Monday, May 31, 2010

Scott and Carol Present - Six Flags Great America's Little Dipper

Six Flags Great America has an instant classic with the opening of the Little Dipper. This junior woodie has thrilled generations of Chicagoland residents. When Kiddieland announced their upcoming closure, Hank Salemi, Park President for Six Flags Great America, obtained the necessary approvals from corporate to keep this ride local. They bid $33,000 dollars but that was just the start of the project.

The opening ceremony kicked off with park president Hank Salemi thanking everyone for coming, and welcomed the Kiddieland families. “We are glad to preserve this important piece of Chicago history for the following generations,” he said.

Ron Rynes, a fourth generation Kiddieland owner presented Hank with the ACE Classic Coaster designation plaque, and also Kiddieland commemorative coin number 50, in honor of the year the coaster opened.

The Kiddieland families took one last ride on “their coaster”, the inaugural ride at the new location. They were excited to ride it again, but sad that it had changed hands. “It feels a lot better to ride it and see it here today than it did that last day Kiddieland was open," said Thomas Norini, a driving force behind Kiddieland. "Maybe now it will be easier to look at the old pictures. It was too hard before.”

Norini has only good things to say about the renovation. “I love the look. People came and watched through the fence as the ride was being torn down. The response has been very positive since the news broke. They were careful as they took it apart, and they even cleaned up after themselves. You could tell how impressed he was with the historical murals throughout the queue."

Gary Pohlman, Director of Construction, said “We brought our people down to Kiddieland with an engineering firm to basically shoot everything in place and prepare an “As Built” record of the ride since we didn’t have any blueprints. Then we carefully took it apart and rebuilt it here in the park. We numbered and lettered every piece.”

Everything was updated to OSHA standards and then Six Flags Safety added some new additions. “We replaced the hand brake with computer controlled air brakes and installed a computerized control system”, said Pohlman. The seat belts are a Six Flags standard so they were added.

The original sign was used, but now has more earth friendly LEDs. The faux florescent lights in the station bring back nostalgia in an energy efficient way. They even are mounting the old speakers on the handrails like in the previous locations, although you won’t hear anything from them. Even the chasers are LEDs.

It took more than just resembling the ride. Margaret Royer, Amusement Ride Inspector for the State of Illinois said, “We treated this as a new ride. Everything whether it was a change or remained the same had to be checked out by engineers. I made multiple visits and made sure it was brought up to current standards."

So it’s a win for everyone. Six Flags Great America, who is now entrusted with the care of the ride, gains a new attraction. The Kiddieland families, who can come ride it without having to maintain it. And most of all, future generations of Chicago land families who can experience the ride one more time with their families. Bravo to Six Flags Great America and the Kiddieland families who helped make this happen.