March 7, 2000
West Mifflin, PA -- Surprise? Disbelief? Those were just a few of the reactions after Kennywood officials announced that the Steel Phantom will close at the end of the 2000 season.
Park officials surprised the crowd of coaster enthusiasts Saturday at CoasterBash, an annual coaster event sponsored and organized by the American Coaster Enthusiasts. Those in attendance were shocked, then saddened by the news and began to question the parks reasons.
According to the park the removal of any attraction is a difficult decision. Park officials cited declining interest and a lack of expansion space as two of the primary reasons for the closure.
Kennywood intends to replace the Steel Phantom with a new roller coaster next year, but officials would not discuss any possible designs. They did say that they were in talks with several manufacturers and that any new attraction will follow a completely different layout.
The Steel Phantom designed by Arrow Dynamics opened at Kennywood in 1991. This popular coaster begins with 160 foot first drop, which is followed by the highlight of the ride, a monster 224 foot drop that sends riders screaming through the structure of the Thunderbolt roller coaster at 80 mph.
With a 224 foot drop and a top speed of 80 mph the Steel Phantom held the titles for the tallest drop and top speed on a roller coaster until 1994 when the Desperado at Stateline, Nevada opened to tie the records.
The two continued to share the spotlight until last month when a new roller coaster named Goliath opened at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Los Angeles.
Regardless of records the Steel Phantom has become a part of Kennywood history and will be missed by many. Kennywood opens for the 2000 season on April 22. The Steel Phantom will continue to run until Kennywood's traditional closing on Labor Day.