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Ultimate Rollercoaster > Discussion Forums > Roller Coasters, Parks & Attractions > Re: Comparing Great America: Santa Clara vs. Gurne

Re: Comparing Great America: Santa Clara vs. Gurne

Steven Wilson

4/1/00 at
4:12:00 AM

> As most of us well know, these two parks
> opened in 1976 under the Marriot label- both
> essentially at the time the same layout,ride
> lineup, and both designed by Duell
> Associates. Between '76 and today, the two
> parks share little in resemblance anymore,
> outside of the entrance area with the
> Columbia Carousel, and a few themed area
> names. Sure, both still have the Demon, and
> a few flats that originate from '76 but for
> the most part, they are now completely
> different parks. I wanted to get a feel
> from anyone who has been to both (or even
> people who call one of them their homepark)-
> which park today has the better vibe or
> atmosphere mixed with the rides- in other
> words, total park experience.

I visited Marriott's Great America in Gurnee during its first year, 1976, and every year thereafter through 1981. I also spent two seasons working there in ride operations. My primary rides were Eagle's Flight (skyride), Southern Cross (skyride), and Yankee Clipper (flume). I knew the park very well, inside out. All the while, I never had much interest in seeing the Santa Clara park. I even remember a friend who was the lead on Orleans Orbit say how much she wanted to see the Santa Clara park. I asked her why would she want to bother to go all the way out there just to see the same park that we had in Gurnee. Of course, I had seen many, many photos of the Santa Clara park because nearly all of the photos for brochures, post cards, pictorial guides, etc. were taken at Santa Clara.

I didn't see the Santa Clara park until 1990, during a business trip while it was closed for the season. I was staying at the Santa Clara Marriott, so I had a great view of the entire park from my room. My first visit to the Santa Clara park while it was in operation wasn't until 1993. It was a really strange experience because everything seemed so familiar, yet not quite the same. In 1993, the two parks had some major differences already, but they were much more similar to one another than they are today.

What bothers me most about PGA is the extent of the ride removals: -- Willard's Whizzer -- Lobster -- Ameri-Go-Round -- Triple Wheel (Sky Whirl) -- Yankee Clipper -- railroad train -- and some other flat rides

The Triple Wheel was the greatest loss to me. The park will NEVER be the same for me without it. And I can't go there without missing it every single time. The Whizzer, too, was a great loss. But since I never got to ride the one in Santa Clara, I don't miss it as much as I would if the one in Gurnee were ever removed. Both parks have removed their original kiddie coaster, the Gulf Coaster.

Gurnee has kept more of the original ride mix intact, and has added bigger rides than Santa Clara. Examples are the American Eagle, Shockwave, and Raging Bull. Gurnee also has added the delightful Viper, while Santa Clara has the infamous Grizzly. Santa Clara has added the groundbreaking Stealth, but at the cost of removing Yankee Clipper. Gurnee removed both skyrides, while Santa Clara still has their original.

To me, both parks seem incomplete as a result of ride removals. The new additions are never really replacements for the unique rides that were lost. I would give the nod to Gurnee, except that it just doesn't seem right without the skyrides. So I guess I'll just have to call it a tenuous draw.