Lee Jewett Moved the Industry Forward
Lee Jewett may not be a household name.
Instead, the soft-spoken architect was more interested in the creation of attractions that our industry knows by their first names: “Gemini,” “Magnum,” “Raptor,” “Millennium,” and more.
As the leader of Cedar Fair’s Planning and Design department for 38 years, Lee worked with manufacturers and suppliers around the world to bring dreams to life at eight gated attractions. Going higher, faster, and steeper started in Lee’s imagination and concluded with steel in motion, surrounded by screams of joy and laughter. His creations inspired other operators around the globe to create attractions with their own superlatives.
Lee’s career began in 1963 when he impressed IAAPA Hall of Fame member and then Cedar Point park president George Roose with a design for a new train station. The Funway Station of “The Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad” was designed and delivered under budget. And the rest, as they say, is history. The debut of every new ride, roller coaster, restaurant, water slide, midway expansion, and hotel after that came under Lee’s direction.
“He worked on everything at Cedar Fair. I had complete trust in Lee,” retired Cedar Fair CEO and IAAPA Hall of Fame member Dick Kinzel tells Funworld.
With Roose’s support, Lee worked with IAAPA Hall of Fame member Ron Toomer at Arrow Dynamics to design “Corkscrew,” the first modern roller coaster with a tear-shaped vertical loop. In 1978, the pair again teamed up to design and build the world’s tallest and fastest roller coaster, “Gemini,” at 125 feet tall and 60 mph. They did it again 11 years later with the introduction of the “Magnum XL-200,” standing at 205 feet and 70 mph. And 11 years later, Lee broke his record a third time by partnering with Intamin to deliver “Millennium Force” at 310 feet and 93 mph.
“Many of these attractions have entertained guests for years and have stood the test of time. They are rides that young guests aspire to ride, before they are able to meet the height requirements,” says Chuck Myers, Cedar Fair senior vice president of creative development. “Lee’s lasting influence on our parks and guest experiences is truly remarkable.”
Also remarkable, Lee’s other title: role model. He was my childhood mentor … and will forever be a cherished friend.
In spring 1986, my grandfather introduced me to Lee while touring Cedar Point’s planning and design (affectionally known as P&D) department: A treasure trove awash in color, brimming with creativity, and oozing with possibility. After a romp through the sign shop, animation studio, and paint facility, Lee put me in the back of his station wagon for an offseason tour of Cedar Point. Wide-eyed with wonder, I remember my nose growing cold as it pressed against the car window. This moment sparked a lifelong interest in attraction design and led to my pursuit of a career in the global attractions industry— and a friendship with Lee that continued until his death on Sept. 24.
Following his retirement in 2001, Lee took up oil painting on canvas. Always a generous man with his time and treasure, Lee gave completed pieces to friends as gifts. His legacy continues at the Lee C. Jewett Sports Medicine Center operated by Firelands Regional Medical Center. His sizable contribution empowered construction of tthe physical therapy center— appropriately attached to the indoor Cedar Point Sports Center.
While a respected member of the global attractions industry has left us, Lee’s contributions and gifts will continue to serve as testament to a gentleman who encouraged the industry to reach higher, design a better future, and be a shining light to others.
- Scott Fais is IAAPA’s managing editor of global communications. Reach him at [email protected]