- "The Black Belt of Roller Coasters"
Ninja is a looping steel roller coaster at Six Flags St. Louis, located in Studio Backlot. The ride was relocated from Expo 86 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada where at operated as "Scream Machine" from May to October 1986. The ride was then purchased by Six Flags and began operating as Ninja at Six Flags St. Louis (then Six Flags Over Mid-America) on April 8, 1989. The coaster was started by Arrow Dynamics, but when Arrow fell into bankruptcy, it was sold to Vekoma, who finished it.
The ride is formerly shared a name with Blue Hawk at Six Flags Over Georgia until that coaster's retheming in 2016. Another roller coaster with the same name exists at Six Flags Magic Mountain, but that ride is an Arrow Dynamics suspended swinging coaster. Ninja originally was a part of the USA section of the park from 1989 to 1994, but was then incorporated into the new Time Warner Studios in 1995 which was then reworked into Warner Bros. Backlot in 1996, which was later renamed Studio Backlot in 2002.
Ninja is perhaps the most infamous attraction at the park due to many coaster enthusiasts labeling the ride as "rough" and a "neckbreaker", some citing the ride's OTSRs (over the shoulder restraints) as one of the biggest contributing factors to its roughness. It is usually polled unfavorably in circles of coaster enthusiasts, and within the coaster community it is regarded as one of the worst roller coasters currently operating in the United States. Despite this, local crowds still seem to largely enjoy Ninja, and it remains the third oldest roller coaster at the park after Screamin' Eagle (1976) and the River King Mine Train (1971).
From the mid to late 1980s, Six Flags Over Mid-America park management wanted a new roller coaster to add to the park's list of thrill ride experiences. Michael A. Paladin, manager of advertising and promotions, had been attracted by a roller coaster he had seen at Expo '86 in Vancouver, British Columbia, and wanted to relocate the park to St. Louis.
The park's previous addition, Jet Scream, was packed up and shipped off to AstroWorld in 1988, where it reopened as Viper the following season. That October, Paladin received the approval from Six Flags Corporation to buy the roller coaster from Expo '86.
In January 1989, construction crews began to construct the roller coaster at its new location in Six Flags Over Mid-America's USA section. Ninja was built by J.S. Alberici Construction of St. Louis. During construction, Paladin hired a "mall intercept research" firm to interview 3,000 people about choosing the new roller coaster's name. The choices were "Viper", "Fury", "Venom", "Ninja", and "The Grizzly". While The Grizzly was Paladin's favorite name, it finished last in the poll.
The Ninja opened to the public in April 1989.
For the 2010 season, Ninja's trains received a colorful advertising wrap that promoted Stride Shift as "the roller coaster of gums". This kind of advertising was the first of its kind at the park, and was criticized by fans.
Six Flags announced on March 3, 2016, that Ninja would receive The New Revolution: Virtual Reality Coaster experience on the ride. Riders have the option to wear Samsung Gear VR headsets, powered by Oculus, to create a 360-degree, 3D experience while riding. The illusion is themed to a fighter jet, where riders fly through a futuristic city as co-pilots battling alien invaders. The feature debuted with the coaster, when it reopened on May 27, 2016.
In early 2017, Galactic Attack Virtual Reality Coaster was announced to be coming to Ninja, a similar but upgraded version of The New Revolution.
Ninja was originally painted with red track and white supports, and the trains were painted white with red stripes and orange restraints. The colors were modified in 1998, the track was painted black, but the supports remained white, and the trains are red with white stripes (though the restraints are still orange).
The ride got a new coat of paint for the 2010 season.
- The Ninja, like most modern roller coasters, requires a minimum of two employees to dispatch the train. One operates the main panel, which controls the restraints, gates, and has a section for the mechanics. The other operator stands at the remote enable. Both operators have to do an all clear and thumbs up, then press their buttons at the same time.
- Six Flags Pushes Fright In Marketing New Ninja - St. Louis Post-Dispatch (June 4, 1989)
- Studio Backlot
- USA (Six Flags St. Louis)
- Ninja at Six Flags Magic Mountain
- Blue Hawk at Six Flags Over Georgia, formerly Ninja.