A huge pack of over a hundred people glided through the Lagoon amusement park on Friday in hopes of taking a ride on Primordial, a one-of-a-kind roller coaster seven years in the making.
People exiting the ride had big smiles plastered on — and one man even yelled, “That was awesome!” as he left. I stood in line for more than 20 minutes and watched employees scrambling around during the initial run-through. The queue passed by the queen of the castle, a furry creature with a crown, a throne and a blue orb, sparking curiosity.
The employees directed me to grab a pair of 3D glasses as I approached the tracks. The seats on the ride were equipped with a gun blaster and comfortable restraints. The back of each train compartment is decorated with the eyes of an icy-blue owl.
As my train made noise going up the hill, I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was wise to get on a coaster that just opened. Those thoughts of worry were quickly forgotten as the ride vehicle slipped between the artificial mountainscape, and then dipped low to the ground before tilting to one side before entering the mountain — where the story actually begins.
The inspiration for the Primordial experience
Julie Freed, the director of special events at Lagoon who cut the ribbon for the new ride, told Deseret News that they didn’t want to pursue the cliché where the bad guy is chased, so, instead, riders on the coaster will free the good guy.
“We have a dragon and an owl, who bring daylight and nighttime, and passengers on the coaster have to free the owl or the dragon,” she said.
This is also the first time Lagoon pass holders, who are typically locals, get exclusive access to Primordial.
“We wanted a ride where you can come back and see something different every time,” said Freed. “So, you’ve got eight different possible endings that feature either the dragon or the owl.”
Pass holders can make one-time reservations online in order to ride Primordial, which is closed to the general public. This system is similar to that of Walt Disney theme parks, where visitors can hold three spots in a virtual line.
Primordial, which means “existing at or from the beginning of time,” is set in a fictional realm. The ride gains a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour and a height of 84 feet, comparable to an eight-story building. The whole experience lasts five minutes — which sounds long, but, trust me, it goes by in the blink of an eye. The ride time is much longer than Lagoon’s Cannibal, which lasts two and a half minutes.
Freed said she was happy to finally be at the opening after working around the clock on the launch. Details had been kept under wraps in recent years, as Lagoon lovers continued asking when the ride would open.
What we know about the making of Primordial at Lagoon
Apart from a trailer that was released in November, Lagoon would say, “We are currently testing with riders and are getting very close!” to keep the curious visitors at bay. The park never gave an official date but promised to open the ride in 2023 — which it has now fulfilled.
It’s also worth noting that Lagoon worked with more than 50 Utah contractors, as well as local suppliers and vendors, who contributed to 75% of the ride.
What to expect during the Primordial ride at Lagoon
Inside the mountain, the train rides through clouds of green smoke before facing the 3D screen full of spiders and other creepy creatures. Shooting at these beings earns a passenger points. Blame it on my poor aim or on the quick turns and sudden drops that occur amid the lightning, fog and haze, but I scored 1,600 points. My score was much lower than the teenage boy sitting next to me, who earned closer to 3,000 points.
The ride stops in front of a few such screens before the unexpected drop.
This drop is reminiscent of the thrilling fall in Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure roller coaster at Universal Studios Park in Orlando, Florida.
The sudden drop in the ride turned out to be a fan favorite. Heather Barnes, who was with her family, said she loved that part of the ride because it was so “unexpected,” and her son, Taylor Barnes, enthusiastically agreed. Heather Barnes’ husband, Mike Barnes, also enjoyed using the toy guns on the ride.
The ride truly is unique. In theme park speak, it’s a traditional roller coaster fused with a dark ride, where riders travel through rooms with special effects. Think the 4D Toy Story Midway Mania, an interactive ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in California, meets Lagoon’s Cannibal.
How did the idea for Primordial come about?
Freed also loves the drop. She said she loves it because it reminds her of her late father, David Freed, the former owner of the Lagoon. (The family still owns the park.) The father-daughter duo rode a roller coaster in 2015 that had a similar surprising element, which David Freed knew was coming.
“I see my dad looking at me, and I think, ‘Why isn’t he paying attention?’ He wanted to see my reaction because he knew the drop was coming and I didn’t,” she said, adding that she definitely screamed during the ride.
And that was the genesis of Primordial.
Even though Julie Freed has been on the new roller coaster many times, she said it still feels thrilling. It also always reminds her of her father.
“This is his ride, so I always think of him,” she said.