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Photo of the Day: Gold Striker at California’s Great America

After many years of becoming a park known for REMOVING rides rather than ADDING them, California’s Great America in Santa Clara, CA made a major statement this year with the addition of Gold Striker. Billed as the tallest, fastest (and certainly most intense) coaster in Northern California, Gold Striker is easily one of the top five wooden coasters I’ve ever had the privilege of riding – and should be under consideration for the Top Ten in the United States.

Despite some minor setbacks and delays in opening, mostly due to ongoing noise abatement issues – the ride is now roaring every operating day, to delighted and packed crowds.

A winner all around, this coaster is seen by many as the catalyst for revival at California’s Great America – and fans are loving every moment of it. But don’t take my word for it – check out Westcoaster’s recent review.

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Gold Striker Closed Only Temporarily for Modifications

After two weeks of soft testing, a lavish grand opening ceremony and over a month of regular operation, the Gold Striker wooden roller coaster at California’s Great America is closed temporarily to allow for additional sound mitigation to be placed on the ride. But don’t hit your panic buttons – published news reports say the ride is expected to be back up and running by the July 4th holiday – NOT an extended, unknown period.

According to the City of Santa Clara’s “Smart Permit” website, Gold Striker had several criteria to meet in order for it to open permanently, the biggest of which states: “Should the additional testing reveal that the coaster is not in compliance with Condition 23 (amount of sound coming from the ride) or any applicable City ordinances, Cedar Fair shall undertake Remedial Measures, as defined in the Settlement Agt Agreement.” Apparently, the ride was just shy of making all those criteria.

Many industry watchers and local boosters see this addition to the park (and the subsequent work to ensure everyone is satisfied) as a serious commitment from corporate owner Cedar Fair, LP to both the park and the local economy.

“Cedar Fair elected to close the ride to install additional sound mitigation upgrades,” said Santa Clara Mayor, Jamie Matthews. “Those upgrades should bring the ride into full compliance with the previous settlement. I’m hoping to see it open here for the 4th of July.”

He added, “I am very happy with the way this is situation is working out – it shows responsible citizenship – that we can all work together and come to a solution.”

Noise Tests at California's Great America. Photo (C) 2013, Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills. All rights reserved.

A man with recording equipment and headphones monitors the noise coming from Gold Striker from one of Prudential’s buildings.

Since “soft-opening” in May, Gold Striker has seen major additions, most notably the addition of plywood walls and white foam along the sides and underside of the track. By coincidence, these spots pass closest to or face the buildings located on Great America Parkway. During initial construction, the park added what was dubbed an, “initial descent tunnel” onto the first drop of the ride. This feature was presumably added to mitigate the sound from the first drop of the ride.

Trying to build this ride has been quite the roller coaster ride in and of itself – the plans go back to 2007, when the park first began the permitting process. In addition to the standard permits, three hearings were held on potential noise levels – all of which were initiated by appeals from the owners of the buildings closest to the proposed ride.

Billy D’Anjou, a local roller coaster enthusiast, has logged 80 circuits on the coaster since it opened in May and is hoping to hit his 100th ride in July.

“I personally don’t mind more enhancements (to the ride) but I think the whole noise mitigation issue has gotten out out of control,” he said. “In the end it makes me worry what limitations Great America will have in the future. (Prudential) should expect noise from a theme park. It’s not a library or fine art museum.”

Gold Striker at California's Great America. Photo (C) 2013 Kris Rowberry & Great American Thrills. All rights reserved.

Gold Striker thrills riders on a recent operating day.

Gold Striker is the first wooden roller coaster built in Northern California since 1999. It boasts the tallest and fastest drop in Northern California and is the largest capital investment in the park in over a decade. The ride was built partially on the footprint of another ride, Willard’s Whizzer – a steel coaster that operated from 1976 to 1988.

The land that Prudential’s buildings sit on was originally an auxiliary parking lot for Great America. The land was sold in the late 90’s during the dot com boom. Prudential acquired the buildings in early 2002, according to a press release on their website.

Marriott’s Great America opened in 1976, as a celebration of America’s bi-centennial. The concept was to create a chain of parks to become an answer to Disney’s theme park empire.


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Gold Striker Video – Rider Reactions

With Gold Striker now officially open to the public at California’s Great America – enjoy this on-ride video of myself and “Lost Parks” Producer, Nicholas Laschkewitsch (who is also the ACE NorCal Asst. Regional Rep) taking in a ride.


Gold Striker NOW OPEN at California’s Great America

Yes, it’s official. As of this afternoon, the Gold Rush has officially met your adrenaline rush – GOLD STRIKER at California’s Great America is now offically OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!

Look for a full media review in the next few days – but for now, get out and enjoy Gold Striker at California’s Great America!

Gold Striker at California's Great America

Gold Striker is officially open to the public!

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Gold Striker *ACTUAL REVIEW* at California’s Great America

Gold Striker - www.greatamericanthrills.net

“Wow.”

That’s the word most people were saying after they got off Gold Striker this evening. While not open to the public yet, California’s Great America invited people, including yours truly, to come out and participate in a promo shoot for commercials and still advertising.

Gold Striker - www.greatamericanthrills.net

Gold Striker looms large over Carousel Plaza and the front entrance to the park.

Folks, this ride is the REAL DEAL and is setting up to be a real “sleeper hit” across the country. Most people know Great America as a park that seems to enjoy removing rides rather than building them. Gold Striker might just make you forgive them (maybe).

The fun starts before you get to the lift hill (that’s right, BEFORE you get to the lift hill!) Folks in the rear seats will appreciate the incredible whip of the turnaround out of the station, which could be the tightest I’ve ever seen taken at speed before on a woodie) and those in the front seat will appreciate the airtime (yes, I said AIRTIME) on the bunny hill before the lift.

After ascending the lift, riders enter the “initial descent tunnel” and that’s where all hell breaks loose. The ride is fast, noisy and the effect of blasting out fo the tunnel is impossible to describe.

From there the ride does a VERY close flyby of the station stairs, giving wonderful photo / video opportunities. A floater hill and a few head choppers later, the ride finds it’s speed…and keeps it until the brake run.

I don’t want to completely ruin the ride for you, but know that there are many “pops” of air on this ride, usually to set you up for another element. Call it a “tag team coaster” because they work perfectly together.

Coming into the final turn, you hit the magnetic (it’s Silicon Valley, gotta have some technology) and then back to the station. Pictorium fans will be saddened to learn that two of the entrances have been demolished, but the building itself still stands.

Gold Striker - www.greatamericanthrills.net

“Millennium Flyer” trains harken back to the “Golden Age” of coaster design. The trains are Gold / Red, Red Gold – in 49ers shades.

To quote my ride mate for this marathon session, “Airtime is back with GCI.”

We squeezed in nine (9) rides before the park shut down the line. Average wait times were 15 minutes, shrinking as more and more of the general public left. This ride is NOT EASY to marathon, but for all the RIGHT reasons. It is INTENSE, BREAKNECK PACED and to be quite honest, many of us in attendance were pinching ourselves, wondering how we got this ride to come here in the first place.

So, in conclusion…

This is a winner all-around for a park more recently known for REMOVING rides than ADDING them. Be prepared for sharp transitions, “set up” surprises and well-timed elements. The ride is smooth with little attitude. This is not an, “airtime machine” but it has well over 8-10 (I kept losing count) pop airtimes. There are moments when you’re riding only on up-stops.

Now, you can take your kids on Grizzly as a warm up and test their (and your) mettle on Gold Striker.

In my opinion, this coaster could EASILY take on El Toro in national polls and in many cases it should WIN.

The ONLY thing missing from this ride…is YOU!

To learn more about Gold Striker or to purchase tickets to the park, visit www.cagreatamerica.com

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Why Buy New – When You Can Buy USED?

Fans of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk should recognize this coaster “under construction.”

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Yep, it’s the former Hurricane, with a new coat of paint and in a MUCH LESS salty environment (Not to mention drier, too!)

When old roller coaster or thrill ride eventually gets retired (Woodies are the lone exception – as they’re constantly being replaced) many of them are actually sold to smaller, “mom and pop” parks where they’re appreciated for many years after their first installation.

There’s even websites, such as this one, which could be considered the “Craiglist” of the Coaster – where all sorts of new and used rides are bought, sold and traded between parks.

So unless your favorite ride was completely torn down…

Son of Beast

…there’s a good possibility that it was just “re-located.”

Now, the thrill of the chase is on!


The art of the on-ride photo

In a way, they’ve become more than just part of the amusement park experience – they have become attractions in their own right…

The on-ride photo – a way for parks to make more money off you – and a way to prove to Grandma and your friends that you really did ride “The Comet” after all…

The magnum opus of these cameras is surely mounted upon Disney’s Splash Mountain. Just about everyone has heard of “Flash Mountain” a place where  fans (and even Disney employees) would post photos of ladies showing off their “Zip a Dee Doo Dahs” during the climactic final plunge on the flume.

Sadly, showing your “Briar Patches,” – while hilarious – can get you kicked out of the park. And the photo it took? Deleted forever before anyone could see or print it.

Unfortunately, some of these stunts (as funny as they can be) are also quite dangerous. Loose objects in the past decade have contributed to significant injuries or even malfunctions of rides. Plus, parks’ aren’t huge fans of saddling more liability insurance because you and your dumb little buddies decided to sneak a RAZOR aboard the ride…

So, here now are some of the best (SAFE) on-ride photos from around the web:

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Why not get the whole family involved?

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Space Mountain never looked so…interesting?

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Ah yes – the singular “group” pose – always a classic!

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The eyes tell the story!

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Now if only they were on Ghostrider – this would be totally in theme with the ride!

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I really don’t know where to start with this one – it’s perfect in every way! DeNiro battles the Russians on his namesake, with press and fans behind them! (Even the ref has GLOVES on!)

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Don’t you wish your girlfriend was as awesome as her?

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No, this is NOT photoshopped – talk about timing!

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Well, the Beast IS the longest roller coaster in the US – over 30 years after it opened. Is it really that boring, though?

(I certainly don’t think so!)

Continuing with the “boring” theme – here’s my good pals the LaPutka’s doing their best on-ride pose via Splash Mountain!

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“Dad, whatever you do – please don’t embarrass me in front of my friends!”

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“Just catching up on the news while we plummet down to the Briar patch…”

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And finally – what better way to finish this post than with a Tebow Tower of Terror!