Adrenalin junkies are running out of time to experience a piece of roller-coaster history.
Canada’s Wonderland will retire its standup roller-coaster SkyRider on Sept. 1 to make way for a new attraction.
When it opened in 1985, SkyRider was the first standup roller-coaster in Canada and only the second in the world to have a loop.
“It’s a big history piece,” said Dave Phillips, Wonderland’s vice-president of marketing and sales. “I’ve been hearing stories — couples have met in the queue line on this ride and got married. Over 29 years, it’s shared a lot of memories.”
Anna Wojtis remembers being a little kid, terrified of SkyRider and secretly glad she was too small to meet the height requirement.
As she got older, however, Wojtis began to treasure the towering attraction and rode it every time she visited the park.
“I absolutely loved it. It was very adventurous and it gave me and my friends such a thrill,” she said. “It’s sad to watch it go. It seems as if a part of my childhood is slowly vanishing.”
Wojtis is among the nearly 23 million riders who have experienced the ride’s heart-stopping drop and dizzying loop over the past three decades.
Despite its age, SkyRider remains a popular Wonderland ride. A healthy lineup of adventurers stretched beyond the roller-coaster’s boarding area Thursday afternoon, filled with eager youngsters, weary-looking parents and suntanned teens.
During the minute-and-a-half-long ride, thrill-seekers climb a tall hill, from which they descend directly into a giant loop. The coaster continues at breakneck speed, twisting and turning at impossible angles that keep the rider screaming in terror right up to the bumpy finish.
The difficult decision to close SkyRider was due in part to the aging coaster’s location. The ride sits on 5,100 square metres of prime land between the water park and Wonder Mountain, and the park’s executives decided the spot would be a perfect place for their next big attraction.
Phillips was tight-lipped about what that attraction might be or how long it will take to complete.
“All I can tell you is it’s a very large construction project,” he said. “If you look at our history, over the last five to seven years, I think guests know it will be something exciting.”
SkyRider will be dismantled starting in early September, but that doesn’t mean the steel beast is headed straight for the scrapyard. Parts of the ride are being shipped to the National Roller Coaster Museum in Arlington, Texas, where they will be put on display.
A select few people will also get to take part of the roller-coaster home. Wonderland is about to launch a contest that will give 24 people a spot on SkyRider’s final journey after the park closes on Sept. 1.
They’ll also get a piece of the coaster to keep, engraved with their status as one of its last riders.