People — at least those who aren’t Cedar Fair employees — are still abuzz about the news Cedar Point will open a wing coaster for the 2013 season. With the development is the expected move of Disaster Transport and Space Spiral to HalloWeekends’ ride graveyard.
As with any ride news involving any amusement park, there are those who are thrilled and those who are, well, not so thrilled.
The 330-foot Space Spiral opened in 1965 and was the tallest thing in the park until Top Thrill Dragster came along. In fact, it was the first amusement park ride anywhere to top 300 feet. It also is the only true high ride in the park that young families can experience together.
Disaster Transport opened in 1985 as Avalanche Run, then was renovated and enclosed in 1990 as Disaster Transport. It and Iron Dragon are the first “big people” roller coasters kids can ride, because the height requirement for them is only 46 inches, not 48 or even taller like for all the other coasters.
I understand people’s frustration when family-friendly rides are taken out. But I don’t think those people fully understand the increased maintenance costs — not to mention in light of low ridership numbers — for one ride that opened 47 years ago and for another whose effects have been allowed to waste away to practically nothing.
Refurbishing tends to be unreasonably costly, to the point it’d make more financial sense to start anew, but with a different ride that will spark more guest interest and money. Like it or not, nothing draws better than coasters.
Yes, Space Spiral is an icon of the park. But so was Leap the Dips, a popular coaster that spent almost a quarter century at the park, starting 100 years ago this season. That run included several years at the beginning of the Great Depression, when people needed an escape from daily life, if they could afford it, even more than they do today.
As always, there are no easy answers.
First and foremost, Cedar Fair is a company looking to make money. Period.
There are a lot of people farther east in Ohio who were devastated almost five years ago when the company shut down the ride side of Geauga Lake days after the park closed for the 2007 season. (Not took out one or two rides; shut down the entire ride side of the park and shipped the rides to other parks or scrapped them.)
A former aunt of mine used to work at Geauga Lake in the 1970s and ’80s, when I was growing up, and I spent more time at that park than any other during my formative riding years. (My first roller coaster was Geauga Lake’s Corkscrew.)
I hadn’t been to Geauga Lake in years when the announcement was made, but it was still stunning in that I knew I no longer would be able to visit the park to remember “how things used to be.” I didn’t like it, but I understood Cedar Fair’s decision from a business perspective.
Before I started riding coasters years ago, any park’s gyro tower, such as Space Spiral, was among my favorite rides because I could see the whole park without the fear of the “ride.” So I understand people’s disappointment at the unofficial plans.
But the time has come for these changes.
Disaster Transport’s name, at this point, says a lot about the ride: It’s enclosed but doesn’t operate in the rain because of leaks. Most of the original effects after it was renovated from Avalanche Run are long gone or not working. And a case could be made the biggest loss will be felt by those who like Happy Jack’s Toy Factory during HalloWeekends. (Not sure what the plans are, if any, for that attraction.)
Space Spiral’s second deck in the cabin is no longer used. The windows are so rough that the views from the cabin are far less than spectacular. And the lack of air conditioning in the cabin can make it feel like a sauna in the summer heat.
Cedar Point is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the country. Rides will come, and rides will go. The only attraction that’s been with the park since the beginning and probably will be with it until the end is part of the beach.
I used to love Mill Race, but I knew it had run its course and it was time for it to go in favor of Raptor.
A second part of Sky Ride, Frontier Lift, used to carry guests back to Frontiertown. The ride’s building in the back of the park still exists; it’s where the restrooms are located between Cedar Creek Mine Ride and Skyhawk. (You can tell it looks like the other Sky Ride buildings if you look closely.)
The list goes on and on. It’s part of any park’s evolution.
Because of the iconic nature of Space Spiral, some people are upset Cedar Point has little to no reverence for its history.
If Cedar Point kept every historical ride, the park would have gone bankrupt long ago. Besides, how many parks have a museum that’s dedicated, in part, to the park’s history? In addition, several pieces of history still exist: the ballroom, the beach, Blue Streak, Midway Carrousel, Hotel Breakers, etc. And some still help generate more money than they cost to maintain.
Some people are trashing new Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet while others think he’s a saint for the wing coaster and all that is expected to come — and leave — with it. Either way, there’s no way this project began when Ouimet took over mere months ago. This has to have started under Dick Kinzel. And I’d be willing to bet the first attraction that really has Ouimet’s stamp on it is Luminosity, which is something that can be experienced by all guests, no matter how young, old, skinny, fat, etc., they are.
It will be awhile before judgment can be passed on Ouimet being more family- or thrill seeker-friendly, even though some people passed it as soon as WildCat was removed. But I would counter by saying WildCat was the most dangerous coaster in the park, and that I’d want my kids to ride anything but it.
They’re rides, not religions. I remember them, not revere them.
Writer’s Note: Don’t forget two big events in the next two days at Cedar Point: Thursday, June 7, is Top Thrill Dragster Ride Night, and Friday, June 8, is the premiere of Luminosity.
“QUICK POINTS” FROM SUNDAY, JUNE 3
Overheard at the Park
“I’m not riding that!” Man, probably in his 40s, upon seeing the cooling water drip off under the track at the launch area of Top Thrill Dragster. The ride had been down for a while, and for someone who is new to the ride, a liquid dripping down might not be the most confidence-boosting thing you could see.
Amazingly, the lines Sunday were almost nonexistent.
Wave Swinger is back up and running after a late start to the season. (It’s been running for many days.)
I’ve heard rumors about Gemini trains being tested on Cedar Creek Mine Ride’s track before the season started. Considering the cramped trains on Mine Ride, if they figure out a way to make that work — with Gemini’s more roomy trains with individual lap bars — it would be a great thing. I can only assume, with fewer people riding Gemini than years ago, there might be extra Gemini trains that aren’t being used.
Finally got around to watching the All Wheels Extreme show at Extreme Sports Stadium, next to WindSeeker. Even though I was born into the generation that boomed such sports and the X Games, I’ve never really been into them. Still, it’s a really good show that you quickly can see the skill level and practice time it must take to have the performers’ actions choreographed together.
When I first arrived at the park, Space Spiral, Wicked Twister, WindSeeker, Top Thrill Dragster and one swing on Skyhawk were down.
The Indifferent (just observations — not good or bad — about the day)
Fast Lane’s price has been increased $5, to $60 on Saturdays and $55 on all other days. While I’m still waiting for the summer season to get into full swing before passing judgment on Fast Lane, it’s interesting to note there’s a campaign on Facebook called People Against Fast Lane at Cedar Fair. It has only 31 “likes” as of Wednesday, June 6.
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."