Nearly 8.7 million people have taken a ride on the Georgia Cyclone since its debut in 1990. The ride is a mirror image of its inspiration, New York’s Coney Island Cyclone. TOM KELLEY/TKELLEY@AJC.COM

End of the ride for the Georgia Cyclone at Six Flags Over Georgia

Six Flags Over Georgia is saying goodbye to one of its iconic wooden roller coaster, the Georgia Cyclone, which will go away forever at the end of this month.

The last day to ride the Georgia Cyclone is Sunday, July 30.

The ride was extremely popular when it first opened but it has been overshadowed by more modern rides including Goliath and Superman.

“It has virtually no straight sections,” its designer, Curtis D. Summers, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an interview back in 1990 shortly before the ride opened. “You’re turning and twisting, weaving in and out practically all the time. There’s a lot of action in 2,970 feet of track.” The Georgia Cyclone is one of about two dozen coasters Summers designed or provided structural engineering for before his death in 1992.

People enjoy a ride on the Georgia Cyclone at Six Flags Over Georgia . The coaster traverses a series of hills, twists and turns, with barely any straight sections of track. TOM KELLEY/TKELLEY@AJC.COM

The Georgia Cyclone was not a record-breaking ride, but it nonetheless was well-liked, drawing favorable comparisons among roller coaster fans with its New York inspiration. It is a mirror image of the legendary Coney Island Cyclone. Its twisting, rough, wild layout is the complete opposite of the park’s other wooden coaster, the Great American Scream Machine.

The Scream Machine is all about hills, one after the other, with few turns. The Georgia Cyclone, it seems, is nothing but turns.

The climb up the big hill is, as Summers noted, one of the ride’s few straight sections of track. After plunging down the initial 78.5-foot drop, the ride curves to the right and plunges down again, crossing through the structure of the first hill. The ride continues along its convoluted path, with every hill or two punctuated by crossing over or under or through another part of the ride structure before taking another twist.

The Georgia Cyclone throws its riders from side to side and back, equally as much as it yanks them out of their seats with each of its drops. Sometimes it does both at the same time. The ride’s power and its forces are extreme, perhaps more than some riders think they are getting into.

The Georgia Cyclone’s opening brought the roller coaster count at Six Flags Over Georgia to five at the time, joining the Scream Machine, Mind Bender, Dahlonega Mine Train and Z-Force (a ride that was later relocated to California, where it operated as Flashback and was scrapped in 2007).

Roller coaster technology was far different in those days, and the Georgia Cyclone was king of the hill in an era before the height of a Goliath or the ingenuity of a Batman would steal its thunder.

The Georgia Cyclone has given nearly 8.7 million rides over the years. And after 27 years of screams, Six Flags is bidding farewell to this classic coaster.

“It’s time to focus on innovation and thrills,” said Gene Petriello, communications director for Six Flags Over Georgia. He said the park is looking forward to people having one last chance to say goodbye to a park classic.

What could take the place of the ride? Petriello said, “Each year we add a new ride to the park.” Typically the park makes such announcements in late summer.

The retirement of the Georgia Cyclone will leave the park with 10 operating roller coasters. 

RELATED: Six Flags Over Georgia: Decades of thrills

Tim Baldwin, communications director for the American Coaster Enthusiasts, a worldwide group of roller coaster fans, said he was surprised by Six Flags Over Georgia’s decision to say goodbye to the Georgia Cyclone, and he feels like there’s still a special place for wooden roller coasters at theme parks, including Six Flags Over Georgia.

“Wooden coasters have so much character,” said Baldwin. “It breathes, and it has its own feel and own smell. I just love them. It’s a shame that we are losing some but that often comes as a trade off for something even better.”

Baldwin, who is based in Texas, said he remembers riding the Georgia Cyclone within a couple weeks of its opening. He said the Georgia Cyclone had a “fabulous design and offered an outstanding ride.”

He said wooden coasters come with nostalgia because they’ve been around for more than a century. He feels confident the Great American Scream Machine will remain at Six Flags Over Georgia.

“I believe in my heart Six Flags will never take that one away,” he said. “It has a lot of heart and character and true wooden coaster experience.”

Yaay! Got to ride the iconic CYCLONE for the last time before it's torn down... (Sans mom, of course!)

A post shared by carla biggs (@carla_biggs) on

Meanwhile, Chip Sieczko, an assistant representative for the Atlanta region of the American Coaster Enthusiasts, said his group is always sad to see a wooden coaster go away, and he particularly loved the Georgia Cyclone.

“There’s a lot of pieces that come into play. The shade of teal is absolutely gorgeous,” he said. “The air time is phenomenal. The lateral Gs are second to none for a classic wooden coaster. It has everything you’d want.”

That said, Sieczko said he realizes these wooden coasters of an older era can require a lot of work to keep going, adding that he’s confident “Six Flags is going to deliver something great everyone will enjoy.”

Six Flags Over Georgia is open daily through Aug. 6 and most weekends through the end of the year.

Nearly 8.7 million people have taken a ride on the Georgia Cyclone since its debut in 1990. The ride is a mirror image of its inspiration, New York’s Coney Island Cyclone. TOM KELLEY/TKELLEY@AJC.COM

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