Newspaper article International New York Times

A Talk with a Real-Life Roller Coaster Tycoon

Newspaper article International New York Times

A Talk with a Real-Life Roller Coaster Tycoon

Article excerpt

Rob Decker, who works in theme park design for Cedar Fair Entertainment, talks about planning amusement parks and his favorite roller coasters.

From their earliest days, roller coasters have been designed to inspire awe (and fear) among riders. Rob Decker, senior vice president of planning and design at Cedar Fair Entertainment, which operates 14 theme parks in the United States and Canada, tries to make sure that the roller coaster experience continues this tradition, while reinventing how theme parks can continue to attract visitors. "We have a broad group of guests," Mr. Decker said. "We have roller coaster enthusiasts and our family audience, so we try to balance the two and create a great environment for everyone."

Following are edited excerpts from a conversation with Mr. Decker.

Q. How did you end up at Cedar Fair?

A.I'm an architect and urban designer. I was working with architectural firms and had a good friend who said my kind of background would be good for theme and amusement park design. At the time, I said it doesn't sound like much of a career path. That was 27 years ago. I worked as a consultant for 11 years at Universal, Six Flags and a few other parks. I've been at Cedar Fair now for 16 years.

Q. You've set out to maintain Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, as a top destination park, working with the design team to build roller coasters like the GateKeeper, which has the tallest inversion of any coaster in the world. What has the feedback been like?

A.I think GateKeeper was a terrific opportunity to put a roller coaster right at the front gate of the park, just to be able to celebrate and say, "Hey, we are the roller coaster capital of the world." We were able to create these great towers that have slotted openings of about 100 feet. The ride threads the needle, does a full rotation and then threads the needle again in a vertical position. …

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