Gatekeeper, the new B&M wing coaster at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, opened Saturday, May 11th with fireworks, the Ohio State University Marching Band, and tens of thousands of excited "ride warriors". This record-breaking coaster, the first new coaster at Cedar Point since the acclaimed Maverick premiered in 2007, has been previously covered in TPI with POV videos showing the ride from both sides, the right and the left. Finally, though, a first-hand report is available.
First, though, the facts. This coaster sends riders through multiple inversions, including an Immelmann, a zero-g roll, and a wing-over drop while traveling on a 4164 foot-long track that starts on the Lake Erie shore, carries them over and actually through the two support towers of the new entrance plaza, then returns them to the loading building on the site of the former Disaster Transport coaster, which itself was located on the site of the Jumbo Jet and, before that, the 1929 Cedar Point Cyclone. Gatekeeper is a worthy successor to these coasters.
My son Anton and I were at the front gate at 7:30 a.m., far in advance of the 8:30 special opening for Platinum Pass holders. While waiting to be admitted, we enjoyed the beautifully designed new entrance plaza with a large LED sign board over the admission gates, running such messages as "Gatekeeper: It's Big, It's Tall, It Has That New Ride Smell." The dedication of Gatekeeper was scheduled for 9 a.m., with the first riders being the winners of an auction that benefited area charities and that raised over $30,000 for them. We were not among the winners, but thought that we were there in plenty of time. I got the feeling that Cedar Point was a bit overwhelmed and underprepared for the huge crowd that soon formed at the gates, and poor signage led to confusion among the early-arrive guests. Visitors with general admission were mixed with those with early admission, and when they finally opened the gates for the early admission guests, it appeared that they also opened all the other gates at the same time. We should have been much farther up in line for Gatekeeper than we ended up due to this confusion, but most people took it in stride and patiently waited. The line for Gatekeeper was soon snaking far out into the Midway, wrapping around several attractions and eventually doubling back down the far side of the Midway halfway to Cedar Downs. When the queue lines for Gatekeeper were opened after the dedication ceremony, the line began to move rapidly forward as the massive holding areas filled with thousands of guests, all anxious to be among the first riders to experience this beautiful ride.
The wait was worth it! From the ground, while watching it run first empty test runs and then with screaming guests, most people commented that it didn't look all that fast. Once aboard the beautiful bird-themed trains and strapped into the surprisingly-comfortable seats, and as soon as we finished climbing the 170-foot first hill and began the wing-over drop down 164 feet, we knew that this was going to be an amazing experience. The appearance of slowness from the ground is soon replaced with a non-stop series of swooping, soaring, flipping and thrilling maneuvers. The most breathtaking feature, and the signature move of Gatekeeper, is a giant flat spin followed by a zero-g roll through the keyhole openings of the two one-hundred foot entrance plaza towers. This takes riders sideways through these towers, leaving many screaming and wondering if they were going to lose a limb or two.
I am fortunate that I live close enough to Cedar Point that I will have opportunities to ride both sides of Gatekeeper (I rode the left side this time) and will ride the front seat on both sides and be able to compare. We rode in the center of the train, and to be honest I don't remember even noticing the seats in front of me once. The ride is that intense and that much fun! My son grabbed the outside seat, so I sat on the inside, and I had one of the best rides of my life. I heard riders that sat in the last seats of the train say that it was an extremely intense ride. It looks like more research is needed before I can decide where the best seat is.
Gatekeeper is an amazing addition to Cedar Point, and to the world of coasters. Its beautiful location, record-breaking features and crowd-pleasing excitement makes it a welcome and already well-loved addition to the Cedar Point family of attractions.
We waited about 1&1/2 hours to board, from the time the queue lines were opened to the time we boarded (not including the time we stood inside the park waiting for the dedication ceremonies- which we couldn't see or hear- to finish). Others who arrived said that they waited about two hours, which was a consistent wait time that was heard most often. Cedar Point was really cold, and since my son and I both were cold and we live so close, we decided to leave the park and come back another (warmer) day. We should have layered better! Others who stayed told me later that it seemed like many did what we did- left after riding Gatekeeper- and the wait times throughout the park were relatively short. I don't have exact figures, but it appears that Gatekeeper is going to absorb lots of people and result in shorter wait times for other attractions. I suspect that lots of people who have skipped Cedar Point recently due to lack of a major new attraction will be back this year. Gatekeeper has received a huge amount of local press and lots of locals are planning on heading to The Point this summer.
Published: May 12, 2013 at 1:48 AM
I must say I really like having other people posting on this site, great post thanks
Hi James, thanks for the report. I am curious if B&M has improved the seat restraints on the Wing Rider since Wild Eagle opened at Dollywood last year? On WE the restraints were very uncomfortable regardless of rider size or girth because they tightened automatically throughout the ride until ultimately they were crushing your collarbones. The restraints were so painful at times that they made me a bit reluctant to go on repeat rides (you know, one right after the other) even though we had the Q-bot that day and could skip most of the wait. Did you have any issues with the restraints on Gatekeeper?
A friend told me how great this ride is on the phone during the Tampa Bay Rays game last night. He attended it, and said it is the smoothest coaster he has been on! I might go during September or early November.
I didn't notice any problem with the restraints, but my son did notice that the soft rubber/plastic over the shoulder restraints tightened during the ride. He didn't say it was too tight, just that it happened and had never seen it before. I didn't notice it until we were waiting at the station to return and disembark, and at least for me it was not uncomfortable. Perhaps it was because this was the first coaster I've ridden since dropping 40+ lbs?! I'll ask around.
OK, I just finished reading through pages of comments on some of the Cedar Point Forums about Gatekeeper and the comments about the restraints. There were just about as many opinions as their were riders. Some said the restraints were painful, especially around the collarbone area; others said it was not painful at all and very comfortable. There was no correlation between body size and/or shape. Some tall, thin people hated it, others loved it. There are some seats in the back of the trains designed for larger guests, and those who used them said just about the same thing as everyone else as far as the restraints and comfort level goes. One consistent comment was about the smoothness of the ride. Everyone raves about the smoothness of the coaster. One thing I learned about it was that, over the entrance gate, the towers and track tubing is filled with sand. It added considerable weight, but deadened the sound it makes when a train goes by. This make the gate area much quieter than a similar area under Raptor, which is deafening when a train goes overhead. As far as the restraints go and the comfort of them, there is no consistent answer. Some love them, some hate them, and there is no one body type to predict how you will like it. You just have to try it. Rumor from Media Day is that there will be some "adjustments" done to them, but who knows what and when that will be. We'll just have to ride it and find out.
Jim; Excellent report. Sounds like one of the most beautiful parks has added another gem to it's fleet of coasters..... So you had a cold day at the park. I remember driving up in the past from Pittsburgh on a sunny hot July morning dressed in cutoff jeans & a t-shirt. When we got to Cedar Point it was in the 40's with a light, but very cold, rain. We had to buy sweatshirts to survive the day. When Cedar Point is warm & sunny it doesn't get better. But, when the Lake Erie weather gods warrant, it's as cold as cold gets.
Thanks for the added info, James. Sounds like the exact same feedback Wild Eagle received. FWIW, I am 5'7" or so and weigh 150 lbs, so I am on the small side...perhaps the shorter, lighter folks are the victims this time around. Serves us right, I guess!
Weirdest decision on the restraints is in making them tighten as the ride goes along. By the time you get to the end, as you stated, there is almost zero freedom of movement left. Very uncomfortable.
Still, it didn't stop us from riding several times that day!
I have yet to ride a B&M Wing Rider yet (hopefully will get on Gatekeeper in August), but from the picture and my understanding of the restraint system is that they're the same style as the ones used on B&M fliers. The OTSRs are locked, which secure your waist more than anything else, while the "vest" system, made of a rubberized material, is linked to a ratchet system (like a seatbelt), that will tighten as slack is created when your body shifts in the seat.
My guess is that these systems are uncomfortable because there's a lot more zero-g sections on a wing rider than are on a flier, so your body shifts a lot more in the seat, allowing the ratchets to continuously tighten the restraint. I have found B&M flier restaints very comfortable, but could see how they would be annoying when used on a standard seat on a coaster with quite a bit of airtime.
Thanks for the details, Russell, and what you describe is exactly what happens while you ride. The restraints just get tighter and tighter as the g's flatten you against the back of the seat. If you let the ride just "happen to you", you'll be squished by the time your train is unloaded. Ouch!