SANDUSKY, Ohio, Feb. 15, 2002 – Building a world-record-breaking roller coaster is no "walk in the park."
Just ask Monty Jasper, vice president of maintenance and construction at the famed Cedar Point amusement park/resort. A roller coaster rider himself, Jasper is leading a team of roughly 50 workers who is nearing the end of a tedious construction phase on the park’s 215-foot-tall, 72-mph Wicked Twister, the world’s tallest and fastest "double-twisting" impulse roller coaster, which is designed as an enormous U-shaped steel structure with spiraling 450-degree corkscrews atop each vertical 215-foot-high tower.
The $9 million Wicked Twister will be Cedar Point’s 15th roller coaster, enabling the coaster-crazy park to break its own world record for having more scream machines than any other place on Earth.
"Roller coaster construction is a very involved and rigorous business," says Jasper. "Every coaster project presents different challenges. With Wicked Twister, erecting the structure was relatively straightforward since it’s on a small footprint – even with its location on the Cedar Point Beach and steps away from Lake Erie. However, the detailed stage is yet to come, which is the complex electrical installation."
Because Wicked Twister will use the advanced technology of linear induction motors (LIM), which will launch riders out of the coaster’s station a total of five times and at a maximum speed of 72 mph in 2.5 seconds, instead of the typical "lift chain" technology where riders gradually ascend up a hill, a dedicated 34,000-volt power line that stretches four miles is being put in with one purpose: to power the coaster.
"Let me put it this way: we’re using such a massive jolt of electricity to operate Wicked Twister that it would be enough to power 550 average-sized houses," notes Jasper.
Electricity aside, Wicked Twister’s 230-ton steel structure was recently completed as crews positioned the last pieces of track into place. Construction on Wicked Twister’s structure, which began with site-clearing in October of 2001, involved a five-month phase, followed by a year-long design and development stage with engineers from the ride manufacturer, Intamin in Switzerland, working with Cedar Point to calculate and create the layout of this twisted machine.
Two cranes, including one that extended 250 feet in the air, were required to lift Wicked Twister’s 20 individual sections of sunburst yellow track and 24 teal support columns precisely into position. More than 29,000 cubic yards of concrete were used to pour the 20 footers, four of which measure 44 feet by 22 feet and all of which are seven feet in depth.
"People usually think that once the coaster itself is completed, then that’s it," smiles Jasper. "But there’s still so much more work to do before Wicked Twister is ready to roll. It’s a long haul."
The final construction stage on Wicked Twister will consist of finishing the coaster’s station, landscaping, installing the queue lines, signage and pageantry. A painstaking testing and inspection program will follow with such tests as water-filled "torsos" that simulate the average weight of riders; accelerometer tests conducted by a biodynamic engineer; a checklist of thorough inspections by Cedar Point’s maintenance, safety, operations and design experts; licensing by the Amusement Ride Safety Division of the Ohio Department of Agriculture; and approximately a month of operating Wicked Twister before it opens.
"I get such a charge out of building a roller coaster like Wicked Twister," confirms Jasper. "The most fun is watching it come together from conception to completion and then finally observing guests riding and enjoying this machine that you’ve helped create. Now that is what I call a good day."
The first opportunity for guests to get a "wicked twist" on Cedar Point’s newest thriller is on Opening Day, Sunday, May 5, when Wicked Twister will debut to the general public.