Saturday, April 11, 2020

Dorney Park Seeking Approval for New Coaster-Looking Attraction


As quickly as this news arrived it has left, as the South Whitehall Township's website now lists the plan for Dorney Park's new attraction as withdrawn from the upcoming meeting.  Will the plan ever be revisited?  Unclear at this point.  Pure speculation on my part, but perhaps the pandemic is changing things in the future of our favorite parks even faster than we thought.  While still excited that this attraction was planned at all, we are no longer expecting this to become reality anytime soon, if ever.

Original post below:

Dorney Park has been listed as an agenda item on South Whitehall Township's upcoming Planning Commission meeting, as the park is seeking approval to build a new attraction.

Here are the details from the agenda:

An application to further develop the property located at 3830 Dorney Park Road.  The plan proposes to remove an existing attraction, construct a new attraction, associated walkways and access drives, and relocate a portion of the existing Zephyr train ride.  The new attraction will be approximately 106 feet tall (419.5 feet above MSL).  The project proposes a net reduction of impervious surface.  The property is zoned CR Commercial Recreation.  Dorney Park LLC is the owner and applicant.

The website, due to the pandemic, also notes that the meeting will be held virtually.  Along those lines, the schematic featured at the top of the post was made available online instead of just at the meeting as is the norm.

So what do we have going on here?  Well the project site is clearly taking up the site of the former Stinger roller coaster, plus a bit more land here and there.  The agenda states that it is 106 feet tall and the plans show a lot of proposed concrete being put down.  In short, I'm going to speculate that this is a new roller coaster, while remembering that anything could change down the road.

© NewsPlusNotes
Starting at the start, this appears to be the entrance to the new ride.  Similar to where the Stinger entrance was, near the Rita's building.  The queue (aqua) will then meander toward the station with the ride going over it several times.

© NewsPlusNotes
The queue (aqua) then eventually comes to the ride's station (yellow), which sits nicely tucked in the middle of the ride.  You can see that the exit path (green) will drop guests off on the midway further down, near the Cedar Creek Flyers.  There is also a maintenance shed (purple) on the other side of the Zephyr tracks and Stinger's old electrical connection building (orange) looks like it will be utilized again for the new ride.

You'll also notice the red on this image, which is what I believe the ride path to be.  There's a bit of a loop here with the direction of travel, which is a very telling aspect of the ride type.

© NewsPlusNotes
So let's dig into that some more.  The above image is how I believe the coaster will play out, including direction of travel.  Station is orange, then follow the red out of the station, up a lift hill, through a tight 180 degree turn, then down a drop.  The red then zooms through the layout until a curious stopping point not far from the entrance to the ride.

This looks like a spike tower that will deplete the trains of energy, allowing them to roll back through the ride's layout - this is the dark blue path.  The trains will eventually creep up the first drop, then reverse direction again - green path - then stop for a track switch to take place that will allow them to return to the station.

© ZDT's Amusement Park
So for those of you playing along at home, as this reminded you yet of the Switchback coaster at Texas' ZDT's Amusement Park?  It certainly has for me.  This coaster, opened in 2015 was built by The Gravity Group and has similar features to the ride proposed for Dorney Park.  There is a lift hill and drop, end spike, switch track and very tight radius turns.  Switchback stands 64 feet tall with a 56 foot drop, so the proposed Dorney ride is a significantly larger version at 106 feet in height.

Switchback also uses steel supports, and that plays into another large hint that can be gathered from the plans.  The proposed concrete sections are rather large, which is exactly how The Gravity Group has been building rides for some time now.  They employ large cement slabs that the footings attach to, here is an example of the footings for the Kentucky Flyer.  That style of construction perfectly matches the proposed Dorney ride.

To make the tight turns on Switchback the ride uses two 4 car trains, so one might expect to maybe double that size to two 8 car trains for Dorney's project.  The switch track allows two trains even though the ride is a shuttle, improving capacity.

© NewsPlusNotes
For those familiar with the park, here is a rough look at the proposed plans on top of the park's current layout.  One old grove, located next to the Urgent Scare building will be demolished for the ride's lift hill and drop.  The Zephyr track will also be slightly reconfigured in this area to make room for the ride.  The new coaster will cross the Zephyr track and come very close to the Dorney Park Road, the property's entrance road.

© NewsPlusNotes
The elephant in the room.  The agenda details mention that the park proposes to "remove an existing attraction."  If you look close at these plans everything existing at the park is shown... except for Possessed.  There is new concrete to be poured right where the ride's logo sign is located, and where the ride extended there are no footings shown.  The mechanical building stands, but no other traces of the ride can be found on here.  The coaster opened at Geauga Lake in 2000 before coming to Dorney in 2008, meaning the 2020 season will be the coaster's 21st season of operations.  There could be a variety of reasons for the ride to be leaving the park, but we'll leave it at that for now.

One final note on this very exciting development - no where in the agenda does it say for sure that this ride is planned for 2021.  While it feels safe to assume it is, we have to remember that the world is in the middle of a pandemic and things are pretty uncertain everywhere.  I'd exercise caution when getting exciting to ride this next season at Dorney, just in case.  Stay tuned for more possible details from next week's planning meeting!