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updated: 8/22/2013 7:47 AM

Great America wooden roller coaster plan rolls on in Gurnee

Gurnee panel OKs new Six Flags ride

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  • The American Eagle and Viper, not pictured, may receive competition on the wooden roller coaster front at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee. Village officials say the park has a plan for a new wooden coaster.

      The American Eagle and Viper, not pictured, may receive competition on the wooden roller coaster front at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee. Village officials say the park has a plan for a new wooden coaster.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II/Daily Herald, 2011

 
 

An advisory panel in Gurnee has given its support to a wooden roller coaster proposed for Six Flags Great America.

If built, the ride would be in the theme park's County Fair area where the Iron Wolf roller coaster once stood. Iron Wolf operated from 1990 to 2011.

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At a meeting Wednesday night, the advisory Gurnee planning and zoning board voted 5-0 in favor of granting special permission for Great America to build the coaster with a maximum height of 165 feet, above the property's allowable 125 feet. The panel will issue the positive recommendation to the Gurnee village board, which has the final word on issues.

Planning and zoning board Chairman James Sula said the roller coaster's proposed peak of 165 feet would not reach Great America's tallest structure. He said there was no reason to deny the park's request.

"It's maintaining a competitive advantage for the business that is housed there," Sula said.

Mayor Kristina Kovarik has said the proposal submitted to the village is for "the fastest wooden roller coaster." Great America President Hank Salemi, who gave a brief presentation to the panel Wednesday night, declined to elaborate about the proposal after the meeting.

Salemi said the coaster would open for the 2014 season. He said the ride would be pulled by a chain and have polyurethane wheels, making it quieter than the Iron Wolf that had been on the targeted site.

During his presentation, Salemi said new rides historically have boosted attendance at the theme park. Gurnee levies a 3 percent amusement tax on Great America tickets, which are projected to generate $2 million in revenue for the current budget and accounts for most of the category's income.

About 35 spectators, most of them roller coaster aficionados, attended the meeting. Some residents living near Great America were present as well and voiced concern about loud music and fireworks they've heard from the park.

However, Sula said the planning and zoning board's role pertained to the variance Great America requested from the 125-foot maximum for the roller coaster, not noise or other issues.

No new rides were unveiled at the park this year. Great America's primary splash for the season has been running two of its coasters backward. Batman: The Ride ran backward until July 7, and the wooden coaster Viper will run backward until Aug. 26.

Great America intends to release full details about the new attraction Aug. 29, provided it receives final Gurnee village board approval.

Twitter: @DHBobSusnjara

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