Nov 3, 2017
A tall and twisting roller coaster aimed at attracting visitors from beyond the region and the state is on track to open next summer at Darien Lake theme park.
Details are sketchy, but the theme park appears to be eyeing a roller coaster that travels 44 to 62 mph with a completely vertical incline and a drop that goes beyond vertical.
"This is a biggie," said Tom Turnbull, president of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.
Darien Lake Holdings LLC has submitted plans to the Genesee County Town of Darien to demolish the Thunder Rapids log ride and construct a new ride.
Documents filed with the town included drawings of a "Euro-fighter"-style roller coaster from Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, a German manufacturer of coasters and other rides. The drawings were labeled "preliminary information" and "work in progress."
The design of the roller coasters range in height from 73 to 141 feet and feature tracks with descents of between 97 and 121 degrees, according to layouts on the company's website.
Chris Thorpe, general manager of Darien Lake, could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for the company issued a written statement on Thorpe's behalf:
“The entire team at Darien Lake is committed to investing in the park and the economic development of Genesee County," the statement read. "We are thrilled with the new proposed ride and anticipate being able to announce the full details in the coming weeks, once the proper approvals are received.”
The park has seen consistent attendance levels for three years, though the Genesee County theme park's 2017 season was dampened by wet weather, with 42 percent of operating days hit by rain, according to the company.
The new roller coaster is aimed at improving the park's draw regionally and from across the state, as well as the northeast United States and southern Ontario, according to Thorpe's notes submitted as part of the planning board application.
The Genesee County Planning Board is scheduled to review the project on Nov. 9 and offer a recommendation to Darien officials. The Town of Darien Planning Board, which holds the final authority to approve a site plan, meets on Nov. 20.
Darien Lake Holdings LLC was awarded $360,000 in sales tax breaks for the project by Genesee County Industrial Development Agency on Oct. 26.
The total capital investment for the project is $4.5 million, according to a document from the county agency.
The theme park was purchased last year by EPR Properties, a Kansas City, Mo.-based real estate investment trust, from CNL Lifestyle Properties. It was sold by Six Flags Inc. to CNL in 2007.
Darien Lake last opened a new roller coaster – the $3.4 million Orange County Choppers MotoCoaster – in 2008. The thrill ride features more than 1,100 feet of track as high as 40 feet in the air and passengers travel at speeds from zero to 40 mph in three seconds.
The theme park is also home to what it says is the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the state, the Ride of Steel, which opened in 1999 and cost $12 million.
Darien Lake unveiled a new water slide, known as the RipCurl Racer, in 2016.
For Turnbull, head of the county chamber of commerce, the project will be a boost for the park and for tourism in the region. Darien Lake serves as a big economic engine for Genesee County, Turnbull said.
In the past when the park has unveiled new rides, especially major new attractions, they've seen dramatic surges in attendance, he said.
"It should be great for Darien Lake," he said. "It will be great for Genesee County."
By Aaron Besecker, Buffalo News