by Andrew Rybarczyk
When we all first heard that Gatekeeper media day would be inviting the coaster enthusiast clubs, we all looked at the decision with skepticism. On the SHQ, we openly joked how it would be a zoo, a circus, or otherwise a complete embarrassment to all involved especially in front of the viewing eyes of the professional media. Despite these thoughts, I still decided to go as both a media representative of COASTER-net but also as a card carrying club member. After driving five hours from Chicago to Sandusky, I entered a conference call with Dwain and Daniel where I found out that some worst case scenarios could already be developing. Tweets and reports were coming out that at 11 P.M., a line was already forming in the CP parking lot that was allegedly 1000 strong. I began to think that this trip may have been a bad idea. Nonetheless, I decided to continue with my previously devised plan to arrive at the park at 4 A.M.
In the pitch black parking lot of Cedar Point at 4 A.M., I got my first glimpses of the beauty of Gatekeeper. I snapped a few pictures and continued to the line. The line itself was not long and moved very quickly. The line for the first rides on Gatekeeper was the longest it was on media day but still was not long in the overall scheme of things. Those doomsday scenarios presented the night before seems to have been a bit exaggerated. I jumped on Gatekeeper and was able to get my first ride on my 165th coaster. Having previously ridden X-Flight at Six Flags Great America, I knew what to generally expect. Gatekeeper was definitely better than X-Flight and also a very nice ride. I would not say that this ride blew my mind or would even crack my top 25 coasters. The forces on Gatekeeper are much stronger than on X-Flight but it suffers from the same restrictive restraint as all B&M Wingriders. The main issue is the vest-like restraint that pushes you down throughout the ride. The problems come during the airtime elements of the ride that are clearly hindered by this vest. Without this restraint, this ride would probably generate some pretty great airtime. Despite this though, Gatekeeper has some great elements. The first inversion, drop and loop are just awesome. People like to talk about different seats generating different experiences, but I can say with certainty that there is no bad seat on this ride. It was on my final ride that I found my favorite spot (back row, outside, right) but every seat I sat in delivered a fun ride. The keyholes were fun and the turnaround dive loop was a unique way to execute a turnaround. Overall I place it 5th at the park with Raptor, Maverick, Millennium, and Magnum being superior rides. The true value of this ride is the way it has transformed the front of the park both outside and inside.
After my first ride, I was able to meet up with Devin Olsen, Brian Bass, and Danny Miller. The first two were just beginning their quest to shoot their new From Dreams to Screams documentary. After meeting up with Danny, we decided to roll together for the rest of media day. At this point, I would be remiss if I did not state how wrong we were about this media day. This event was the best event I have ever attended at Cedar Point. First, everyone treated the event with the respect that it deserved. I saw only a few instances of coaster club people getting a bit rowdy and most of that was contained to the very early morning. Secondly, Cedar Point went above and beyond with their hospitality. What impressed me most was the fact that everything that the professional media had access to, so did the coaster clubs. This includes such this as free drinks throughout the day and free breakfast and lunch. I was worried that there would be two tiers of people at media day, but that was not the case at all. Another high point was Cedar Point offering ERT on Raptor and Millennium. This was both gracious and ingenious. Gatekeeper needed to be shut down for a bit to allow for special media requests and other reasons. By allowing for two more rides to be open, it gave the coaster clubs reason to stay and have fun without interfering in media operations. I overheard many enthusiasts talk about how they were not planning to stay so long, but eventually ended up staying to ride not only Millennium and Raptor but also Gatekeeper after the downtime was over.
Media day was a great day that I and many others will not soon forget. Even though I was skeptical at first, Cedar Point proved me wrong and put on a truly classy event. Hopefully, Cedar Point and Cedar Fair will consider using this format again in the future because I think it really showed both the park and coaster fans in the best light possible.