First riders say El Loco roller coaster lives up to its name


Sam Morris

Benjamin de los Santos, left, and Chris McKenna high five after being the first to ride the El Loco roller coaster at Circus Circus Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014.

Wed, Feb 19, 2014 (2 a.m.)

It’s the shortest — by height, length of track and duration of ride — of Southern Nevada’s roller coaster roster.

But El Loco is crazy good, say the first riders of the Circus Circus Adventuredome’s newest ride.

“I was out of my seat more time than I was in it,” said Benjamin De Los Santos, 11, of St. George, Utah, one of the first four passengers to ride after winning an Adventuredome contest. “The first drop was crazy. I accidentally said a bad word.”

“It was the best roller coaster I’ve been on in my life," added Chris McKenna, 19, of Las Vegas, another of the first riders, who said he’s been on 60 coasters.

More than five years in the planning, the new roller coaster made its debut Tuesday under the pink dome of the world’s largest indoor theme park. Members of the Jabbawockeez dance troupe and children from the Las Vegas Boys & Girls Club were invited to take some of the first rides on the coaster designed by the same company that brought the Big Shot ride to the Stratosphere.

Jack Morris, the senior project manager at Circus Circus, said the biggest challenge of developing the ride was figuring out the logistics of shipping pieces of it from all corners of the world, laying it out like a giant puzzle in a storage area, then piecing it together under the dome during hours when the park was closed.

“It’s all about reinventing yourself when you add a new ride,” said Morris, who has been with the park 14 years and has seen four new rides added during his time. “This was built in the Rim Runner (flume ride) space and that really wasn’t that exciting, but this is a really dynamic ride.”

Tom Nolan, vice president of operations at the Adventuredome, said he expects El Loco to increase visitation to the park, which opened in August 1993, but the company isn’t projecting how many more visits the coaster would generate.

“Like parks all across the country, we know it’s important to keep the experience fresh, and we think this ride will do that,” Nolan said.

The Adventuredome is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. most weekdays, 10 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets are $10 per ride or $30 for an all-day pass that includes admission to all Adventuredome rides.

Only the second of its kind in the United States, El Loco features a 90-foot ascent, a 90-degree “beyond vertical” drop, a 45-degree outwardly-banked curve and a 180-degree turn into a barrel roll. Each car has a built-in sound system with speakers embedded in the car frame playing a soundtrack to accompany the ride.

It takes only 75 seconds for the four-seat, 4,300-pound cars to run the 1,300-foot course, which is the shortest among the Canyon Blaster, New York-New York’s Roller Coaster and the Desperado at Buffalo Bill’s in Primm. El Loco averages just 20 mph and reaches a maximum speed of 45 mph, but the excitement is heightened by the tight curves and unexpected track twists and inversions.

El Loco was designed by Logan, Utah-based S&S Worldwide, which has built versions of the ride in five countries with a sixth slated to open in Japan later this year. The catalog price of the ride is $4 million, but Circus Circus officials have not disclosed what they paid.

El Loco joins a second Adventuredome roller coaster, the Canyon Blaster, the only indoor coaster in the world that inverts riders four times. That ride was developed by another Utah company, Arrow Dynamics, which was acquired by S&S Worldwide last year.

“We’re really happy with the way it turned out,” said Chad Severance, S&S Worldwide’s project manager for El Loco, who was on hand for the opening. “It has all the elements of a big coaster, but it’s in a small footprint. It packs a nice punch for a small space, so I guess it’s like the Mike Tyson of roller coaster rides.”

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