Cedar Point's new record-breaker will hit 120 mph

SANDUSKY, Ohio (AP) - Cedar Point is firing the tallest, fastest and latest shot in the roller coaster wars.

The amusement park said Thursday it is spending $25 million to build a coaster that will top out at 420 feet and reach speeds of 120 mph.

"I think we've made a bold statement," said Daniel Keller, general manager of Cedar Point. "This will keep us on center stage."

Japan currently has the fastest coaster and the tallest full-circuit coaster in the world. The Dodonpa ride reaches speeds of 108 mph and the Steel Dragon 2000 rises 318 feet.

Cedar Point has long been a competitor in the race among amusement parks to outdo one another with bigger and faster thrill rides.

It was the first park to have a roller coaster over 200 feet tall when it opened Magnum XL-200 in 1989. In 2000, the park built Millennium Force, which at 310 feet was the first to top the 300 mark.

The park held the tallest-coaster title for only a few months before Steel Dragon opened, eclipsing Millennium Force by 8 feet.

In the last three years, Cedar Point will have spent $50 million on two record-breaking coasters.

"It's about bragging rights," said Tim O'Brien, editor of Amusement Business,an industry magazine. "They're making a statement this year."

O'Brien said the coaster will bring international attention to Cedar Point. There are only a few parks that can build such a large ride, but it's difficult to predict how long the record will stand, he said.

"They're going to be able to hold the record for at least a year," he said. "Only one or two or three parks could support a ride like this."

Much of the structure and track of the new ride -- Top Thrill Dragster (animated still-shot, above) -- has been completed, but park officials had kept the plans secret.

The coaster's main hill is 420 feet tall and features a twisting vertical drop. Instead of a slow climb up the hill, riders will be launched from the station area at speeds of 120 mph in four seconds.

It will open in May and be the park's 16th roller coaster.

Walt Schmidt, a coaster enthusiast from Huron who runs a Web site devoted to Cedar Point, thinks it will be only a matter of time before another park tops the new coaster.

"I'm sure even Cedar Point expects somebody is going to top it," he said. "But it's going to take quite a project to do it."

He doesn't think the coaster's height and speed will scare off everyone.

"I think there are going to be a lot of people who will say forget this," he said. "But I think when it opens, it will have the longest line in the park."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)