Where Roller Coasters Retire To, And Other Secrets Of Amusement Park Planning

Image courtesy of Eric BEAUME

Where do old roller coasters go when their careers are over? They go on the literal scrap heap, but the people who plan parks and their rides use the basic “track profile” while changing how the ride works, like changing a standing coaster into one where your feet dangle. A.V. Club talked to the VP of planning and design for Cedar Fair Entertainment, owner of some big amusement parks with world-class roller coasters and other popular rides, and learned about coaster-recycling and more.

Humans are a pretty big limitation. People who aren’t trained as astronauts or fighter pilots can only handle so much gravity, and rides don’t necessarily have to go higher or faster to be more fun. “Bigger, taller thrills don’t always mean that it’s a greater force or a less comfortable ride,” the Cedar Fair VP, Rob Decker, explained to A.V. Club.

People also change rides by getting bigger: when possible, parks make older rides safer for people with larger waists or higher weights, especially when they’ve made a conscious decision to invest in and freshen up a decades-old attraction.

Park-goers vote with their feet: Management is keeping track of how many people go on which rides, and make decisions about which attractions will go away, and which get to stay or be updated. One way to cause a sudden surge in popularity for a ride: announce that it’s closing.

Bringing back the classics: Cedar Fair has been restoring some older rides, which Decker compares to a restored classic car, and bringing back classic rides that your grandparents might have enjoyed as kids, like the Flying Eagles ride, where passengers decide how high their eagle goes.

About that scrap heap: When a coaster is sent away or moved, it’s dismantled piece by piece. That might mean moving it to the junk pile, or reusing the track with improved cars and other systems.

What happens to a roller coaster once it’s over the hill? [A.V. Club]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.