Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cedar Point's New Gatekeeper- Ride Review

 Cedar Point's Gatekeeper
Ride Review


Trip Date: Opening Day. May 11th, 2013
Time Waited: 2 hours 45 Minutes
Ride Rating: 6 of 10
Opinion: Good but Missing Something
Recommended Wait Time: No longer than 1 hour and no longer then 1 hour 30 minutes if you've never ridden it before.

Coaster Specifications
Builder: Bolliger and Mabillard (B&M)
Type: Wing Coaster (Custom)
Height: 170 Feet
Drop: 164 Feet
Speed: 67.2 MPH
Length: 4,164 feet
Inversions: 6
(Info from RCBD.com)

  To say that I was anticipating Cedar Point's newest coaster "Gatekeeper" would be a gross understatement. Since the last day of Disaster Transport and Space Spiral on July 29th 2012, I've been watching this newest addition come to life from the ground up. I've watched it like a hawk hopped up on some random illegal drug, twitching with glee at every new construction photo because this coaster had all the makings of pure coaster awesomeness.  This was not only because it was demolishing a classic Bobsled Coaster for it's new home but because Cedar Point has a reputation for world class coasters which thrill even the most jaded of adrenaline junkies.



  My Cohorts for this journey where Kitsune Hazard of Kitsuneverse and my favorite ride buddy and fellow coaster-fiend Alex. Between the three of us, the trip had all the makings of complete crazy fun, to say the weather didn't cooperate would be a gross understatement. Earlier in the week the promises of 71 degrees and partly cloudily became a pipe dream. We arrived to a gloomy, overcast day that had a rough feel and left us asking "Wait, it is MAY, right?!".  Not to be deterred we at arrived at 9:30am expecting to have a half hour wait till the 10am gate opening (which we checked no less then 4 times in 24 hours via internet and phone calls to Cedar Points information number). Imagine our shock and anger to find lines that snaked through the parking lot with general admission gates ALREADY OPEN!  Yes, Cedar Point opened their gates to general admission well before the reported time. To say we were mad would be the first of many undertones of disappointment that colored our day. 

  Using our combined skills we wove our way though the people who where simply standing around behind others with no idea of what to do or where to go. Pausing for a few moments to watch Gatekeeper as it passed through the keyholes of the park entrance and obviously snapped a few pictures along the way.  We quickly found a gate line and jumped in, within about 10 minutes we handed over our printed tickets, collected our opening day "Gatekeeper and CocaCola Drink Huggie" and were free to ride.  Homing beacons already set, we hauled ass through the gathered (and idly standing) people and broke towards the last known home of Disaster Transport.


  Then we saw the line and what a line it was! Although our shared surprise was quickly fading as we found out by taking to a few folks in this massive line that the gates opened at 9am to everyone rather then 10am and that Platinum Passholders and Hotel guests had entry at 8:30am. The line twisted like an expert game of snake back towards the gate. After a few minutes we started taking bets between the three of us how long this line currently was. Finding a rather bewildered looking employee trying to keep order we inquired about how long this wait would be and the answer was "At least 4 and a half.. maybe five hours? I'm not sure but it's at least an hour and a half once you reach the queue line".  After picking up our jaws from the ground we quickly made a new game plan. We were easily prepared to wait 2-3 hours but 4+ was pushing even our extreme outer limits of people-tolerating.  So we decided to enjoy ourselves then return later.



 Returning around 2:30pm we jumped in a much shorter line. After chatting with a few people, we found out the reason for the greatly diminished line. Gatekeeper had gone down completely for at least 15 minutes, causing most people to leave the line in search of other thrills. Seeing our chance we quickly jumped in line, I mean really, who wouldn't?!  Only moments later a random ride employee informed us we couldn't enter the line with bags or would be turned away at the loading platform, we would have to pay for a locker. Mildly annoyed (as nearly all Cedar Point coasters have bins which you can store your belongings in along side the loading/unloading dock) we hustled over to the new lockers and shelled out the required $4 for four hours. As soon as we jumped into line a train was dispatched, the ride was back in operation. Everyone cheered and we made ready to wait. The following was the most boring and dull 2 hours and 45 minutes of our entire day.  The line was, like all others, massive and deceptive. It twisted and turned, teasing you into believing you slowly got closer then in reality another "rat maze" was waiting just behind it... like unwanted relatives at Christmas. The line for Gatekeeper also featured ZERO entertainment included (except for watching what we termed "National Geographic LIVE" on the beach with those rotten Seagulls) to pass the time. Yes, we were THAT bored.



  Around 2 hours into the line  we around bored stiff  Our collective  IQ's have dropped to the level of a river rock and we've complete exhausted our immediate area of people watching. In need of something to entertain ourselves (as all our belongings including phones and books are locked away) we begin discussing our (eventually) upcoming ride. Together we all notice one huge difference with Gatekeeper.
It's QUIET. Eerily quiet, it makes little or no noise outside of the lift hill. The roar of a coaster is complete gone, we suspect this is because of an older trick that's been practiced before. A coaster company will fill the ride supports with sand to damp down the noise, the result is an unnatural quiet which dramatically decreases your excitement levels.  We can only figure this is because Gatekeeper lives upto it's name, passing directly over the entry gate. It would be rather hard to get directions or ask questions with a coaster roaring above you every 2 minutes or so. We also come to realize that this ride cascades on a massive level. We're unsure if this is due to a completely inexperienced ride crew or if having the 3 trains on the track at once pushes the limits of what this coaster is capable of handling. Deciding to time things, we pull out the single cell phone we held onto and began playing with the stopwatch feature. It took between 2 minutes and 9 minutes to unload, load and disbatch a single train.  While the 2 minute window is about average for a coaster, we found 9 minutes to be beyond the realm of acceptable. We followed this pattern for a while to learn if it was due to handicap guests loading? It wasn't. Leading us to believe this crew isn't nearly as experienced with their ride as they should be to handle large crowds. We believe they will improve quickly with the park open but this doesn't bode well for folks traveling to ride Gatekeeper for several weeks.


  Suddenly around us people begin cheering and going slightly crazy. Perking up, we thought this might be the mysterious rumors circling the park of "Free T-shirts" in line. Surely enough a few management types showed up and began throwing shirts into the crowd. You've have thought these must be made of pure gold the way folks reacted. We all love something for free, more so when it's an opening day park shirt but really, they acted like animals. The line completely stalled out, people pushed, shoved and climbed to try and get their paws on a shirt. Oh, don't get me wrong, we tried also (hey, free shirt!) but not to the lengths others went too. This entertainment didn't last long and we where back to boring again within 15 minutes. At this point the stalled out line moved quickly as people realized major gaps formed while trying for free swag. 


  While waiting we begin to notice something else. These people have BAGS! The three of us keep watch on the right side exit and surely enough, people are exiting the ride with purses, backpacks and all other types of carry goods. Now we're mad. Ourselves and those around us were strictly told that we could NOT have a bag in line or we'd be turned away at the loading platform as they didn't have anyplace to store loose articules! LIES! ALL LIES! There ARE places to store your shit on the platform, we believe this is Cedar Point attempting to flush even MORE money out of people by paying for a locker. When you go, DO NOT PAY FOR A LOCKER ON GATEKEEPER! 


  Okay, So we're now rather annoyed and peeved. We also still have another 30 minutes of wait time in front of us (still with ZERO entertainment). Trudging along we keep chatting about the ride and how it's going to be simply amazing, we can't wait and as we begin creeping up the stairs to the loading platform our excitement grows. I believe Alex and myself even bounced around at one point. It's finally our turn and we're confronted with an empty platform. Odd but not unexpected as Cedar Point used this same tactic in 2000 when Millennium Force opened, keeping people in line and the loading/unloading area clear. It explains why the line is slow to move and as long as it is, shrugging it off we gleefully jump into our assigned rows (2nd and 3rd from the back). 

Image from NorthwestSignal.net
  One thing to note: The restraint system and ride cars. Similar to X2 at Magic Mountain it's a combination of both hard and soft restraints. A 'hard' restraint which loosely covers our chest/arm area and a 'soft' restraint which fits very close across your upper body (read: If your female, it squishes your boobs). The seats are raised and tilted back which require (for anyone shorter then 6 foot) handhold leverage and a good jump to get into and out of. I believe I stated getting out of this ride as "Getting out was like trying not to get pregnant by a coaster!" so keep that in mind before your ride on Gatekeeper.




FINALLY, WE RIDE!

  After exiting we agree not to speak of the ride just yet. We collect our personal items from our locker (which we shouldn't have been told to pay for) and conviene ourselves to the nearest smoking area for a drink and a review. 



Overall, no one was impressed. 
  Gatekeeper while proving a fun and very quiet ride, isn't what any of us expected. There isn't really any "thrill" to this newest addition. There was no point on the ride which you experience that momentary "Oh SHIT" moment. Not at the lift hill, nor at the first drop and not even when you pass threw the "Keyholes" of the front gate. The ride is smooth as glass and has that "new coaster" feel but it lacks what we termed as "The Party Piece", the part that makes a good ride incredible.

  That single element which draws you back to the ride, compelling you to wait in hot or cold with long lines for your moments of pure thrill.  Gatekeeper simply doesn't have it.  There is nothing to recommend this coaster when it comes to thrills. It lacks speed, some points seem crawlingly slow to the point you notice the restraint system is massively uncomfortable  It lacks air-time as your so secured to your seat combined with the design, it doesn't provide even that momentary "stomach crawling up your throat" feeling. The drop lacks the promised "Flying at the ground" view we all believed it would have as well as that feeling of "Flying" in general which the coaster train design leads you to believe will happen.

No, it isn't just us either...
  We spoke to random people after our ride (making sure not to discuses it with those who hadn't tried it yet so our opinion wouldn't color their opinion) and everyone who had ridden Gatekeeper on opening day had this exact same opinion. The ride was a letdown.  The consensus of the two dozen or so people we struck up conversations with through our day said the same exact thing which we said "Millennium Force is Better" (one even stated they liked Top Thrill Dragster better).  



  So it's with disappointment I tell you not to get your hopes up about Gatekeeper, it's really not that great. Personally I know your going to want to ride it and experience it for yourself, perhaps you'll find it more thrilling then we (or the people we spoke too) did but I wouldn't plan on it. Honestly, this coaster isn't something I'd wait more then 45 minutes to ride. At the longest maybe an hour if I was with someone who hasen't ridden it before. It's fun but lacking. It's a good ride but has nothing amazing to recommend it. 



  Overall, I do hope you ride it at least once and judge it for yourself. However, I feel with this newest addition that Cedar Point hasn't struck another coaster gold mine like they did with previous attractions. For it's $30 million dollar price tag all I can keep thinking is "I'd rather have Disaster Transport back". 


For the full review of Cedar Point's Opening Day, Please Visit: Opening Day Trip Report- Cedar Point