OCEAN CITY – At long last, an Ocean City amusement park hopes to open a 125-foot-tall roller coaster in May, more than a year later than originally planned.
The unveiling of two roller coasters at Playland’s Castaway Cove on 10th Street and the Boardwalk, including the massive GaleForce, has been pushed back more than a year due to a number of shipping delays and other setbacks.
The park opened the first of three new coasters, a spinning coaster named Whirlwind, on Memorial Day of last year.
But work on GaleForce, the triple-launch, magnetic-powered coaster that began towering over Playland’s Castaway Cove in early 2016, and the new coaster that wraps around it, Wildwaves, ran behind schedule.
Brian Hartley, the park’s vice president, said GaleForce’s manufacturer, S&S – Sansei Technologies, opted late last summer to rebuild one section of track that leads into the coaster’s station. The rails on that section of track were found to be slightly out of alignment when the manufacturer inspected the coaster, Hartley said.
He said it was not a potential safety issue, but rather it just made for a bumpier ride than desired.
Because of the coaster’s triple-launch design, a GaleForce car would use that track three times per ride, Hartley said.
“The two rails were a little bit out of alignment. You’re talking centimeters,” Hartley said. “But on a car moving 60 miles per hour, it makes a big difference on the smoothness of the ride.”
Other than that, he said, the ride is complete.
The park tested the track on Monday, March 20, rocking the car back and forth on two steeply graded tracks that flank the station. The park also ran the ride all the way through a few times, Hartley said.
The park places plastic dummies, usually filled with water or antifreeze to weigh them down, inside the car for test runs.
He said the coaster was set for a welding inspection on Tuesday.
“If all goes well, we’ll continue running it,” Hartley said Monday. He said the park would then apply for a state inspection. From the time the park resubmits engineering documents to New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs for the ride, the state has 30 days to inspect it, Hartley said.
If all goes according to plan, he said, the ride should be ready for an opening in early May.
But he knows plans for the coaster’s opening (he had hoped to open the ride in April of last year) have gone up in smoke before.
Manufacturing a one-of-a-kind ride typically includes obstacles on along the way, he said.
“It’s something that happens with all rides, to be honest,” he said. “It’s the first of a kind. You’re not buying a ride that’s already been manufactured.”
Wild Waves, a ride with plenty of dips and turns, but no loops, is also set to open in the spring, Hartley said.
The track was delivered and assembled by the end of last summer, but the coaster’s car was not delivered to the park until October, Hartley said.
“There’s always hiccups,” he said of installing a new ride. “You’re always frustrated with the time frame, but you want to get it right.”
The new rides were announced in 2015 to replace two older coasters at the park, looping Python and Flitzer.
GaleForce features a 90-degree drop and a top speed of 64 miles per hour. When it opens, it will take riders through a number of thrilling loops and spins, Hartley said.
The coaster was designed to be 220 feet long and 40 feet wide. It powers riders through three separate accelerations, and the ride runs forward and backward before returning to the station after the third launch.
The coaster will also use a three-point harness system, in which a shoulder harness comes down from over top, and two smaller harnesses protect both sides of the body.
Playland, owned by Scott Simpson, is one of two amusement parks in Ocean City. The city’s mayor, Jay Gillian, owns Gillian’s Wonderland Pier at Sixth Street and the boardwalk.