Specific Type: Steel, figure-L, kilo-coaster
For decades, Canadians waited. They watched with disappointment in their eyes as, year after year, their friends down south received every type of major thrill ride known to man, while major thrill rides above the United States-Canadian border were sparse. In just a handful of years, United States amusement parks pushed the world ahead in technology and engineering as the biggest and baddest coasters in the world grew from 300 to 450 feet with no signs of letting up. The news in Canada? A new marine animal display, a few small spinning rides and second-hand coasters on the way. Yet, a spark of hope was ignited and would soon grow beyond imagination for this neglected northerly niche of the thrill-seeking world.
One of Canada's few major theme parks, La Ronde, grew just a tad more major in 2001 when Six Flags acquired the park from the city of Montreal. Over the next four seasons, the park was revitalized with over a dozen new rides. But more than
just the normal amusement park rides, La Ronde saw attractions praised in all other parts of the world that the country had been lacking entirely, namely some Swiss steel track from renown designers Bolliger and Mabillard. In 2002, Vampire swooped in and along the popular Batman: the Ride course that visitors to ten other amusement parks had enjoyed for the past decade. Still though, La Ronde had been left out of the loop, so to speak, for major quality, custom-designed roller coasters. In other words, bragging rights to uniqueness. La Ronde waited. Darkness crept back over the park as another season drew to a close. Rumor grew of a major new ride in Montreal - whispers of a nameless fear. The park's time had now come. Next spring, the time will finally arrive when a new giant in the country will raise the bar for Canadian thrill rides once and for all.
Goliath is a name in the roller coaster world that has become closely associated with world-class rides since 2000. For the turn of the century, Six Flags Magic Mountain unleashed the original Goliath on the coaster world with a record-breaking 255-foot plunge into 4,500 twisted track feet. Then, 2002 brought a new Goliath to the Netherlands' Walibi World (then under Six Flags' ownership) and another legend was born. This time, the statistics were more humble at 154 feet tall and sixty-six miles per hour, but arguably one of the snazziest layouts ever conceived for a ride of its size made this a new giant in the coaster world. And finally, Six Flags over Georgia announced the Southeastern United States' own Goliath for the 2006 season with a track towering over the park's ten other coasters. Now, the announcement of La Ronde's own version means Canada's tallest free-standing coaster, measuring a respectable 175 feet, and fastest ride to date at sixty-eight miles per hour.
And how will this new giant earn Canada true bragging rights for uniqueness? Walter Bolliger and Claude Mabillard have taken care, as always, in designing their new $16 million chef-d'oeuvre with 4,039 feet of red and yellow steel track gracefully taking advantage of the ride's momentum and La Ronde's unique placement on Sainte-Helene Island. Located at the back of the park,Goliath sends riders over an L-shaped layout extending to the eastern tip of the island while offering stunning views of Montreal across the water. As riders glide along in their open-sided, raised-seat trains, the giant will send them through one airtime-inducing element after another delivering the quality that many roller coaster enthusiasts seek out most. And in terms of past additions to La Ronde, Goliath will command the entire coaster collection including the 131-foot-tall wooden racer Monstre that, at its debut in 1985, was one of the largest wooden coasters in the world. Upon completion, the new mammoth will eat up some 61,800 cubic feet of concrete with 300 pilings and 850 anchor bolts securing the ride's 106 support columns.
Before La Ronde guests even become guests, they can see the bright primary colors of the ride standing at the back of the park like a giant sculpture. Inside the gates, they pass by all of the older, smaller coasters en route to conquer Goliath: Boomerang,Cobra, Super Manege... Finally, they pass by Tour de Ville and enter the queue line near Goliath's station. Up on the loading station, the next group of riders passes through the open air gates to board the waiting train. Three-dozen step into the nine rows and hop up into the raised seats, pulling down clamshell-like restraints into place in their laps. Ride attendants pass by and check the restraints, then give the thumbs up, and riders are on their way. The ride moves straight onto the lift hill, beginning a climb with the aid of the traditional chain lift to carry it up a steeper-than-average slope. During the 175-foot change in elevation, riders are afforded a prodigious view of the island and its surroundings. Then, at last, the time comes.
The action-packed adventure begins as thrill-seekers crest the lift hill's crown and begin to dive back towards the earth. The angle steepens to seventy degrees, sending the train and its contents down a total of 171 feet and veering to the right as they pull out of the drop. At just over sixty-eight miles an hour, the track smoothly winds to the right and starts up the second 122-foot hill. With water on both sides, the second hill runs parallel to the coastline and delivers the first major moment of airtime along with the views before plunging towards the ground again, though not at such a steep angle this time. Goliath immediately pulls up into another camelback hill providing more airtime, this time ninety-five feet tall, and plunges towards the base of a third. The train flies over the top of another great airtime hill, now seventy-nine feet in height, and dives towards a turnaround element to begin heading back. Red and yellow track banks to the right as it ascends, then levels out and begins a carousel curve in the opposite direction.
Riders are flown around 270 degrees to the left in an elevated seventy-six-foot element and then begin to dive out of the turnaround and set off in the opposite direction, back towards the park's major development. Bottoming out, Goliath challenges its riders with the start of another run of hills parallel to the first. The rails top off at sixty-nine feet parallel to the fourth drop as it flies past on the right, and then dive only to begin another hill. Passengers float off of their comfy seats at the top of the seventh, fifty-nine-foot ascent, then plunge towards the structure of the third hill. A fifty-three-foot hop brings the train side-by-side with the second valley, and another drop takes it back to the ground. Riding under the two major support columns of the second hill, the ninth climb takes riders up forty-six feet into a steep descent crossing under the first curve off of the initial drop. Ending the run of hills, Goliath takes on a quick climb into a ninety-degree left-hander and then begins the finale.
Three-dozen enthusiastic riders scream to the bottom of a forty-three-foot-deep descent and speed under the first drop's A-frame support. Climbing out of the valley, a final ascent threads the track through the minimalistic triple-support structure of the lift hill and then the brakes begin doing their duties. The train is slowed to a smooth stop, and then rounds a final 190-degree turn to the right taking it back into the station. After nearly three minutes on the ride, thrill-seekers make their way down the exit ramp and may decide to get right back in line, provided the wait isn't unbearably long. Riders also exit knowing that they've just taken on a monumental new experience for the country. Goliath is more than just a great ride, but may also mark the dawn of a great new breed of coasters for Canadians to savor.
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