Where It All Began
In The 1970s saw the construction and opening of the first large-scale amusement park in Virginia – and millions of captivated guests. Were you one of these guests in the 1970s? Post your stories and photos on social media using the hashtag #KD40.
Also, test your KD knowledge with our trivia questions throughout this section. Answers are at the bottom of the page.
1972 – Ground Breaking
On October 1, 1972, developers broke ground on the 400-acre amusement park. They named it Kings Dominion after its sister park, Kings Island, which opened in 1972 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the nickname for Virginia, “Old Dominion.”
1974 – A Preview Opens
Lion Country Safari opened as a preview attraction to Kings Dominion. Guests were able to drive their vehicles through a three-mile stretch on the preserve and witness hundreds of wild animals up close. Hippos, lions, tigers, ostriches and many more roamed free within this preserve.
KD Trivia #1: How much was the per-person admission fee for Lion Country Safari in 1974?
Additionally, the Scooby-Doo™ roller coaster (now known as the Woodstock Express) and a Kings Dominion preview center opened.
1975 – The Dream is a Reality
On May 3, 1975, the dream of Kings Dominion became a reality as the general manager opened the doors to the public. More than 50,000 guests enjoyed the park on Opening Day and it’s estimated that another 60,000 were turned away cause they were stuck in traffic from Washington D.C. all the way down to Richmond, VA! During its Inaugural Season, the park entertained more than 1.5 million guests.
Visitors during the first season enjoyed five magical lands throughout the park – International Street, Old Virginia, Coney Island, The Happy Land of Hanna-Barbera™ and Safari Village. Families raced down 12 hills on the twin-racing roller coaster Rebel Yell, took a spin on the historic carousel with its 66 original and hand-carved wooden horses, viewed “Give My Regards to Broadway” in the Mason Dixon Music Hall and viewed the whole park from atop a 332-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower.
KD Trivia #2: The Rebel Yell was featured in what 1977 movie?
Bengal tigers joined the reserve at Lion Country Safari.
Coney Island area was transformed into Candy Apple Grove with larger-than-life candy apples “growing” along the walkways. A new ride, the Apple Turnover, sent guests turning over Candy Apple Grove.
King Kobra, a shuttle-loop roller coaster, slithered into the park featuring a 75-foot drop and loop and transporting guests both backwards and forwards.
Kings Dominion Camp Wilderness campground greeted its first overnight guests.
The Lost World, a 17-story, manmade mountain called opened and invited guests to explore three exciting rides: Voyage to Atlantis, Journey to the Land of Dooz and The Time Shaft.
KD Trivia #3: During its time at Kings Dominion (1979-1995) how many riders did The Time Shaft have?
Reflections from Gary Wachs
Kings Dominion's first General Manager
October 1972 - August 1974
"My first thoughts about Kings Dominion occurred to me as a 36 year old young man (now pushing 77) leaving home for the first time and driving without my family to Richmond, Virginia. We had just completed a very successful first year at the sister park, Kings Island, in Cincinnati, Ohio and I would be starting all over heading up our second theme park, buying another construction trailer for a temporary office and once again dawning my construction boots.
My first concern was that I was a “carney” and a yankee moving to a very conservative part of the country. How would I be accepted? As a backup I did purchase a Southern flag at an Army Navy store in Cincinnati (this was 1972) stowed it in the trunk of my car and shortly hung it in my new office trailer. It turned out to be a huge hit and I seemed to be everyone’s new best friend overnight. As far as I was concerned Virginia was love at first sight. The people with whom we dealt were wonderful from the start. There is a whiskey called Virginia Gentleman, and I can understand where it gets its name.
We immediately hired a general contractor, Chelstrom and Lee, a law firm, Hutton Williams, and an advertising agency, Lawler Ballard and Little, the principals of which were absolute gentleman, and became a vital part of our team.
We moved several key people from Cincinnati who were responsible for the successful opening of Kings Island. Two of those people, Jim Figley, Rides Development, and Roy Rector, Director of Landscaping, are retired and live in Doswell to this day. They never came back.
Speaking of Roy Rector, I remember Roy and I hiring a helicopter to survey the property and basically lay out the park from the air; where to put the Eiffel Tower, the big roller coaster, keep the woods in the center of the park, the lake, etc. I was asking a lot of the pilot darting here and there for at least an hour, but not noticing Roy until he turned white. We just got to the ground in time!
As a preview we opened Lion Country Safari in 1974 which had its own set of tales. My first guest complaint involved a little old lady who came into my office stating that the back of her Volkswagen was crushed by a hippopotamus running across the drive from the lake.
Regrettably I was asked to return to the corporate office before Kings Dominion opened in 1975. It was a sad journey driving back to Cincinnati because I loved what I was doing, the friends I’d made and the South! My wife and I and our three young children were very happy in Richmond, but the kids remind me to this day how I dragged them (in Chevy Chase fashion) through all those Civil War battlefields.
I am very proud on this 40th anniversary of being part of Kings Dominion."
KD Trivia Answers