In 1980, the Haunted River replaced the Journey to Atlantis ride in the Lost World Mountain. In early 1981, the park became fully owned by Taft Broadcasting Co. when the Kroger Co. decided to limit outside investments due to the expansion in its retail food and drug store business. This officially dissolved the Family Leisure Center Inc.’s joint venture after nine years.
“Cinema 180” opened on International Street in 1981 offering many unique “point of view” perspective films over the years allowing park visitors to cruise through the Baja Desert and see a volcano up close! Kings Dominion unveiled the Grizzly rollercoaster in 1982. The Grizzly, a staple of the park’s wood coaster line –up, begins with an 87-foot first drop and continues relentlessly entertaining – and terrifying- riders as it travels along its course through the forests of Old Virginia. The Showplace (now the Kingswood Amphitheatre), a 7,500-seat, outdoor concert amphitheatre, also opened that year. This amphitheatre has hosted hundreds of concerts since its debut from Britney Spears to Jimmy Buffet.
In 1983, White Water Canyon opened offering guests one of the very first theme park river rapid rides in the country. This ride still thrills guests today with its twisting, watery course and spouting geysers assuring that " you will get wet!". Also in 1983, senior executives with Taft Broadcasting Co. purchased the theme park division from Taft and formed Kings Entertainment Co. (KECO). The KECO parks included Kings Dominion, Carowinds in Charlotte, N.C., Kings Island in Cincinnati, Ohio and Canada’s Wonderland in Toronto, Ontario. The iconic mountain in Safari Village saw changes in 1984 when Smurf Mountain replaced the Land of the Dooz in the Lost World Mountain. That same year, Kings Dominion added the Berserker, a giant Viking ship that takes riders through a series of 360-degree loops.
In 1985, Diamond Falls was added to the park’s list of water rides, along with a new children’s play area, Scooby’s Play Park. During the 1986 season, Kings Dominion passed a major milestone in its history by entertaining more than two million guests in a single season. It was literally standing room only that season as the Shockwave was also introduced as the first stand-up roller coaster on the East Coast.
In 1987, Racing Rivers, featuring three different types of water slides, was introduced. The slides included Torpedo, Splashdown and Riptide ended with a dry landing.
The Kings Entertainment Co. (KECO) reorganized in 1987. The company owned and managed Kings Dominion, the other KECO parks, and now the entertainment and design division, Kings Productions.
In 1988, guests enjoyed the new Avalanche, a bobsled-style family rollercoaster with twisting curves, deep valleys and steep hills. To this day the Avalanche remains a very unique family ride experience and is the only ride of its kind found in the United States. The following year in 1989, guests determined their own flight pattern on Kings Dominion’s Sky Pilot. The flight trainer ride enabled the guest to choose a smooth flight or spin 360-degrees.