Great America’s Gold Striker Roller Coaster

California’s Great America amusement park in Santa Clara, CA, is getting a new wooden roller coaster called the “Gold Striker” in 2013. After watching the video a few times, it looks like the old Lockheed IMAX Pictorium building will be demolished after being closed for a decade. If you wanted to see an IMAX movie, this was the only place to go to for many years before IMAX theaters became commonplace in recent years. On a middle school field trip in 1984, I saw a short video of the Space Shuttle Challenger being launched into space at night, where the roar of the engines shook the six-story tall building. Nice to see this part of the amusement park finally being renovated.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKhTIh8095g]

I’m not a fan of roller coasters. I have fear of heights and hate surrendering control, which is what makes roller coasters fun for most people. I prefer roller coasters that go up and down without too many variations in between. Plain and boring works well for me.

A college roommate tricked me into riding “Montezooma’s Revenge” at Knott’s Berry Farm in Southern California in 1994. That roller coaster does a loop and goes straight up before going backwards in reverse. My guts felt like it was hanging out through my mouth on the return trip. This wasn’t a “beginner” roller coaster as he had promised.

The “Gold Striker” makes the venerable “Grizzly,” the other wooden roller coaster at the park that I rode twice before, look tame in comparison by being taller, longer and faster. I’m looking forward to riding the new roller coaster next year. I might even ride it more than twice.

An Amusement Park In The Middle Of Nowhere

Cow In Grassy FieldA Los Gatos developer wants to build a $1.2 billion USD amusement park in Tracy, a bedroom community in the middle of nowhere in the Central Valley, which would be four times larger than Disneyland in Southern California. When I first heard about this proposal, I had to wonder how much cow dung was being smoked to come up with this idea. I’m sure the cows in the surrounding fields will be very impressed with the empty roller coasters and the silent screams.

The “Spirit of California” amusement park will consist of 30 different businesses, including a casino, hotel, convention center and boat marina (a nearby river connects to the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta), on 628 acres of a former sugar plant. All the stuff that the big cities like San Jose and San Francisco take for granted when considering development projects. A big boost to the tax coffers will change Tracy from a bedroom community into a small city.

Located in a nexus of freeways that connect Stockton and Sacramento in the north, the San Francisco Bay Area to the west, the Central Valley to the south, and the planned California high-speed rail line passing through, thrill seekers from all over the state will have easy access in getting from somewhere to nowhere. Construction will start in 2014 and the entire amusement park should be done by 2024.

As long as the amusement park is being funded by private investments, I think this proposal might actually work. If the developer starts waving a tin can for public funds, all the government agencies involved should turn a tin ear.

Bad enough that high-speed rail is starting off in the middle of nowhere with a 65-mile segment from Merced to Fresno in the Central Valley, California doesn’t need another publicly funded boondoggle. If the developer wants to build the amusement park, let them find the money and make it happen. Otherwise, this might turn out to be another pipe dream that will leave the cows unimpressed.