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BLOG: Cedar Point's new coaster a (Gate)Keeper

Tom Sherer • Aug 14, 2012 at 2:16 AM

As general manager John Hildebrandt spoke Monday, Aug. 13, at the main gate about Cedar Point’s future, its past was being torn down a few hundred feet away.

After several years of planning, Cedar Point’s information gatekeepers finally opened the floodgate of secrets about the park’s 2013 ride: a record-setting wing roller coaster named GateKeeper. (No, Sigourney Weaver wasn’t there for the unveiling.)

Two-and-a-half months after the Sandusky Register received and reported on an internal Cedar Fair memo discussing a wing coaster with a major presence at the front of the park, Cedar Point unleashed more information Monday.

While park employees and guests gushed about the new coaster, heavy equipment could be heard in the distance, tearing down Disaster Transport.

It was the sound of progress — much-needed progress.

Every ride that comes and goes from Cedar Point means something a little bit different to everyone.

I think this is the best ride announcement for Cedar Point since Top Thrill Dragster a decade ago. And, overall, I’m guessing I’ll like GateKeeper more than every coaster in the park except for maybe Millennium Force.

GateKeeper will leave a huge footprint near the front of the park — an area I rarely spend time in — and even will extend into the parking lot. It will decrease blockage of views of the beach and the lake, two assets Cedar Point can boast over most other parks. And it will have tremendous guest impact at the main gate, similar to the effect Corkscrew had when it opened in 1976, allowing guests to walk under it on the main midway.

GateKeeper will be the third wing coaster in the United States and the fifth or sixth, depending on timing, in the world. And, in true Cedar Point style, it is expected to have the fastest speed, farthest drop and longest track of any wing coaster in the world. At least for now.

Of Cedar Point’s current coasters, Raptor is the most similar to GateKeeper.

They both are built by Bolliger & Mabillard, and they have relatively similar specifications, with GateKeeper boasting slightly bigger numbers across the board.

Of course, the biggest difference is the type of coaster GateKeeper will be.

Wing coasters are relatively new on the amusement-park scene. The first to open was, ironically enough, Raptor at Gardaland in Italy, in April 2011.

Simply put, wing coasters put cars on both sides of the track, leaving two riders in each row on each side of the rail.

As B&M’s website puts it: “Nothing above, nothing below. An unprecedented feeling of freedom. The wide, lowslung vehicles give rise to a new dimension of experiences.”

Outside of the overall experience of a wing coaster, the elements I’m looking forward to the most are the 180-degree roll right after cresting the top of the lift hill and the combination of the zero-g roll sandwiched between keyholes on both ends of the park’s main gate.

Despite the fact the internal memo gave away the surprise of what the ride would be — and a website screen capture that escaped Saturday allowed some people to see it would be called GateKeeper — hundreds of people turned out for the more-detailed official announcement, which came during a drizzle.

After the announcement, VIPs and media members gathered for a question-and-answer session and a quick tour, which ended with the unveiling of a sign featuring the logo, ride diagram and statistics of GateKeeper.

Hundreds upon hundreds of guests clamored to see the board, which is on the wall where the entrance to Disaster Transport used to be. Hours later, guests still were walking over in droves to get a sneak peek at what’s in store for next summer.

“Oh, yeah. I’ll ride that,” a young guest said.

That’s just what Cedar Point’s gatekeepers want to hear.

The ride

Track length: 4,164 feet. Of Cedar Point’s coasters, only Millennium Force (6,595), Mean Streak (5,427), Magnum XL-200 (5,106) and Maverick (4,450) are longer.

Lift hill height: 170 feet.

Lift hill drop: 164 feet.

Top speed: 67 mph.

Ride duration: 2:40. Only Mean Streak (3:13) and Cedar Creek Mine Ride (2:42) are longer at Cedar Point.

Train configuration: Three trains with eight cars per train and four riders across (two on each side of the track), for a total of 32 riders per train. One platform for loading and unloading, and riders will unload from both sides of the track.

Capacity: 1,710 riders per hour.

Restraints: Over-the-shoulder and interlocking seat belts. Monty Jasper, Cedar Fair’s corporate vice president of engineering and safety, said they’re looking at soft, vest-like restraints similar to what are on X-Flight at Six Flags Great America near Chicago. Such restraints leave more room around riders’ heads compared to standard over-the-shoulder systems.

The elements

According to the ride diagram on the wall where the entrance to Disaster Transport used to be, GateKeeper will feature, in order:

170-foot lift hill

Wing over drop

180-degree in-line roll (to the right)

Immelmann (loop)

Camelback (105-foot airtime hill)

Giant flat spin (360-degree flip)

Keyhole tower

Zero-g roll

Keyhole tower

Inclined dive loop (180-degree overbanked turnaround)

360-degree in-line roll

Camelback drop

Spiral (360-degree helix)

The aesthetics

Track colors: Azure (dark) blue and strata (light) blue.

Support columns color: White.

Train colors: Sunset gold, with zenith gold, meteor gold and orion gold accents.

Notes: While its track will look similar to that of Raptor, except for the color, it will be much quieter because the track and support columns will be filled with sand. … Theming elements are still being worked on. … Troika, which stands in the shadow of Disaster Transport, is staying put. Other area facilities, such as food vendors and bathrooms, are still being evaluated.

The timeline

Disaster Transport’s demolition is expected to be completed in the next couple of weeks.

Space Spiral will operate until around Labor Day, then be torn down for scrap.

Space Spiral’s demolition is expected to be completed by the end of September.

Support columns for GateKeeper start going up Oct. 1.

Steel track should be arriving at the park by mid-October.

Erection of the steel track will take place from mid-November to February.

GateKeeper will be commissioned in March or April.

GateKeeper is expected to open when the park reopens in May.


Overheard at the Park

“You’ve ridden it, right?” Monty Jasper, Cedar Fair’s corporate vice president of engineering and safety, after a woman in the VIP/media pavilion asked how difficult of a decision it was to get rid of Disaster Transport.

“What’s it called?” Heard twice within five minutes — once from a boy around 8 years old and once from a girl in her young teens — while people were looking at the board promoting GateKeeper. It should be noted that on the board is a several-feet-wide logo that says “GateKeeper.”

The Good

It’s Cedar Point. It was my first visit in a month, because I was out of action after having wrist surgery. It was good to be back.

I finally was able to meet Monty Jasper and Cedar Point Vice President of Park Operations Bill Spehn.

Considering it wasn’t hot out and was overcast with minimal sunshine, I still can’t figure out how or why the GateKeeper T-shirts that were given out were warm. They felt like they just came out of a dryer.

The Bad

A girl in her teens looked absolutely terrified while driving a car on Antique Cars. It was kind of funny and would have been placed in “The Good” category except she’ll be driving on the road with the rest of us in the not-too-distant future.

The Indifferent (just observations — not good or bad — about the day)

Despite all that’s happened in the month I’ve been gone, I see Chick-fil-A still is standing.

For the first time in my visits this year, there was a line back into the queue for the shot side of Power Tower.

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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