April 16, 2014
Like the Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the competition between theme parks to go higher and faster hasn’t been without its failures.
With Six Flags Great America announcing Thursday that it intends to build Goliath, the tallest, fastest and steepest wooden coaster in the world, park president Hank Salemi was asked about any comparisons to Son of Beast, a wooden entry that was even taller and faster but was shut down permanently in 2009 after a troubled decade in operation.
“This technology has developed over a long time,” said Salemi following a groundbreaking ceremony for Goliath. “I think Son of Beast went up in 2000, so it’s been a long time and there’s been a lot of advances, a lot of different things done — polyurethane wheels and some other advantages.”
Son of Beast at Kings Island in suburban Cincinnati was touted as the first wooden hypercoaster — similar to a steel hypercoaster like Great America’s Raging Bull — when it opened in May 2000. The Premier Rides design included a 214-foot drop, a top speed of 78 mph and the first vertical loop on a wooden coaster.
After a half-dozen incidents that included a track failure and removal of the loop in 2006, Son of Beast was shut down in June 2009 and dismantled in 2012.
Salemi pointed out that Goliath — with a 180-foot drop and a top speed of 72 mph — is being designed by Idaho-based Rocky Mountain Coasters, which made its debut this spring with Outlaw Run, a 68-mph wooden coaster with inversions at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo.
“We’re not the Guinea pig on this one. This is a proven coaster,” he said, describing Goliath as “like (Outlaw Run) on steroids. This is a much bigger and faster ride.”
Among the new details that were revealed after Salemi and park officals turned shovels-full of dirt on the site of the old Iron Wolf in County Fair:
• As with past park improvements, park officials would only say that the 165-foot-tall Goliath represents a “multi-million dollar investment,” but published reports state that the 107-foot-tall Outlaw Run came with a $10 million pricetag.
• Goliath features 3,100 feet of track running north-south on the Iron Wolf footprint. When totaling the track lengths of the park’s other wooden coasters — The Little Dipper, Viper and two tracks on the American Eagle — Great America will feature more wooden roller coaster track than any other theme park.
• The Iron Wolf’s still-intact station area will be modified and reused for Goliath. Part of a picnic grove and amphitheatre seating area to the north will have to be taken out to accommodate the longer track, along with several trees that were being toppled Thursday morning.
• The ride will pass into a 15-foot trench/tunnel to achieve the 180-foot first drop. Both Raging Bull and the American Eagle are examples of rides that use trenches to produce longer drops.
• Though the ride features an inverted drop and a 180-degree roll, among other elements, riders will be restrained by lap bars rather than harnesses.
• Exactly when the ride will open depends on the coming winter weather. Salemi said construction would start as soon as the Gurnee Village Board approves a height variance that was recommended for approval on Aug. 21 by the village’s Planning and Zoning Board.
The Village Board meets on Sept. 9, and Salemi said if Chicago experiences a mild winter that allows a smooth construction season, Goliath could open for the start of the 2014 operating season.