The SkyCoaster is an upcharge attraction ride at number of amusement parks in the United States, including Pennsylvania as well. The concept of the ride turned 25 this year, with the original company being founded in 1992. The ride was created by a company called Sky Fun 1, Inc., from Colorado.
Kitchen & Bird
Sky Fun 1, Incorporated was an amusement ride manufacturer based in Longmont, Colorado. The company was founded by Bill Kitchen in 1992. Kitchen, an avid skydiver, and Ken Bird came up with the idea of a giant bungee swing for amusement parks – a way for people to experience the thrill of bungee jumping, but with a higher safety factor. They created Sky Fun 1 but offered simpler bungee jumping from a crane as an early product.
The main concept Sky Fun 1 was developing was Skycoaster. When they began selling the product, they sold quite a few, and Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, became the first amusement park to permanently install a Skycoaster.
Sky Fun 1 manufactured a number of Skycoasters around the world by 1996, in countries (according to their website) including: Canada, Cypress, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, Norway, and the United Kingdom.
By 1996, Sky Fun 1 created a virtual reality skydiving simulator called SkyVenture. They claimed to have the world’s first in this product category. A SkyVenture was constructed on International Drive in Orlando, Florida, in 1998.
From Sky Fun to US Thrill Rides
In 1998, Bill Kitchen sold his patents for Skycoaster and most of the Sky Fun 1 company to ThrillTime Entertainment International for $12 million (approximately $18 million in 2017 US dollars). What was left of Sky Fun 1 became Skyventure, named for the SkyVenture that opened earlier in 1998.
Skyventure operated until 2007, when Kitchen sold the company. In 2010, Kitchen and his brother Michael founded US Thrill Rides (the company which created the Polercoaster concept) and renamed the SkyVenture brand iFly. US Thrill Rides claims their history reaches back to the founding of Sky Fun 1 in 1992.
From Sky Fun to Skycoaster
The parts of the company that ThrillTime purchased were then operated as Skycoaster, Incorporated. Skycoaster operated as a subsidiary of ThrillTime. They manufactured new Skycoasters that were installed in various amusement parks.
ThrillTime was experiencing financial difficulties in the mid-2000s. In 2005, ThrillTime sold Skycoaster, Inc., to Ride Entertainment Group. ThrillTime essentially went out of business in 2006, reverse merging (a publicly-traded company being wholly bought out by a private company) with Advanced Proteome Therapeutics, Inc. that year.
Ride Entertainment Group continues to operate the company as a subsidiary as of 2017.
In the years since ThrillTime took over Skycoaster, the ride has been installed in a number of parks over the years, including in Lake Compounce in Bristol and Southington, Connecticut, as well as a number of Cedar Fair and Six Flags parks.
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I have a wide variety of interests, from sports to politics, music to Star Trek. I write about the history of amusement parks on my website, The Amusement Parkives, which I founded in 2016.