AGAWAM, Mass. — The Cyclone roller coaster didn't go out with a bang Sunday, but there were plenty of roars as hundreds of passengers streamed to Six Flags New England for one last ride.
Six Flags plans to retire the ride to make room for a new attraction on the site near the entrance to the amusement park, but before then, park officials wanted to send the venerable coaster off in style. Memorable rides and a fireworks display were planned for the last day of the coaster that has hosted more than 15 million riders since it opened in the summer of 1983.
"We're retiring it for a reason," said Jennifer McGrath, communications manager for Six Flags New England. "On Aug. 28, we will be announcing a massive announcement. I wish I could share what it is, but what I can share is that it is going to be a huge, spectacular thing."
McGrath said the decision to retire the Cyclone was not arrived at lightly. Six Flags New England and its corporate parent put over a year and a half of planning into deciding which of the park's 11 roller coaster to shut down and solicited feedback on social media.
The Cyclone was the coaster that seemed to receive the least amount of feedback.
But you couldn't tell that on Sunday, as McGrath said there were more than 100 people lined up to ride the coaster when the park opened. McGrath said the Cyclone's line continued to be three or four times its normal size throughout the day.
"It was amazing," said Trisha Vickers, who traveled from Baltimore with her father to ride the Cyclone one last time when they heard it would be closing. "We were lucky enough to get the first row, front seat, so it was a very great experience getting to ride it."
When the Cyclone opened in the early 1980s, it was considered cutting-edge engineering and technology for its time and was the first major thrill coaster in New England, at one point reaching speeds of more than 60 mph.
Jim Durkin, a Rocky Hill resident who brought his family to the park Sunday to ride the Cyclone one last time, said he was fortunate enough to be on the coaster's very first ride when it opened at the park on June 24, 1983. Durkin said there was nothing else like it around at the time.
"There were a bunch of roller coasters [back then], but this was a big deal when this came into the park," Durkin said. "This was the biggest roller coaster in the area."
Although more modern, flashier coasters have supplanted the Cyclone's popularity over the years, the turnout for its last day showed that the classic ride will clearly be missed at the amusement park.