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Six Flags’ Goliath coaster construction pushes forward in cold weather

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Updated: February 8, 2014 3:23AM

Padding through December’s first snowfall, roller coaster enthusiasts from around the Chicago area were dreaming of Memorial Day as they looked out at the first evidence of what will be Goliath, the new wooden coaster under construction at Six Flags Great America.

“Great America-wise, there’s nothing here that’s going to be like it, I’ll tell you that right now,” said Scott Schaffer of Hawthorn Woods during a behind-the-scenes tour on Monday, Dec. 9.

“I’m actually kind of curious to see how this compares to The Beast,” said Bob Fraser from East Dundee. “I grew up in southeastern Ohio, so Kings Island was the nearest theme park.”

“No comparison,” David Stepanek from Oak Lawn told Fraser. “I’ve ridden Outlaw Run and everything RMC touches turns to gold. (It’s) going to be unlike any wooden coaster out there. I guarantee it’s going to be one of the top ones.”

Stepanek referred to Rocky Mountain Construction’s Outlaw Run, which opened in March at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. That wooden coaster debuted with a top speed of 68 mph and a first-drop angle of 81 degrees, numbers that RMC’s Goliath is designed to top.

Whether or not Goliath’s 72 mph and 85-degree first drop down a 180-foot slope will eclipse any other experience will be revealed six months from now. On Monday, the former site of Iron Wolf on the east side of the park was a collection of timber and concrete pads, with the framework of two ride structures starting to take shape.

Asked to put a number on how far along the project is after breaking ground in September, Great America spokeswoman Katy Enrique said the official estimate is around 10 percent.

“All the (concrete) footers are in, and there about 100 of those throughout all of the course,” Enrique said. “The vertical construction started right around Thanksgiving week, and all the track is coming in — it’s sitting out in our parking lot, so as it comes in, they’ll start putting that up.”

Goliath’s lift hill will reach 165 feet and plunge into a 15-foot-deep trench that has already been carved into the ground and framed with steel. Crews have also installed the concrete foundation for the ride’s mechanical center.

When Great America officials secured approval of a height variance for the coaster just after Labor Day, hope was expressed that the ride might open in time for the park’s 2014 opening weekend, which is on the calendar for May 3-4.

Enrique said Monday that it now looks like Goliath will be open for the holiday weekend of May 24-26, with an invitation-only unveiling on May 22.

Schaffer, who was with a group that won a drawing for the construction tour, said his experience on Outlaw Run — which, like Goliath, also features inversions — has him counting the weeks.

“It’s one of those rides where it’s like, if all your life you’ve been racing a Mustang on a race track and somebody gives you a Ferrari one day, that’s Outlaw Run,” Schaffer said. “It’s unbelieveable.”

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