Sheer vertical drop, upside-down at 65 mph
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A major new roller coaster, the “Thunderbolt,” is going up at Coney Island and will open in time for next year’s summer season, the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) announced on Tuesday.
EDC said in a release that the new attraction, which it called a “milestone in Coney’s rebirth,” would thrill riders with speeds of 65 miles per hour, reach 125 feet in height and feature over 2,000 feet of track. Thunderbolt will sit near the historic B&B Carousell and the new Steeplechase Plaza, at the site of the old Thunderbolt, torn down in 2000 by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The agency’s description of the new Thunderbolt is hair-raising. The coaster will take its riders up a sheer vertical lift to a staggering height of 110 feet. Once riders reach the top of the lift, the train is unleashed onto the first vertical drop and then through a series of elements and inversions – meaning you’ll be upside-down -- while traveling at 65 mph. The ride will then make its return through a series of “bunny hills” that the designers say will give riders “a floating sensation” until the train returns back into the station.
Thunderbolt, the first steel custom roller coaster in Coney Island since the debut of the Cyclone in 1927, will be built and operated by Central Amusement International (CAI), the operator of Luna Park.
Borough President Marty Markowitz praised EDC President Seth Pinsky and CAI for bringing the ride to the site. But he said it wasn’t likely he’d be riding the Thunderbolt any time soon.
“While you might be more likely to find me on the B&B Carousell than on this new 65 mile-per-hour, 125 foot tall roller coaster, I have no doubt that this ride will be yet another heart-stopping, in-your-face amusement,” he said.
Tuesday’s announcement came two weeks after the Mayor officially opened Coney Island for the 2013 summer season and unveiled the new Steeplechase Plaza, a two-acre public space featuring the restored B&B Carousell in a brand new pavilion.
“With our recent opening of the beaches, the B&B Carousell, and now the Thunderbolt roller coaster, Coney Island is once again demonstrating its incredible resilience,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Kyle E. Kimball.
He said the ride would provide visitors to Coney Island “with a fantastic new attraction, boosting the local economy and helping create jobs in the neighborhood still recovering from Hurricane Sandy.”
The original Thunderbolt, a wooden coaster considered a landmark, featured briefly in Woody Allen's 1977 film Annie Hall as the boyhood home of Alvy Singer, according to Wikipedia.
While 65 mph is lighting fast, Thunderbolt will not be the speediest coaster in the world. That record is held by Formula Rossa, a hydraulically-launched roller coaster with a top speed of 150 mph located in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Due to the high air speeds and risk of an impact with airborne particulates or insects, Formula Rossa riders are required to wear protective glasses similar to those used during skydiving, Wikipedia reports.