Roller coaster shopping is a tad more complex than clicking the “Add to Cart” button on Amazon Prime. It involves test riding, traveling overseas and, in some cases, struggling to communicate to a Russian cab driver who speaks five languages (none of them English) that you need to find an ATM because you neglected to exchange your cash for Euros at the airport.
At least, that’s the experience 2nd generation partner Jack Morey, along with COO Geoff Rogers, had during a recent, whirlwind trek through Europe. The mission: Investigate potential new trains (aka, the vehicles in which you sit) for our wooden Great White coaster, which reaches just over 100 feet.
Our intrepid duo started the six-day trip at Ireland’s Tayto Park, named for a company that invented the first flavored potato chip. In 2015, this theme park installed the largest wooden roller coaster in Europe, the Cu Chulainn. Inspired by an Irish mythological hero similar to Hercules, it’s reminiscent of the Great White in size and speed. But the front wheels of the Cu Chulainntrains —arguably the most technologically advanced of their kind in the world —exist on a separate axle and steering mechanism, meaning less banging around at every turn and way less wear-and-tear on the tracks. In other words: A potential win-win for both Morey’s Piers and our guests.
“The measure of a thrilling ride used to be how much it beat you up,” says hotel operations manager Zack Morey, Jack’s son. He wasn’t on this trip, but he did travel to Denmark and Sweden last year for the three-day, six-park, 16-roller-coaster crusade that resulted in the buying of our newest coaster, the Runaway Tram. “Today, that measure is how smooth the ride is."
We already know we like the manufacturer of these trains, the Cincinnati-based Gravity Group —it’s a company comprised of “smoothing technology” engineers. And we also know Jack and Geoff enjoyed their experience aboard the Cu Chulainn—they rode twice just to be sure. The next step will be a trip to the city of Wisconsin Dells for another test ride, to see how the trains perform on a coaster with a more similar construction to ours. If all goes well, we may pull the ($1 million plus) trigger for a Great White upgrade in 2021.
Typically, these purchases are made at conventions hosted by IAAPA, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. (“They’re such a great mix between the sophisticated Europeans dressed in business suits, carnival operators and even clowns,” says Jack, who’s attended about 50 of these conventions and counting.) Sometimes, you can buy an entire coaster off the showroom floor, but more often than not the purchase of a major new coaster can take years. (There’s a ton of research and design involved, and only a handful of high-quality manufacturers that serve six continents.) In Paris, another leg of Jack and Geoff’s trip, the guys did attend an IAAPA convention, but that was largely for top-secret business we can’t reveal... yet.