Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017
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Cedar Fair has plans for park in Sandusky

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    Renderings show a new indoor sports complex planned in Sandusky near Cedar Point.

    CEDAR FAIR

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    The indoor sports complex will accompany the outdoor sports center already built.

    CEDAR FAIR

SANDUSKY — Cedar Point’s 2017 season is only a month old, but plans for the Sandusky amusement park already are afoot for next season and beyond.

The park’s parent company, Cedar Fair LP, recently went to the Erie County commissioners to obtain approval for a $28-million indoor sports center to complement the recently opened $23-million outdoor Cedar Point Sports Center located near the amusement park.

Meanwhile, inside Cedar Point clandestine work is progressing on the former Mean Streak — a wooden roller coaster that was retired in September but apparently will be reborn as a combo steel-and-wood coaster.

Park officials have been mum about the fate of the Mean Streak, one of 17 coasters at Cedar Point. But industry experts and coaster enthusiasts have noted work is being done by Rocky Mountain Construction, an Idaho company known for turning wooden coasters into steel rides.

Sandusky-based Cedar Fair and the Erie County commissioners will meet Friday to discuss more details of the plan which, if approved, would be funded by a 1 percent county lodging tax. A timetable for the decision hasn’t been set.

The indoor sports park idea has drawn rave reviews.

“They’ve really only talked conceptually about this, but I think everybody liked conceptually what Cedar Fair’s proposed,” Commissioner Matt Old said. “They did a fantastic job with their outdoor facility. It’s bringing people to the county and the parking lot is always full.”

The 140,000-square-foot indoor park would be “beautiful and big. There’s not going to be anything like this in Ohio,” Mr. Old added.

The proposed park would have 10 hardwood floor basketball courts that can covert to 20 volleyball courts or adapt to other uses, a “championship arena” with retractable seating, a family entertainment center, meeting space, an open lobby for community events, and a cafe. Plans call for a sports medicine center developed by Firelands Regional Medical Center, a community recreation center, and a natatorium.

Cedar Fair would provide $5 million, and the land and the lodging tax would provide $23 million. If approved, construction could begin this year and be completed by 2019.

Mr. Old said Erie County benefited from a law sponsored by State Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) allowing the county to charge up to 4 percent taxes on lodging. Two percent goes to the county visitors bureau, 1 percent funds Cedar Point’s outdoor sports park, and the remainder can be used for the indoor center.

““There’s no downside that I can see. ... This is to be paid for by a tax on tourists. Local residents won’t pay a cent for this,” Mr. Old said.

A Cedar Point study says the indoor park could bring 70,000 new visitors to Erie County annually and generate $85 million in economic impact in its first five years.

Meanwhile, a makeover for the Mean Streak would mark the second time in three years Cedar Point has repurposed an existing coaster. In 2015, it opened Rougarou, a floorless sit-down coaster that in 2014 ceased being the Mantis, an 18-year-old stand-up coaster.

Some have speculated Cedar Point will convert Mean Streak, a wooden coaster debuting in 1991, into a hybrid steel and wood coaster. Hybrids use a new type of steel rails shaped like a letter “I” that provide a smooth ride yet retain the rough-and-tumble wooden coaster identity, according to one expert.

But Jeff Putz, operator of the Pointbuzz.com website, said he doesn’t think the new coaster will be a hybrid. “It will be a steel coaster, as the rails will be entirely steel,” he said. “A hybrid is generally layers of wood with a substantial top layer of steel. [Mean Streak] will be every bit as steel as Gemini.”

The Gemini, which opened in 1978, is a twin track coaster that has a wooden frame but all steel rails and provides a smooth ride unlike the former Mean Streak.

Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc., of Cincinnati, said that a Mean Streak makeover, if not a hybrid, still has the potential to be exciting.

With a steel coaster you can do loops and inversions that you cannot do with a wooden coaster, he said. “It will not be exactly the same footprint as before. But you could put a big curve into it or a tunnel. And a loop could be put in, particularly if they have the ability to adjust the drop [hill].”

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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