The last days of our East Coaster Tour were spend in Cedar Point, coaster Walhalla. I had an amazing time at the Point, staying at the historic Breakers hotel and riding all the eighteen coasters Cedar Point has to offer. I got to ride Steel Vengeance, the newest addition to the park and was blown away by it! And if that wasn’t amazing enough, Cedar Points own Tony Clark, head of communications, was so kind to make some time free to have a chat with me.
My first question is about Steel Vengeance, of course. How was the co-operation with RMC?
They were great to work with. We knew we wanted to do something with Mean Streak when it was here before and we watched everything what they had been doing until up this point. We knew they were probably the partner to work with because we didn’t know if we wanted to create another wooden coaster experience or the steel coaster experience. Ultimately we went with the steel coaster and Steel Vengeance is what we have now. They put a really good ride together!
Mean Streak was not very popular with the fans and as soon as RMC came around the fans shouted to RMC Mean Streak. It took some years but now it’s finally here. Did you guys have thoughts about RMC first and was it painful to let go of Mean Streak?
(laughs) I don’t think it was painful to let go of Mean Streak. It was just like a lot of the other old wooden roller coasters that are out there to ride. It wasn’t a lot of fun, it wasn’t as exciting as it used to be so… They (RMC) were doing the right things at the right time. We had been talking to them probably two, two and a half years ago to see if this was something they were able to do. They accepted, came back with some drawings and ideas, and we ultimately said yes.
There were some issues with Steel Vengeance after a collision between two trains. It rode with one train from that time on. Now with two trains. Can you update us on the situation?
The manufacturer of the ride, RMC, is still making some adjustments to the ride. We hope to have three trains, total. Right now we are running with two, they made adjustments for two trains operation. So really it’s on RMC, they have to make some adjustments to the ride.
What’s your favorite coaster? Not here at the park but all-time.
Ha, you can’t ask that question! My favorite roller coaster is Millennium Force and that’s at any other park, it’s here at Cedar Point. Millennium Force was the first coaster I rode when I visited here for the first time, so it’s always gonna be my favorite regardless. Steel Vengeance is awesome but Millennium Force is still a favorite in my heart.
Did you ever visit a European park? And does Cedar Point look to European parks to get inspiration for new rides?
We watch everything what’s happening in our industry. It could be here in the United States, it could be in Europe. We go to other parks to see what they are doing and other parks come here to see what we are doing. We are all a very small family ultimately. This isn’t a big industry so we all kind of know each other but we do keep an eye on what we’re doing. We don’t share secrets obviously. I’m hoping to go to Europa Park next year to finally visit and say hi to those guys and enjoy a few days in Germany, so I’m excited.
As head of communications, one of your tasks is to sell Cedar Point to the guests and make it looking attractive. Is that easy with so many great coasters? How do you fill that job in?
It’s easy to talk about it but it’s hard because we want people to stay here more than one day. And if you’re coming from a far place, it’s easier to say ‘yeah we’ll stay two days’. But to our locals from Cleveland, Toledo, Ohio… it’s hard to sell the message and change people minds because they think we are just an amusement park they can visit for one day. We’re trying to tell them no, no there’s so much more to do here! We have the beach, we have Cedar Point Shores water park, we have water activities, and we have the Lake Erie islands you can visit on a different day… So there’s all kind of options to make this a vacation and that’s the hard part of my job. It’s talking about that and getting people excited about staying here for multiple days.
Cedar Point is landlocked, since it’s on an island. Would you consider getting rid of the parking lot, or searching other ways to expand park? Or is this it and will you just use all space that’s there now?
We get that question a lot. We’re not landlocked, we are geographically but inside the park we prefer to move things around. If a ride is in a location where we want to build something bigger, we’ll move that ride somewhere else. And we’ll find space, there’s lots of space on our property so we don’t really feel we have to go into the parking lot just yet. We’re gonna move things around if we feel that it’s a spot where we really want to put an attraction. We creatively do some place making and some real estate movement and then hopefully find space for whatever it is what we’re building. We’ll do that before we lose parking lot.
Does Cedar Point also wants to expand the resort a bit more? And will it be an expansion on the island or off shore?
Like I said before the hardest part is telling people to stay here overnight. We have great hotels and we’ll always build on that. I can’t say if we’re gonna build a new hotel anytime soon. We just opened a six story tower on hotel Breakers. We also opened several new RV sites, luxury RV sites in Whitehouse Point. Those spots are serving us well for now. But we may expand in the future, but that’s not on the table just yet. We haven’t really decided what we’re gonna do. We want this to be a place that’s easy to stay overnight and if it means we have to add more rooms, we’ll add more rooms.
How do you balance between adding new coasters and adding other rides or infrastructure? Because the coasters pull the most attendance but the park needs other stuff too.
With the roller coasters that we have, it’s easy to see why we are known as the roller coaster capital of the world because we have a really good collection, we have eighteen of them. But we also have 71 rides total, that’s the most rides of anywhere in the world! So when you take the roller coasters out of it you have several more attractions in the park that people can ride. We have to continue to figure out what the mix is. It’s not a roller coaster every year because that’s too expensive to do, that’s too expensive for any park to do. So we look at what family attractions are we missing, do we need to build a restaurant, do we need to build a hotel, do we need an add-on to the water park… So we look at all those different things and listen to what guests want. Guests tell us what we’re missing, so we listen to that feedback. We put up a list together what we want to build and we compare the two and figure out what we really should put in. That’s kind of the formula we use. It’s not every two years to build a roller coaster, it just depends on the market. What product is available, because sometimes there’s a new product that we want and we don’t have yet. We get us much as we can that’s a well rounded experience at the park.
Is there any kind of record you would like to have at Cedar Point?
We break records all the time, so I don’t know if there’s a particular record we want to break. We just happen to break them when we build rides. We’ll see, you have to wait! (laughs)
Are some things like the Emporium or Blue Streak untouchable for the park because of their age and historic value?
Blue Streak is our oldest wooden roller coaster, a ride like that has a lot of history here. It’s named after our local sports team in Sandusky so that’s the kind of attraction we want to keep and maintain and we want to make sure that it lives on for years to come. There are certain buildings in the park that have historic value, whether or not they are being used their potential is the question we’re asking right now. Is there something we can do with it to improve it? Does it make sense to keep it? Should we tear it down and build something new that looks like it? There are all those considerations that we take into account. But rides like Blue Streak and the Carrousel and those things will stay here for a long time.
The last question I have comes from a friend. He wants to know on how much electricity Cedar Point runs on one day. And how much of that goes to Top Thrill Dragster.
(laughs) Wow, they don’t even show me the electricity bills but it’s a lot! If you look at us, not as an amusement park but if you look at us if we were a small city… So when you have a small city you have a fire department, police department, electricity, water, utility services, plumbing, sewers,.. You’d have all of those things a city would have. So when you add all that stuff up and we operate one day or each day we operate, we operate 24/7. Obviously there’s more electricity during the day and not at night. We have hotel rooms, guests plugging in all of their electronically devices… So when you look at all of that, it’s obviously a lot but I don’t know how much. Wicked Twister and Maverick probably take up the most power because they electrically driven rides. Dragster uses hydraulic technology and while that does use a lot of power but when you look at Wicked Twister and Maverick, they’re constantly using those LSM/LIM motors to move the ride trough. And that takes a lot of energy to do.