Neighbors concerned about loud roller coasters running late at night at Kings Island may be getting some relief. Parent company Cedar Fair tells the group it will add sand to the tracks of the Orion and Diamondback roller coasters.
As WVXU reported in Dec. 2019, people living near the amusement park - feeling they weren't getting a response from Kings Island - began contacting media and lawmakers about concerns over excessive noise caused by Diamondback running after 10 p.m. in the fall. They were worried the new Orion coaster currently under construction would be even louder.
In an email from Cedar Fair to the neighbors' attorney, executive vice president and general counsel Duffield Milkie writes, "Based on the preliminary recommendations (from an acoustic engineer) Kings Island has initiated a project to fill certain sections of the Diamondback 'box beam' track with sand."
He continues, "Kings Island has proactively required that the Orion coaster track rails be pre-filled with sand to reduce sound levels from that ride. We believe these steps will address the neighbors' complaints related to noise emissions."
People living in neighborhoods just south of Kings Island have been complaining for 10 years about excessive noise - they have acoustic engineer reports showing the sound levels exceed local regulations - created by Diamondback. Those who talked with WVXU agree they knew what they were in for when they moved near the park - though some of them were there before the park was built - but they say they never could have imagined a coaster as big and loud as Diamondback, and Orion is the same type of coaster, but bigger.
"The windows rattle," Ken Taylor told WVXU in December. "You can hear the thumping about - I think it's like every 60 seconds a train rides - and it roars through and on a nice, still, quiet evening it feels like it's coming across your bed."
Taylor and others say they met with Kings Island officials about the noise levels when the coaster was built but were there wasn't much that could be done to mitigate it. However, in summer 2019 the neighbors came across a potential solution: placing sand in the coaster rails to damp the sound.
"Not only have they done this," neighbor Scott Meyer said, "but they've done this at other Cedar Fair parks with the same manufacturer of roller coaster, and according the video, it's quieted it down and it's made it to the point where the neighbors could still maintain some quality of life."
After reaching out to the park and local leaders in Mason and Deerfield Township, the neighbors turned to their representatives in the Ohio legislature. A spokesman for Sen. Steve Wilson (R-Maineville) tells WVXU the senator met with the neighbors and his office advocated on their behalf, reaching out to contacts in the portion of the Ohio Department of Agriculture that oversees amusement parks, and at Cedar Fair, though he says no one had direct contact with Cedar Fair.
The neighbors also hired an attorney who drafted and sent a civil complaint to the amusement park, though she says it has not been filed in court.
According to the email from Duffield Milkie of Cedar Fair, the park will now deploy that solution at Kings Island, though it may take a while to fully implement the adjustments.
"The sections of track being filled are believed to have the highest impact on noise reduction at this time," he writes in the email to the neighbors' attorney. "As previously noted, not all of the work can be completed this off-season. After Kings Island opens in April, it will continue to engage the outside acoustic sound engineer to take sound readings at the property line nearest the neighbors' at various times of day and times of the year to determine the impact of the initial sound remediation."
Ken Taylor is guardedly optimistic.
"We're encouraged and yet we're ... I guess it's like Ronald Reagan used to say, we will 'trust, but verify.' And we're eager to hear what's going to happen when they start running the coasters here in the next few weeks to see if there's a difference."
His biggest concern will be whether the sand is enough to quite noise from the coaster trains in the fall when the park stays open late on weekends. The neighbors hired their own acoustic engineer to take sound readings, and they say they'll bring the engineer back out to test levels after the sand is added.
"We'll continue to validate that with acoustic measurements... and our issue really has been about running the coasters after 10 o'clock at night, or certainly past midnight, one, two o'clock in the morning as they have done in August and into the late fall. That's really our biggest complaint. During the daytime it doesn't bother us. It's during the nighttime when families in this neighborhood are trying to rest and put their kids to bed - that's when it's a nuisance. We'll follow up, both in those (acoustic) measurements, as well as what does it sound like in our bedrooms after these modifications are made."
WVXU reached out to Kings Island for comment and a representative said the park had nothing to add beyond what was already shared by the general counsel.
Orion, Kings Islands' first giga coaster is slated to debut April 11.