To the seasoned roller coaster rider, it’s hard to beat the sensation of diving off a hill that falls straight down or turning a somersault in a soaring loop.
But engineers of a thrill-ride company that already has left its mark on Las Vegas are about to take thrills to the next level with the El Loco roller coaster that's expected to debut at Circus Circus’ Adventuredome next month.
El Loco, by the numbers:
Height: 70 feet
Length: 1,300 feet
Capacity: Four per car
Ride duration: 72 seconds
Top speed: 28 mph
A “beyond vertical drop” and barrel roll on the track — it’s all possible with the track and wheel design developed by S&S Worldwide, a small Logan, Utah, company that first generated screams in Las Vegas when it produced the Big Shot atop the Stratosphere in 1996.
When El Loco takes the place of the Rim Runner flume ride at the Adventuredome, it will be the second of its kind in the United States and the sixth in the world. The only one like it in America is the Steel Hawg, which opened at Indiana Beach in Monticello, Ind., in 2008.
Most of the ride’s components already have arrived in Las Vegas, but Circus Circus is keeping the lid on construction.
S&S can’t wait to get the public’s reaction to the new ride. Company officials say it won’t be the fastest roller coaster — the ride tops out at about 28 mph — but it will have twists and turns most coaster aficionados have never experienced.
“It has some unique elements,” said Kevin Rohwer, vice president of sales and marketing for S&S. “There’s the greater-than-straight-down drop, there are 45-degree tilted turns, and it’s a really open carriage. It’s basically the floor and the seats, and everything else is wide open.”
The tilted turns are unusual because they tilt in the opposite direction of the turn. Most coaster enthusiasts are used to banked curves and coasters that tilt in the direction of the turn. On a left hand turn on El Loco, the coaster tilts to the right, producing the sensation of being tossed out of the ride.
Rohwer said the open carriage adds to the experience. It holds four people, two in front and two in back. Its small size allows the vehicle a tighter turning radius on curves.
"When you’re up there, you’ll say, ‘Uh oh, there’s a lot of air around me,’” Rohwer said.
S&S initially specialized in tower rides, such as the Big Shot, then expanded into roller coasters in 2003 when it acquired Arrow Dynamics, another Utah company, which built Adventuredome’s Canyon Blaster and Primm’s Desperado roller coasters.
“We didn’t want to be a me-too company,” Rohwer said. “One of the biggest needs in the market has been roller coasters for small footprints. There are a lot of parks that are landlocked or they have real estate they don’t know what to do with, but they want to have a coaster.”
When the company developed the El Loco, it established a perfect niche product.
“The El Loco was a combination of taking what we know — towers — taking coaster technology, which we had with Arrow, and building a product no one else had, which was a small-footprint coaster,” Rohwer said.
MGM Resorts International and Circus Circus decided in 2008 they wanted a high-thrill, small-footprint coaster to replace the flume ride, which was leaking. But the project was put on hold when the economy collapsed, and MGM devoted its full attention to completing CityCenter.
Just over a year ago, Adventuredome officials renewed talks with S&S, and in February, the new ride was announced.
If construction is on schedule, it should open before the end of the year.
“It’s definitely in the high spot in the bell curve between kiddie rides and giant mega-thrill rides,” Rohwer said. “It’s the perfect ride for families, but there’s enough excitement and a ride experience to satisfy just about anybody.”