New ride is a SCREAM at Oaks Amusement Park
The old roller coaster provided plenty of thrills, but now it sits idle, disassembled, in the parking lot at Oaks Amusement Park. Some people have shown interest in it, but it hasn't sold — yet.
So if you want a roller coaster, 1990s-style, Oaks Park has one for sale. It'll likely be forgotten, though, when Portland's 113-year-old amusement park unveils its newest roller coaster on the Sellwood park's opening day and the first day of spring break, Saturday, March 24.
Riders should prepare to be wowed.
Adrenaline Peak, as it's called, starts with a 72-foot vertical climb and then a past-vertical, 97-degree fall. It has a bigger loop than the previous coaster (70 feet, as opposed to 40 feet), a partial inversion and a full corkscrew — meaning three opportunities to be upside-down. And the ride takes less than one minute — theoretically and depending on lines, a great number of rides can be had in an afternoon at Oaks Park.
"I'm excited," says Joe Dement, Oaks Park ride maintenance supervisor. "I've been looking forward to this since I started working here 18 years ago."
Some VIPs, including media, get the first rides on Friday, March 23. Adrenaline Peak opens to the public the next day, and there'll be a pre-launch party with unlimited rides from 10 a.m. to noon for $100. See www.oakspark.com for info.
So far, only water dummies have ridden the coaster, and they're revealing results for conditions such as possible disorientation, but not talking.
Dement anxiously awaits his first ride. George Kolibaba, interim CEO of Oaks Park, held off on retirement in part because he wanted to see Adrenaline Peak through its opening.
"I rode one just like this in Minneapolis," he says. "It's great. It's the suspense of going up on your back ..."
Indeed, the vertical ride up and 97-degree plunge down sets the stage.
"The vertical climb and coming down at 97 degrees is quite a bit different," Kolibaba adds. And, then the loop, inversion and corkscrew follow.
Overall, it's a major upgrade from Looping Thunder, the previous roller coaster that made its debut at Oaks Amusement Park in 1996. It had a loop, but not an inversion or corkscrew. The other excitement came from speed corners.
"It's a bigger track, a smoother ride. The cars are bigger," Dement says. Cars seat eight, and three cars can be prepared to roll. "It was an upgrade. The other one was a little rougher."
Another thing, which could be distressing, is that it has a lap restraint for riders, not a shoulder harness.
German company Gerstlauer Amusement Rides built the roller coaster; they've built many similar ones, called the "Euro-Fighter," with its distinctive 97-degree vertical drop, in the United States. Kolibaba and Dement toured the Munich-area plant.
Senior management decided on the colors — blue and purple. Lighting was installed by the same company that put lights in Yankee Stadium in New York City.
Adrenaline Peak, which will cost about $5 million, is the largest roller coaster in Oregon, and rivals the other two prominent coasters in the Northwest at Wild Waves Theme and Water Park in Federal Way, Washington, and Silverwood Theme Park in Athol, Idaho.
It was time to go with something new at Oaks Park, says Kolibaba, who took over the interim CEO title when longtime CEO Joe Norling died. New CEO Brandon Roben comes on board this spring.
Oaks Park isn't Disneyland or Six Flags. It's a fun little amusement park for locals or people visiting Portland. The Southeast Portland landmark was one of the original "trolley parks" established in Portland, and at 113 years, it's the longest continually operated amusement park in the country.
Adding Adrenaline Peak enhances the experience.
"All rides have a lifetime," Kolibaba says. "It's always good to change your product. This was a very large change to our product. Like everything else in the world, you have to progress."
Looping Thunder was put out to pasture — the parking lot — after 22 years. Adrenaline Peak has about a 20-year life expectancy, but Dement anticipates Oaks Park using the coaster for 25 to 30 years with diligent maintenance.
Oh, the maintenance — Oaks Park does safety checks three times each day, including on welding, rivets, bolts, motors, bearings, pulleys, etc.
Oaks Park has its share of older rides, complementing the newer ones. Management hasn't been hesitant to shut down rides for safety purposes, such as inspecting and maintaining Screaming Eagle last season.
"With any ride, there'll be little things here and there, and it'll be a learning process finding out what needs to be done," Dement says, of Adrenaline Peak, a name submitted in a naming contest by Clackamas Community College student William Phillips.
Besides the drop, loop, turns and upside-downs, it does go about 45 miles per hour through its 1,050 feet. It's also a ride that can accommodate kids, teens and adults who are at least 48 inches tall (and not the standard minimum 54 inches).
Says Emily MacKay, promotion and events manager: "Portlanders know Oaks Park. Hopefully this will put us squarely on the map. It's a living piece of history."