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Breaking down coaster cost


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Hi everyone!

 

I've registered and re-registered sporadically over the years while juggling old e-mail addresses, but hopefully this one sticks! I've attended a few TPR-hosted events in the past, and I continue to enjoy reading the boards and everyone's contributions.

 

One topic that I've been wanting to read about, but I haven't seen coverage of, is how a coaster's final cost breaks down. Specifically, how do manufacturers derive an estimate and subsequent bill to give to parks? It seems standard that big new B&M or Intamin coasters cost a ballpark of $20-30 million, but looking at costs across the board led me to some interesting comparisons. For example:

 

- Banshee ($24M) and Gatekeeper ($25M) vs. Raptor ($11-12M) and Mantis ($12M)...although larger, do these newer B&Ms justify each being as much as, or even more than, the combined expenses of Raptor and Mantis?

 

- Millennium Force and Skyrush both cost $25M. Given that MF is significantly longer and larger (not a debate on which is better!), what factors balance the final bill between the two?

 

- Comparatively, coasters like Outlaw Run ($10M), Magnum ($8M), and the Phantom's Revenge transformation ($4.6M) seem like bargain bin steals.

 

- And while I'm looking forward to Thunderbird at Holiday World, the $22M price tag it carries is the same as KI's Diamondback, which simply is a lot more coaster (again, not a hypothetical quality debate!).

 

I know it's likely that every coaster is its own unique case, and that there are many unique factors in design and construction to consider with the final cost, but surely there's some basis of comparison that parks use to weigh value when they're choosing among manufacturers. I also wonder about other things -- are some parks given discounts for repeat business/loyalty to certain manufacturers? Is there a negotiation process on pricing like at a car dealership, or are final prices very black and white?

 

I thought this might lead to some interesting discussion, and if all of this has been covered elsewhere, then by all means shut me up!

 

- Sam

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Well I can say right off that bat that you have to factor in inflation when comparing rides like Raptor and Banshee built 20 years apart. If you use an inflation calculator they're probably around the same price with inflation factored in.

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Well I can say right off that bat that you have to factor in inflation when comparing rides like Raptor and Banshee built 20 years apart. If you use an inflation calculator they're probably around the same price with inflation factored in.

 

Ah, yes, that is a great point when comparing coasters throughout time (Raptor to Banshee), but I still think the comparisons of newer coasters that are similar in cost, but vary greatly in scale, are valid. In regard to inflation, it would be nice to get a John Allen creation for the price of a car today, though.

Edited by Samuel
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Also I'm sure B&M demands a bigger profit margin in 2014 than in 1994 as they were still a relatively small company (much like RMC of today) and hadn't yet garnered a 20+ year reputation of building the most reliable/durable roller coasters.

 

And in the case of Skyrush vs. Millennium Force, a coaster of MF's size in 2014 would cost around $33 million when you factor inflation. Intamin also probably demands a higher profit margin in 2014 than in 2000 after years of building successful/critically acclaimed giga/mega coasters.

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Comparing inflation is interesting when looking at how far we have come in terms of engineering vs inflation. I305 and MF costed the same, but 305 was built with a better support structure that reduced costs to being considerable lower after adjusting for inflation ($33 million-25 million)

 

However, the comparisons become even more interesting when looking at old coasters. Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz costed $47,000 to build in 1924. That is $650,000 adjusted for inflation. There are many houses in the bay area today that cost more than that. No wonder there were so many roller coasters built in the 1920's.

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Well I can say right off that bat that you have to factor in inflation when comparing rides like Raptor and Banshee built 20 years apart. If you use an inflation calculator they're probably around the same price with inflation factored in.

 

I was reading somewhere that if MF was built today it would cost 32-35 million!

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I'm no expert, but I'm sure there a ton of different factors that can affect the final cost a new coaster. For one, the price of steel fluctuates. Also, something that costs a certain amount in one place can be more costly in another area due to a bunch of different conditions, like how available building materials are, the cost of labor, permits, etc. Just a few things to think about.

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^Bingo. So much goes into each coaster that it's really impossible to compare one project to another. Plus, no one actually know what the park is reporting as an expense relating to the project. So those numbers can be inflated for publicity purpose as well.

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Knowing that inflation has a big influence, once adjusted, shouldn't newer rides be a bit cheaper than similar older ones? Even thought companies like B&M have a bigger reputation now, shouldn't it be getting easier, and therefore cheaper to build rides as the years go on, inflation aside?

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^I don't necessarily think they're overpriced. They have gained a reputation for building a reliable and strong product that should get good ROI. Do I wish the prices were lower? Yes, but its up to them to charge what they charge. You have to remember though that, as was already pointed out, inflation is much higher than it was back in the day. So, what automatically seems higher may not necessarily be all because a firm charges more. Off the top of my head, this is what I can think of that goes into a coasters cost

 

-After the purchase, final design stage

-Steel/Wood needing to be purchased/welded etc...

-Location (It's cheaper to build in some areas than it is the other. How much paperwork does a park have to go through for approval?)

-Location Shipping Wise (building a B&M in Ohio near the plant is cheaper than having that track shipped way across country)

-Construction Cost (Labor etc...)

-Commission Fees to both the construction company & coaster design company

-Construction of train

-Site Prep (Before Construction & After Construction prior to opening)

 

Of course, it's all relative to specific projects because, as stated, some parks may release the cost for the overall projects (GateKeeper was said to cost $25 million, but you hear $30 million for the entire change of the area overall quite frequently (which is sometimes quoted as the coasters price). Some parks don't release the figures, keep them on the low side, keep them on the high side OR only include the cost of just the coaster itself and not the prep work etc... So it does vary big time. In the overall scheme of things, what I listed above goes into the cost, however, I am sure there are many many more (as long as the price tag includes the overall project and not just the coaster itself).

 

As for packaging deals, negotiations etc... I've heard words of it happening before. B&M built their first ever coaster at Six Flags Great America, Iron Wolf. A few years later, they put in Batman: The Ride, which ended up being the world's first inverted coaster. Later that decade, that park became the site of B&M's first Hyper Twister/Mega Coaster, Raging Bull. Raging Bull, while the price wasn't disclosed, was said to be at a lower rate because the park had taken chances on B&M to help them build up their name (especially with their first coaster). One could also say that Cedar Point may have had deals with Intamin to get rides at a lower rate later on because there was a big Intamin building spree with Millennium Force, Wicked Twister, Top Thrill Dragster, Maverick & Shoot the Rapids. Of course, none of this is official, just "whispers" that have gone around.

 

Inflation wise, here's how much some of the big coasters back in the day would cost nowadays (lets have some fun):

 

-Raptor: $12 million (1993 dollars): $19,793,190.31 (2014 US Dollars)

-Mantis: $12 million (1995 dollars): $18,767,165.35 (2014 US Dollars. This shows that prices can rise and fall rapidly with inflation. Even just two years apart)

-Magnum XL-200: $8 million (1988 dollars): $16,117,869.82 (2014 US Dollars)

-Millennium Force: $25 million (1999 dollars): $35,767,756.30 (2014 US Dollars)

-Shivering Timbers: $4.5 million (1997 dollars): $6,682,514.02 (2014 US Dollars)

-Maverick (getting closer to today): $21 million (2006 dollars): $24,827,395.83 (2014 US Dollars)

-Banshee (how about a coaster that just opened this year): $24 million (2013 US Dollars): $24,554,883.52 (2014 US Dollars)

 

For some more fun, lets see how much coasters built in the last few years would have cost if they were built in the Mid-90s to early 2000s (I'll specifically match up coasters with similarities if I can)

 

-Banshee: $24 million 2013 US Dollars (converted to 1993 prices to see how the price would differ from Raptor): $14,886,867.53 1993 US Dollars.

-Intimidator 305: $25 million 2009 US Dollars (converted to 1999 prices to see how the price would differ from Millennium Force): $19,413,900.63 1999 US Dollars

-Outlaw Run: $10 million in 2012 US Dollars (converted to 2000 prices just to see what it would've cost at the turn of the Millennium (also around the time Son of Beast opened): $6,000,156.80 2000 US Dollars

-GateKeeper: $25 million in 2012 US Dollars (converted to 2002 prices just to see what it would've cost then): $19,588,926.54

-Just for kicks, what if the Wing Coaster was developed in the 90s? Gatekeeper would've cost $16,594,510.31

 

Of course, this is all just math based off inflation rate and the prices given. Without knowing what each park actually considered what went into the cost, we wouldn't be able to be 100% certain what would cost when, so that's just a guideline.

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There's just so many coaster labels nowadays

 

Alpengeist: $20 million 1996 US Dollars

-Compared to Raptor (1993 US Dollars): $18,419,375.40

-Compared to Banshee (2013 US Dollars): $29,694,964.95

 

Raptor: $12 million 1993 US Dollars

-Compared to Alpengeist (1996 US Dollars): $13,029,757.79

 

Banshee: $24 million 2013 US Dollars

-Compared to Alpengeist (1996 US Dollars): $16,164,356.51

 

Really is interesting to see how much inflation does vary from year to year with coaster builds.

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This is a topic that came to mind with the whole Thunderbird reveal. Seeing as how far away from the rest of the park the station is located they have to add some serious walkways to get back there and I'd assume they will have some support buildings near the station (bathrooms, oasis, etc...), and it got me wondering how much that was going to cost. The video also shows a lot of nice landscaping around the area as well. As a homeowner whose had some serious landscaping done around my house, I know how expensive that can be from the consumer side if things. I realize that they have a lot of inside labor and won't be paying the same price that you or I would be paying, but it's not going to be free. While it would only be a small percentage of the overall install, if HW is including all if this work in their $22 million, it would certainly would reduce how much they spent on the actual ride. Once you consider how much clearing and ground work prep they have to do for this ride , Thunderbird itself might only be $18 for the actual ride itself. Just throwing numbers out there and don't have a real clue, but it's interesting to discuss.

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Well here's the way I would break it down:

 

First you have to pay B&M for the track and train design.

 

Next you have the steel plant who makes the track. There you need materials, cost of welding and finally painting the track.

 

On the job site you need workers to clear the land including cutting down trees, concrete workers for footers, and contractors to build the buildings.

 

You need to pay for shipping of the track and parts for the ride.

 

Construction crew and machinery rental to start building the ride.

 

Parts such as drive motors, PLCs, LIMs, braking devices, gates, fencing, proxy switches, motors for transfer tracks need to be purchased.

 

Then you need electricians to hook everything up right.

 

Inspection costs to the state, permits, substations, etc.

 

Concrete workers for paths, theming costs, landscaping, etc.

 

Maintenance workers and ops for thousands of test cycles.

 

I probably forgot something but all of this put together is very expensive and all the little things add up to a big amount.

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Of course, it's all relative to specific projects because, as stated, some parks may release the cost for the overall projects (GateKeeper was said to cost $25 million, but you hear $30 million for the entire change of the area overall quite frequently (which is sometimes quoted as the coasters price).

 

The extra $5 million was due to the front gate renovation. I also like that you pointed out that parks release the overall investment (which includes everything related to the ride during its first year, even the merchandise), most people seem to think that it's just the cost of the actual coaster. Big projects, like coasters, usually cost millions just to build. And then there's the demolition of the two other rides that GateKeeper replaced, which was no cheap undertaking. The coaster itself, material wise, probably cost somewhere around $18 - $20 million.

Edited by JonnyRCT3
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Overall for Thunderbird, the coaster may have only cost 15 million dollars for design and material. That is a major construction operation with many workers to pay. Contractors bid in a reverse auction where the LOWEST bidder wins. Plus the cost of the electronic components and theming do drive the cost up quite a bit.

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Has anyone bothered to calculate what was the cheapest/most expensive coaster (taking inflation into account) per mile of its length (or any other measure)? I assume TTD and KK must have been among the most expensive.

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Has anyone bothered to calculate what was the cheapest/most expensive coaster (taking inflation into account) per mile of its length (or any other measure)? I assume TTD and KK must have been among the most expensive.

 

Tower of Terror II comes in a $4.2 million per foot.

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I find it interesting how the Voyage being as large as it is only cost $6.5 million..For comparison the much smaller and now defunct Hercules at Dorney Park also cost $6.5 million, and that was built in 1989.

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Has anyone bothered to calculate what was the cheapest/most expensive coaster (taking inflation into account) per mile of its length (or any other measure)? I assume TTD and KK must have been among the most expensive.

I think the 4D coasters are easily the most expensive. X was I think like $30M in 2002 and is only 3610ft long. It'd easily be over $40M today, and thats not considering the $10M they spent on redoing the trains and adding the silly effects in 2008. It's too bad we don't know the cost of Dinoconda since its virtually identical in design and was built only 2 years ago, that would be an interesting comparison.

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Has anyone bothered to calculate what was the cheapest/most expensive coaster (taking inflation into account) per mile of its length (or any other measure)? I assume TTD and KK must have been among the most expensive.

 

Tower of Terror II comes in a $4.2 million per foot.

Wait, what? With that math, Tower of Terror cost $5,187,000,000.00 (that's billion)?

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