SANDUSKY, Ohio - It is a case of twisted steel. In this setting, the topsy-turvy loops of a rollercoaster will bring loud laughter and jaw-dropping awe when the newest rollercoaster at Cedar Point Amusement Park clickety-clacks to the top of the first hill. From there, hold on to your hat because you are committed to a dash that will run for more than 1,400 feet.
The Gatekeeper has been fashioned by workers skilled in steel, cement, electronics and a variety of other jobs. For many months, workers have pulled into place the pieces of rollercoaster track for the Gatekeeper. It was such a big undertaking, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), several weeks ago stood at Gatekeeper's base and praised the workers who built it.
"So much of this is made in Ohio," said Brown. "The steel comes from a little town east of Cincinnati, the cement comes from Oregon, Ohio and the electronics are local."
When Gatekeeper takes its first visitors to the park for its wild ride, it is sure to evoke screams of delight from those who ride the winged coaster. The cars ride along the side of the track, giving the rider the illusion of flying through the skies of Sandusky.
"There's nothing below you; nothing above you," said Dan Helbig of Cedar Point's media office.
However, the Gatekeeper is not yet rolling yet as workers put the finishing touches on it before the park opens May 11.
The concrete that was poured for the foundation of the track and its riders' boarding station has hardened and been tested for strength. When steel foundations were sunk into it, construction workers had to be precise in their measurements.
"The foundations have to be within 3/16 of an inch in tolerance to make sure everything fits," said Mark McGee, construction engineer.
Throughout the ride, workers were crawling over the steel track. Many worked on the electronics of the Gatekeeper. "Today we are testing all the switches and the brakes on the rollercoaster" said Patricia Sheets.
A computerized rendering of Gatekeeper shows how the ride will drop 164 feet in its first of several drops. At speeds reaching 67 miles per hour, Gatekeeper will give its riders a twirling ride. At times as Gatekeeper goes into a loop, it will do so between concrete towers, which construction workers built out of the Cedar Point landscape.
For the construction workers, many found it satisfying to build a rollercoaster. Because of the deadline for completion, they labored through heavy weather, sometimes having to come down from the high places because of high winds which swept in off Lake Erie.
"It was seat-of-the-pants work at some times," said Mike Witte, general contractor. He said he would probably bring his family to Cedar Point for a ride on the coaster he helped build. "I'll be riding by the seat of my pants as a visitor to the Gatekeeper," he laughed.
Gatekeeper riders will probably not think heavily about the construction workers who built the rollercoaster. Their minds will be on enjoying the wild ride they are sure to have. But Gatekeeper was built from the ground up with precision by the men and women who laid concrete, hauled in steel, attached the various parts into one looping, turning, topsy-turvy ride that will prompt squeals of delight from riders who want to stretch for the sky in one of the skyscrapers of Sandusky, Ohio, home of Cedar Point.