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Published: Tuesday, 11/5/2002

Coaster fans flip over mystery ride

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Red coaster track rises into the air and thick pipes are strewn around the site of the towering mystery ride Cedar Point is constructing near the Magnum XL-200. Red coaster track rises into the air and thick pipes are strewn around the site of the towering mystery ride Cedar Point is constructing near the Magnum XL-200.
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SANDUSKY - Cedar Point is closed for the season, but there's still plenty of excitement among the amusement park's fans.

Coaster enthusiasts are buzzing about the towering thrill ride the park is building on the midway near the Magnum XL-200.

Two months after construction began, a three-sided tower of yellow metal posts reaches 200 feet into the sky. Long pieces of shiny red coaster track and thick yellow pipes are strewn around the site.

“I think this is the biggest thing right now in the amusement park industry,” said Walt Schmidt of Huron, Ohio, who runs an unofficial Cedar Point Web site, www.virtualmidway.com.

On Mr. Schmidt's site and others, visitors swap theories and analyze everything from the size of the track sections to the markings seen on crates of steel.

So what's it going to be? Park officials won't say, but many coaster enthusiasts think they know.

“It's supposed to be a shoot-'em-out-type coaster,” said Jim Raba of Cleveland, a member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts. “There's a lot of rumors on the height. Rumors are anywhere from 300 to 415 feet high.”

Mr. Raba and other amusement park aficionados point to a roller coaster at Cedar Point's sister park in California as the likely inspiration for the mystery ride being built in Sandusky. Xcelerator, at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif., launches riders up a 205-foot hill at 82 mph, then plunges them down at a 90-degree angle into a series of twists and turns.

John Young, a Toledo coaster enthusiast who's been following construction on the Internet, says online images of the new ride resemble Xcelerator, which opened this year at a cost of $13 million. “If you look at the pictures, you can tell by what they've constructed so far, it's very similar,” he said.

If the ride turns out to be a bigger version of the California ride, Mr. Young said, it'll be worth the wait. “It's going to go 400 feet high at 100 mph. How can you not be excited about that?” he asked.

Tim O'Brien, parks and attraction editor for Amusement Business magazine, said a new thrill ride is a logical addition for Cedar Point. The Sandusky park is battling Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, Calif., for bragging rights as the park with the most coasters, and the new ride would put Cedar Point ahead, 16-15.

“It makes sense for them,” Mr. O'Brien said. “They were the first to do the 200-foot coaster, the first to do the 300-foot coaster, so why not the 400-foot coaster? If they put up a 400-foot coaster, that'll give them the crown.”

Only about 50 people know what the ride is, Cedar Point spokesman Janice Witherow said. All of them have signed confidentiality agreements. “There are so many rumors and speculations that I've seen on the Internet and heard from people,” she said. “Even my neighbors are asking me what it is. ... In one way, it's flattering that so many people are interested in what Cedar Point is doing for next year.”

Mr. Schmidt said since construction began, traffic on his Web site has doubled to 8,000 to 9,000 hits a day. “There's all kinds of speculation. People get the sense this is going to be big,” he said.



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