Park guests walk past one turn of Gold Striker's massive structure Friday. California’s Great America’s newest roller coaster is slated to open in May. (Photos by Erik Chalhoub/Register-Pajaronian)
SANTA CLARA — California’s Great America opened for the season Friday, but different this year, it featured more pine wood than ever before.
A total of 3,197 feet of it, in fact.
Thanks to Gold Striker, the park’s new wooden coaster located near the ticket booths, Great America’s enhanced curb appeal will improve guests’ experience this year and beyond, said Roger Ross, spokesman for the park.
“It’s almost a rebranding of California’s Great America,” he said. “The coaster is the highlight, but there’s been investment all over the park.”
Great Coasters International-manufactured Gold Striker is the park’s first new roller coaster since 2001, when Psycho Mouse opened.
Billed as the “gold rush meets adrenaline rush,” the roller coaster, which will open sometime in May, will feature a gold mining theme.
Most prominently, Ross said, is the coaster’s first drop, which is completely enclosed in a tunnel. Great America calls it a “mineshaft,” he said, as riders will plunge into nearly complete darkness, reaching speeds of up to 53 miles per hour as they curve around one of the park’s signature attractions, Star Tower.
The 174-foot tunnel, enclosed by wood on both sides, corrugated metal on top and in-fill underneath the tracks, is the longest covered drop on any wooden coaster in the world, Ross said.
On Friday, crews on the ground were busy constructing the ride’s queue line, while others stood near the top of the structure working on the lift hill’s chain.
Before the ride was unveiled in August, the park teased it as “striking new records,” which was later revealed that Gold Striker would be the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in Northern California, beating out Great America’s own Grizzly and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s Giant Dipper, among others.
Although some guests might confuse Gold Striker with Grizzly, which made its debut at the park in 1986, the coasters are completely different from each other, Ross said.
“It provides a lot of elements and smoothness that many people don’t expect from a wooden coaster,” he said.
The coaster reaches a maximum height of 108 feet, and among its many twists is an 80-degree banked turn found midway through the layout.
“Your shoulder is almost parallel to the ground,” Ross said of the turn.
A first rider auction is tentatively scheduled for May 1, and all proceeds benefit the San Francisco 49ers Foundation, which funds development programs for underserved youth.
As of Wednesday, the highest bid for the front row seat is at $10,000. The auction will run through April 28 at 10 a.m.
While Gold Striker is the highlight of the season, Great America has been receiving a lot of attention from its parent company, Cedar Fair, which has resulted in many improvements across the park, Ross said.
“There’s a lot of commitment from corporate that has been incredible,” he said. “We’re ecstatic.”
The improvements included the addition of a Subway restaurant, as well as new paint for many of the park’s buildings and rides, along with new signage.
Also, the park replaced it’s 9-year-old Spongebob Squarepants 3D movie in the Action Theater with “Happy Feet: Mumble’s Wild Ride.” New live shows fill out the park’s various other theaters.
For information on Gold Striker and the first rider auction, visit www.cagreatamerica.com/goldstriker.
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