Another Record-Breaking Wooden Coaster Opening This Summer

Posted by Andrea Shockling on Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Gold Striker at California's Great America

Will 2013 be the year we all get excited about wooden roller coasters again? We were already looking forward to Outlaw Run, which promises to be not only the steepest wooden coaster in the world but also the first with a complete inversion. Now, with Gold Striker at California’s Great America nearing completion, the amusement park has announced an addition to the original layout by designers Great Coasters International (GCI): “the world’s longest covered initial descent tunnel on a wooden coaster.” But what does that mean for riders? For 174 feet, they will hurl downward at speeds close to 55 mph in complete darkness, replicating the feel of California’s historic gold mines.

Gold Striker celebrates the traditional wooden coaster look and feel while incorporating a few modern elements in the design. Unlike the Outlaw Run, however, Gold Striker is not a hybrid of wood frame and metal track. The biggest improvement upon older models is the magnetic braking system that will slow cars down as they approach the platform. Riders can anticipate a more comfortable, quiet stop than on older coasters still using friction brakes. But don’t worry, there are plenty of twists and curves throughout the Gold Striker’s almost 3,200-foot track to keep nostalgic fans of wooden coasters very happy.

Gold Striker track layout

The decision to add the record-breaking tunnel seems to have come late in the design and construction process, and GCI’s animation of the track visible below doesn’t include the tunnel on the first drop.  It’s a welcome addition, though, and definitely contributes to the growing excitement surrounding the first new roller coaster at California’s Great America since 2000. “This fully-enclosed, twisting tunnel truly is a special element among wooden roller coasters,” Vice President and General Manager Raul Rehnborg said. “Gold Striker riders will experience the unique sensation of rapid acceleration in almost complete darkness.” We estimate the descent through the tunnel will take about six seconds, more than enough time to take your breath away.

The world record length itself was verified by American Coaster Enthusiasts before framing began on the tunnel. The corrugated metal roof, wooden sides and in-fill underneath the tracks along the tunnel’s length are designed to replicate the feel of an old mine shaft. California’s Great America has also suggested that other Old West features may be added to the coaster’s design to emphasize the theme of the “pioneering and adventurous spirit” of California’s frenzied history of gold prospectors. Perhaps Rehnborg put it best: “[Gold Striker] is where gold rush meets adrenaline rush.”

Gold Striker's record-breaking tunnel

Believe it or not, there were no new wooden roller coasters introduced at domestic theme parks in 2012. Besides Gold Striker, GCI is debuting a second, smaller wooden coaster this summer, White Lightening at Fun Spot park in Florida. While we give a lot of attention to the latest and greatest immersive experiences in entertainment design, it’s just as thrilling to welcome innovative plays on traditional amusement park staples like the classic wooden coaster. We hope Gold Striker and Outlaw Run are just the first of many great new attractions paying homage to their roller coaster roots.

Image sources: cagreatamerica.com, greatcoasters.com

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