing wooden coaster in the world, a record that the ride still maintains. Batman: The Ride, the park's inverted roller coaster, was the first of its kind, and was awarded the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) Landmark award in 2005. Whizzer also won the same award in 2012 for the park's maintenance of the attraction. Shows at the park have also received critical acclaim, with recognition from the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), winning "Best Overall Production" awards.

History

1970–1984: Operation under Marriott

Development and construction

In the early 1970s, the Marriott Corporation, owner of several restaurant chains and Marriott hotels, sought to branch further out into the tourism and vacation industry. The largest of the projects it took on was a chain of state-of-the-art theme parks, each of which would be named "Marriott's Great America" and themed around American history, opening in time for the nation's bicentennial. [2] From the beginning, three parks were planned, as Marriott identified three underserved metropolitan areas that could support a major amusement park: Baltimore–Washington, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Chicago-Milwaukee. [3] [4]

The largest of these, at 850 acres, was announced for Laurel, Maryland, in 1972. The proposal was canceled after fierce opposition from local residents convinced officials to deny the park permits, [5] and the plans were moved to Manassas, Virginia, in 1973, where it faced even stronger opposition from local residents and the National Park Service. [6] The planned opening of the flagship park was delayed repeatedly until Marriott abandoned the idea late in the decade. [7]

Meanwhile, the plans for the other two parks proceeded more smoothly. The location in the north of the Chicago metropolitan area was chosen to bring in visitors from Milwaukee and Chicago. Marriott purchased 600 acres of rural land in Gurnee straddling the Tri-State Tollway in August 1972, causing speculation in the Chicago Tribune that an amusement park was planned for the site. The Gurnee park was officially announced on January 29, 1973, along with a hotel and an industrial park. [8] Marriott received approval from local authorities, but the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority would not approve a proposal for an interchange on the tollway leading directly into the parking lot. [4]

Yankee Harbor was one of the five original American-themed areas, based on a New England port. Yankee Harbor, Marriott's Great America, August 1976.jpg
Yankee Harbor was one of the five original American-themed areas, based on a New England port.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held on Flag Day, June 14, 1974. [9] Randall Duell was the leader of the design team for the park, who created two nearly identical plans for the Gurnee park and the sister park in Santa Clara, California. Duell was a veteran theme park designer and for the Great America parks he sought to create his greatest design yet. With an overarching Americana theme in mind, Marriott's designers traveled across the country, observing styles and collecting artifacts to help inform an authentic atmosphere. [4]

The park was broken up into six original themed areas, which are organized in a "Duell loop" that runs clockwise around the perimeter. The first of these was Carousel Plaza, located at the front of the park, centered around the double-decker Columbia Carousel, Hometown Square, and based on early 20th century small towns of the Midwest; followed by The Great Midwest Livestock Exposition at County Fair (now just County Fair), with its early 20th century rural county fair; Yukon Territory, resembling a logging camp in the Canadian Yukon; Yankee Harbor, a 19th-century New England port inspired by Cape Cod; and finally Orleans Place, modeled after the French Quarter of New Orleans. [10] [11] [12]

Each themed area had its own set of costumes for park employees, and the design of buildings, shops and restaurants were all unique to each theme. [13] For example, the Klondike Cafe in Yukon Territory served beef dishes in large pans like those used for panning for gold. A seventh area, The Great Southwest, was planned from the beginning as a potential expansion, but was not built until 1996, when it opened as Southwest Territory. [14]

Opening and operation

Columbia Carousel is Great America's signature ride. Columbia Carousel at Six Flags Great America, 2005.jpg
Columbia Carousel is Great America's signature ride.

The park opened on Saturday, May 29, 1976, two months after California's Great America. The park was an immediate success due in part to coinciding with the bicentennial. [15] From the beginning, the park made use of the Looney Tunes characters as costumed figures to interact with the park attendees, a tradition that continues today under Six Flags ownership. [16] At its opening in 1976, Great America featured three roller coasters, Willard's Whizzer, Turn of the Century and The Gulf Coaster. [17] The park had also included other flat rides throughout the park. These attractions included the elaborate double-decker Columbia Carousel, which opened as one of the tallest carousels in the world [18] and the Sky Whirl, a unique, 110-foot (34 m)-tall "triple ferris wheel" custom-designed for Marriott. [19] Transportation rides included Delta Flyer and Eagle's Flight, two one-way gondola sky car rides. [20] In Orleans Place, attractions in the area were Orleans Orbit, (later renamed simply the "Orbit"), an Enterprise-type ride and Rue Le Dodge, a bumper car ride. [21]

A view of Turn of the Century and Sky Whirl from the Delta Flyer / Eagle's Flight in August 1976. Marriott's Great America, Illinois, August 1976.jpg
A view of Turn of the Century and Sky Whirl from the Delta Flyer / Eagle's Flight in August 1976.

The park's second season in 1977 saw the installation of several new rides. The 310-foot-tall (94 m) Sky Trek Tower opened in Carousel Plaza and today is one of the few rides to still operate under its original name. [22] Sky Trek Tower was built as and still remains, the tallest freestanding structure in Lake County, Illinois. [23] Also added was Southern Cross, a third gondola sky car ride which offered a round trip and a much higher view than the other two, whose station replaced the removed Gulf Coaster. A few new spinning rides were added, such as Big Top, Davy Jones' Dinghies and Hay Baler. [24] The park's first children's section, dubbed Fort Fun, opened in the section designated the Yukon Territory in 1978, which caused the Saskatchewan Scrambler to be relocated to Hometown Square and renamed Hometown Fun Machine. [25] Additionally, Great America's fourth roller coaster, Tidal Wave, was a Schwarzkopf Shuttle Loop that opened in 1978 in Yankee Harbor. [26] The Pictorium, an IMAX theatre, opened in 1979 and claimed to have the world's largest screen, at 64.5 by 88.25 feet (19.6 × 26.9 meters). [27]

The Turn of the Century roller coaster closed and took on a new look in 1980. Two vertical loops were added, along with two tunnels and the "new" ride was re-themed and renamed The Demon. The ride featured an original theme song and new hellish theme elements, some of which were removed following a backlash from those who thought that the ride's theming was too "demonic". [28] The American Eagle, a racing wooden roller coaster, opened in 1981. The tracks share a drop of 147 feet (45 m) and they reach speeds of 66 mph (106 km/h). The bottom of the first drop is built 20 feet (6.1 m) below ground level. When the American Eagle first opened, it had the longest drop and fastest speeds of any wooden roller coaster in the world. It remains the tallest, fastest and longest twin racing wooden coaster. [29]

The American Eagle was added in 1981. American Eagle 01.JPG
The American Eagle was added in 1981.

The Picnic Grove was added in 1982, allowing for more company outings and corporate events to take place at the growing theme park. No new rides were added that year, and several small rides were removed in the last years of Marriott ownership. [30] Southern Cross was removed in 1983. That same year, The Edge, an Intamin first-generation freefall ride, was added to much fanfare. Bottoms Up, a Chance Trabant ride and Traffique Jam were removed at the end of the 1983 season. [31] [32]

The last ride Marriott added to the park was White Water Rampage in 1983, an Intamin-built rapids ride that was later renamed Roaring Rapids and remains the park's most popular water ride. [33] The ride was added to Orleans Place, which required the removal of small rides such as Traffique Jam. [32] The Orleans Orbit was moved from its original Orleans Place location to Hometown Square, and became simply The Orbit. [34] By the mid-1980s, the Marriott Corporation was disappointed with the financial performance of its theme park division, with lower profits than the company expected, in part because the third and largest of its Great America parks was never realized. As a result, Marriott decided to focus on its core businesses and began searching for buyers for its two amusement parks. While California's Great America was sold to the city of Santa Clara, Bally Manufacturing, then the parent company of the Six Flags Corporation, offered to purchase the Gurnee park for $114.5 million. The deal was finalized on April 26, 1984, and as a result Six Flags also acquired the right to use the Looney Tunes characters at all of its other parks. [35]

1984–1990: Acquisition by Six Flags

Whizzer is one of only a few original Marriott rides to survive to the present day. Whizzer.jpg
Whizzer is one of only a few original Marriott rides to survive to the present day.

After the sale of the park to Bally Manufacturing in 1983, Great America officially became a Six Flags park. For the upcoming 1984 season, the park was re-branded as Six Flags Great America. [36] Regarding the acquisition of the park, Bally CEO Robert Mullane stated that it would be "foolish to change anything major" at the park. [37] Less than a month after the purchase, a software failure caused a car on The Edge, a freefall ride, to be stalled at the top of the lift shaft before moving forward into its drop position. The car was stuck in this position for a short period of time before it dropped in the lift shaft, causing injuries to all three occupants. Despite many attempts to reopen The Edge with installation of anti-rollback devices by Intamin, the ride was never able to escape the stigma of its 1984 accident. The ride was removed in 1986. [38]

In 1985, Six Flags added Z-Force to the County Fair area, a one-of-a-kind Intamin space diver roller coaster that closed in 1987 and was the only one ever manufactured. The site was later used for Iron Wolf, which opened in 1990. Z Force was relocated to Six Flags Over Georgia as part of Six Flags' (now discontinued) Ride Rotation Program. At the end of 1991, the ride went to Six Flags Magic Mountain, where it operated as Flashback before closing in 2003, and being demolished in 2007. [39] Power Dive was added in 1987 to take over the spot where The Edge had stood. Power Dive was an Intamin Looping Starship ride; it swung back and forth before eventually rotating a complete 360 degrees a few times. [40]

While operating the Six Flags chain, Bally found that the excess resources demanded and high seasonal fluctuations of the theme park business made it an unnecessary burden on its core interests. In 1987, Bally sold Six Flags to Wesray Capital Corporation and a group of Six Flags managers. Several acquisitions were re-sold or closed, while Wesray moved the company's focus from theming to major attractions. This ushered in an era of major new rides and roller coasters at Six Flags parks like Great America. [41]

A view of Shockwave from Sky Trek Tower Shockwave (Six Flags Great America) 2002 1.jpg
A view of Shockwave from Sky Trek Tower

1988 saw the first of the new coasters, with the addition of the massive roller coaster Shock Wave, an Arrow Dynamics mega-looper, opening in Orleans Place section of the park on June 3. Shock Wave was the world's tallest roller coaster at the time it opened and was surpassed the following year by Cedar Point's Magnum XL-200. It also featured a record seven inversions, which was surpassed in 1995 by PortAventura Park's Dragon Khan. [42] [43] When Six Flags Great Adventure's Sarajevo Bobsled, an Intamin Bobsled roller coaster, closed in 1988, it was moved to Great America and became Rolling Thunder in 1989, also as part of the Ride Rotation Program. It was added between Demon and Whizzer, where it operated until 1996. It now operates as Alpine Bobsled at The Great Escape. [44]

For 1990, Bolliger & Mabillard constructed their first ever roller coaster with Iron Wolf, a compact steel stand-up coaster, opened on Z-Force's former spot in County Fair. The Condor was added to Orleans Place in 1991, next to Shock Wave. [45] During the same year, the IMAX screen in the Pictorium was upgraded to allow 3D movies to be shown and fans said goodbye to Tidal Wave at the end of the season. It was relocated to Six Flags Over Georgia where it operated as Viper from 1995 to 2001, then to Kentucky Kingdom as Greezed Lightnin' from 2003 to 2009. [26]

1990s: Transition into thrill park

By 1990, Six Flags was on the verge of bankruptcy. Time Warner, which had held a major influence at Great America since the beginning through the licensing of its Looney Tunes characters, was a minority owner in the company and it purchased an additional share of the company for a controlling interest of 50 percent. The entrance of the entertainment and communications conglomerate gave the company not only a much-needed influx of new capital, but a chance for increased usage of Time Warner properties in Six Flags parks. [46]

A vertical loop and wing over on Batman: The Ride Batman The Ride at Six Flags Great America 1.jpg
A vertical loop and wing over on Batman: The Ride

The first of these collaborations between Six Flags and Time Warner came in 1992, as Bolliger & Mabillard constructed their first inverted roller coaster, Batman: The Ride, to replace Tidal Wave. [47] [48] Batman was unlike any other roller coaster at the time, as it opened as one of the first inverted roller coasters and took riders through five inversions. It was a tight fit for Yankee Harbor, but it proved so popular that lines stretched out of the ride area and across large parts of the park. [12] The surrounding area of Yankee Harbor was re-themed after the Batman films, with The Lobster being renamed the East River Crawler, which had retained the name before it was moved to Hometown Square under its original name in 2016. [49] Batman: The Ride was awarded landmark status by the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) at their annual convention in 2005. [50] [51]

To add to the hype around Batman from the opening of Batman: The Ride and the mega-hit film Batman Returns , the Batman Stunt Show opened in 1993 in a brand-new amphitheater located past Demon; which would later come to be known as the Southwest Territory Amphitheater. [52] Six Flags and Time Warner had debuted The Batman Stunt Show at Six Flags Great Adventure the year prior, with great success. [53] The theater would be a popular venue with several stunt shows for years to come, before being torn down for the 2016 addition of the Justice League: Battle for Metropolis dark ride. [54]

Space Shuttle America opened in 1994, closed after the 2007 season, and was removed in December 2009. Space Shuttle America.jpg
Space Shuttle America opened in 1994, closed after the 2007 season, and was removed in December 2009.

Space Shuttle America, a motion simulator ride, was built in 1994 near Sky Trek Tower. In addition to its purpose-made titular film, Space Shuttle America was home to three other shows during its lifetime: Escape from Dino Island 2 - 3:D, Stargate - SG:3000, and Superstition during the yearly Fright Fest Event. The original Space Shuttle America film returned for the 2006 season. In 2009, both the Space Shuttle America building and Space Shuttle themed facade have been removed. [55]

In 1995, construction began on a new themed area for the park. The Southwest Territory was originally intended to be added to the park in 1979, with the Southern Cross ride intended to bring guests to it. The first ride built for the new area was Viper, a wooden roller coaster based on the Coney Island Cyclone and themed after a snake oil salesman. Although smaller in stature than American Eagle, this twister-style coaster features many more instances of airtime during the ride. It was built next to Rolling Thunder, which was removed later the same year to make room for the new area. [56] The ride was relocated to The Great Escape in New York, where it continues to operate as Alpine Bobsled. [57]

Southwest Territory opened in 1996, with a desert theme based on the Old West. Three new rides were added: River Rocker, a pirate ship ride; Chubasco, a teacup ride; and Trail Blazer, a Zamperla Joker. The Big Top was moved in from County Fair and renamed Ricochet. [58] Viper's entrance, which had previously been located in Hometown Square, was moved to Southwest Territory entrance. To add to the excitement surrounding the new area, the amphitheater that has previously been home to the Batman Stunt Show was named the "Southwest Territory Amphitheater", and an all-new show, the Warner Bros. Western Stunt Show, debuted. This show followed the misadventures of three outlaws as they tangled with characters from Western films such as Maverick, Blazing Saddles and F Troop . The Western Stunt Show ran for three seasons and was replaced in 1999 by the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Stunt Show. [59] [60] [61] Giant Drop, an Intamin second-generation drop tower and Dare Devil Dive, a skycoaster, were added in 1997. [62] Giant Drop was placed on the southwest side of Southwest Territory across from the mission, and was themed to be an ore excavator in the fictional Loco Diablo Mine. [63] Dare Devil Dive opened in County Fair. [64]

Time Warner sold 50% of its stake in Six Flags in 1995, and in 1998, Premier Parks had its IPO and became the parent company of Six Flags Theme Parks after purchasing the remaining stake from Time Warner as well as the other 50% that had previously been sold off to holding companies. Premier Parks opted to follow the trend set by Bally's and began acquiring more properties. [65] Plans for expansion outside the amusement park started in the fall of 1997 with the planning of Six Flags Entertainment Village, an entertainment complex that would've been located across Interstate 94. [66] [67]

Added in 1999, Raging Bull is still the park's tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster. Raging Bull - Flickr - basheertome.jpg
Added in 1999, Raging Bull is still the park's tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster.

1998 saw many family-friendly additions. Yukon Territory welcomed Camp Cartoon Network, with five new rides, including Spacely's Sprocket Rockets (a Vekoma junior roller coaster), Scooby-Doo 's Mystery Machine, Yogi's Yahoo River, Rocky Road's Rescue Service and Bedrock Boulder Roller. Bugs Bunny Land was renamed Looney Tunes National Park and included the Looney Tooter Choo Choo Train, the Waddaview Charter, Porky's Buzzy Beez, Petunia's Lady Bugz, Looney Tunes Lodge Foam Ball Factory, Pepe Le Pew's Peak and the Nature Trail. [68] Opposition for Six Flags Entertainment Village arose in November 1998 with the citizens group Citizens United for a Residential Village of Gurnee (CURV) forming, with the concern of road congestion and rising tax prices. [67]

Bolliger & Mabillard constructed Raging Bull in 1999, a hyper-twister coaster that was added to Southwest Territory. This 202-foot-high (62 m), 73 mph (117 km/h), and 5,057-foot-long (1,541 m) ride was built on the former lot used by Rolling Thunder. [69] In late October, the park had officially cancelled their Entertainment Village project. [70]

2000s: Rapid growth and expansion

The park celebrated its silver (25th) season in 2000. [71] This was the last year for the Sky Whirl, as well as the Hay Baler ride. Since the removal of Sky Whirl after the 2000 season, Six Flags Great America has continued to operate without a Ferris wheel. [72] That same year, an accident involving a guest occurred on the Cajun Cliffhanger ride, which led to its eventual removal. [73]

Riders on V2: Vertical Velocity Vertical velocity.jpg
Riders on V2: Vertical Velocity

In 2001, two inverted shuttle coasters were added: an Intamin impulse coaster named Vertical Velocity, stylized as V2; and Déjà Vu, a Vekoma Giant Inverted Boomerang ride to replace Sky Whirl and Hay Baler. [74] Vertical Velocity was added to Yankee Harbor, with the swing ride Whirligig moving closer to the lift hill of Batman: The Ride to make room. [75] [76]

At the beginning of the 2002 season, there were no major changes to the park. The Pictorium's original IMAX film, To Fly, was once again shown. [77] In the summer, plans were announced to remove the Whizzer, which would offer its final rides on August 11. The announcement confirmed existing rumors. The plan to remove the coaster, which was one of only two operating Schwarzkopf Speedracers in the world, an original ride from the park's first season and a popular family-friendly attraction, was met with outrage from the public, particularly because the intended replacement was a major thrill ride. [78] The backlash led to Six Flags deciding on August 3 to cancel their plans to replace Whizzer, and instead elected to replace Shockwave. [79] [80] Power Dive was also removed, due to maintenance problems. [81]

Passengers aboard Superman: Ultimate Flight Superman Ultimate Flight at Six Flags Great America 1.jpg
Passengers aboard Superman: Ultimate Flight

In 2003, Bolliger & Mabillard constructed Superman: Ultimate Flight in Orleans Place, on the plot of land where Shock Wave stood. It was the Midwest's second flying roller coaster, the first being X-Flight at Geauga Lake. [82] The layout of the ride is identical to versions of the ride at Six Flags Great Adventure and Six Flags Over Georgia. Shock Wave had partially stood in the parking lot and for Superman the entire landscaping of the ride area was redone. [83] Additionally, the historic Ameri-Go-Round in County Fair was removed at the end of the 2003 season. [84]

Mardi Gras, a new themed area and an extension of Orleans Place, was added in 2004. It was built in the area where Power Dive and Cajun Cliffhanger had stood. A spinning wild mouse coaster named Ragin' Cajun was added, along with a HUSS Top-Spin model named King Chaos, Zamperla Rockin' Tug named Jester's Wild Ride and a Zamperla Balloon Race named Big Easy Balloons. [84] The same year, the removed Ameri-Go-Round from County Fair was replaced by Revolution, a HUSS Frisbee ride taken from Six Flags Great Adventure. [85] On September 17, 2004, the Six Flags Hurricane Harbor water park was officially announced. [86] It would become the seventh Hurricane Harbor water park to open, and would be built on a parking lot behind Raging Bull and Viper. The water park would feature Bahama Mama and Bubba Tubba, Hurricane Bay, a wave pool, among other attractions. [87] Groundbreaking began in November 2004, with grand opening on May 28, 2005. [88]

In December 2005, stockholders approved a plan offered by Daniel Snyder of Red Zone, LLC to take over management of Six Flags, Inc., following a fierce stockholder revolt due to rising financial concerns. Snyder appointed former ESPN executive Mark Shapiro as the new CEO of Six Flags, after Kieran Burke was ousted from the company. Snyder and Shapiro's plan of action was to move Six Flags away from Premier Parks' thrill-heavy focus and move more toward a family-friendly environment. [89] During the 2006 season, Six Flags Great America celebrated its 30th anniversary. The classic Triple Play ride in Hometown Square was dismantled prior to the start of the season because Six Flags Over Texas had received a similar HUSS Troika that had been damaged during the hasty demolition of Six Flags AstroWorld, and so a part was needed from the Great America ride for the ride to operate. Triple Play returned for 2007. [90]

Six Flags Great America 2006 old sign.JPG
Great America's original sign stood next to Interstate 94 for 30 years until it was replaced in 2006
Six Flags Great America 2006 new sign.JPG
Great America's new I-94 sign erected in December 2006

Also in 2006, Six Flags announced it would replace its sign that sits along Interstate 94 during the off season. The sign, which had been standing since the park opened in 1976, was replaced with a smaller one featuring an LED screen. The new sign went up within a week after the old one was taken down in December 2006, and uses the old sign's post.[ citation needed ]

2007 marked the introduction of the electronic Flash Pass virtual queue system to Six Flags parks, including Great America. For an additional fee, guests can purchase a Flash Pass and wait in line for a ride without actually standing in line. The system, themed after the DC Comics character, replaced an existing punch card system that was used at the park. [91]

As part of the new focus on entertainment, Six Flags introduced a new stunt show, Operation SpyGirl, in the Southwest Territory Amphitheater for the 2007 season. Operation SpyGirl was an original live-action production created by Joel Surnow, co-creator of the Fox television series 24 . [92] Operation SpyGirl debuted in May, and closed for the season in August. The show marked several new ventures for Six Flags, including pre-show entertainment in the waiting area, which set up the storyline that the evil archvillain Max Condor had stolen the "Super Viper Rocket" from the agency for which SpyGirl works—as well as a merchandise cart outside selling "SpyGirl" themed merchandise. Operation SpyGirl did not return in 2008. [93] [94] Other new shows introduced for the 2007 season were "Spirit of America" at the reflection pond in front of the Columbia Carousel, and "Show Stoppin'" in the Grand Music Hall. [95]

The tented area in front of the American Eagle was converted into Wiggles World in 2007, a third children's area themed after the Wiggles. Wiggles World featured five new rides, Henry's Splash Fountain, the USS Feathersword Play Area, the Yummy Yummy Cafe and the Get Ready to Wiggle Stage show. American Eagle's entrance was relocated to the right of the tent, utilizing part of the entrance building for the adjacent Dare Devil Dive skycoaster, to accommodate the Wiggles area. [96]

Great America added The Dark Knight Coaster in 2008, an indoor Mack wild mouse roller coaster themed after the film and located in Orleans Place. The ride is located indoors, mostly in the dark, and has a storyline based around Batman and The Joker. The Theater Royale was converted into a queue building for the ride, which features a preshow starring Aaron Eckhart, reprising his role as Harvey Dent from the film. [97] Additionally, Splashwater Falls closed for the 2007 season early on, and was removed in March 2008. [98] For 2009, Six Flags replaced Déjà Vu with Buccaneer Battle, a pirate-themed boat ride in County Fair designed by Mack Rides. The ride consists of 14 eight-passenger boats navigating a channel 450 ft (140 m) long. During the ride, there are numerous interactive water elements that can be controlled by passersby. [99]

2010–2020: Breaking records

Six Flags officially emerged from bankruptcy protection on May 3, 2010, and announced plans to issue new stock on the New York Stock Exchange. [100] Amid suspected disagreements regarding the future of the company with the board, Shapiro left the company and Al Weber, Jr. was brought in as interim president and CEO. [101] Six Flags announced that Jim Reid-Anderson would replace Weber and become chairman, president, and CEO on August 13, 2010. [102] In 2010, Great America acquired the Little Dipper, a "kiddie" wooden roller coaster that had previously operated at Kiddieland Amusement Park in Melrose Park, a western suburb of Chicago, from 1950 until 2009. It was placed outside Bugs Bunny National Park and opened to the public on May 27, 2010. [103] The park also introduced the Glow in the Park Parade , which was already featured at other Six Flags parks, [104] and MagiQuest was added to the County Fair Games Gallery in place of the Wii Experience. [105]

The former site of Space Shuttle America (May 2010) and site for Riptide Bay water park expansion Former SSA Site- May 2010.jpg
The former site of Space Shuttle America (May 2010) and site for Riptide Bay water park expansion

Space Shuttle America, the park's motion simulator ride that had been closed for two years, was removed during the 2010 season. On May 26, 2010, Great America filed a petition with the Village of Gurnee seeking to exceed the village's 125 feet (38.10 m) height limit. Six Flags was considering installing Chang, a roller coaster moved after the closure of Kentucky Kingdom, in place of the shuttle. [106] However, the park confirmed it was abandoning those plans in July 2010 [107] and that the space would instead be used for Riptide Bay, a 3-acre (12,140.57 m2; 130,680.00 sq ft) addition to the Hurricane Harbor water park. [108]

In late 2010, Six Flags began removing some licensed properties from concessions and attractions, with Wiggles World being renamed Kidzopolis and having Wiggles branding and theming removed for 2011. MagiQuest closed due to a lack of popularity and Great America Raceway, an original ride from 1976, was closed and removed. [109] [110] At the end of the 2011 season, Iron Wolf was closed and removed. [111] It was relocated to Six Flags America, rebranded as Apocalypse, before it was converted into a floorless roller coaster and renamed Firebird in the 2019 season. [112] For 2012, the former sites of Splashwater Falls and the Great America Raceway in County Fair were taken over by a new wing coaster from Bolliger & Mabillard with 5 inversions, a 12-story drop and speeds of up to 55 mph. When X-Flight was the second roller coaster of its type in North America and the fourth in the world. [113]

The Glow in the Park parade was replaced in 2013 with IgNight — Grand Finale to the park. IgNight was held in Hometown Square, in front of the Hometown Station. Six Flags announced that 2013 would be the "Season of Backwards" at Great America, with Batman: The Ride, Viper and the Blue Train on American Eagle all running backwards for some part of the season. [114] At the end of the season, Ragin' Cajun closed and was relocated to Six Flags America in 2014. [115] For 2014, the park received Goliath, a 165-foot-tall (50 m) wooden roller coaster built by Rocky Mountain Construction. The ride broke world records for the steepest drop, fastest speed and longest drop on a wooden coaster, and was built on the plot of land where Iron Wolf formerly stood. [116] Three former kiddie rides were reinstalled in the all-new Hometown Park children's area in 2015, located in Hometown Square. That year, the park held the "40 Seasons of Thrills" celebration, a festival which celebrated the park's history. [117]

Main climb of Goliath Goliath at Six Flags Great America (14883548835).jpg
Main climb of Goliath

In 2016, Great America introduced Justice League: Battle for Metropolis, a 4D interactive dark ride, alongside a new themed area: Metropolis Plaza. The area is themed after the city of Metropolis from DC Comics, and is located between Southwest Territory and County Fair. [54] Six Flags also announced plans to add virtual reality headsets to Raging Bull by the end of that season, [118] but the Demon received the VR headsets instead, creating a new 'Rage of the Gargoyles' ride experience. [119] The Orbit, an original 1976 attraction, closed on August 6, 2016. At the end of the season, The Jester's Wild Ride was also removed. [120]

The Joker, an S&S 4D Free Spin roller coaster, was added to Yankee Harbor for the 2017 season. [121] The park also announced that The Orbit would not return, and East River Crawler was relocated to the former site of The Orbit and its name returned to The Lobster, the original name for the ride. [49] For the first month of the season, VR headsets were added to Giant Drop, which became the "Drop of Doom". [122]

Mardi Gras Hangover, a fire ball attraction, was added in 2018. The attraction is a 100 foot tall looping flat ride which at the time was the largest of its kind in the world. King Chaos closed on August 26, 2017, to make way for the new ride. [123] On April 11, Six Flags Great America announced that Holiday in the Park would also debut at the park November 23, 2018. [124] On April 27, the park confirmed via their official Twitter account that Pictorium would be demolished to make way for new thrills. [125] The Pictorium was mainly used for a hypnotist show during Fright Fest and also hosted the "Screams and Dreams" series about the park's history. On August 30, 2018, the park announced that Maxx Force would open in 2019 replacing the Pictorium. It is manufactured by S&S Worldwide, and is an air launch roller coaster that breaks three world records and features the fastest acceleration in North America. [126] [127] On October 9, 2018, the Rockford Park District announced a potential lease agreement with Six Flags Great America for the park to operate Magic Waters (now Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Rockford). On December 11, 2018, the lease deal was made official and Six Flags took control of the water park on April 1, 2019. [128]

2020–present: Transformation into family park

Tents outside the entrance of the park used for thermal imaging, used throughout the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Thermal imaging at Six Flags Great America 2020.jpg
Tents outside the entrance of the park used for thermal imaging, used throughout the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

In March 2020, the park announced the delay of the opening for the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and was ordered to stay closed until the "Phase 5" of Illinois' phased re-opening plan. [129] [130] The attached water park re-opened to the public on July 20, 2020, with safety protocols in place, using the name Hurricane Harbor Chicago. [131] Although the full re-opening of the park was deemed "unlikely" by the Lake County Health Department, [132] the park did open with Holiday in the Park Lights, a holiday lights event, along with Holiday in the Park Lights Drive-Thru, a drive-through holiday event. [133] [134]

On March 22, 2021, the connected Hurricane Harbor park, now officially named Hurricane Harbor Chicago, was announced to become the 27th park in the Six Flags chain, becoming a separate park. [135] In the following month on April 24, 2021, the park reopened at 25% capacity under Illinois order, with safety protocols in place, including a reservation system, mask mandates, social distancing, and thermal imaging for temperature checks. [136] [137] On May 13, 2021, Illinois state governor J. B. Pritzker, with the park, announced that they would be giving away 50,000 admission tickets; an estimated total value of $4,000,000, for Illinois residents that have been newly vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine. [138] Expanded capacity started on May 14, 2021 with 60% capacity afterwards as part of the "Bridge" reopening plan. [139] [140] The park opened at full capacity on June 11, 2021, and all mask mandates were dropped. [141] [142]

DC Universe's plaza area seen during soft opening of the area DC Universe SFGAm.jpg
DC Universe's plaza area seen during soft opening of the area

On March 24, 2022, the park announced DC Universe, a DC Comics themed area. The area is a re-theme of Yankee Harbor. It would feature 3 "re-imagined" rides, The Flash: Vertical Velocity, a re-theme of Vertical Velocity, DC Super-Villains Swing, a re-theme of Whirligig and Aquaman Splashdown, a re-theme of Yankee Clipper. [143] Opening day of DC Universe was slated for April 15, 2022, when the park opened, but due to "excessive rain and supply chain issues," the area would open later in spring. [144] [145] DC Universe opened on April 23, 2022. [146]

A stunt and song performance at Kinetic Kinetic - Six Flags Great America.jpg
A stunt and song performance at Kinetic

Additionally, in 2022, the stunt show Kinetic premiered on June 25, 2022, and ended on August 7, 2022, in the Grand Music Hall. Running for 30 minutes in total, Kinetic is set in an urbanized-skate park setting and was produced and directed by entertainment manager David Major. The park had cast both local talent and entertainers from a New York entertainment group. Stunts during the show included BMX, kick scooter and trampoline acts. Along with the stunts, Kinetic also featured song and dance performances and featured multiple instances of audience interaction. [147] Kinetic was in development since 2020, being the first summer production at the park since 2019. [148] [149]

Areas and attractions

Themed areas within Six Flags Great America

The overall layout of Six Flags Great America has remained mostly unchanged from the original design that was created for Marriott. The park's designer, Randall Duell, followed the pattern of his trademark "Duell loop", creating a series of themed areas around a path which winds around the park circularly, allowing space for employees and maintenance workers to work out of sight of guests in the middle. [4]

When the park opened in 1976, it had five original areas: [12]

Six Flags Great America, in total, features twelve themed areas. [150] From the park's main entrance, entering into Carousel Plaza; proceeding counterclockwise, the themed areas are:

The front entrance area to the park. In addition to the rides, there are shops and food kiosks themed to the area. [10]

RidePictureYear openedManufacturer
(Model)
DescriptionRatingRef.
Columbia Carousel Columbia Carousel flowers 6FGrAmIL 2006 Jr.jpg 1976 Chance Rides
(Double-decker carousel)
At a height of 100 ft (30 m), the carousel is the world's second-tallest, surpassed only by its twin, the Carousel Columbia. The horses and other animals were furnished by Bradley & Kaye, based on reproduced antique molds.Mild [153]
Maxx Force Maxx Force Six Flags Great America.jpg 2019 S&S

(Air-launch coaster)

This triple-record breaking 175 ft (53 m) tall compressed air launch roller coaster from S&S features the world's tallest double inversion, fastest inversion (60 mph (97 km/h)), and the fastest acceleration in North America (0-78 mph (126 km/h) in under 2 seconds).Max [127] [154]
Sky Trek Tower Great America - Chicago - USA.jpg 1977 Intamin
(Gyro 1200)
The 330 ft (100 m) tower is the tallest freestanding structure in Lake County, Illinois, and carries riders to a height of 285 ft (87 m). On a clear day, Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline can be seen from the top of the tower.Mild [155]

Orleans Place

Bourbon Street Cafe, a restaurant in Orleans Place. Bourbon Street Cafe - Six Flags Great America.jpg
Bourbon Street Cafe, a restaurant in Orleans Place.

Orleans Place is themed around New Orleans in the late 1800s, specifically the historic French Quarter. The area opened as an original area in 1976, and part of the area was later divided into Mardi Gras in 2004, connecting thematically to the area. [84]

Rue Le Dodge is the last original ride from 1976 in the themed area. Other original attractions from the parks' opening placed in the area were removed, such as Gulf Coaster, a kids coaster placed in the area which is now occupied by Mardi Gras, which closed in 1977 due to multiple fires which plagued the ride. [156]

Some other removed attractions would also include The Edge, which was removed in 1986, [157] Traffique Jam and Orleans Orbit, which were both removed to make way for White Water Rampage. [158] The latter was later moved to Hometown Square, before its removal in 2016 to make way for The Lobster, an original ride from Yankee Harbor. [49]

RidePictureYear openedManufacturer
(Model)
DescriptionRatingRef.
Condor Condor at Great America 2005.jpg 1991 Huss Rides
(Condor)
Opened in 1991, after being relocated from Six Flags Great Adventure, the ride rotates riders and alternates between fast and slow rotations.Moderate [159]
Rue Le Dodge Rue Le Dodge - Six Flags Great America.jpg 1976Soli
(Bumper Cars)
A bumper car ride that features the world's largest bumper car floor.Moderate [160]
Superman: Ultimate Flight Superman Ultimate Flight at Six Flags Great America 12.jpg 2003 Bolliger & Mabillard

(Flying Coaster)

Suspended beneath a steel track, riders experience banked turns, 2 inversions and sweeping drops at 60 miles per hour while harnessed in a prone flying position. Built on the former site of Shockwave.Max [161]
The Dark Knight The Dark Knight Coaster entrance - Six Flags Great America.JPG 2008 Mack Rides
(Wild Mouse)
A Wild Mouse coaster housed within a dark, enclosed building.Moderate [97]

Mardi Gras

The entrance to Mardi Gras from DC Universe. Mardi Gras entrance - Six Flags Great America.jpg
The entrance to Mardi Gras from DC Universe.

One of the park's newest themed areas, it opened in 2004, after being converted from part of Orleans Place. The area's theme comes from the Mardi Gras holiday and specifically the famous celebration of the holiday in New Orleans. [84]

When Mardi Gras opened, it featured four rides, Big Easy Balloons, a Zamperla "Balloon Race" attraction, King Chaos, a top spin attraction, [162] Jester's Wild Ride, a "Rockin' Tug" attraction, [163] and Roaring Rapids, an Intamin river rapids ride which originally opened in Orleans Place in 1983. [164]

Changes for the area started in 2016 when the park announced The Joker. The original covered bridge used for entry to the former Yankee Harbor was moved to make way for the new attraction. Additionally, Jester's Wild Ride was also removed for the attraction. [165] The next change came the following year, in 2017, when King Chaos was announced to be closed to build Mardi Gras Hangover, an attraction in which is the tallest Larson Loop in the world, although the park claims it is the tallest "loop coaster." [166] [167]

RidePictureYear openedManufacturer
(Model)
DescriptionRatingRef.
Big Easy Balloons Big Easy Balloons Great America.jpg 2004 Zamperla
(Balloon Race)
A twirling balloon ride.Mild [168]
Mardi Gras Hangover Mardi Gras Hangover.jpg 2018Larson International
(Giga Loop 100 Ft) [169]
The ride is currently the tallest Larson Loop in the world. It replaced King Chaos, a top spin ride which closed at the end of the 2017 season. While Six Flags claims this attraction to be a roller coaster, it fails to meet the definition as it does not use gravity at any point in the ride to 'coast'.Max [167] [170]
Roaring Rapids Roaring Rapids Sign Great America.jpg 1984 Intamin
(River rapids ride)
Originally known as "White Water Rampage", this was Marriott's last major addition to the park before it was sold. The location formerly hosted Traffique Jam, an antique car ride until it was removed in 1983. The ride was closed for the 2021 season for re-tracking and renovation purposes, and reopened later in the 2022 season.Moderate [158] [171]

DC Universe

DC Universe at Six Flags Great America.jpg
The main entrance portal to DC Universe.
DC Universe and Yukon Territory entrance.jpg
The Yukon Territory entrance to DC Universe.

DC Universe opened as Yankee Harbor in 1976, a 19th-century New England themed town, closely based on Cape Cod. Yankee Harbor, throughout the year, had changed more than the other original themed areas, with the removal of multiple original attractions, and a focus on more DC Comics themed rides. [11]

The area changed in 2022, when it became DC Universe, a DC Comics themed area. The area re-used attraction names from other Six Flags parks for the re-theme of some of the original non-DC themed rides. [172]

RidePictureYear openedManufacturer
(Model)
DescriptionRatingRef.
Aquaman Splashdown AQUAMAN Splashdown (End) - Six Flags Great America, June 4, 2022.jpg 1976 Arrow Dynamics
(Hydroflume)
Original ride, themed after the superhero Aquaman. Water ride with twin flumes. Between 2001 and 2005, the park had a corporate sponsorship with Nestlé and the ride was temporarily renamed Ice Mountain Splash. Formerly Yankee Clipper.Moderate [173] [174]
Batman: The Ride Batman The Ride at Six Flags Great America 1.jpg 1992 Bolliger & Mabillard
(inverted looping coaster)
Themed after the superhero Batman, this Ace Landmark Coaster is the world's first inverted, outside looping coaster. It features a drop height of 109 feet, a top speed of 50 mph and 5 inversions. Built on the former site of "Tidal Wave".Max [12] [51] [175]
DC Super-Villains Swing DC Super Villains Swing Six Flags Great America.jpg 1976 Zierer
(Wave Swinger)
Themed after many of the DC Comics super-villains, originally located in County Fair, it was moved to DC Universe (under Yankee Harbor) and then moved again within the area to make room for The Flash: Vertical Velocity (under Vertical Velocity). Riders rise higher and higher and the speed increases. As the chairs spin faster, they swing out to the sides in a full 360-degree orbit around the revolving centerpiece for a very wild ride. Formerly Whirligig.Moderate [76] [176]
The Flash: Vertical Velocity TFV2 Entrance Six Flags Great America.jpg 2001 Intamin
(launched steel suspended coaster)
Themed after the superhero The Flash. Floorless coaches suspended beneath an overhead track traverse the track forward and in reverse. Launches riders 0-70 mph in less than 4 seconds. Formerly V2: Vertical Velocity.Max [176] [177]
The Joker Free-Fly Coaster Joker (Six Flags Great America) 1.jpg 2017 S&S Worldwide Themed after the super-villain the Joker. 4D "Free Spin" Roller Coaster, which took the former places of the East River Crawler and Jester's Wild Ride in Mardi Gras.Max [49] [163]

Yukon Territory

Yukon Territory - County Fair (Six Flags Great America).jpg
The County Fair entrance to Yukon Territory.
DC - Yukon - Six Flags Great America.jpg
The DC Universe entrance to Yukon Territory.

This area is themed around the famous forests and mountains in northwest Canada, with references to logging, prospecting and gold panning, specifically the Klondike Gold Rush. [11]

Yukon Territory formerly held Bugs Bunny National Park that opened in 1998, but was fully replaced with Winner's Circle Go Karts, an upcharge attraction, in 2012. [178] Many buildings in the area that originally opened are now closed, and most props in the area have been removed. [11]

RidePictureYear openedManufacturer
(Model)
DescriptionRatingRef.
Little Dipper Little Dipper May-2010.jpg 2010 Philadelphia Toboggan Company
(wooden roller coaster)
Built in 1950, this junior roller coaster has been honored with the "American Coaster Enthusiasts Coaster Classic" Award. This roller coaster was purchased by Six Flags Great America from Kiddieland Amusement Park in Melrose Park, Illinois, in 2009. Six Flags Great America opened "Little Dipper" in 2010 as the park's 14th roller coaster.Mild [179] [180]
Logger's Run Logger's Run (Six Flags Great America) 1.jpg 1976 Arrow Dynamics
(log flume)
Original ride. Water attraction with twin flumes.Moderate [181]
Winner's Circle Go Karts Winner's Circle Go Karts 1.jpg 1999These go carts originally opened in 1999 in Carousel Plaza. The go karts were relocated to Yukon Territory in 2012. The ride requires an additional fee.Moderate [182] [183]

Camp Cartoon

The entrance portal to Camp Cartoon Camp Cartoon entrance - Six Flags Great America, 2022.jpg
The entrance portal to Camp Cartoon

This is a sub-section of Yukon Territory. It was known as Camp Cartoon Network when first added in 1998. Despite the former name, the rides were themed to Hanna-Barbera properties and not Cartoon Network ones. [184]

RidePictureYear openedManufacturer
(model)
DescriptionRatingRef.
Crazy Bus1998 Zamperla
(Crazy Bus)
Formerly known as Scooby-Doo's Mystery Machine (1998-2018).Mild [185]
Sprocket Rockets Six Flags Great America 027.jpg 1998 Vekoma
(Junior roller coaster)
27-foot (8.2 m) kids roller coaster. Formerlly known as Spacely's Sprocket Rockets (1998-2018).Mild [186]
Yahoo River1998Thiel [187] Water kiddie ride. Formerlly known as Yogi's Yahoo River (1998-2018).Mild [188]

Metropolis Plaza

The smallest themed area of the park, based on DC Comics characters. It replaced the Southwest Amphitheater in 2016. [152]

RidePictureYear openedManufacturer
(Model)
DescriptionRatingRef.
Justice League: Battle for Metropolis Justice League - Battle for Metropolis Six Flags Great America.jpg 2016 Sally Corporation An interactive 2D dark ride.Moderate [189]

County Fair

The entrance to County Fair. County Fair entrance - Six Flags Great America.jpg
The entrance to County Fair.

The Great Midwest Livestock Exposition at County Fair, almost always known simply as County Fair, is an original themed area located in back of the park, and is the largest themed area. [190] There are many shops, stalls and attractions set in a theme based on a rural county fair. The area also features a food court [191] and a gallery of carnival games. [192]

Some former attractions located in County Fair includes Ameri-Go-Round, a smaller carousel which was replaced with Revolution in 2003, [193] Barney Oldfield Speedway, a car attraction named after American racer Barney Oldfield, which was later replaced with X-Flight, [194] and the Sky Whirl, which was a triple-arm ferris wheel, which was removed to make way for Déjà Vu. [195]

RidePictureYear openedManufacturer
(Model)
DescriptionRatingRef.
American Eagle American Eagle 01.JPG 1981 Intamin
(wooden racing coaster)
With a drop of 147 ft (45 m), a top speed of 66 mph (106 km/h), and a track length of 4,650 ft (1.42 km), the American Eagle has remained the tallest, fastest and longest racing roller coaster in the world since it opened in 1981Max [196] [197] [198] [199]
Buccaneer Battle Buccaneer Battle 1.jpg 2009MackLocated on the former site of Sky Whirl and Déjà Vu, passenger boats navigate a 450 ft (140 m) channel featuring interactive targets and water effects.Mild [200] [201]
Dare Devil Dive Dare Devil Dive Six Flags.jpg 1997 Ride Entertainment Group
(skycoaster)
A bungee jump ride where guests freefall from a height of 125 ft (38 m), and then swing forward on a steel cable. This ride requires an additional fee.Max [64]
Demon Demon Roller Coaster.jpg 1976 Arrow Dynamics
(looping coaster)
Originally known as Turn of the Century when it opened with the park in 1976, two vertical loops were added to the ride in 1980 in addition to its two clockwise corkscrews and it was renamed and rethemed the Demon.Max [28]
Fiddler's Fling Fiddler's Fling SFGAm.jpg 1976Anton Schwarzkopf
(Calypso 3)
Original ride. Has 25 cars for a total capacity of 50 passengers, spinning riders in a swift speed.Moderate [202]
Goliath Goliath at Six Flags Great America (14696979368).jpg 2014 Rocky Mountain Construction
(wooden roller coaster)
Wooden roller coaster, built on the site formerly occupied by "Iron Wolf." Also currently holds the records for the tallest drop on a wooden roller coaster, and is currently the world's tallest, steepest, and fastest looping wooden roller coaster. Goliath was also the first roller coaster in the world to feature a "Zero G" Stall.Max [203] [204] [205]
Great America Scenic Railway Great America CF Station.jpg 1976Custom Fabricators, Inc.
(train)
3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge train ride around the park. Also has a station in the Hometown Square section of the park. The railway did not operate from 2019 until 2021 due to Maxx Force and Tsunami Surge construction.Mild [206] [207] [208]
Revolution Revolution (Six Flags Great America) 1.jpg 2004 Huss Rides
(frisbee)
Originally operated at Six Flags Great Adventure as Pendulum from 1999 to 2003. A large arm holds the center disk full of riders. The disk begins to spin as the arm swings powerfully back and forth. Maximum height of 65 feet.Max [209] [210]
X-Flight Train going through the "Keyhole" on X-Flight at Six Flags Great America.jpg 2012 Bolliger & Mabillard
(wing coaster)
Second Wing Coaster to be built in the United States. 3,000-foot-long twisted steel track, complete with intense drops, five inversions, a barrel roll, and a zero-g roll.Max [211]

Kidzopolis

A children's-specific area of County Fair, located in front of the American Eagle entrance tent. [212] Originally known as Wiggles World, the area was added for 2007. [94] The Wiggles theming was removed after the 2010 season. [213]

RidePictureYear openedManufacturer
(Model)
DescriptionRatingRef.
Bouncer2007 Zamperla
(Jumpin' Star)
Originally named Bouncin' With Wags, this ride shoots riders into the air and goes up and down multiple times.Mild [214] [215]
Krazy Kars2007 Zamperla
(Convoy)
Originally named Big Red Cars, this is a controlled car ride that concourses through track, themed to a road trip.Mild [214] [216]
Krazy Kups2007 Zamperla
(Mini Tea Cup)
Originally named Dorothy's Rosy Tea Cups, this is a classic teacup ride.Mild [214] [217]
Pirate's Playship2007(Interactive Play Ship)Interactive Play Ship with nets and slides, originally named SS Feathersword.Mild [214]
Splish Splash Zone2007(Pop Jet Fountain)Originally named Henry's Splish Splash, the play area shoots water from the ground.Mild [214] [218]
Up, Up & Away2007 Zamperla
(Samba Tower)
Originally named Yummy Yummy Fruit Salad, riders enter through fruit-themed cars and go up.Mild [214] [219]
ZoomJets2007 Zamperla
(Aero Top Jet)
Originally named Big Red Planes, the ride is a controlled flying plane attraction.Mild [214] [220]

Hometown Square

An overview of Hometown Square. Hometown Square - Six Flags Great America (overview).jpg
An overview of Hometown Square.

One of the park's original areas, themed after a small midwestern town around the turn of the century. Guests walk through many shops and stalls and can ride many classic carnival-style rides. [12]

Whizzer, a Schwarzkopf spiral-lift coaster, is one of the last of its kind in the world. Hometown Square includes two show venues - the Grand Music Hall, an indoor theater, which at the park's opening, featured 1,600 seats, [15] and the Hometown Square Stage, a stage on the Scenic Railway Station. [212]

Attractions that once stood in Hometown Square includes Bottoms Up, a Chance Rides trabant ride which was an original ride near Demon before it was removed in 1983, [221] and The Orbit. The Orbit was a Schwarzkopf enterprise ride which was also an original ride, originally in Orleans Place, before it was moved into Hometown Square, replacing Bottoms Up. [221] The Orbit was removed in 2016 to make way for The Lobster, which was being moved from Yankee Harbor to make way for The Joker. [49]

RidePictureYear openedManufacturer
(Model)
DescriptionRatingRef.
Great America Scenic Railway Scenic Railway Station - Six Flags Great America, 2022.jpg 1976Custom Fabricators, Inc.
(Train)
3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge train ride around the park. Also has a station in the County Fair section of the park. The railway did not operate from 2019 until 2021 due to Maxx Force and Tsunami Surge construction.Mild [206] [207] [208]
Hometown Fun Machine Hometown Fun Machine.jpg 1976 Eli Bridge
(Scrambler)
Opened in 1976 as Saskatchewan Scrambler in Yukon Territory. Relocated to Hometown Square as Hometown Fun Machine in 1977. Spinning ride that follows the path of a star.Moderate [222] [223]
The Lobster The Lobster SFGAm.jpg 1976 Anton Schwarzkopf (Monster III)Opened in 1976 as "The Lobster" in Yankee Harbor (now DC Universe). Rethemed, renamed "East River Crawler" and repainted in 1992 to match the new Batman: The Ride. East River Crawler was removed for refurbishment for the 2012 season and returned to service in 2013. Moved to Hometown Square in 2017 and renamed The Lobster, replacing The Orbit.Max [166] [12] [224]
Triple Play1976 HUSS Rides
(Troika)
Original ride. As speed increases, all 21 cars turn in different directions. The arms start to rise up, lifting riders up on a 49º plane. The forceful arms twist around and around, pull inward, extend outward, and rise and fall dramatically as the cars continue to spin wildly.Moderate [225]
Whizzer Whizzer.jpg 1976 Anton Schwarzkopf
(Speedracer)
This classic ACE Coaster Landmark is one of the last "Speedracer" roller coaster models ever built. Originally named "Willard's Whizzer" after J. Willard Marriott. An electric motor begins pushing the car to the top of a 70-foot spiral lift hill. At the top of the peak, the train disengages from the electric rail and gravity takes over, pushing the car around 3,100 feet of twists, turns, and drops at 45 miles per hour.Moderate [79] [226] [227]

Hometown Park

This area is a sub-section of Hometown Square. [212] This section previously existed from the park's opening in 1976 until the rides were removed after the 2001 season. In 2015, three of the original rides returned as part of the park's 40th season celebration. [228]

RidePictureYear openedManufacturer
(Model)
DescriptionRatingRef.
Lady Bugs1976 (opened); 2015 (Re-opened)S.B Ramagosa (Kiddie Lady Bugs)Lady bug cars which goes around multiple times.Mild [229]
Red Baron1976 (opened); 2015 (Re-opened)Chance (Kiddie Planes)Flying plane attraction.Mild [230]
Tot's Livery1976 (opened); 2015 (Re-opened)Hampton (Kiddie Surrey Carriages)A carriage ride which goes around multiple times.Mild [231]

Southwest Territory

Originally intended to be built in 1979 as The Great Southwest, the area, themed around an old Wild West town, was built in 1996. [60] The area is outside of the park's loop, connected to both Hometown Square and County Fair. [59] It also had the primary connection to Hurricane Harbor Chicago prior to the parks separating admission. [232]

RidePictureYear openedManufacturer
(Model)
DescriptionRatingRef.
Chubasco Southwest Territory Mission Building.jpg 1996 Zamperla A spinning teacup ride, housed in a building based on a Spanish mission.Moderate [59]
Giant Drop Six Flags Great America drop tower.JPG 1997 Intamin
(Giant Drop/Multi Drop)
A 227 ft (69 m) drop tower, themed around an ore excavator at the "Loco Diablo mine".Max [63]
Raging Bull Raging Bull (Six Flags Great America) 01.JPG 1999 Bolliger & Mabillard
(Hypercoaster)
The tallest roller coaster at Great America, with a drop height of 208 ft (63 m), as well as top speeds of 73 mph (117 km/h). It was advertised as the "world's first Hyper-Twister".Max [233] [234] [235]
Ricochet Ricochet (Six Flags Great America) 1.jpg 1977 Huss Rides A swinging ride painted with cow spots. Originally named Big Top and located in County Fair, the ride moved to the new Southwest Territory area in 1996 and its former location was replaced with Dare Devil Dive.Moderate [236]
River Rocker1996 Zamperla A swinging pirate ship ride. At full speed, the Canoe swings through a 180-degree arc, with riders experiencing both swinging and free-falling sensations throughout.Moderate [237]
Viper Viper (Six Flags Great America).jpg 1995 Six Flags
(wooden coaster)
Opened before the rest of the Southwest Territory area, Viper is the only rollercoaster ever constructed in-house by Six Flags. The ride is an identical mirror image of the Coney Island Cyclone, like similar rides at other Six Flags parks.Max [238] [239] [240]

Hurricane Harbor Chicago

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Chicago is a 20-acre (8.1 ha) water park located adjacent to Six Flags Great America that originally opened in 2005 under the Six Flags Hurricane Harbor naming. The water park features 25 water slides and attractions throughout the water park. [241] On March 22, 2021, the water park was announced to be separately gated from the amusement park. [135]

Annual events

Fright Fest

Manslaughter Manor is one of many haunted houses at Six Flags Great America. Manslaughter Manor - Six Flags Great America.jpg
Manslaughter Manor is one of many haunted houses at Six Flags Great America.

On weekends in September and October, Six Flags Great America features its annual Halloween event "Fright Fest". The event started small in the early nineties and has expanded significantly since then. During the event the park is decorated into several different "Scare Zones" featuring haunted houses, frightening street characters, Halloween themed shows, as well as transformed rides. [242] Fright Fest features haunted houses, which are usually an additional fee. [243] Some haunted houses include "Condemned," a haunted house introduced in 2021, based on an underground laboratory and "Bloodshed," which is based on an evil lumberjack. Some other haunted houses include Big Top Terror, Gates of Hell, the 13th Order and Manslaughter Manor. [244] Many of the park's rides receive special theming and operate differently than usual. Chubasco, the park's teacup ride, is transformed into Terror Twister 2: A Turn for the Worse, in which the ride building is enclosed and a custom lighting design matched with a custom club style music mix is played. [245] Condor, one of the park's flat rides, is renamed during the event as The Birds and The Pit and runs a different cycle. [246]

Fright Fest also features shows and performances throughout the park. Love at First Fright has been presented in the Grand Music Hall every year since the event's inception and follows the story of a couple on a dare to spend the night in a cemetery who get caught up in crazy antics when several classic Halloween creatures rise from the grave. [247] The show often plays to capacity audiences during the event, and it is known for changing the show each year to include various pop culture and newsworthy references. [248] [249] The show has won multiple awards from the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions for Best Overall Production. [250] Another show, The Ringmaster's Cabaret, is described as a "freak show" which mixes in illusions with singing and dancing, and is also presented at the Grand Music Hall. [251] [252] [253] Past shows include Susan Rosan - a hypnotist who's with the event for many years until 2018, [254] Mundaka, a show held in the former Theatre Royale and The Damsel and the Warlock, in the Snowshoe Saloon. [255] For several years a third party called JPM Productions provided street characters and haunted house actors for the event. [256] While the company was praised for its costumes and makeup, in 2010 Six Flags moved the entire production in-house for greater creative control. [257]

Holiday in the Park

In 2015, Jim Reid-Anderson had teased the arrival of Holiday in the Park, a Christmas-oriented event. Anderson stated that Six Flags would "see if [Holiday in the Park] makes sense" at the park. [258] A promotion for the announcement of Holiday in the Park started in April 2018, and was called the 4-1-1. [259] On April 11, 2018, Six Flags Great America announced that it would stay open through the end of the year with an event called Holiday in the Park. [260] The new event began on November 23, 2018, and ran weekends through December 23, 2018, and ran daily December 26 through December 31, 2018. [261] Holiday in the Park was developed and produced by RWS Entertainment Group, creating multiple light shows throughout the park. [262]

The Columbia Carousel was decorated with holiday lights during Holiday in the Park, and features the light show Elegance. Columbia Carousel Holiday in the Park.jpg
The Columbia Carousel was decorated with holiday lights during Holiday in the Park, and features the light show Elegance.

Starting for the 2020 season, Holiday in the Park Lights began as a replacement for the regular Holiday in the Park event. Due to Illinois' guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic at that time, rides could not operate. [263] In 2021, though, the park re-opened indoor venues and some attractions. In addition to Holiday in the Park Lights, Six Flags also ran the Holiday in the Park Drive-Thru for both the 2020 and 2021 season, operating weekdays, while the regular Holiday in the Park Lights event ran on weekends. [264] The park removed Holiday in the Park from their event lineup for the 2022 season, [265] and the park closed for the rest of winter. [266]

Holiday in the Park featured multiple shows, one of which were A Wonderland at the Grand, a holiday-themed musical held in the Grand Music Hall. [134] During the 2020 season, the show was re-imagined as Wonderland, and was held outdoors at the Hometown Square Stage. Other shows included The Holidays Bake Me Crazy, a show based on baking for the holidays. [267] Holiday carolers named The MistleTones also walked around the park, singing holiday songs. [267] One of the main features were the holiday lights. The light show Kalightoscope was held at Southwest Territory (also named Kalightoscope), on both the Chubasco mission building and Giant Drop. [268] Elegance was another light show and was shown on the Columbia Carousel. Over 2,500,000 lights were strung up each season on park buildings and trees. [269]

Attendance

Marriott operation

Under operation of the Marriott Corporation, Marriott had expected 2.5 million visitors for the 1976 season. The Marriott Corporation had also expected 25,000 to 30,000 guests to visit daily. [2] Due to the close radius of Chicago, Illinois, Rockford, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it was estimated that the park could draw 6 million to 7 million guests within the area. [270] Marriott had closely reached its attendance goal of 2.5 million guests, with 2.35 million guests in 1976 and 2.4 million guests in the following year, 1977. [271] [272] With the rising attendance of the amusement park, it had also affected the attendance of neighboring amusement parks, including Old Chicago, in which guest numbers plummeted and later led to the closure of the shopping mall and amusement park after the opening of Marriott's Great America. [273]

Six Flags operation

Under park policy, Six Flags Great America does not release attendance figures. However, the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and other theme park industry analyst companies estimate attendance numbers for the amusement park. [274] TEA reported 2,500,000 guests that year, a drop of 160,000. [275] TEA reported 2,700,000 guests in 2010. [276] In 2016, TEA reported attendance for both the 2015 and 2016 seasons at 2,793,000 attendees in 2015, and 2,950,000 in 2016. [277] The park reached 3 million guests in 2017, at 3,039,000 guests. [278] This was maintained for the following years in 2018 and 2019, at 3,107,000 and 3,169,000 guests, respectively. [279] The Themed Entertainment Association did not report attendance for the park in 2020 due to the park's closure from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. [280] When the park re-opened in 2021, TEA reported an attendance of 2,675,000 for the park. [281]

Records and awards

Maxx Force holds three world records, including fastest acceleration in North America, fastest inversion, and tallest double inversion Maxx Force 2.jpg
Maxx Force holds three world records, including fastest acceleration in North America, fastest inversion, and tallest double inversion
Goliath holds the world record for the fastest and the tallest drop on a wooden roller coaster. Goliath at Six Flags Great America (14696982188).jpg
Goliath holds the world record for the fastest and the tallest drop on a wooden roller coaster.

Records

Multiple Six Flags Great America attractions broke records and first-of-its-kinds when it opened in various categories. The first of these were American Eagle, opening as the tallest, fastest and longest racing wooden roller coaster in the world when it opened in 1981. [198] [197] [199] The next one was Shockwave, opening in 1998, which, at the time, was the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world, along with breaking the world record for most inversions on a roller coaster. [282] Batman: The Ride opened in 1992 as the first inverted roller coaster in the world, which was manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard. [283]

Goliath claimed three Guinness World Records at its opening in 2014, as the steepest wooden roller coaster, longest drop on a wooden roller coaster and fastest [note 2] wooden roller coaster in the world; retaining the latter two. [204] Mardi Gras Hangover opened to the public on May 25, 2018, as the tallest fire ball attraction in the world. [167] The following year, Maxx Force opened with three record breakers with having the fastest acceleration in North America from 0 to 78 miles per hour (126 km/h) in 1.8 seconds, fastest inversion (heartline roll) in the world at 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) and tallest double inversion in the world at 175 feet (53 m). [127]

Awards

Some of Six Flags Great America's roller coasters have appeared on Amusement Today 's annual Golden Ticket Awards multiple times, with the ride ranking the highest on the Golden Ticket Awards being Raging Bull placing 9th in 2005. [285] For American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) awards, two roller coasters at Six Flags Great America have been designated as Coaster Landmark status, an award reserved for rides of significance to amusement parks. The first of these were Batman: The Ride, which was awarded the Coaster Landmark status on June 20, 2005, for its significance as the first inverted roller coaster to open to the public. [286] The next award was given to Whizzer on August 10, 2012, for the parks preservation of the attraction. [287] Additionally, Little Dipper was granted the ACE Coaster Classic award, an award for historic roller coasters that has been well maintained similarly to its original form. [288]

The Fright Fest show Love at First Fright has won multiple International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) awards. In 2005, 2007 and 2008, the show won the IAAPA Big E! Award for "Best Overall Production: $25,000 or less." Additionally in 2008, the show Show Stoppin' won the Big E! Award in the category "Best Overall Production: $25,001-$50,000." [289] [290] In 2010, 2013 and 2014, Love at First Fright won the IAAPA Brass Ring Awards in the category "Best Overall Production: $50,001-$100,000." [291] [292] [293] On USA Today 's Readers' Choice Awards, Goliath ranked number 4 in the category "Best Roller Coasters in the Country" in 2018 and Maxx Force ranked number 8 in the category "Best New Amusement Park Attraction" the following year. [294] [295]

Incidents and accidents

There were multiple instances of incidents and accidents taking place at Six Flags Great America. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) had revealed that in two separate instances, a total of 31 guests had been injured on Whizzer in an investigation in 1980. These injuries were not reported to CPSC. [296] During a private event rented out by U.S. Steel, Demon had stalled on a vertical loop on April 19, 1998, and had required an aerial fire apparatus to release stranded riders. [297] A drive-by shooting occurred on August 14, 2022, injuring three people, which caused an evacuation of the entire park. [298]

In the late 1970s, two TV specials were produced to feature the Marriott theme park in Gurnee, Illinois, both produced by WLS-TV (ABC 7 Chicago). To celebrate the opening of Marriott's Great America (now Six Flags), Celebration At Great America first aired on July 2, 1976, [299] and again on August 21. [300] The special starred Steve Edwards and Sandi Freeman of WLS-TV. Celebrity Guests included Mel Blanc as Bugs Bunny (and other Looney Tunes characters), Jo Anne Worley, Forrest Tucker, Jerry Stiller, Roger Perry and the Cast Members of Great America. Although in poor quality, the special can be found on YouTube. [301]

Another special, titled You're Never Too Old, first aired on September 8, 1979, [302] [303] and again on April 26, 1980; [304] hosted by actress Lisa Hartman. Originally, the special was planned to air on August 25, at 10:30 PM, before switching to the later date during primetime for unknown reasons. [305] [306] The special was met with good ratings, even beating out The 53rd Miss America pageant special that aired the same night. [307] The special was uploaded to YouTube by The Museum of Classic Chicago Television. [308]

In 1977, the park's circus show, Circus Fantastic, had one of its performances broadcast on Captain Kangaroo with Captain Kangaroo (Bob Keeshan) himself as the ringmaster and special guest star Bob Denver of Gilligan's Island fame. [309] In 1994, Iron Wolf was featured in the movie Richie Rich and was showcased as a backyard coaster. [310] On August 26, 2009, the park was featured on Dinner: Impossible where host Robert Irvine creates a meal for coaster enthusiasts to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Raging Bull. [311] In a 2013 episode of Insane Coaster Wars , the park's B&M wing coaster X-Flight was featured as a contestant against other roller coasters around the world. [312] In that same year, the park was featured in the Hindi movie Dhoom: 3. [313]

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References

Notes
  1. This is the combined area of both Six Flags Great America and Hurricane Harbor Chicago. [1]
  2. Lightning Rod had held the record of fastest wooden roller coaster from June 2016 until September 2020, before it was converted into a hybrid roller coaster. [284]
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