Sent our writers on new Bobcat coaster

By Jason Irwin, Chronicle Freelance

I’ve been watching the progress on the new Bobcat wooden roller coaster online since it was announced last summer by Six Flags Great Escape.

Jason Irwin, left, and Ben Westcott. Photo by Great Escape
I hoped the park would offer a media event surrounding its opening — as they did when “Greased Lightning” debuted in 2016. I was one of the first to ride it!

Last Thursday (two days before the official grand opening), I joined Chronicle staffers Ben Westcott and Caroline Martindale for a media preview. I wasn’t inside the gates but a few minutes before being shown to my seat — the front seat (my favorite) decked out with audio-visual equipment to capture our ride. With Ben as my co-rider, we ascended to the peak of the initial drop…and we were off!

It was a surprisingly smooth ride —unlike some of the other coasters in the park, including my favorite, The Comet.

The Bobcat was much “tamer” than The Comet and some other of the park’s offerings, and I understand why: it’s a family ride. On that note, if you’re not the daredevil, thrill-seeker I imagine myself to be, this one’s for you — and the kids. (Don’t let all the lumber scare you.)

That being said, the Bobcat is far from boring. I enjoyed the ups, downs, twists and turns as much as any other ride.
The whole thing lasts just under a minute. If you’d like to share our experience, a video of our ride will hopefully be available on the Chronicle Facebook page.

Caroline joined us after our initial run for a ride as well. (I got to go twice.)

After the fun, I received some good information from Wade Abbott, the NYS Regional Representative for American Coaster Enthusiasts. He said, “This is a perfect addition to this park. It’s a great full-sized ‘first coaster’ for some. It’s big enough to be fun for all to ride, and it has some intensity, but it’s not too intense for everyone to enjoy.”

I spoke briefly with Great Escape Resort President Rebecca Wood as well, who seemed pretty excited. “This is the coolest new thing we have,” she said.

I agree. And I think the Bobcat fits very nicely into the park’s already well-rounded lineup of attractions. Well done.

The Chronicle’s Ben Westcott adds:

Designed for kids and adults alike, the park’s seventh roller coaster and second of the wooden variety offers a 55-foot lift hill and a max speed of 40 mph.

“We attract families with younger children,” Great Escape Marketing and Sales Manager Jennifer Mance said. “So we wanted to be able to add a coaster that is great for beginners, but also coaster enthusiasts.”

Mrs. Mance said it’s the park’s largest investment in nearly 25 years.

Engineer Korey Kiepert stressed, “We wanted something where a child could ride comfortably with an adult.”

Yet, Mr. Kiepert said the Bobcat still packs a punch. “Instead of it being any one thing for a long period of time on this ride, it’s like boom boom boom. We’re action packed. You’re always changing direction.”

Great Escape’s New Bobcat Coaster geared for all ages

By Caroline Martindale, Chronicle Staff Writer

On Thursday, May 30, The Chronicle staff tested the new Bobcat wooden coaster at the Great Escape.

The ride lives up to its name. The movement of the track evokes a predatory cat crouched low, stalking its prey then suddenly pouncing in a 55-foot drop.

All the components flow smoothly into one another from its airtime hops to the quick, agile turns. While not intense, the ride delivers an action-packed 30 second thrill designed to excite, but not intimidate.

Korey Kiepert, engineer and principal of Gravity Group LLC who designed the Bobcat, told The Chronicle, “The whole idea here is a family experience.

“You can be as small as 42 inches — that’s like 4 or 5 years old. You can ride it with your parents, teenagers. Everyone can ride something together.”

“I know when [the park] started out as Storytown USA in 1954 it was all about the families,” said Mr. Kiepert. “Here 70 years later, the folks at Six Flags are still saying we care about the families. We’re doing something for everybody.”

But thrill-seekers like it, too.

“It’s arguably one of the best new coasters anywhere in the US. Maybe the world,” said Wade Abbott, regional representative for American Coaster Enthusiasts. He and his son Daniel have ridden over 350 roller coasters each.

“You got the kiddie sized coasters and there’s not really a kind of something in between that and the really big, most intense, fastest coasters. So this is big enough that it’s still really cool to ride, and it’s got some intensity to it, but it’s not overly intense and it’s not going to turn off a kid to that.”

Chronicle’s Caroline, on riding the Bobcat

Chronicle staffer Caroline Martindale writes: The Bobcat was exciting, but over too soon. The ride is approximately a minute to a minute and a half from start to finish, but the time from the initial drop to braking is only 30 seconds.

I enjoyed all the sharp twists and alternating banks, but turning the final corner, the cart slammed to a stop and I thought, “Is that all?” However, the rapid thrill must work in its favor because my second thought was, “Can I go on again?”

As advertised, it is the perfect ride to introduce children to big coasters or for those seeking thrilling but not intense attractions. If you want a ride that leaves your stomach floating three feet behind, the Steamin’ Demon and Boomerang are the roller coasters for you.

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