(Photo by Brandon Hurley)
Thrill seekers on the Legend Roller Coaster in Historic Arnolds Park Amusement Park will experience a more enjoyable ride on one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the nation.
An estimated $250,000 construction project got under way in early December to help improve a few points of the track on the nearly century-old coaster, which was built in 1927.
General Manager Scott Pyle said nearly 30 percent of the 575 feet of track under repair has been removed and the renovation is expected to be finished by May 1, in time for the opening of the park.
"The main idea was that some of the drops needed to be smoothed out," he said. "Over the course of time, they get a little out of shape. It's basically a ground up reconstruction of the track, the catwalk and the handrails that go around the track."
Several concrete footings are being installed below the Point of No Return, to provide easier access for maintenance. The total wooden track length is set at 1,492 feet. The last construction project before the current one was completed in the mid 90s - behind the train tunnel to accommodate the new cars. Before that, the Legend saw its last renovation in the 1960s.
"Obviously, it's our number one attraction," Pyle said. "It's the most popular ride, and it's one of the longest lasting attractions.
Pyle said the only thing customers will notice when spring time rolls around is the decline from the Point of No Return will be smoother. Besides that, he said the average person won't be able to notice any differences.
In addition, Pyle said a number of other projects are planned for the historic coaster in the near future.
"Over the course of the next 10 years we will have some projects - more track replacement and hit-miss areas around the track, as needed," he said. "Our goal is to keep the Legend what it's always been for years to come."
Snow has greeted the Arnolds Park area in recent weeks, but Pyle said construction crews continue to put work in.
"I think we are making good progress. Right now, we have three people working on it (the roller coaster)," he said. "We will work around the snow and do everything we can to keep it on schedule."
Pyle said tradition plays a big role in the Legend's popularity.
"Obviously, coasters are a thrill for kids to begin with, but this one has a rich history," he said. "Pretty much all the kids who come here, their parents have been on it, their grandparents have been on it. It's kind of a family legacy."