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BLOG: Cedar Point's wing coaster answers this enthusiast's prayer

Tom Sherer • Jun 2, 2012 at 3:05 AM

The rumor mill is throwing roller coaster enthusiasts for a loop today.

And this particular loop is a doozy: Cedar Point is planning to remove Disaster Transport and Space Spiral to make room for a wing coaster that extends to the front of the park and above the main entrance, according to a Feb. 15 memo from new Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet to the board of directors.

A wing coaster, as shown in the artist rendering above, is one on which pairs of riders sit on either side of the track, with nothing above or below them except air.

The only coasters at Cedar Point that I haven’t ridden this year are Mean Streak, because it’s kind of hard on my aging back, and Disaster Transport, because, well, it kind of sucks.

Someone at Cedar Point with much more influence than I have might think the same thing.

At the Erie County Chamber of Commerce Breakfast of Champions on April 24, Ouimet mentioned publicly that the company wasn’t thrilled with Disaster Transport, which gives more credence to this development.

“We believe strongly in the future of Cedar Point,” Ouimet said at the breakfast. “Our board of directors, at John’s (Hildebrandt) encouragement, have committed more than $25 million to Cedar Point for next season. I will leave it at that, for all to speculate what that is.”

And speculate the enthusiasts have done.

I've suspected for a while that Cedar Point's 2013 attraction would be a coaster. The loss of one roller coaster, WildCat, and Ouimet divulging the $25 million investment number all but clinched it. It was just a matter of waiting to see what type of coaster it would be.

Obviously, it would be something relatively different than what the park already has, and a flying coaster, Firehawk, being only 200 miles away at Cedar Fair-owned Kings Island seemed to preclude Cedar Point from doing a flyer, with other options available. So I assumed it would be a dive coaster.

I've never ridden a true wing coaster, but I have been on Griffon, a dive coaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Riding on the outside of its 10-seat-wide train gives an experience somewhat similar to a wing coaster, because you hang over air, not the track. Needless to say, it's an interesting experience.

Also fueling the speculation is a development at another Cedar Fair property, Canada’s Wonderland. That park’s new coaster for 2012, Leviathan, features elements that are located in and above the guest parking lot and around the main entrance of the park, just like Cedar Point’s new coaster is expected to do.

In addition, you know Cedar Point wants to be able to at least argue its case as being the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World."

The first-ever entry to this blog was about the park’s last-minute removal of WildCat and the fact I thought it was a good long-term move. At the same time, losing one coaster also lost the park the claim of having the most roller coasters in the world, a title held by Six Flags Magic Mountain.

If this new development comes to fruition, Cedar Point still won’t be able to lay claim to the title of most coasters. (Gain one, lose one, leaving 16.) Six Flags Magic Mountain also has announced it will open an 18th coaster in 2013.

But I, for one, will take quality over quantity, substance over marketing, any day.

If Cedar Point adds a coaster type it doesn’t already have, I’ll still easily consider the park the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World." And with its high-quality and versatile lineup, it would be difficult to argue against it.

There are only four wing coasters in operation in the world: Raptor at Gardaland in Italy, The Swarm at Thorpe Park in the United Kingdom, Wild Eagle at Dollywood in Tennessee and X-Flight at Six Flags Great America in Illinois. The first in the world, Raptor, opened only a year ago.

Incidentally, the cost of the two wing coasters at U.S. parks are reported to be $20 million for Wild Eagle and $15 million for X-Flight, which seems to be in line with the $25 million Ouimet mentioned. (Assuming, as usual, Cedar Point wants the tallest, fastest and longest coaster of its type in the world, which would increase the ride's cost, in addition to the cost of removing the two rides.)

All four wing coasters in existence are manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard, which designed and built Cedar Point’s Raptor and Mantis, as well as Diamondback at Kings Island. While I know a lot of people bemoan Mantis, I’m glad to see another B&M coaster coming, especially considering what seems to be excessive downtime on the Intamin coasters. (Millennium Force is still my favorite.)

And now would be a good time to mention the buzz that started a while ago when a photo surfaced of green wing-coaster track at a B&M fabricating plant in southwestern Ohio. (It could be for any number of other parks.) It's also a good time to mention it's been five long years and one major recession since a new coaster rolled its way to Cedar Point.

Some people wanted to see a 500-foot coaster, but I just don't see the point with Top Thrill Dragster already standing at 420 feet. Go skydiving if you want a towering drop from the sky, because that'd basically be all you'd get from such a coaster.

A new type of coaster will be good for the park in terms of its ability to draw guests, and sacrificing a couple of aging and underperforming rides for something fresh while adding some impact to that area of the park will be a good thing. (I spend a huge percentage of time in the back half of the park, roaming toward the front usually only when I want to ride Raptor or Wicked Twister or when I'm heading to my car.)

The elimination of Disaster Transport’s building also will allow for more and better views of the lake, which is an asset most parks simply don’t have.

Whatever the coaster ends up being and wherever it ends up going, it’s going to leave bigger footprints than the T. rex or Ruyangosaurus giganteus from Dinosaurs Alive! ever could.

Tom Sherer is an award-winning graphic designer with the Sandusky Register and a Cedar Point enthusiast who visited the park 53 times in 2011. He chronicles his adventures in coasterland here at "Belaboring the Point."

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