Vaughan, Ontario – Canada’s Wonderland opens to the public on Sunday, May 7th with a trump card up its sleeve… Leviathan: a massive sea-themed monster. The roller coaster was the first from Swiss design firm Bolliger & Mabbilard to rise above 300 feet and cost an estimated $28 million (USD). When first announced, coaster enthusiasts questioned Wonderland’s decision to add a coaster which by design draws parallels to the park’s Behemoth built in 2008 also by Bolliger & Mabillard. Both use towering lifts to create speed with neither sending riders upside down. Though these same enthusiasts couldn’t wait to dig their claws into Leviathan.
Water filled dummies have been riding the rails of Leviathan since the middle of March. The first breathing riders stepped into the 4-person wide, 8-row deep, 32 passenger trains early afternoon on Friday, April 27th. These weren’t just ordinary riders; each one of them paid the price: ranging from $256 to $1,000. According to the Toronto Star, Canada’s Wonderland raised $41,000 by auctioning off seats on the first 3 trains, 96 in total, as part of a charity drive for SickKids, a health-care community dedicated to improving the health of children.
Among those riders was Ken Jones, American Coaster Enthusiast member and president of the Amusement Park Historical Association of Niagara. Friday was a busy day for Jones, who was set to move into his new house in Niagara Falls, but that didn’t stop him from the lengthy commute or from pledging $350 for a chance to be one of the very first to conquer Leviathan’s 5,486 feet of track. “I just had to do it,” says Jones, “I have no regrets, and all the money goes to charity.” Jones was pleased with how the park professionally handled the initial launch. “It was a true first ride, since only the head of the park had ridden it before.” says Jones. “You could still see the water draining from the dummies.” While Jones had to quickly drive home, he’ll be back. He’s got a Platinum Season Pass, which he plans to use at the ACE Spring Conference at Cedar Point, Canada’s Wonderland’s sister park in the Cedar Fair chain.
The addition of the world’s 5th tallest full-circuit coaster is attracting “coasterers” from across the globe. Enthusiast groups have already set the foundation for three events at Wonderland this year. CWMania is the first with “Leviamania” on Sunday, May 27th, followed by Theme Park Review‘s “Leviathan Bash” on Sunday, July 29th, and ACE‘s “Rollercoasters, Eh?” on Saturday, September 15th. Most attendees are members of the respective clubs and are treated to behind the scenes tours and exclusive ride time on Leviathan before or after park hours.
The media followed the enthusiasts and riders lucky enough to win seats from radio stations and organizations giving away their purchased seats. One of the trains was placed back in the transfer station so cameras could be hoisted for a point of view video. While the general public has to wait until Sunday, May 7th, just hours after the initial runs on April 27th, the gates were opened for season pass holders as part of the free Sneak Preview Night from 5:30pm to 10:00pm. While the wait was estimated by park reps to be over an hour and a half, by the end of the blistery cold night, the line had been reduced to under 15 minutes, allowing thrill seekers to log more than a dozen rides.
All of Friday’s riders share something special. All of them experienced Leviathan like no else will, as Leviathan’s Lair, a 100 foot tunnel, will not be in place until opening weekend. Park officials stated how the lair could have been installed in time, but they opted to wait in order to ensure a safe and secure installation with proper testing. Though despite the park’s precaution and devotion to safety, Leviathan became the victim of minor technical difficulties after 9:00PM as the 2nd row of the one of the trains malfunctioned. Ride operators did not elaborate, but did state how no one was injured and that they would continue to seal off the row until further notice.
As far as the best seat on Leviathan, riders seem split between the front and back seats. Enthusiasts claim Leviathan is all about speed, reaching approximately 90 miles per hour delivering a one minute long romp from the top of the lift to the final brake run. Behemoth on the other hand was built for air-time, the “out-of-your-seat” sensation achieved when trains zoom over a series of hills. Judging from the fandom associated with Leviathan’s initial runs and the general positive response, the general public won’t be disappointed as they pour into the queue this summer. As the park’s 16th roller coaster, Leviathan is surely to become a franchise player in Canada’s Wonderland’s attraction lineup.
Stephen Cravak, a journalist and children’s writer reports from Buffalo, NY. Currently on a sabbatical from teaching duties in Asia, Cravak has traveled the world reporting on coasters and recently served as consulting editor for an amusement park themed issue of AppleSeeds._ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _