March 9, 2000
Sandusky, OH -- OK let's get this out of the way up front just what is a "giga-coaster?"
Monty Jasper knows only too well what that word means, and he is more than happy to explain: "any roller coaster to break the elusive 300-foot-tall barrier, or the term coined especially to describe Cedar Point's new Millennium Force roller coaster, which will be the first coaster on Earth to vault over that never-before-done 300-foot-high threshold," he proudly rattles off.
As vice president of maintenance and construction at the popular coaster-crazy amusement park/resort, Jasper has the challenging task of heading up a team of 120 who is building the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster and yes, the world's very first "giga-coaster." The $25 million Millennium Force will also be Cedar Point's 14th roller coaster (the biggest collection of roller coasters anywhere in the world), the single largest investment in the legendary mega-park's 129-year history and will shatter an amazing10 world records!
"There's no doubt about it," smiles Jasper, "Millennium Force's statistics alone could make a grown man cry." Indeed. With a stratospheric 310-foot-high first hill at a 45-degree ascending incline, trailblazing speeds of 92 mph over 6,595 feet of steel track, a first drop of 300 feet at an inconceivable 80-degree angle, a prototype elevator cable system to pull the trains up the staggering lift hill and coaster trains with tiered seating and no side panels, this roller coaster is history in the making.
And that's just the way Cedar Point likes it. "For years, the amusement industry has pondered if a roller coaster would ever reach the height of 300 feet," says Jasper. "At Cedar Point, which is the roller coaster capital of the world, it was important for Millennium Force to achieve that next level, that new dimension, that historic milestone, especially at the dawn of the new millennium."
Cedar Point is no stranger to taking roller coasters and thrill rides to the next horizon. Unthinkable in 1989, Cedar Point was the first in the world to go beyond 200 feet in height on a roller coaster with the No. 1-rated 205-foot-tall Magnum XL-200 and stunned the amusement park sphere in the process.
The park that was once nicknamed "The Amazement Park," and is now dubbed "America's RollerCoast," continues to stun. Construction of the behemoth Millennium Force, which began with site-clearing in August 1999, is nearing completion after a complex and intricate two-year design and development stage with internationally acclaimed roller coaster architect Werner Stengel of Germany and engineers from the ride's manufacturer, Intamin AG of Switzerland, along with Cedar Point's Planning and Design Department.
With winter temperatures dropping well below zero at times on the shores of Lake Erie, five cranes, including one that stretched 360 feet in the air, helped position Millennium Force's 229 individual sections of brilliant blue track, 226 immense silver support columns and 2,413 pipe supports. More than 9,400 yards of concrete were used to pour the 226 footers, which anchor the enormous ride. Approximately 175 truckloads of steel were shipped by boats, trains and trucks from Europe and a fabricator in Missouri to Cedar Point, where the coaster parts were stored and partially assembled in a parking lot.
"Because of the massive scope of this coaster and the tight plot of land we are working on, we had to actually put together sections of Millennium Force in one of our parking lots and drive them around to the job site on a flatbed truck," says Jasper. "That's a first."
Another "first" is the elevator cable system that will be used to pull the coaster trains up the 310-foot-high lift hill versus a traditional lift chain. "Because of Millennium Force's towering height, a new way to transport the trains up the hill had to be engineered," confirms Jasper. "This 1,100-foot-long cable will be very similar to what is used on elevators and will be very smooth and a little quicker than a typical chain."
With Millennium Force's structure finished, work is rolling along on detailing the coaster, engineering and installing the pneumatics, finishing the loading and unloading stations and completing the ride's tunnels and special effects.
A rigorous testing and inspection program will follow with such tests as water-filled torsos that simulate the average weight of riders; accelerometer tests conducted by a biodynamic engineer; pull-around testing, which actually consists of pulling the coaster's trains around the track with a crane to examine its safety envelope for riders; numerous intense inspections by Cedar Point maintenance, operations and safety experts; licensing by the Amusement Ride Safety Division of the Ohio Department of Agriculture; and more than a month of operating Millennium Force before it opens. (Applicable height requirements will be enforced. Millennium Force may not accommodate guests of exceptional size.)
Who's the first "human" to ride such a monumental project? "We've had offers from people all over the world begging to be on the first ride," laughs Jasper. "I guess that's what you get when you build the planet's first 'giga-coaster.' However, we reserve that bragging right for the construction crew who have put their heart and soul into this coaster, along with any members of park management who aren't afraid of heights."
The first chance for the general public to go full force on Millennium Force is on Cedar Point's Opening Day, Saturday, May 13.
Fast Facts About Building Cedar Point's Millennium Force March 9, 2000
Cedar Point Tops Off World's Tallest Roller Coaster January 5, 2000
Cedar Point To Build The World's Tallest Roller Coaster July 22, 1999
Millennium Force's Statistics Are Staggering July 22, 1999