Flying Cedar Point’s newest coaster, GateKeeper
Cedar Point, located in Sandusky, Ohio, opened their doors this past Saturday for their 144th season. Those “doors” look a lot different than seasons past after the huge makeover the front of the park received with the addition of the park’s 16th roller coaster, GateKeeper. Two of the park’s rides, Disaster Transport (the coaster formally known as “Avalanche Run”) and the Space Spiral were demolished to make room for the new coaster.
The record-breaking ride is a winged coaster, meaning that riders sit on either side of the track as if on the wings of a plane with nothing above their heads or below their feet, giving them 2 minutes and 40 seconds of a sensation as if flying.
Prior to the official opening of the park and new ride, we were lucky enough to be invited to preview GateKeeper along with about 1,200 other members of the media and roller coaster enthusiast groups, some traveling from as far as Florida to get to fly the ride on May 9th. Cars lined up as early as 11pm the night before in order to be some of the first riders. We entered the park and walked straight up the main midway, hung a right at the games, and rode the ride as many times as we could stomach from about 4am until the gorgeous Lake Erie sunrise around 6 in the morning. You can watch my ride on GateKeeper by clicking here! The ride is located on Cedar Point Beach right by Wicked Twister, so it was a bit chilly, but we barely noticed due to the surge in adrenaline.
I personally like the left side of the ride better, as many of the enthusiasts seem to agree. Since riders sit on two different sides of the track, the left and right sides have different experiences. For example, on the first drop, the right side drops and rolls under the track where the left side goes up and over the track. However, riders will get that great flying sensation on either side of the ride with their feet dangling and no track above or below them in the way of their view.
After cresting at the top of the 170 foot lift hill, the coaster’s train rotates 180 degrees to the right, turning you upside down before plummeting 164 feet towards the ground at speeds over 65mph. Let me tell you–it is a huge rush diving seemingly straight down to within 6 feet of the ground at that speed. GateKeeper shatters several world records, including being the tallest, longest, and most inverted winged roller coaster. Some of the inversions and features of the ride include:
- Immelmann– a maneuver through which riders enter a half loop, go through a half twist and curve out in the opposite direction from which they came
- Camelback– riders fly over a giant, 105-foot-tall camelback hill filled with “airtime!”
- Giant Flat Spin – a hair-raising 360-degree flip that provides two different ride experiences for guests on each side of the train
- Inclined Dive Loop– a tight, 180-degree turnaround that pushes riders through an overbanked turn and rockets them back towards the station
- Camelback Drop– a quick drop that propels the train and its guests through the rides final thrilling element, the spiral
- Spiral– GateKeeper’s track rotates a wicked 360 degrees before bringing the coasters train back to the ride station
The most exciting features of the ride just may be those centered around the two huge support towers that now welcome Cedar Point guests over the Main Entrance. The two “Zero-G-Rolls” are insane flying elements that take you through the narrow keyholes of the concrete towers as if “threading a needle”. Shortly after, you experience a 360° “In-Line-Roll”, where you are taken extremely close to the two massive keyhole towers, twisting you just in time to make you feel as if you are just missing being slammed into them. These features made me get that feeling I imagine a bug gets when flying towards a car windshield, except you are completely strapped in to a huge steel train with absolutely no control of where you go. Thrilling is an understatement.
Overall, the ride is extremely smooth, comparable to Millennium Force. Of course, the back of the train is a little bit more shaky, but overall so smooth. GateKeeper is also one of the quietest coasters ever built because the track is actually filled with sand to absorb noise. Another significant ride spec is the changes in speed as you go through the different track elements, feeling like you’re darting through the air at high speeds during some, then slowing down and experiencing a gliding-flight feeling.
GateKeeper was manufactured by Bollinger & Maillard of Monthey, Switzerland, who also built Cedar Point’s ride, Raptor. In fact, as one rider, Karen, put it, the ride is “like Raptor’s older, classier brother” since they resemble each other in the way riders’ feet dangle from the seats. The construction of GateKeeper only took 8 months to complete from the very first day of site preparation. The technology incorporated in the new ride is absolutely incredible and clearly noticeable even to the non-techy eye. The trains are lit with stunning energy-efficient LED lighting, and the control center is actually elevated above the train in the station so the ride operators get an unobstructed overhead view of all of the activities on the platform. The ride has 6 ride hosts (3 on each side of the train) on the platform checking seats, and each must put up the “all clear” signal in a choreographed manner one after the other, with the front 4 having to do so while standing on state-of-the-art pressure pads and remain there for the duration of the train exiting the station for the ride to operate.
If you can find a day or two this summer, you absolutely must go check out the GateKeeper and Cedar Point. There is plenty to do for even the non-riders, as Cedar Point features more than 150 different rides, shows, and attractions. Tickets can be purchased in advance online for as low as $44.99 for adults at https://www.cedarpoint.com/tickets/.