Launch - First Look - April 2018

SKYLINE ATTRACTIONS

Skyline Attractions' Skywarp coaster will debut this year as the "Harley Quinn Crazy Coaster" at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California. (Credit: Skyline Attractions)

The Story Behind Skyline’s New Skywarp Coaster

By Keith Miller

When a new attraction hits the market for the first time, what transpires to turn inspiration into an exhilarating experience? 

Skyline Attractions in Orlando, Florida—owned by partners Jeff Pike, Chris Gray, Evan Souliere, and Bill Wydra—provides a look behind the curtain at the entire development process for its Skywarp coaster, the first of which will open in 2018 as the “Harley Quinn Crazy Coaster” at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California.

It all began in January 2014 when Pike and Gray were contemplating starting a new company, which today is Skyline Attractions. They were working at a wooden roller coaster manufacturer in Pennsylvania and decided to fly to Orlando one weekend to meet with Bill Wydra of Ashland Technologies to discuss whether forming a company was something they wanted to do and whether Souliere would join them. Then the conversation turned to what attractions they wished to make, and they decided to first focus on a single ride.

Gray says roller coasters were about all they’d thought about for 15 years, but they feared that as a new company, no one would even talk with them about coasters. So they decided they’d start with kiddie rides to build Skyline’s recognition in the industry. The meeting adjourned, and Pike and Gray headed to the Orlando airport.

“When Jeff and I were headed home, we were sitting in the airport talking about how the super loops were just taking off and could we expand on it? We came up with this thing that looked like two big Immelmans back to back, so it had a figure-eight shape, and I said it would be so cool to have big wing cars on it because the feeling of flipping around an Immelmann on a wing coaster is spectacular.”

But Pike said wing-coaster cars would be big and heavy and have a massive and expensive structure. They then discussed having a spinning car, but again, that would make the chassis and track quite heavy, and they really wanted to keep the cost down to make it attractive to more attractions. Gray says it was at that moment Pike made the salient suggestion: “He said we could just put a single-car train on it, front-to-back facing, and then connect two trains to look like they’re dueling. That concept sounded amazing, so we drew it up and messed with it in AutoCAD [computer-aided design software]. But we decided this needed to wait three or four years because we first had to build up the company.”

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Skywarp is an inverted looping coaster featuring multiple inversions along a vertical, figure-eight track. (Credit: Skyline Attractions)

So the Skyline Attractions partners back-pocketed the coaster idea and focused on making smaller, simpler midway rides. But then they came to a striking realization: “It was taking just as much effort to create and market these kiddie rides as a coaster,” Gray says, “and after talking to a lot of people, we realized the $2 million price point was a real sweet spot for parks. So if we could get this Skywarp out there for about $2 million, we’d really have something.” Incidentally, Gray notes that originally, they didn’t call the ride Skywarp, but rather Super 8, taken from the 2011 hit movie.

Skyline began marketing Skywarp in 2016 and planned to feature a working model at that year’s IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando. Six Flags met with the company during the show, and a contract was eventually signed in spring 2017. 

“We sign contracts with a very particular wooden pen, to remind us where we came from,” Gray says. “There had been times when all of us were up all night long trying to figure out how we were going to make this work, and now it was happening.”

Skyline’s Skywarp is the classic of a startup company finally finding its first major breakthrough. “It’s really exciting for us,” Gray says. “It’s huge because we’ve been wanting to get back into roller coasters, and this puts us back on the world stage.”

www.skylineattractions.com