Hey again all, thanks for the responses. A bit cold to go to work today (-55* F), so it gave me some time to catch up with everyone.
A new roller coaster would almost absolutely be wood. The owner wants to keep everything as in-house as possible to keep costs down, and the up-front costs for a steel roller coaster would be rather steep. Plus a wooden coaster would fit the old-school theme of the park a little more. Chatting with the boss man a short time ago, he mentioned he contacted GCI about how much one of their Big Fun models would cost - just materials, all in-house labor. (No one's ever built one of those... Weird) The bill came out to $1 million for one build-it-yourself coaster. Considering the Meteor ended up only costing $100,000 total, he decided to pass. I would think someone would buy a Chance Hyper again at some point (seriously a great looking ride), but it most likely won't be Little Amerricka, especially for $7 million. Maybe waaaaaaay down the road if Cedar Fair or Herschend buys the park. Or long lost Uncle Moneybags wills me his offshore Swiss bank account.
Several things play into the Lincoln Park Comet situation. Just the height of the ride isn't the main concern - pretty much all of the hills on the Comet are high off the ground with steep drops. These larger drops require longer pullouts (giggity) and exert forces on the structure on the ride for longer periods of time. I could design something really wild like a clone of the Crystal Beach Cyclone, but the more wild the ride, the more maintenance required. It's my guess that shallow speed hills exert less force on the structure, since the pullouts are shorter and forces are exerted over a shorter time.
In addition, the tracks on the Tornado share the structure with each other (less supports necessary).
With how much attention the other rides in the park require to keep running (can't count how many times the owner has said "Well, have to go weld the Mad Mouse before the park opens in 2 hours"), I'd like to keep maintenance as low as possible for a new ride. Also because anything I help design and build I'm going to have to help fix. The LP Comet would also require a larger plot of land, which in our situation might be a deciding factor. The plot of land that was originally chosen as a possible spot now has a train track expansion running across it.
It's more the owner's decision to aim more towards family-friendly than thrilling. I'm always surprised seeing some very young kids on Millennium Force and Top Thrill Dragster, so I know they can handle it, but it's not really the vision the owner has for the park. He wants to focus on rides that parents and even grandparents can enjoy with their children and grandchildren, and his thinking is that something inspired by the Coney Island Cyclone may be a bit much for Grandma Claribel. Plus, from the money side of things, family-friendly rides = typically less intense = less maintenance costs. I can come up with plenty of traumatizing ride ideas, but the boss man has the final say. He's also the elite welder and mechanical whiz, so we'll just have to meet in the middle somewhere.
It really isn't our goal to try to compete with Great America or even the Dells. We do get some people from out of state, even out of the country (gave a train ride once to a nice group of European coaster enthusiasts who came by just to see our little side show), and there is some advertising done in the surrounding area, but we're happy with our role as a small regional park catering more to locals and small-time vacationers. Heck, I'm always surprised when people say they traveled more than 3 hours just to come to our park. I have resist asking them why would do something crazy like that. :?r
I do agree that we need to do something more with our marketing though. We have people who live in Madison a whole 20 minutes away who've never heard of the park or think it's like on the other side of the moon and not just down the road. A large, exciting, brand spankin' new roller coaster and some media exposure might do the trick. A new campground did open up directly next door, so that maybe that will catch the attention of people from other markets.
Very unique and cool campground, BTW. Train-themed cabins, swimming hole, sandy beach, all-natural Wisconsin corn field palm trees that light up - the whole nine yards. The train runs out to the campground so the campers can ride the train straight to the park - we're basically a Disney Resort's deranged step-brother. Check it out if you're interested: [url]https://whistlestopcampground.com/[/url]
No real timetable at this point. The park is almost run day-to-day depending on what breaks and external forces, making it difficult to accurately plan for the future. The park was set up as not much more than a play-thing; the founder of the park, Lee Merrick, had enough money saved up that operating at a loss never really bothered him. After he passed away and the money feed was gone, the owner had fight like heck to make the park profitable. There isn't a lot of insulation from a rough season. Us head guys at the park are planning on doing a pow wow soon to make some decisions for a new ride, and after that the actual planning can begin, so all I can say is that it's in the works. It's something that all of us really want to do though, and some big steps will be taken pretty soon to make sure it does happen. I'm hoping we have a ride ready to run before 2026, the 35 year mark for the park. Or at least before my hair turns gray.
The owner has some connections in the coaster building industry with Gravity Group and PTC - they were extremely helpful in building the Meteor. I even started talking about Knoebels and he said "Oh, Dick? Yeah, we've talked before a lot." Since the Meteor was a Herbert Schmeck/PTC design, and our shop forces refurbished PTC's rail bender for them, they allowed him to use it free of charge. His thinking is that if we do another PTC design, they may let us use their rail bender again, saving a BIG chunk of money on the project. I'm in love with Gravity Group's recent family woodies, and I think that would be an absolute home-run for the park, but the issue about cost and maintenance comes up again. Maybe the next ride.
My vision for the park is the new roller coaster, maybe another new ride, more bathrooms and facilities, and getting the park into a more stable state. That way, whenever the owner decides to hang up his spurs, the park would be more attractive for potential buyers. Who hopefully keep it running and don't bulldoze it for condos. I'd better be careful though. If I get too involved in the park, one day the owner might be handing me the keys and wishing me good luck as he races off for Bermuda. Maybe I should take some welding classes just to be safe...
Again, feel free to comment or ask questions.
- If Fido can handle it, then it should fine for families, right?