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Why do theme parks recycle roller coasters?

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Quick Answer

"Reduce, reuse, and recycle" can be applied to much more than just bottles and cans, and it's a common practice for amusement parks to sell, repurpose or buy used roller coasters. The reason is mainly economic: used roller coasters cost a lot less.

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Why do theme parks recycle roller coasters?
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Full Answer

Over the course of twenty years, a roller coaster can pass through many different hands. Take, for instance, the history of one particular ride:

  • 1986 - began as a ride in a carnival in Germany
  • 1996 - sold to a park in Stockholm, Sweden; named "Thriller"
  • 1998 - shipped to Six Flags AstroWorld in Houston, Texas; named the "Texas Tornado"
  • 2003 - moved to Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo, California; called "Zonga"
  • 2008 - bought by a park in Aguascalientes, Mexico and named "Tsunami"

Reusing roller coasters isn't a new practice, even with the aftermath of the Great Recession. Moving and renovating rides is much cheaper than buying a new one. Used rides cost about 80% less than new roller coasters, some of which sell at nearly $20 million as of 2011. Still, some premium parks refuse to do anything but build new parks. Companies like Universal Studios and Disneyland, which have more resources than an average park, can afford to build new rides on-site.

The idea of so-called second tier parks recycling roller coasters might strike fear into riders. But in most of the United States, especially California, these used rides go through a more rigorous inspection. Because they need to be dismantled and transported, inspectors can look closely at all of the smaller parts, keeping a watch for wear and tear or minor issues.

For those who are terrified of roller coasters and theme parks, perhaps this news is unsettling. For others, perhaps it provides an even greater thrill. Either way, it's not likely that anyone's safety is being sacrificed, even if the word "recycled" doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

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