Why Dueling Dragons Closing Is A Huge Deal

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Today marks a monumental occasion in theme park history - the closure of the iconic B&M inverted coaster Dragon Challenge, formerly known as Dueling Dragons, at Universal Islands of Adventure. Whilst the coaster community mourns, I wanted to take this time to have a run through why this is such a massive deal.

It's the first B&M to close
OK, we haven't had it 100% confirmed just yet, but likelihood is that this pair of beasts will be the first coasters from manufacturer B&M to hit the scrapheap. Since opening their first coaster, stand-up Iron Wolf at Six Flags Great America, the company have never seen a coaster close properly (though a few have relocated including the aforementioned). It's a huge milestone in coaster history and shows just how much and how quickly the industry changes.

Tastes are changing
With the rise of VR in recent years we've heard a LOT about how tastes for thrill rides have changed and the fact that we haven't really seen a coaster attempt to break Kingda Ka's height record kind of supports that. Now that Universal, a HUGE player in the theme park industry, have essentially poo-pooed a traditional solid hardware coaster attraction in favour of something supposedly more experiential is extremely telling.

The rise of Potter and the subsequently increasing demand for fully immersive themed lands has fed an appetite for equally immersive attractions, and the nature of the humble roller coaster just doesn't really lend itself to this as well as newer coaster/dark-ride hybrid attractions can.

Universal have lost a weenie
If you don't know what a weenie is, you can check out more here. Essentially they're a park's icon - think the EPCOT golf ball or Cinderella's castle. For so long the near miss vertical loops on Dragons were an icon of Universal Islands of Adventure and used all over their advertising in the noughties. It's strange that something that was so synonymous with the Islands will no longer exist. OK, I know that for the past few years it hasn't duelled properly anyway, but the point still stands.

IPs are incredibly powerful
OK, we kind of already knew this, and although we collectively bemoan the gradual infestation of IPs in every corner of our beloved attractions, there's no denying their pulling power and it's easy to see why more and more parks are leaning on this. Universal are no stranger to closing beloved fan-favourite attractions, but removing Dragons is such a statement: it's essentially a huge fuck you to in-house storytelling and classic 'own-brand' attractions.

The future is exciting
If Universal are willing to forgo such an iconic, and let's face it, pretty excellent attraction, you better believe that what is coming to replace it is going to be fucking epic. The site is absolutely HUGE, the queue alone spans vast areas of land. Plus, it's great that this area will finally be brought up the speed with the rest of the park. As much as I was a huge Dragons fan, there's no denying that the 'backstage' look whilst you were riding the beasts wasn't exactly the most aesthetically pleasing.

It is with a heavy heart that I scroll through my social media feeds today, but as I always am with these kind of things I'll remain optimistic. I can 100% see why the park have chosen to close Dueling Dragons to make way for something exciting and new, and whilst it was always a personal favourite of mine and will be incredibly missed by myself and thousands of others if we want to see our favourite parks continue to prosper then sacrifices sadly do have to be made.

So here's to an excellent coaster. Dueling Dragons will never be forgotten and I look forward to whatever takes it's place - they're pretty big boots to fill!

Talk later xoxo,

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