It wasn't all that long ago (1989 to be exact) ride manufacturers accomplished the almost unthinkable and broke the 200-foot height threshold for roller coasters when Magnum XL-200 debuted at Cedar Point in Ohio. Magnum and the new breed of thrill rides it pioneered were dubbed hypercoasters. Height records were shattered again at Cedar Point when the park introduced Millennium Force, a 310-foot "giga-coaster" (over 300 feet) in 2000, and Top Thrill Dragster, a 420-foot "strata-coaster" (400+ feet) in 2003. Six Flags Great Adventure took the world title a scant two years later with its 456-foot Kingda Ka and has held the coaster height record ever since.
There's a New Coaster Coming to Town
Six Flags' reign could be coming to an end, as a company called US Thrill Rides announced on June 4, 2014, that it would be building a 570-foot "Polercoaster" in Orlando. According to company president Michael Kitchen, the coaster will be called Skyscraper and would be located in an entertainment/dining/retail district known as Skyplex along International Drive. The attraction is scheduled to open in 2019. It would be the tallest ride of any kind in Florida.
The company developing Skyplex and the Skyscraper has pushed the scheduled opening date forward a few times since it first announced the project. If it gets built, the Skyscraper would be unlike any coaster ever produced (although US Thrill Rides has plans to build similar, albeit smaller, polercoasters in Atlanta, Las Vegas, and likely other places in the future).
Instead of a traditional horizontal layout that typically requires lots of land, the new ride's track would, as its nickname implies, hug a pole and occupy a mere 150-foot diameter footprint. Passengers would board single-car, eight-passenger coaster trains inside the air-conditioned Skyplex. They would slowly ascend outside and up the massive tower to reach its apex. The coaster would use a spiral cable lift, and the journey to the top would take 1 minute and 30 seconds.
What Goes up Does not Necessarily Come Straight Down
In a significant departure from other rides vying for the title of tallest roller coasters in the world, the Florida Skyscraper would handily beat its rivals with its 570-foot height, but it wouldn't come close to matching their drops. Top Thrill Dragster plummets 400 feet; Kingda Ka delivers a whopping 418-foot drop. According to information released by US Thrill Rides, its record-breaker would meander back down the tower and include inversions, tight turns, and other features. While it wouldn't include any long dives, the track would be steep enough at certain points for the cars to reach a top speed of 65 mph. That's plenty fast, but nowhere near the 128-mph speed passengers experience aboard Kingda Ka.
At an announced 5200 feet, the track length would be quite long, but it would not vie for a spot on the list of the 10 longest roller coasters in the world. Currently, Gao in Japan occupies the tenth spot at 5692 feet, and Steel Dragon, also in Japan, is the reigning champ at a whopping 8133 feet.
Once it begins its descent, the ride would include a barrel roll near the top of the tower. Kitchen, who is also the ride's designer, is describing it as the world's "tallest inversion" on a coaster—in the sense that it would take place well over 500 feet in the air. The ride would include a total of 7 inversions. Kitchen also says that the coaster would include two drops that would exceed 90 degrees, which would make it the only coaster in the world to claim that distinction. One of them would be 123 degrees, making it one of —and possibly the—steepest coaster drop in the world.
Plans for the ride don't appear to include any hills on its journey; it would only race down the tower. That would preclude it from offering any airtime, that wonderful out-of-the-seat, negative-G, floating sensation that coaster fans adore. However, with its wild height, pent-up energy, and extremely tight turns, Skyscraper would seem to have the potential to deliver some punishing positive G-forces. At moderately low levels and short durations, positive G-forces can be an enjoyable part of a coaster experience, but when rides push the limits, they can be uncomfortable and even painful. It would be interesting to see how designers accommodate the G-forces, given the extreme specifications of the 570-foot ride.
The entire ride would last over four minutes. The trains would run off the bottom of the tower at over 60 mph and race to the edge of the property near International Drive. Passengers would experience one final barrel roll before returning indoors to the loading station. In addition to the coaster, Orlando's Skyplex ride, entertainment, dining, and shopping district would host two additional wacky and way-tall thrill rides—one of which will be taller than the Skyscraper coaster.