In 2014, developers announced that Skyscraper, the world’s tallest roller coaster, would be coming to Orlando’s International Drive. After announced delays and reassurances that the ride would be coming, it seems safe now to assume that the project is unlikely to ever get off the ground. Which is a shame. Because there are rabid coaster fans that would love to give the ride a whirl.
A slight glimmer of hope arrived in September 2019 when it was reported that the Federal Aviation Administration gave its approval for the tower on which the coaster would sit. But there has been no sign of construction since that revelation.
Let’s review what was planned for the record-breaking coaster. Then, let’s hope that the developers can get their act together and build it.
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 200+-foot 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 Was Supposed to Be a New Coaster Coming to Town
Six Flags' reign was supposed to 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 would be called “Skyscraper” and would be located in an entertainment/dining/retail district known as Skyplex along International Drive. In addition to be the world]s tallest coaster, Skyscraper would have been the tallest ride of any kind in Florida.
The Skyscraper would have been unlike any coaster ever produced. Although US Thrill Rides also announced plans to build similar, albeit smaller, polercoasters in Atlanta, Las Vegas, and unspecified other places. To date, none of the projects has moved forward.
Instead of a traditional horizontal layout that typically requires lots of land, the new ride's track would have, as its “Polercoaster” model name implies, hugged a pole. It would have occupied 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 have handily beat its rivals with its 570-foot height, but it wouldn't have 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 have meandered back down the tower and included 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 5,200 feet, the track length would have been quite long, but it would not vie for a spot on the list of the 10 longest roller coasters in the world. Currently, Desperado in Nevada occupies the tenth spot at 5,843 feet, and Steel Dragon 2000 in Japan is the reigning champ at a whopping 8,133 feet.
Once it began its descent, the ride would have included a barrel roll near the top of the tower. Kitchen, who is also the ride's designer, described it as the world's "tallest inversion" on a coaster—in the sense that it would have taken place well over 500 feet in the air. The ride would have included a total of 7 inversions. Kitchen also said that the coaster would have included 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 have been 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 have only raced 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, the planned 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 have been interesting to see how designers would have accommodated the G-forces, given the extreme specifications of the 570-foot ride.
The entire ride would have lasted over four minutes. The trains would have run off the bottom of the tower at over 60 mph and raced to the edge of the property near International Drive. Passengers would have experienced 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 have hosted other additional wacky and way-tall thrill rides. Will the Skyscraper coaster or the Skyplex complex ever get built? It’s unlikely, but one never knows.