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GCI: Are Their Days Over?


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How well does GCI's retracting hold out? While there isn't a new US GCI this year, Timberwolf @ WOF is getting entirely retracted by them over the next few years. I don't recall that I've ridden any rides they worked on retracting yet.

 

Other than the experience I had with Roar West, the only two times I've ridden a retracked GCI are the Yankee Cannonball and the Coney Island Cyclone. The Yankee Cannonball was fairly smooth before the retracking and the new sections made the ride even smoother. Their reprofile this year improved the farside turnaround as well as making it more comfortable.

 

I only had a chance to ride the Cyclone in 2012 immediately after GCI retracked it, but it is now in my top 5 list. The ride was incredibly intense and the only bit of pain could have been caused by the violent ejector air into the lap bar. From what I understand, the ride was brutally rough before that retracking. How did it hold up?

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I do not believe that GCI is in considerable danger of going out of business, but it does seem very possible that their "Golden Age" could be over. I have never ridden a non-rough GCI that I did not "like," but I have rarely been blown away by them either, with the possible exceptions of Thinderhead and Gold Striker.

 

GCI's were once being built all over the US, but now that RMC's are being built as fast as they can be made, the face of wood coasters may have changed

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As stated earlier in this thread, GCI's have a tenancy to be very hit-or-miss. Some, like Thunderhead and Lightning Racer, have held up very well for their age. But, Roar (both East and West), Wildcat, Gwazi, and Apocalypse have all aged quite poorly.

 

I am a bit surprised that the global wood coaster market has not been crushed by Intamin or RMC yet. Any design from either of these companies is a near guarantee for good aging, and it actually costs the same or less to buy a coaster from one of these companies. Only time will tell to see if RMC truly does have the market cornered on new wood coaster installations; it could already be said that GCI has lost their status as the #1 wood coaster company judging by number of installations each year.

 

From the sounds of SFMM's poor maintenance, combined with operating year-round, I'm surprised. Although it could be said that Apocalypse suffers less extreme differences of seasons.

 

Can water seeping into cracks and freezing expand those cracks like in concrete? Obviously, this would have to be a fault in the lamination or wearing of it. Just a thought, as if true, many seasonal parks may have to put up with it. Happening during the off season, it could easily be replaced with the other retracking work, but it ultimately still is more $$.

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I love GCI, and I don't think traditional wooden coasters are going anywhere. While RMC has certainly shaken the industry up and will have a major influence on other companies for years to come, the coaster wars ave always raged on without pushing smaller companies under the rug. Also keep in mind where every RMC conversion have taken place: Six Flags. They aren't like Cedar Fair, Disney, or independently owned parks. They focus almost entirely on thrill rides to appeal to teens and adults under 40 (their market), and have proven time and time again that they have no regard for classics (Colossus, Rolling Thunder, Texas Giant, Lightning Loops, all of their Intamin 1st gen Freefalls, Great American Scream Machine, Looping Starships, etc.).

 

All parks still need family rides for people of all ages to enjoy, so not every new coaster can be a wild RMC or an Intamin giga. GCI excels at making smooth and enjoyable rides like Lightning Racer, and is perfectly capable of providing lasting attractions. People tend to focus on their few complete disasters from the past (like Gwazi), but if you look past those few exceptions, they have been consistently great. Also I may be crazy, but I loved Wildcat when I rode it last summer!

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Um..... American Thunder is flipping amazing. Is the first comment a joke? I rode it opening day, and I rode it this past week, and AT is pretty much still the smoothest "traditional" woodie I've been on. Prowler was almost as smooth when I rode it last season.

 

GCI isn't to blame for some of their rides becoming rough. That's up to the park. Gravity Groups rides can be way rougher, so are they going to go out of business soon?

 

GCI isn't done for. They will have to start doing some different things with their rides in the future, like maybe some inversions, but I'm sure they're good for now.

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I'm going to agree with the echo chamber in here and say that they can be amazing rides, and that it does seem to have something to do with how well they are maintained. My first rides on Thunderhead 2 or 3 years ago were incredible, and nowhere even close to rough. Lightning Racer is also holding up very well. Roar East has taken a huge beating from the trains and the lack of TLC from Six Flags, but they have done a ton of track work over the past few years and gotten it back into shape. The PTCs still shuffle like crazy, especially coming into the 2nd straight airtime hill, but every ride I've had on it this season has been fun, pain-free, and actually borderline smooth. When I went last weekend, I had a smoother and more enjoyable ride on Roar than on Wild One. The track is back in pretty good shape, and I really think Millenium Flyers could turn this 17+ year old woodie back into a great ride (please SFA, please).

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... have proven time and time again that they have no regard for classics (Colossus, Rolling Thunder, Texas Giant, Lightning Loops, all of their Intamin 1st gen Freefalls, Great American Scream Machine, Looping Starships, etc.).

 

Colossus was boring. There, I said it (somebody had to). Maybe back in the 70s and 80s it was really fun, but for the last 10+ years, it has been "meh" at best.

 

They have to give people something to come back for, and when space is limited, stuff has to change. Rides can't rest on laurels from 30 years ago when the ride experience doesn't deliver anymore. Especially for Magic Mountain being so remote AND having to compete with two other major theme parks that are in the same population center... they need to sell tickets.

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Can water seeping into cracks and freezing expand those cracks like in concrete? Obviously, this would have to be a fault in the lamination or wearing of it. Just a thought, as if true, many seasonal parks may have to put up with it. Happening during the off season, it could easily be replaced with the other retracking work, but it ultimately still is more $$.

 

Yep. This happens quite frequently. The wood basically turns somewhat mushy and "potholes" develop. Treated wood obviously is less suseptible to rotting, but it is far from immune so this is a problem parks are always dealing with. Not necessarily a problem caused by a manufacturer, but it does affect how smooth a coaster runs.

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I can confirm that Evil Knievel (aka American Thunder) is a little bit more jittery now than it was when it opened in 2008, but still delivers an amazing ride. The jitteriness hasn't detracted from any comfort - and the airtime is still the hot sauce of the park. Thunderhead was pretty good too, but I believe I remember it being somewhat rough.

 

American Thunder is still the best "bang for the buck," in my personal opinion, than any other ride in our home park. If I'm picking one ride for the day at SFStL, it's this one.

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Um..... American Thunder is flipping amazing. Is the first comment a joke? I rode it opening day, and I rode it this past week, and AT is pretty much still the smoothest "traditional" woodie I've been on. Prowler was almost as smooth when I rode it last season.

 

 

Wholeheartedly agree. It's still smooth as buttah.

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GCI=CCI. They'll give you a great ride for cheap on the front end, but you'll be paying for it on the back end if you want to keep it that way.

 

I always ride in the back

Wildact at Hershey, back row. Until it breaks my spine I love it forever!

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I may be completely off base...but unless they step their game up, I have a feeling the death of GCI may be sooner than people here seem to think. They do awesome retracking projects, though. They made Boulderdash incredible.

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GCI=CCI. They'll give you a great ride for cheap on the front end, but you'll be paying for it on the back end if you want to keep it that way.

 

Alternatively, wood coasters need maintenance. There's that too.

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GCI=CCI. They'll give you a great ride for cheap on the front end, but you'll be paying for it on the back end if you want to keep it that way.

 

Alternatively, wood coasters need maintenance. There's that too.

 

I think what Intamin and RMC realized is that we're repeating our mistakes with building wooden coasters. Traditional woodies have been around since the last century and IMO, they haven't changed much. The track isprincipally the same. Tolerances and design have far improved, meaning greater accuracy, but really this only matters the first few years of those rides. Mother nature seems to be the real dictator of their longevity (taking out the park as a variable, that's a broad story itself), and yet RMC and Intamin are the only two off the top of my head to really reengineered rides to last through this.

 

I love wooden roller coasters, but I feel this way a lot to traditional woodies anymore.

 

A little Trivia: the tolerances of error of Kentucky Rumbler's track was 1/16 of an inch. Source: Megastructures Documentary

 

EDIT: v That's what I was trying to convey. I reread my paragraph and realized it was pretty vague, and thus reworded sections of this post.

 

I did forgot to mention that Intamin prefabs come at an insane price tag, but the point of this post was how RMC and Intamin have stepped outside the box. Both rides work (reimagined the woodie), but Intamin couldn't market the price. RMC's design has sold much more because it's affordable. I'd like to demonstrate:

 

RCDB states that Balder was ~ 9-10 mil US. It has 3,510.5 ft of track. Compare this to Gwazi, which would have cost 11 mil in 2003 (Balder's opening year), and has 3,508 PER SIDE. That's twice that of Balder's, with a remainder of 5ft sharp. Are they two very different rides? Yes. But lets look at the differences:

 

  1. Costs in wood: Balder uses a lot more (+thicker) lumber, but Gwazi doesn't; therefor, it needs more diagonal supports lateral to the bents. Gwazi also has twice the amount of track length, and a larger footprint (Balder is pretty much stacked on itself). +1 Gwazi
  2. Concrete: Again, Gwazi's footprint is much larger and a lot of times, most of the concrete isn't even visible. The entire footprint looks to be asphalt paved too. +1 Gwazi
  3. Construction : Prefabs cost more to make the track, but GCI's are hand built, and Gwazi was a massive project. If prefabs cut down on this cost, and GCI's don't have fabrication prices, but rather higher labor cost, then usually I'd cancel this out (under circumstances of of same track length). However, Gwazi is twice the length of Balder, and thus: +1 Gwazi
  4. Technology: Balder was much newer, (considerably) a prototype. Gwazi is the same old traditional woodie as they have been for ages. +1 Balder
  5. Station: Just the size of Gwazi's is much larger, and accommodates for two stations. I can't really get into detail unless we know more technological specifics of each ride's stations. Honestly, I have no clue how significant a station is of the ride's cost - I threw this in here for the thought. n/a
  6. Preparation: Balder required demolition of some buildings, and Gwazi was built in a field. Both lands were flat previously. Gwazi's area was larger. Trees? For simplicity: Cancels out

 

Tally: Gwazi=3, Balder=1

 

The point system represents an increase in expenses, respectfully positive. Inflation rates provided by the United States Bureau of Labor statistics

 

For a couple million more, BGT got a much better deal UPFRONT.

 

I chose Balder against Gwazi for many reasons. First, both are twisters, and have confirmed prices. Second, I'm not too aware of El Toro's prep work (or how out-and-back layouts, because of accessibility, increase construction time?). I could find these details easily, but my brain is to fried to factor these in. There were quite a bit of here-and-there demolitions. El Toro reuses an old staion and has a cable lift - not a good comparison. Third, I've heard rumors that El Toro was 12 mil, but without solid backing, I wasn't going to base the value comparison under it. Enjoy.

Edited by RollerManic
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I think what Intamin and RMC relaized is that we're reapeating our mistakes with building wooden coasters. They've been around since the last century (modern examples) and IMO, they havent changed much. The track isprincipally the same. Tolerances and dessign have far improved, meaning greater accuracy, but really this only matters the first few years. Mother nature seems to be the dictator of their longievity (taking out the park as a variable, that's a broad story itself). RMC and Intamin are the only two off the top of my head to really reengineered rides to be more durable.

 

Intamin's product does indeed cut down on the maintenance, but comes with a serious price tag a lot of parks can't afford the up front cost of. RMC has basically blown the plug-and-plays out of the water with what they do because the rides can accomplish things like dive loops and inverted stalls that traditional wood coasters aren't capable of. Having said that, there's no serious argument to say that the experience of riding an RMC wood coaster is really more similar to riding a traditional wood coaster (Legend @ Arnold's, Phoenix, etc.) than those rides that GCI, CCI, TGG, and so on have put together. Those rides basically use identical tech to what's been put on tracks for 100 years now, Timberliners excluded.

 

Traditional wood coasters require serious maintenance and the current climate of theme parks is that of publicly owned corporate parks in mature markets that have to show continued growth without really having large attendance increases. We're fast losing the few remaining wild, more traditionally styled wood coasters we have, and soon they'll be completely gone and something for grey haired men to talk about. Is that really progress? I guess it doesn't really matter what I think.

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Actually, a prefab and similar sized GCI roughly the same. Balder only costed around $10 million, and it only costed $12 million to build El Toro. However, an RMC would be much cheaper. A 100 foot GCI costs around 10 million, while a 150 ft RMC would cost the same price up front, and cost far less to maintain. RMC is leading the game all around.

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^The $12 million listing for El Toro on Wikipedia is false. At Great Adventure's last Winter Adventure, the park was quoted as saying that El Toro ran the park $25 million--more than most major steel coasters. That figure easily explains why Shapiro tried to cancel the project, but was fortunately too late.

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Outside the big chains, very few parks can afford a 10 million dollar ride of any sort. It simply isn't a viable strategy. Also, one should keep in mind that coaster are ultimately just rides like everything else mechanical that takes riders at an amusement park. If you can get 85% of the people to come in for years 1-5 of a coaster's lifespan for 50% of the price of a more expensive attraction, you'll make more money. At that point, if you send it through the wood chipper, it doesn't matter because you've broken even. Obviously no one aspires to do that, but that's the reality.

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I definitely think there's a place in the industry for RMC/Intamin prefab coasters and traditional wood coasters, they really are vastly different. As to the question of if the parks will continue to order traditional wood coasters and spend the money on maintenence? That should be interesting. Your guess is as good has mine. Good discussion!

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Actually, a prefab and similar sized GCI roughly the same. Balder only costed around $10 million, and it only costed $12 million to build El Toro. However, an RMC would be much cheaper. A 100 foot GCI costs around 10 million, while a 150 ft RMC would cost the same price up front, and cost far less to maintain. RMC is leading the game all around.

You aound pretty off there on those GCI numbers. For example, Gwazi (two, 105 ft, 3508 ft long tracks) for 11 million, and 3510 ft long Balder for ten million. BGT got twice the amount of track.

 

Considering most RMCs are SF, I'm not going into those prices.

 

You know, I spent about an hour or two writing my post a couple above yours. Glad to know it was read.

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Mother nature seems to be the real dictator of their longevity (taking out the park as a variable, that's a broad story itself), and yet RMC and Intamin are the only two off the top of my head to really reengineered rides to last through this.

 

I love wooden roller coasters, but I feel this way a lot to traditional woodies anymore.

 

Honestly, if Rocky Mountain and / or Intamin made old-school wooden coaster layouts - those without the ultra-steep drops, surf curves, overbanks and inversions - I'd hop on board the hype train. I understand that these layouts haven't happened yet because the parks haven't asked for them, though.

 

So far, it seems like Balder is the closest Intamin prefab / Rocky Mountain to a "traditional" wooden coaster - it's a little high at 120 feet tall, but it has no frills - just airtime hill after airtime hill. Sometimes I wonder what Aska at Nara Dreamland would feel like if it were built with the prefabricated track system. Even though I've never ridden it I think it's the best interpretation of the classic Cyclone layout. If the next Rocky Mountain wooden coaster were announced to be something like Aska, I'd be just as excited as the majority of us were for Goliath, Outlaw Run and the like.

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^ Aska at Nara Dreamland was nearly IDENTICAL to SFGA's Viper. I thought the ride was completely over-sold by the ACE/ECC trip that went there the year after we rode it and claimed it to be the best thing in the world. I'm guessing that since it closed shortly after and not many enthusiasts got out to ride it that it became bragging rights to say they were on this OMG hidden gem of a ride that most people won't be able to counter because it's gone. We didn't find it any better than Viper at all.

Edited by robbalvey
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That's totally fair. I also referenced Aska because it was an Intamin wooden coaster built before Balder.

 

So, maybe not Aska / Viper exactly, but a similar "no frills" kind of coaster.

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