Cedar Point to debut $6 million ride

Ryan Haidet

Larry Nearhood, 18, and Robert Osborne, 17, both of Bedford, Mich., rode Skyhawk, the newest attraction at Cedar Point in Sandusky. “When you look down, you feel like you are going to fall out, and when you go back, it feels like you’ll flip over,” Osbor

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Cedar Point’s 137th season swings into full action tomorrow with the debut of Skyhawk, a $6 million attraction that takes riders on a thrilling, two-minute journey into the sky.

Forty riders board one of four rows of seats on 86-foot long arms. The seats sit back-to-back, giving each rider what Cedar Point officials are calling a front-seat experience.

Then, the giant arms start to swing in opposite directions, tearing riders backward and forward 125 feet into the sky with speeds reaching 60 mph.

Skyhawk’s red, yellow, blue and gray structure is the newest addition to pierce the Sandusky skyline. It stands 103 feet tall and takes up a small spot in Frontiertown next to Snake River Falls. Robin Innes, Cedar Point’s director of public relations, said this was the perfect spot for the ride.

“(Skyhawk) had the perfect footprint for this area,” Innes said. “We had been looking at this type of ride for more than two years.”

He said they chose this new thrill ride in order to keep a Cedar Point element alive.

“Generally, a key element to Cedar Point is that everybody has a great time,” he said. “In trying to diversify the park, we wanted a thrilling ride, but we didn’t want to do a roller coaster. This fit in really well. The experience will surprise you.”

It is also surprising that the ride looks much tamer than other rides — but looks are deceiving.

Once again, Cedar Point will follow its tradition of breaking world records — Skyhawk is the tallest ride of its kind.

After each brave rider exits, every one of them has a big smile.

SKYHAWK RIDE FACTS

Rider height requirement: At least 48 inches

Capacity: 800 riders per hour

Color scheme: Red, yellow, blue and gray

Height: 125-foot maximum swing

Ride time: Two minutes

Seating: 40 riders per cycle

Speed: 60 mph

Investment: $6 million

Source: www.cedarpoint.com

“I’ve been on it around 11 times today,” said Jerry Fleming, an American Coaster Enthusiast member. His vibrant hair, colored in streaks of purple, pink and blue, matched his excited reaction to the ride. “It’s a swing set on steroids. You go almost upside down, and you feel like you’re going to come out of your seat. On the swing down, you can feel the power. It’s a great sensation.”

One of Cedar Point’s ride operators said she loves Skyhawk, too.

“I was the first person to ride it,” said Caroline Martz, a Skyhawk ride operator who is beginning her fourth season as an employee. “I think people will love it.”

There’s another aspect to the ride that one rider said she enjoyed — the perspective.

“It’s a great ride, and I love the views,” said Terry Dimos, a member of the Great Ohio Coaster Club. “I have every faith that Cedar Point will bring great rides each season.”

John Hildebrandt, vice president and general manager of Cedar Point, said Skyhawk is “second to none.”

“It’s a simple concept, but it is an amazing ride experience,” Hildebrandt said in a statement on Cedar Point’s Web site. “All of us have ridden swings as kids. Imagine riding a swing that is higher than a 12-story building and goes faster than many roller coasters.”

As the construction for Skyhawk has come to a close, the creation of a new ride has begun. It is currently called “Project 2007.”

The White Water Landing water ride in Frontiertown was torn down at the end of last year’s season to make room for this project.

Innes said that something will be announced this summer, but his lips are sealed for now.

“We can’t wait for the 2006 season to get underway,” Hildebrandt said in a press release. “We have a new thrill ride, new lower admission prices, and we’re even introducing 25-cent cotton candy. Our goal this season is to make Cedar Point a better value than ever and more affordable for our guests.”

As the ride operator says each time Skyhawk is about to unleash its fury — hold on tight and enjoy your ride.

Contact ALL correspondent Ryan Haidet at [email protected]