I had the privileged of visiting Cedar Point yesterday to take a tour of the Gatekeeper construction site and the park during the off-season. The park was insane to be at with just my camera guy, the Cedar Point staff, construction workers and myself. The park was pretty eerie to walk around without the familiar sounds of Raptor’s roar, game hosts asking if I would like to play a game, music pumping through the speakers and other guests.
Upon arriving to Cedar Point via the Causeway, I immediately noticed that the skyline will be forever changed here in the next couple of months and especially at the start of the 2013 season. After I met with security at the toll booth, I was given the clearance to head back to the marketing office to meet Annie Zelm. Not too long after meeting up with her, we took off to talk a walk along the Cedar Point Beach. Upon walking down the beach front toward the front gate, we started to get an amazing view of the new attraction for 2013, Gatekeeper. Walking toward Gatekeeper brought pure joy to myself, Annie and Jared (my cameraman). This off season is for sure an exciting one at the park and it’s going well so far.
When we heard that Gatekeeper was going to be 170 feet tall, it didn’t sound like it was going to be that high, however when standing next to it like we did, it seemed incredibly high! Continuing on our tour, we walked into the staging area of all of the Gatekeeper track, supports and parts. When riding a coaster, the track never seems like it’s that big, but when you stand next to them, holy cow, they are massive! Annie took Jared and I toward the front gate to overlook the construction over there. It already looks 100% different than it did on my last visit for Halloweekends.
The three of us then took a casual stroll through the park to see what was going on with the off season inside. As you can imagine, the park looked incredibly bare. Numerous rides were shrink wrapped to protect seats from the winter and snow. Rides that have free moving vehicles have had them taken off of the tracks or structures. Some rides like Calypso, Super Himalaya and Matterhorn have been completely gutted and are pretty much unrecognizable aside from the signage. Several roller coaster train cars were scattered through the park waiting for rehab.
Annie and I stopped at a couple of points to discuss what was going on with Gatekeeper and the off-season in general.
I asked Annie how long it took to plan Gatekeeper Annie mentioned that, “any coaster that we put together at Cedar Point is at least three years in the making from the time the initial idea is presented until the ride is actually is executed and work begins. Gatekeeper was three to five years really, that’s a lot of time to keep a secret!” Several of our guests here on the site asked if there were any other coasters or attractions submitted for the same plot of land. Annie had stated that Gatekeeper has always been a part of the long term planning process. Site guests also asked if Gatekeeper was purchased as a packaged deal, “Gatekeeper is the package deal. It is a huge package too by the way, it also includes significant upgrades to our main entrance, it’s a $30 million total project,” Zelm answered. I asked Zelm how deep the footers were for Gatekeeper and if they were deeper closer to the lake and not as deep closer to the main entrance, she said “The footers are at least six feet, they vary in size of course, the taller ones are holding up the larger supports.” She mentioned that the footers by the beach are similar to the ones by the front entrance, however the footer sites by the beach have to be tested for compaction and the soil is the proper type. We also spoke about the configuration of the station and queue. There will only be one load/unload station. Zelm stated that the full queue will be close to where the Space Spiral was.
The refreshment stands in the plaza area of Space Spiral and Disaster Transport may still remain. Zelm stated, “They’ve already started clearing things away from that area. That area will at least have some renovation done, so far it has not been eliminated but I think the idea is to reinvigorate that area to make it fit the theme of the ride, obviously Transport Refreshments is no longer relevant.” We also spoke about how the winter will effect construction. Annie stated that construction will go on as scheduled similar to how construction went during the crazy winter of 2007 when Maverick was being built. Gatekeeper will have some sort of preview event, but hasn’t been decided. A First Ride Auction will happen and is in the planning phase of that. Gatekeeper should have a Platinum Pass holder ride night. Events featuring Gatekeeper’s debut for the 2013 are being worked out and will be announced hopefully soon.
While on our walk through the park, Annie and I talked a bit about the off-season for the rest of the park. I asked whether or not any of the midways would be getting a renovation. For the 2013 season, we will not see any major upgrades to the midways as Cedar Point is happy with how they are looking, including the new Celebration Plaza. We also spoke about the recently announced Hotel renovations on Cedar Point property. Zelm informed me that, “It is going to be a significant investment over the next three to four years. He (Matt Ouimet, Cedar Fair CEO) plans to get input from our guests. They haven’t announced yet what within the hotels will be upgraded. We want to make sure they are in line with the needs of people today, to make sure we’re keeping up with them just as much as we keep up with the rides. The more we entice them to stay here, the more we can expand on the late night live entertainment, such as Luminosity for example.” Annie also mentioned that stay here, play here tickets are an option for the hotels as well as early entry time for hotel guests will still be around for the 2013 season. Zelm and I also spoke of Fast Lane. Zelm mentioned that Fast Lane was very successful this past year and will be returning for 2013. She mentioned that the line up of rides for Fast Lane hasn’t been announced yet but should stay similar to this previous year.
Several of our guests asked about whether or not more rides would be receiving lighting packages, Zelm stated that as of right now, she is not aware of any rides having lighting packages added to them. For 2013 cosmetically the biggest change is Gatekeeper and the main entrance, other upgrades have not been announced and Zelm is unaware if any will be announced. The only thing that Zelm mentioned cosmetically that is being done aside from the announced would be that Millennium Force will be completed with it’s 3 year re-painting project. Zelm mentioned that the park is always looking to do improvements in addition to the big capital expenditure projects and to stay tuned to see if there are any more to be announced. We spoke about who makes the capital expenditure project decisions, Zelm stated that Matt Ouimet, the Cedar Fair Board and park representatives. That grouping does look at comments from the guests at the park. Zelm mentioned that each year Cedar Point cannot add a roller coaster like Gatekeeper every year because there are other parks in the chain to receive new rides and attractions. Zelm and I talked about Dinosaur’s Alive and whether or not the Dinosaurs go through any rehab during the off season. Zelm stated that, “the dinosaurs have really tough skin, but that skin is already protected from the elements. There will not be a lot of change to them during the off season.” Zelm also joked that the dinosaurs have a tough enough skin to survive the winter at the park, unfortunately they did not have thick enough skin for them to survive millions of years ago after what happened to them but at Cedar Point they are live and well. Zelm and I also talked about seeing Mean Streak trains being shipped to Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) for maintenance. Zelm said that PTC does partner with Cedar Point on a number of the trains and it may be easier for them to do some of the off season work.
Check out the video below to check out the interviews and check out the pictures on our Facebook page (Click Here). If you have any maintenance questions about rides in the park send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be having them answered within a few weeks.