Theme Parks Save Girth

Of a Nation From Red Faces

Many pounds ago, Wayne Kavanaugh was a roller coaster guy. But something happened: He got wider. And the coaster seats, well, they stayed the same.

On a recent trip to the thrill ride epicenter of Orlando, Kavanaugh found out that the theme parks have gotten hip to his hips. Over the past few years, the parks have been installing test seats at the beginning of ride lines.

He tried to wriggle into the tester outside the Incredible Hulk ride at Orlando's Islands of Adventure theme park, but it was a no-go. He missed the gravity-induced rush of Dr. Doom's Fear Fall and the whoosh of the Dueling Dragons roller coaster. In all, he tried half a dozen tester seats at theme parks and every time, he could not fit.

Kavanaugh, a 36-year-old from Bellmawr, N.J., realized his roller coaster days were over -- at least, for now.

"I miss it," he said later.

But, as much as he wished he could have strapped in for a high-speed ride, he felt kind of grateful to the theme parks. It would have been much worse, Kavanaugh said, if he had gotten all the way up to the coaster itself only to find out he could not quite squeeze on.

"It saves embarrassment," he said. "You can test them out front and no one really notices."

-- Manuel Roig-Franzia

Wayne Kavanaugh tries the test seat on for size at the Incredible Hulk ride.