Six Flags Great America in Gurnee expects to build a new, state-of-the-art roller coaster for next season.
Theme park representatives are calling X-Flight a groundbreaking "wing coaster" featuring cutting-edge technology. They say Great America is the first to announce plans for a wing coaster in the United States.
Construction is slated to begin in fall in the park's County Fair section. It's scheduled to open in spring 2012.
X-Flight is supposed to take riders on a flight that defies gravity, with no track above or below them.
Riders would sit in pairs, suspended on either side of the track with their feet dangling, as they begin climbing 12 stories before a plunge that launches them at speeds of 55 mph. The coaster would twist through 3,000 feet of intense drops and five inversions, including a barrel roll and a zero-g roll.
One of the most adrenaline-pumping moments on the ride would be an extreme fly-through where the coaster speeds straight toward a structure, before making a last-minute vertical flip to fit through a keyhole cutout.
Great America President Hank Salemi said X-Flight would add to the park's tradition of introducing coasters and other compelling rides.
"The coaster's train actually looks like a plane with seats suspended on either side of the track," Salemi said. "It's like nothing you have ever experienced before."
Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said she's excited about the X-Flight plans and hopes it bolsters village coffers. She said the fact X-Flight would be the first of its kind in the country bodes well for the village's tourism industry and the tax revenue that comes from it.
"If you haven't been there (to Great America) for years, you have a reason to come back," Kovarik said.
Gurnee officials noted in the village's latest budget documents that Great America is one of parent company Six Flags Entertainment Corp.'s most profitable operations, and added new features to its Hurricane Harbor water park this season.
Most of Gurnee's 3 percent amusement tax revenue comes from Great America visitors, with projections for the 2011-12 fiscal year at a little beyond $2 million. Village officials say they are in constant contact with park management and monitor Great America, which has been operating since a June 2009 bankruptcy filing by the parent company mostly to restructure debt.
In addition to the amusement tax, Gurnee collects a 5 percent hotel tax and a 2 percent resort fee, along with a 1 percent food and beverage tax. Those sources are projected to bring Gurnee slightly more than $3.1 million in the 2011-12 budget season ending April 30.