Climbing to the top of an 180-foot drop at Six Flags Great America’s new wooden roller coaster, Joliet-resident Taylor Trimby is strapped into the car with a seat belt and a heavy lap bar to keep him in place.
When Trimby goes down the drop at an 85-degree angle, he reaches 72 mph, goes through a tunnel, into an over-bank turn, over a hill, into an inversion, inverted drop, into another inversion and into a final over-bank turn.
“It’s a wonderful ride. That first incline and drop is magnificent. It’s just amazing. It’s like nothing they’ve ever built before,” Trimby said. “It’s quick. You don’t have time to prepare for anything. You’re going up, you’re going down. You’re twisting and turning. ... It’s great.”
Trimby, a member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts, was among the crowd who were the first to take on Six Flags’ new ride Goliath, which sets world records for tallest drop, steepest drop and fastest speed.
It has been years since Six Flags, which opened in 1976, last opened a new ride. Changing the landscape offers a variety of benefits, said John Krajnak, marketing director for Six Flags, by keeping the park fresh and people engaged.
“The more product we continue to add is going to enhance the season pass,” he said. “You have to come multiple times to experience everything in the park.”
Krajnak said the ride’s restraint system, which has a heavy bar over a rider’s waist, thighs and shins can be intimidating, especially when the ride goes upside down and sideways.
“It keeps the riders nice and secure in the car without having to have a shoulder harness,” Krajnak said. “It adds to the thrills of the ride.”
Goliath, built by Idaho-based Rocky Mountain Construction, is a smooth ride compared to its fellow wooden roller coasters in the park. Designers used a “topper track” made out of composite metal to make the ride more graceful, Six Flags Great America President Hank Salemi said.
Traditional wooden roller coasters have steel wheels on steel tracks. Salemi said.
“This topper track allows it to be innovative, allows it to run fast enough, go upside down,” Salemi said.
Salemi said Goliath has features of wooden and steel coasters.
“This really combines the elements of a wood roller coaster, the feel, the sensation of riding a wood roller coaster with elements like inversions that you don’t really find on a whole lot of wood roller coasters,” Salemi said. “It’s really kind of a hybrid. It’s a hybrid between what is a tremendous wooden ride but also has a lot of the elements that our steel coasters have, like Batman and Superman.”
As for how long Goliath holds its records is anyone’s guess.
“You never know in this business,” Salemi said. “We hope it lasts for a long, long time. We also know that our sister parks, our competitor parks, they’re all out there looking for the same kind of innovation. ... We’re just thrilled to have Goliath. If it holds records for a while, then that’s even better.”
When the Gurnee theme park opens a new ride, it can mean a financial windfall for the village, which doesn’t levy a property tax, Village President Kristina Kovarik said.
Kovarik said the village sees an increase in its amusement tax revenue of 5 to 10 percent any time there is a new ride.
“We’ve been expecting an increase in visitors to this area, which is always a boon for us,” Kovarik said. “We rely on an amusement tax, sales tax, food and beverage tax, and Six Flags is really the main generator of the amusement tax and food and beverage tax. It also fills up our hotels ... and brings people to Gurnee, and they shop and they dine. It has a trickle effect all through the community that really benefits us.”
Glenn Tallar of Homer Glen watched the ride grow as it was constructed and couldn’t wait for the day Goliath opened.
“For Six Flags Great America to have a ride like this, you don’t want to miss out on it,” Tallar said. “It’s truly amazing.”
Keith Steinke of Gurnee said when people hear wooden roller coasters, a lot of them think of rambling and vibration, which also can be fun. But with its topper track system, steep drop, over-bank turns, zero-g elements and inversions, Steinke said the ride is unbelievable.
“I thought it was one of the most intense, yet smooth, wooden roller coaster I’ve ever been on,” Steinke said.
Paul Polelle of Lake Villa said the ride is intense from start to finish.
“It’s absolutely incredible. You get tons of air time,” Polelle said.
“You have a world-record breaking drop, two inversions that aren’t on any other wooden roller coaster in the world. That in itself is pretty awesome.”
Top speed: 72 mph
Tallest Drop: 180 feet
Drop angle: 85 degrees
Ride length: 3,100 feet
Duration: One minute, 36 seconds
Source: Six Flags Great America