ThrillRide! Special Features


1982 Interview with Randall Duell and Ira West of R. Duell and Associates

RC: So then, you prefer something like the conversion of the Turn of the Century into the Demon at the Great America parks as an approach to luring crowds.

IW: Yes. They wanted to make it better. They felt the original ride could be improved upon. And they were right. I think they would have been less likely to do that on a wooden coaster than a steel unit.

RC: There is an interesting distinction between "pure" coasters and metal coasters. Do you consider wood coasters to be on a different level than steel coasters?

RD: Well, wood coasters were the Grand-pappy of the coasters. I think that's why they call it a "pure" coaster. The only thing that's changed is that they keep making them steeper and higher. But then again, that's not new either.

RC: Do you think there is a ceiling which one should not go over?

RD: That's really an engineering problem and not something we are able to answer. I think it's unfortunate that one park will have a 65 foot drop and the next one thinks he has to go over 75 feet, and then to 100 feet, and to 110 feet, etc.... I think that's ridiculous. I think that if you have a good ride, you can make it more interesting by doing things to it, not just going up and up and then down. I think that's where our philosophy differs from what's happening in many of the parks today.

IW: To carry that point further, we find that many of the parks people are very creative in a marketing and operation sense and are less creative in a design sense. It's rather obvious to look at a ride and say, "I'll make it higher, therefore it will be better." It's more difficult to say, "I'll make it better without making it higher." But they don't always know how to do that. What seems to be happening in parks today is that one park will install a ride, another park will look at it, and if it's successful, they'll all follow suit. They look at a coaster much the same way you study a balance sheet. It either adds up or it doesn't. If you make it ten feet higher than the last one, you can advertise it as the biggest in the world, but it certainly doesn't mean it's the best in the world. In fact, I think you will find that the best coasters are not necessarily the biggest at all, but the ones that are more carefully designed and thought out. But I guess when you spend six, eight, or even $10 million, you've got to say it's the biggest something in the world.


© Robert Coker
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