The average roller coaster costs millions to build. A smaller one, like in the Mall of America, might be worth $1-2 million, but for newer and bigger attractions at amusement parks worldwide, the price creeps closer to $20 million. Fast Company online magazine noted that of the world’s 2,400+ roller coasts, around 7% are made of wood; the rest made of steel, which bumps up costs.
What else besides parts makes these stomach-twisting rides so expensive to construct? It starts with the design – the research, creative, and mechanics make up the bulk of the cost. Another added fee would be licensing for movies or characters, such as Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride at Universal Studios, based on The Mummy movie franchise. Some more sophisticated rides include audio or animation, which makes them all the more entertaining but also adds more dollars to the bottom line.
And that’s just the cost to build them! Once built, parks have to create budgets to operate and maintain these behemoths to ensure fun and safety for all riders. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the world’s most expensive roller coasters. Strap yourself in as we countdown these costly coasters.
No. 10 – Storm Coaster, AUS $20 Million
If you’re looking to get wet and wild, then Storm Coaster is a ride you’ll want to hop aboard. This Sea World attraction located in Gold Coast, Australia only opened its doors this past December. “[It’s] believed to be the largest single investment in a theme park ride in Australia,” said TNT Magazine. The ride has already made a splash at the park – literally. Sea World visitors have been clamouring to try out the 92 foot tall ride that ends with huge splash at 70mph. Storm Coaster has a tropical cyclone theme, simulating category 5 effects including lightning and water.
No. 9 – Intimidator 305, $25 million (tied)
Thrill-seekers need look no further than this Kings Dominion coaster in Doswell, Virginia. With an initial 300 foot drop at a shocking 85 degree angle, riders are greeted to an incredible fall that’s sure to put their heart in their mouths. This intimidating coaster was voted “Best New Roller Coaster in 2010”, the year it first opened, according to Amusement Today. The ride is named after the legendary Dale Earnhardt (whose nickname is the intimidator) and his NASCAR career; the ride begins with his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr saying, “Gentlemen, start your engines!”
No. 8 – Top Thrill Dragster, $25 million (tied)
At Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio stands one of the only two strata coasters in the world. Top Thrill Dragster was a record 420 feet tall going speeds of 120 mph, making it the tallest and fastest ride in existence at its launch in 2003. Recently, USA Today ranked the ride as tied for no. 2 of America’s most thrilling coasters.
With a Top Fuel Drag Racing theme, riders board and inch out of the station to the sounds of revving engines before reaching maximum speed in just 3.8 seconds flat. The coaster speeds up at nearly 90 degrees, rushes over the top and plummets back down at nearly the same angle.
No. 7 – Millennium Force, $25 million (tied)
Making its first launch in 2000, this roller coaster broke all kinds of records. At 310 feet tall, it was the first complete-circuit ride of its kind to top 300 feet; it was also the tallest complete-circuit ride with the biggest drop. On top of height, Millennium Force had speed: it was the fastest complete-circuit ride at 93 mph. Time magazine describes it as a “beauty of a ride, with twists and turns throughout the entire 6,595-foot course”. Other firsts for the ride include the use of cable lift system and magnetic breaking system.
No. 6 – Kingda Ka, $25 million (tied)
At Six Flags in Jackson, New Jersey, they know thrills. That’s because they have the world’s tallest roller coaster: Kingda Ka. This mythical tiger-themed ride stands a whopping 456 feet tall. Riders experience 28 seconds of 128mph speeds with drops at angles of 90 degrees. The steel coaster was first unveiled in 2005 but after nearly a decade of being on top, it will soon be the world’s second tallest roller coaster. According to Fox News, a new ride, taller than the Washington Monument (which is 555 feet) will debut in Orlando in 2016.
No. 5 – Leviathan, $28 million
Canada’s fastest and tallest ride can be found at Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan, ON (north of Toronto). For about 3 heart-pounding minutes, you can take on the coaster, which spans 5,468 feet long across the park.
Leviathan is a relatively new coaster, having been built in 2012. A fun fact about the Leviathan: the park auctioned off seats to the first 90-riders to try it out in order to raise money for Sick Kids hospital, reported News Wire. They raised over $40K in the end, with the highest single bidder spending $1,000.
No. 4 – The Smiler, $30 million
When you get off The Smiler, you just might be seeing stars. This coaster offers riders not only 14 loops (the most of its kind) but also different types of mind manipulations. The Daily Mail reported that The Smiler uses “hypnotic swirls, flashing lights and other distractions to fool the mind”.
These would make it a blend of psychological and physical thrills that are sure to get your blood-pumping. This trippy ride, located in Alton Towers, UK, is one of the newest on our list, launching in May 2013. Although it’s still new, the ride has a had a lot of problems that resulted in it being temporarily closed on several occasions thus far.
No. 3 – Thunder Dolphin, $37 million
Tokyo Dome City Attractions offers riders a chance to board the magnificient Thunder Dolphin. This steel coaster is one of the tallest in the world, and while isn’t necessarily one of the fastest at 81mph, but it’ll have you gripping your seat as the cars zoom through the Big-O centerless Ferris wheel.
Thunder Dolphin was recently reopened after being closed for three years; it was revamped for safety during that time after a piece fell and hit a rider. Just prior to that incident, Time magazine named Thunder Dolphin as one of its top 10 roller coasters.
No. 2 – Steel Dragon, $52 million
Riders were able to first board the Steel Dragon in the year of the Dragon – 2000 – at the Nagashima Spa Land amusement park in Japan. It was for a time the world’s tallest coaster at 318 feet with a 307 feet drop.
It’s still Japan’s second fastest coaster. One of its special features includes the two tunnels on the ride. Time magazine explained that one of the reasons the cost was so high to build it was that it needed even more steel than comparable coasters, as it had to be prepped for earthquakes.
No. 1 – Expedition Everest, $100 million
The top spot on our list goes to Disney’s Expedition Everest. Walt Disney World in Florida made the 2011 Guinness World Records for most expensive roller coaster, a title which hasn’t yet been broken. It took over six years to design and construct the ride, the storyline of which features a yeti guarding the “forbidden mountain”. When it comes to height, speed and lengths – the coaster is remarkably average. What makes this ride special is that it can go both forward and back during a single ride, not to mention the extras and set designs are much more advanced than others of its kind.
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