Long before you reach Cedar Point Amusement Park, several towering roller coasters become visible ― Top Thrill Dragster, Millennium Force, and Magnum XL-200 each with its own imposing first hill. Then, as you walk toward the park’s main gate, you see the GateKeeper, the sprawling wing coaster with the highest inversion in the world, a 170-foot wing drop. This is not the only record the roller coaster holds. When it debuted as only the fifth wing coaster in the world, it broke scores of records, including those for height, speed, track length, drop height and inversions.
WHAT IS A WING COASTER?
When you first see GateKeeper, you understand quickly what a wing coaster is. A wing coaster is a type of roller coaster in which riders sit on either side of the track, as though they are wings, with nothing below them or above them. Master coaster design team Bolliger & Mabillard created this design. There are no more than a dozen wing coasters operating or under construction around the world today. Four of those are in the United States. Bolliger & Mabillard developed the first wing coaster in 2008. They built a prototype in 2010 that eventually became the Raptor at Gardaland in Italy. A year later, they built the second, The Swarm, at Thorpe Park in the United Kingdom. The first U.S. wing coaster was Wild Eagle at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Bolliger & Mabillard knew they were on to something when they came up with the wing coaster’s unique design. Rather than sitting above the track in a standard train or hanging below in a cockpit, riders would sit on each side of the tracks. They would dangle out in the open as much as possible, creating the closest thing to free flight a roller coaster could provide. The new design required a rework of the standard over-the-shoulder rider restraint found on many inverted coasters. The wing coaster would include both a cover and a waist-level restraint. The restraint would also provide a set of bars for each rider to hold while the ride was in motion. Boarding the coaster would be different as well. The wait line would eventually split at the station, creating a lane for each side of the coaster. Rather than step in over the track, riders would harness themselves in parallel to the track, with the floor releasing when the ride was ready to launch.
GATEKEEPER’S ‘FRONT GATE STATEMENT’
Source: The Business Journals
Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, often called the Roller Coast because of its location next to Lake Erie and its record-breaking number of roller coasters, announced its intentions to build GateKeeper in 2013. Of course, like with all good stories, plenty of speculation surrounded the coaster before the details became public. Reporters at the local Sandusky Register newspaper gained access to a memo from Matt Ouimet, Cedar Fair’s CEO at the time, to the company’s board of directors. Cedar Fair owns Cedar Point and a number of other amusement parks, including Canada’s Wonderland and California’s Knott’s Berry Farm. In the memo were details about a new coaster code-named “CP Alt. Winged” that would set new records for drop, speed and length. Not surprising, since most people knew the amusement park regularly debuted record-breaking coasters. What caught the eyes of reporters was a detail in the memo that said the new ride would make a “Front Gate Statement.” Indeed it does. GateKeeper soars over the park’s front gate, flying through a number of keyholes situated directly over ticket takers. Parts of the ride also extend out over the parking lot, as well. The park made an official announcement about GateKeeper on Aug. 13, 2012 after an extended content marketing campaign that teased the name of the ride and provided clues about the roller coaster’s design. The statement revealed that the design team at Bolliger & Mabillard would build the coaster unique to Cedar Point, and that the cost would come in at about $30 million. The coaster would indeed travel across the main gate and out over guests entering the park, and it would break records for a coaster of its kind. The ride debuted to the public on May 11, 2013.
GATEKEEPER BREAKS RECORDS AND WINS AWARDS
When it debuted, GateKeeper smashed a number of world records. It was instantly recognized as the longest and fastest wing coaster in operation. The length of the ride measures 4,164 feet, and the coaster reaches speeds of 67 miles per hour. GateKeeper also features the longest drop by a wing coaster, 164 feet, and the most inversions ― twists and spirals ― with six. It also shattered the record for the highest inversion of any roller coaster in the world. The park moves 1,710 riders per hour through the coaster when GateKeeper is at capacity. The ride lasts about two minutes and 40 seconds. Riders can pull four Gs on its twists and turns. After its debut, the ride garnered a number of prestigious industry awards. It won a Golden Ticket Award for Best New Ride in 2013 from Amusement Today. GateKeeper came in third behind Silver Dollar City’s Outlaw Run and Six Flags Fiesta’s Iron Rattler. It was also 28th on a list of the Top Steel Roller Coasters.
THE WORLD’S OTHER WING COASTERS
Beyond GateKeeper, there are eight wing coasters thrilling riders at amusement parks across the globe. They include:
The wing coaster continues to grow in popularity, as well. Expect to see new wing coasters at six parks in China over the next couple of years. Toverland’s Fenix in the Netherlands opens soon, as well.
ROLLER COASTER RECORDS AROUND THE WORLD
Roller coaster enthusiasts know GateKeeper by name, not only because it is one of the wildest wing and inversion coasters around, but also because of the world records it broke when it debuted. Thrill-seekers everywhere want to tackle coasters that break records. That is why the coasters below have become must-rides for coaster fanatics around the globe.
ROLLER COASTER CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
If you do not already live in China, it is time to get your passport stamped. China holds the record for the most roller coasters with more than 820. The United States comes in second with more than 650, and Japan lands in third with more than 210.