3-record Goliath roller coaster rises in Great America skyline

By By Robert Mccoppin

Chicago Tribune (MCT)

Published: Tuesday, May 6 2014 12:05 p.m. MDT

“Our guys are tough,” Grubb said. “Even they said this is absolutely brutal.”

Since September, they’ve worked 11-hour days, six days a week through the snow and cold, missing only two full days of work because of weather. But with the wind chill and snow numbing workers’ hands and making footing on high structures treacherous, the crew members had to stop frequently to recover in warming shelters, cutting down productivity by more than half, supervisors said.

Crews still must finish building the track and installing the mechanicals, like the chain that lifts the cars and the magnetic brakes that stop it. Then will come hundreds of test runs, featuring water-filled dummies wearing accelerometers to ensure that riders can tolerate forces exceeding three times the pull of gravity.

Despite the winter work, crew members say building coasters is a lot more rewarding than building an office or a sewage treatment plant.

“It’s better,” supervisor Matt Whiteman said, “because when you’re done, you get to ride what you’re working on.”

Park officials wouldn’t say exactly how much the coaster cost but said it was more than $10 million. One-time admission to the park for an adult will be $64.99 this year, up $1 from last year, which is a typical yearly increase and not due to the cost of Goliath, spokeswoman Katy Enrique said.

Replacing the stand-up Iron Wolf steel coaster, which moved to another park, the Goliath will make Great America the wooden roller coaster capital of the world, park officials say, with more feet of wooden track than anywhere else. When finished, the 3,100-foot ride is expected to last about a minute and a half — though the moment riders plunge over the top may seem to last an eternity.

Steel coasters at the park like Raging Bull can bend crazily and go faster and higher, but traditionalists love the look and ride of wooden coasters, which are increasingly rare. Schilke, the designer, says wooden coasters feel faster in a tight space, as riders whip by support structures and roll with less friction.

“It’s a different feel,” he said. “Everybody knows the difference. If you closed your eyes, you’d say, ‘I’m on a wooden coaster here.’ ”

Chicago Tribune. Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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