Construction on Six Flags Darien Lake's newest ride, the SkySkreamer, is almost finished. It should be open by the middle of next month, soon after the park opens for the season May 4.
The SkySkreamer is basically the spinning chair-swing ride you've seen at every carnival – but dramatically bigger and taller. At 24 stories high, it will be the tallest ride in New York State.
The ride will fit 32 riders at a time in open-air swings, each sitting two to a swing. At the widest rotation, riders will spin in a 98-foot circle at 35 miles per hour. Riders are strapped in with a seat belt.
Compared to Darien Lake's latest ride, the 52-mile-per-hour Tantrum roller coaster that has a 97-degree vertical drop, the SkySkreamer is a throwback to some of the earliest amusement park rides in the country. The first swing ride, the Flying Swing, appeared at a theme park in Oakland, Calif., in 1908.
Marineland Canada in Niagara Falls, Ont., has something called a Sky Skreamer, but it's a different ride altogether. It has towers that shoot riders vertically up and down at high rates of speed.
There are SkySkreamers like the one at Darien Lake at other Six Flags parks in Georgia, California, New Jersey, Missouri and Texas.
In June, a SkySkreamer at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey stranded riders in the air for 15 minutes. Safety sensors on the ride detected an error, triggering the ride's emergency stop system. The ride, which was full at the time, eventually returned to the ground, allowing everyone to exit safely.
The park put $2.1 million into the thrill ride and received $166,000 in sales tax breaks via the Genesee County Economic Development Center.
This will be the first season Darien Lake returns to the Six Flags banner. Six Flags Entertainment Corp. acquired the rights to operate the park last year through an agreement with EPR Properties. Six Flags owned and operated Darien Lake from 1999 to 2007.
Buffalo investor Paul Snyder opened Darien Lake as a campground and picnic area in 1964. Snyder began adding attractions in the 1970s, and added its first roller coaster, the Viper, in 1982. By then, he had named the place Darien Lake Fun Country.
Snyder sold a 50 percent stake in the company to Funtime Inc. in 1983, then the rest of it around 1990. In 1995, it was sold to Premier Parks, which became Six Flags Theme Parks in 1998. In 2007, Six Flags sold Darien Lake to PARC Management, which sold it to CNL Income Properties. CNL leased Darien Lake back to PARC, and PARC operated it.
PARC defaulted on its lease in 2010, and Herschend family entertainment took over operations in 2011. The operation lease was taken over by Premier Parks in 2014.
At the end of the 2016 season, CNL sold Darien Lake to EPR Properties, which continued to lease it to Premier Parks. Six Flags took over operations last year, but didn't re-brand until this season.