Six Flags Goliath project OK’d amidst noise compaints
By Dan Moran email@example.com September 10, 2013 12:31PM
| Courtesy Six Flags
Updated: November 10, 2013 2:26AM
A green light for Goliath didn’t come without criticism on Monday when Six Flags Great America officials won final permission to build their new wooden roller coaster, but also heard noise complaints from both neighbors and Gurnee Village Board members.
While it remains to be seen how much sound will be generated by building the 165-foot-tall Goliath on the former site of Iron Wolf, Monday’s unanimous board approval of a height variance for the ride focused on noise generated by the igNIGHT grand finale and fireworks displays during the 2013 operating season.
“One thing that has come up from residents to me directly is noise. I know that’s not what this (approval) about,” said Trustee Thomas Hood. “It’s not the ride itself, but there have been some issues at the park this year that created some problems.”
Hood added that “I appreciate what Six Flags has done” for the village over the years, “but I think there needs to be a heightened level of response on the issue of noise.”
Richard McFarlane, who told the board that he lives “four houses down” from park property on Darlene Drive, suggested that Great America boost its sound buffers by adding landscaping to a 600-foot berm on the northeast side of the park.
“I’m not going to ask you to vote no on this thing because the park has been a good partner over the years,” McFarlane said. “But I’m going to ask for a condition (and) put a little teeth into this. ... What I’m suggesting is that you add a hedge on top of that berm over on South Road Park.”
McFarlane estimated that the addition of 30 to 40 eight-foot trees would cost around $10,000, adding that “Six Flags is a $1.1 billion corporation. ... This is not going to whack someone’s bonus.”
Both village attorney Bryan Winter and Mayor Kristina Kovarik said the Goliath approval centered only on the height variance and could not involve conditions, but they agreed that there have been increased noise complaints this year and suggested that stricter code enforcement could be utilized.
“We can measure (sound) at the property lines, and if it exceeds (code), we can enforce it,” said Kovarik, adding village staff has also looked into ways to mitigate sound from fireworks displays. In a change from past years, fireworks were launched for safety reasons from a spot near Superman: Ultimate Flight on the north side of the park — closer to residences.
Great America president Hank Salemi acknowleged that both igNIGHT and fireworks displays had drawn criticism from surrounding residents this summer, adding that “we hear you loud and clear. There’s absolutely no desire for us to be bad neighbors or to be noisy.”
Salemi added that “as the year went along we made sound adjustments up and down” on igNIGHT, a music and pyrotechnics program in Hometown Square. While igNIGHT played its last show on Aug. 11, Salemi said “we will do it in a very different way” if it returns in the future.
As for Goliath, Salemi repeated past statements that the coaster isn’t expected to be particularly loud. The ride’s elements include a 180-foot drop at 85 degrees and a 72-mph top speed, all numbers being touted as world records for a wooden coaster.
“I don’t want to deceive anybody — there will be noise from this roller coaster, and in general wooden coasters can be noisier,” Salemi said, responding to a resident’s concern about existing noise from the wooden American Eagle coaster.
“I will say that technology is infinitely more advanced than it was when the American Eagle was built in 1980,” Salemi added. “In fact, the wheels on (Goliath) are polyurethane, which are completely different from the steel wheels on American Eagle and are infinitely more quiet.”
With Monday’s approval, park officials say construction on Goliath will begin in earnest at the proposed site, which has already undergone removal of trees along its path. The coaster is scheduled to open for the 2014 operating season, with an exact date to be set depending on how weather unfolds during the construction season.