Goliath Roller Coaster History Essay

Finally done with the 1st paragraph of this essay

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When it comes to calculating exactly how fast a roller coaster can roll, the process involves exactly what might be expected: a police officer's speed gun.

"We did have the Gurnee police actually come out and help us get started," said Six Flags Great America spokeswoman Katy Enrique about the process of certifying Goliath as the world's fastest wooden roller coaster as tracked by Guinness World Records — one of three titles pursued for the ride after it opened in June 2014.

"For the tallest and steepest, we provided (Guinness) with drawings — what the engineers have for the ride from Rocky Mountain Construction — so that was easy," she added. "For the fast part of it, we had another ride manufacturer come in and actually clock it, and then they sent in a report saying, 'we were here on property on this day and we clocked Goliath at this speed,' and so they provided that authentification."

The official number came in at 71.89 mph, and Enrique said "that was with an empty train in the morning, so loaded up with people and warming up (the track) a little bit, it goes a little faster than that."

On Saturday, the 71.89 mph figure — or 115.7 kilometers per hour — was displayed on one of three certificates issued by Guinness confirming Goliath's status as the fastest, tallest (180 feet) and steepest (85.13 degree) "roller coaster made from wood" in the industry. Saturday was also opening day for Great America's 40th operating season, and early arrivals were treated to a ceremony marking the official registration of the records.

"We're here to celebrate ride innovation at its finest," said park President Hank Salemi as prospective riders formed a blocklong line 30 minutes before the start of business. "When the opportunity to design this ride came about, there were a lot of questions about 'why a wooden roller coaster?' We were asked many times, 'Why would you do that?' because it seemed like the wave of the future, the wave of the present, was the steel roller coaster.

The new Goliath roller coaster at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Ill., is off and running on June 18, 2014. It's the world's fastest wooden roller coaster at 72 mph, with the longest and steepest vertical drop. (Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune)

The new Goliath roller coaster at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Ill., is off and running on June 18, 2014. It's the world's fastest wooden roller coaster at 72 mph, with the longest and steepest vertical drop. (Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune)

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"But frankly, innovation of wooden roller coasters is at its peak," he added. "They're smoother than ever, they're faster than ever. They can go upside down now, which has never been the case in the history of wooden roller coasters."

Great America's history of wooden coasters includes the American Eagle, which opened in May 1981 as the world's tallest wooden coaster (127 feet) and the fastest overall (66 mph). Progress in the coaster world saw those records eclipsed within four and seven years, respectively, and Salemi was asked how long Goliath might hold onto its titles.

"It's going to happen — eventually, somebody will want to have the same claim that we've given," Salemi said. "But we've sure got it right now, and even if somebody does break the record on this thing, it's still an awesome roller coaster. This is going to be here for years and years and years."

First in line among the general public to ride Goliath for 2015 were Mark, Isaiah and Joseph Powlak, all of whom left their home in Milwaukee at 8 a.m. for the drive to Gurnee. Their experience on Goliath last year convinced them to hustle for the ride's entrance when the gates opened.

"We enjoy the ride — it's fun. The (first) drop is the best part," said 13-year-old Joseph, who got on Goliath three times in 2014.

The spotlight this season will also be on other coasters and thrill rides around the park, as officials plan to focus on a different ride each week and offer double rides during select hours. For example, when Raging Bull is featured, guests will have the option of riding twice in a row during the last hour of operation.

While the exact schedule of featured coasters will be posted in coming days, three attractions will be offering the double rides all season starting May 25 — the American Eagle, the Columbia Carousel and Buccaneer Battle. The park is open Friday through Sunday next weekend (May 8-10) before starting daily operation May 14.

As for the official certifications from Guinness about Goliath's records, Enrique said the public should look for them somewhere around the County Fair ride.

"Guinness sent out these certificates for each award," she said, pointing to poster-sized copies set up Saturday. "They're actually smaller than that, but we blew them up for today's presentation."

danmoran@tribpub.com

Twitter @NewsSunDanMoran

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