Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Western View - Getting Ready to Strike Gold

There was a time not long ago when coaster enthusiasts spoke of California's Great America in Santa Clara, CA as if it were just a memory of a once great park.  Over the last 13 years or so, the park which once was a beacon of thrills and live entertainment, seemed to slowly become an afterthought to not only its visitors, but to the company that owned it as well.

Not anymore.

On Saturday, I was very fortunate to be invited to a behind the scenes look at California's Great America's newest roller coaster, Gold Striker.  Along with a peek at this amazing looking new ride, the park gave us a look at other things they have in store for the upcoming 2013 season.  With the many local issues with the city, 49ers, and local businesses all in the rear view mirror, it's clear that Cedar Fair no longer sees this park as the redheaded stepchild of the company, and has a renewed interest in seeing it become great once again.

We started off our day with a quick presentation inside the Great America Theater.  The park briefly discussed Gold Striker and reminded us of the impressive stats the ride will have, including the longest tunnel on a wooden coaster drop as well as 85 degree banked turns.  We were also shown a mockup of what the ride's sign will look like.

Later came a presentation about the parks entertainment options and theming initiatives for the upcoming season.  Cedar Fair intends to see Great America become known for it's entertainment once again.   Not only will they be having some favorites, like the hit ice skating show Happiness is...Snoopy, return; they will be also adding 3 new shows.  On Broadway will be a mash-up of hit Broadway musical numbers; where Pop Fusion will be an outdoor music based show similar to Luminostiy at Cedar Point only, as they pointed out, "without all the millions of dollars." From what I've experienced with Great America in the past, I'm sure it will still be great on a lower budget.

For you Haunt fans out there, the park is already planning for this year's event, and this year, there will be 3 brand new mazes for you to experience.  One will be completely new where 2 will be brand new mazes that will replace former mazes in their original locations.

After the presentation, we were split up into small groups and shown around Gold Striker as well as the rest of the park.  My group was taken to the ride first.

The ride's future entrance.
This area will be full of switchbacks for the long summer queue.
From this area, you will get amazing views of the trains flying by.
Here the train will reach full speed as it flies past guests in line.
After ducking back under the structure, you will enter this tunnel which will be themed as a mine shaft.
Another view from where the train flies past the queue near the station.
Crews were preparing to place the roof on the station.
The 85 degree banked turn.

The ride will exit into the ride photo area which will be located under the arches to the left.  The store to the right will become a gift shop for Gold Striker merchandise.
We were taken behind Xtreme SkyFlyer for another view of the ride.
After the tour of the ride area, we were taken around the park where many rides and park buildings are really receiving some TLC.  Not only will the park look better, it's also going to sound better.  It was discussed that the park is in the process of bringing back themed music.  No longer will we hear Top 40 hits in areas like Orleans Place, but rather themed instrumental music that fits the area of the park you are in.
The future home of the park's new Subway, for those of you who would like to eat fresh.
Barney Oldfield received new paint.  The queue will also receive theming that tells the story of Barney Oldfield and why the ride is named after him.
The games area receiving paint
Drop Tower was making test runs.
At Psycho Mouse, the giant mouse head is being repainted while the roof of the queue house is being replaced.
Centrifuge looks practically brand new with it's fresh paint.
It was confirmed the Spongebob is on his way out of the park and will be replaced with a new film.  The film will be announced at a later date, but we were told that the current rumors for the subject of the ride film are way off.
This sign is set to be removed in the coming week.
The Columbia Carousel is now sporting a gold spire, which is appropriate given it's new neighbor.
Speaking of that new neighbor, here is one last shot of how it has completely changed the look of the front of the park.
Special thanks to Roger, Ryan, Tyler, Cleighton and Albert at California's Great America for the great event.  We can't wait to ride Gold Striker in the coming months!