Cedar Point is the coaster capital of the world. It's not even down to opinion: the evidence is seen within the impressive statistics that bombard the park's marketing. Voted the number one "Amusement Park" for over a decade by the lucrative Golden Ticket Awards, the Ohio-based coaster metropolis certainly has plenty to scream about.
With the park's 16 strong coster arsenal, Cedar Fair's flagship amusement park is home to two of the top ten steel coasters on earth. Since the introduction of one of the first Corkscrew coasters constructed by the late Arrow Dynamics, innovation and airtime has been part of Cedar Point's DNA. From the first Intamin Giga coaster, Millennium Force, added in 2000 and currently regarded by many as the world's best steel coaster, to the first coaster to break the 400 foot and 120mph speed and height barrier with Top Thrill Dragster in 2003, records thrive within the parks history.
But records and speed are only one half of the puzzle that make Cedar Point the coaster paradise that it is today; atmosphere and guest satisfaction is the other. Situated alongside the picturesque Lake Erie, the park is also home to some of the most impressive amusement park surroundings. It is this unique location and Cedar Point's ability to smash records that have worked in synergy to unleash their 16th coaster to the next generation of thrill seekers. They call it: "Gatekeeper" and in true Cedar Point fashion, smashes just about ever record it's predecessors hold.
A record-breaking Wing Rider
Planning for the tallest and fastest Bolliger and Mabillard Winged Coaster first began in 2011. Since the introduction of the criticallyacclaimed airtime monster Maverick in 2007, park bosses had a vision to open up the front of the park and use Cedar Point's lakeside location and record-breaking coaster status to create an unforgettable experience for guests when entering. The result was to take out the old to make way for the new; demolishing the longstanding Intamin enclosed bobsled coaster Disaster Transport and the scenic Space Spiral and replacing the attractions with something that was totally unique and special.
First impressions certainly count when it comes to arriving at the best amusement district in the world, and nothing can quite beat standing in entrance plaza and seeing a majestic coaster twisting and flipping riders over your head as you hand your ticket into the entrance staff when breathing in the fresh Sandusky air. This is exactly what Gatekeeper delivers and is a spectacle to see in person. The layout also matches the impressive looks - incorporating an inverted drop, 6 stomach churning inversions and speed in excess of 65mph. That smashes all records held by previous B&M Wing Rider Coasters to create one of the most spectacular-looking thrill rides on the planet.
The Wing Coaster is still a relatively new addition to Swiss based B&Ms growing coaster arsenal. Debuting in 2011 at Italy's Gardaland with Raptor, orders have been coming in thick and fast for the roller-coaster manufacturing powerhouse including The Swarm at Surrey-based Thorpe Park. The theory behind the design is very simple: create the illusion park guests are riding on the wings of an aircraft by situating them on the sides of the track with nothing above or below them. But what differentiates Gatekeeper from it's cousins is how the ride dares to be different. Snaking its way over the park entrance and performing zero-G rolls "through the keyhole", Gatekeeper is a status symbol like no other. And the ride experience certainly matches up to its claims.
The GateKeeper experience
Stroll through the Cedar Point midday, and the blue serpentine-like eagle is crawling around the tracks. The queue line for waiting passengers meanders its way in front of the Lake Erie bay; offering riders a sneak peak of what this bird has in store once it takes flight, with the open and well presented entrance plaza proudly displaying the coasters slick brand and signature gold and blue colours. Arrive at the station and the enthusiastic ride hosts are heard revving the crowd up into a light hysteria for what is about to follow. Pulling down the shoulder restraint that rests neatly on my lap, I have a new sense of freedom of movement as my legs are allowed to swing with nothing restraining them as the coaster car crests around the bend approaching the near 200 foot lift hill. What follows is a coaster experience that enforces why Cedar Point is the coaster capital of the world.
Now becoming a signature element for the Winged Coaster, I now find myself dangling upside down 200 feet in the air above lake Erie. Shoulders pushing lightly into the restraint, the eagle themed trains then plummet towards the park floor as the flash of the on-ride camera captures the priceless expressions of the terrified riders. The sense of speed is sensational as the train then hurdles skywards providing more inversions and then tumbles through another oversized Corkscrew with incredible grace. Cedar Point claims that airtime is its middle name, and Gatekeeper delivers this with a bunny hill lifting riders slightly off their seats as guest approach the entrance below. Windswept, the eagle then flys through the signature zero-G roll directly about the entrance with the restraints working in unison to emphasize the sense of freedom for riders as they are lifted from their seats once more.
Riders are swooped from the ground below once more as an another inversion kicks in as this bird has now decided to head for home. The final inversion is another zero-G roll over the park entrance but unlike its earlier counterpart, its taken at a considerably less speed. Combined with the sense of freedom for riders, the amount of "hang-time" is maximised as I gain a glimpse of Cedar Point's new slick entrance plaza from an alternative angle.
With such a high-octane ride during it's first half, Cedar Point's latest thrill machine sadly shows some gaps as it heads for the block breaks. After a stunning first half the trains is slowed down considerably as it negotiates a small helix and bunny hill as it pulls into the station. It feels like a slight anti-climax considering all the inversions and airtime experienced prior.
Intensity is most certainly not what Gatekeeper is about. As Cedar Point's latest flagship attraction, Gatekeeper is ultimately about showcasing what the park is really about: fun. Combining its forte of roller coasters, inversions and airtime, Gatekeeper has its pray smiling and amused from beginning to end. With it's domineering looks and silky-smooth rider experience, Gatekeeper is a 21st century coaster that shouldn't be missed.