You Kowtow Or Cower, You Will Be Moved By These Towers
It's the second-oldest
amusement park in North America, boasting a history that began
in 1870. Its three hand-crafted carousels are listed on
the National Register of Historic Places. Its first rollercoaster,
the Switchback Railway, was built way back in 1892 and
today, its twelve coasters are just a fraction of the 60 rides in its arsenal. Dominating a 364-acre peninsula that juts
into Lake Erie off the shores of Sandusky, Ohio, it takes its
name from the cedar tree groves that once stood in its place.
Finally, thanks to many of you, it was selected as "Best
Amusement/Theme Park" in ThrillRide's 1997
Of course, we're talkin' about "America's Roller Coast®,"
the one and only Cedar Point amusement park. Since 1976,
when this spectacular resort installed the world's first triple-looping
rollercoaster, the Arrow-designed Corkscrew, Cedar Point's
commitment to building state-of-the-art scream machines has become
legendary. Check out the list of coasters they've added over the
last nine years:
1989 - Magnum XL-200, the world's tallest, fastest rollercoaster
at that time.
1990 - Disaster Transport, a multi-million dollar enclosure
and retheming of their Avalanche Run bobsled coaster.
1991 - Mean Streak, one of the world's tallest and longest
1994 - Raptor, the world's tallest, fastest and steepest
inverted coaster at that time.
1996 - Mantis, the world's tallest, fastest and steepest stand-up coaster at that time.
Impressive, ain't it? But for the 1998 season, the park's planners
decided to move in another direction, both literally and figuratively;
it was time for a record-shattering freefall thriller. They contacted
the folks at S & S Sports Power, Inc. of Logan, Utah, creators
of the outrageous Space Shot and Turbo Drop attractions,
and placed an order for something beyond the Beyond.
This is what they got: not one, not two, not three, but four 240-foot tall freefall towers, joined at their peaks by an interconnected
set of arches. And they dubbed this 300-foot tall quadraphonic
monstrosity the Power Tower.
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Driving towards the Point along its peninsula causeway, I always feel like
a Thrillseeking Tin Man gazing across the waters at Oz's glittering
Emerald City. The voluptuous hills of several coasters, the cirular
arc of the Giant Wheel and - now - the soaring, four-columned
edifice of the Power Tower beckon like an impossible dream. If
ya got any Cowardly Lions in yer group, keep some smelling salts
handy; this knee-weakening view of the gargantuan PT may trigger
bouts of dizziness.
Talk about one attraction you don't need a map to locate... the
Power Tower holds forth at the far end of the Midway, the park's
very center. Look up from just about anywhere on the property
(save beneath the shady groves of Frontier Town) and scan the
blue yonder; you'll soon find this whitewashed monument to acrophobia
piercing the skies.
As you approach the Power Tower, trotting down the Midway, a most
unusual noise becomes evident: an intermittent, industrial-strength whoooooosh, as if some monstrous vacuum cleaner were sucking
a Dodge Neon into its bowels. What you're hearing is the sound
of compressed air, at 85 pounds per square inch, rushing from
a 2,000 gallon storage tank into the "cable-powering cyclinders"
of the PT's four drop machines. It's these tightly controlled
blasts of wind that put the Pow! into the Power Tower.
The base of
this evil complex is, dare I say it, pretty. A deep-pile
carpet of green grass and carefully organized floral arrangements
decorate the outer edges of the launch platform. I guess the attraction's
landscapers figured a touch of Martha Stewart might help soothe
our nerves while waiting to board, but this cheery little garden
is as cruelly out of place as a Welcome mat before the gates of
Hell. As you enter the queue, it's great fun to watch one of the
Space Shot rigs go ballistic. First, the rectangular 12-seat meat
rack floats up a few inches. Riders close their eyes, squeal and
brace themselves for lift-off. But nuthin' happens right away
so some folks start to relax a bit, maybe turn to their riding
companions to say a few words:
"Man, I can't believe you talked me intYAAAAAAAaaaaa...."
Without even a split-second's warning, they're rocketing away
from the ground, accelerating from zero to over 50 vertical miles per hour in about three seconds. Hoo-haa!
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A single queue leads to all four vehicles, so before you hit a fork in the
trail, you'll have time to contemplate your preferred method of
torture. Do ya want to get fired up to the tippy-top and freefall
back down (on the red-accented Space Shot pair) or do ya want
slide up nice and slow, only to get thrust back down at faster-than-freefall
speeds (on the teal-accented Turbo Drop pair)? There's no wrong
choice; either experience will leave you gasping for breath and
happy to be alive. But they are horrifically unique. (It's worth
noting here that Knott's Berry Farm's Supreme Scream, a 250-foot triangular three-fall ride, is all Turbo Drop
and no Space Shot).
The Space Shot pair flanks the Magnum half of the park;
the Turbo Drop duo stand opposite (I chose to get the ball rolling
with a Space Shot trip, moving to the left). After making the
fateful choice, you'll be herded by ride operators into a final
pre-flight position, based on the size of your party. Each vehicle
is designed to carry its cargo like so: rows facing the front
and back ends of the Point seat four; perpendicular rows seat
After settling in to the cushy rump-scoop, you pull down an over-the-shoulder
harness and buckle it to the base of the chair. Then, you wait.
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock... absolutely brutal, those last
few seconds... up you float... and then... and then... and
The rig surges upwards explosively, pushing against your backside with a force
that approaches 5 Gs. 50 feet - 100 feet - 150 feet - 200
feet... "omigodomigodomigodomigod!" In just a
few precious seconds, you're 240 feet above the rest of
humanity, where you pause... and then fall. Halfway down a second
torrent of air pushes you back up. Another freefall. And finally
you float back for a feather-soft landing. With every extremity
quivering, I stumbled away from the launch pad a changed man. C'est magnifique!
Then it was time for a Turbo Drop ride. Now, I had never ridden
such a thing before and, given my extreme distaste for heights,
I knew that this would be a real test of stamina (much like Las
Vegas' Big Shot).
Standing by the exit lanes, I tilted my head back for a long,
hard look and had a moment of serious reservation - would this
one be fun-scary, or scary-scary? Only one way to find
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climb at breakneck speed, the Turbo Drop vehicles start off with
a mild jolt but immediately decelerate to a very... deliberate...
crawl. And that crawl seems to get slower and slower the higher
As our elevation changes, more and more of the park becomes visible.
Facing the far end, you can see Mean Streak, Mantis, Iron Dragon,
Magnum, all your favorites spread out below like scale models.
"Um... we must be near the top, right?"
Go ahead and look... nope, not yet.
It's sorta like pulling a Band-Aid off a hairy patch of skin. If you yank
hard, it'll hurt, but it'll be over with real quick - that's a
Space Shot for ya. If you pull real slow, it'll still hurt and
the suffering lasts longer - and that, my friends, is a
So here we are, slowly pulling away the Band-Aid, inching up and
up and up... and the suffering is exquisite. If you're
really made of stronger stuff, try looking down between your knees
- without losing consciousness. Lemme tell ya, it's a ghastly
Finally, the vehicle stops. At 240 feet. And just parks there.
For what seems like an eternity. "Yea, though I walk through
the Valley of Death, I shall fear no evil..."
If I'd been sitting inside an airplane, with a cold beer in one
hand and a bag of peanuts in the other, I might have really enjoyed
the view, because it is spectacular. But, of course, I wasn't
in an airplane. I was strapped into a tiny little seat with my
legs dangling into thin air, screaming the taste buds off my tongue.
And just when you think it can't get any worse, it does.
The rig plummets instantaneously, throwing us up against the shoulder
restraints with incredible force - a full negative G - which means
airtime out the wazoo, over 200 feet in the sky. Thankfully,
the trip back down is over before your brain has a chance to gush
out yer ears.
Friends, few thrill rides are unquestionably terrifying; this
is one of 'em.
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So, was the
Turbo Drop fun-scary or scary-scary? I guess I'd have to say fun-scary,
cuz I got right back in line and did it again. But it takes you
right to the edge of fun-scary and nearly throws you over.
And now to address the inevitable question: how much taller can
these things get? According to S & S Sports Power engineers,
the Space Shot towers are within shouting distance of their
maximum height, about 300 feet.
But the Turbo Drop towers... well, those suckers are another
story entirely. Turbo Drops - are you ready for this? -
have no upper limit. If you've got the substantial financial
resources to do so (and your local zoning laws don't forbid it)
you can have S & S Sports Power deliver a custom-designed
Turbo Drop that stands 400 feet, 500 feet, 1,000 feet... or taller.
The very idea of a 1,000-foot-tall Turbo Drop... I have
to go lay down for a minute...
- TOP SPEED:
Approx. 50 Miles Per Hour
- MAX. G
FORCE: 5 (moving upwards); Minus 1 (moving downwards)
- MAX. HEIGHT:
240 feet (Total Tower Structure Height: 300 feet)
- RIDE DURATION:
1,700 guests per hour
S & S Sports Power, Inc.