Goliath wooden roller coaster gets thumbs-up at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee
In Biblical times, Goliath was considered a giant champion of the Philistines who purportedly was killed by a stone that David shot from a sling.
But in the modern age, Goliath is at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee and is billed as the fastest, tallest and steepest roller coaster in the world.
Six Flags executives, Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik, roller coaster experts and other invitees celebrated Goliath at a special preview Wednesday. Goliath will open to the public Thursday.
"It's a cutting-edge, innovative roller coaster like none we've ever seen at Six Flags Great America," park general manager Hank Salemi said before introducing faux gladiators who marched past shooting flames toward the coaster.
Unfortunately for the gladiators, they were stymied by storms that suddenly forced a one-hour delay before the ride opened. Great America's guests waited patiently in safe areas for the storm to pass, then lined up for their long-awaited Goliath test drive.
Mike Bare of Schaumburg, who said he visits Great America daily during the season, listed a few reasons why he came away impressed with Goliath.
"You've got the drop, you've got the inversion, you've got the zero-G roll," said Bare, 36. "I mean, everything about this ride is very smooth. You'll love it."
Alex Perez, 13, of Mundelein, was another satisfied Goliath rider.
"The huge drop in the first part going into the tunnel was amazing," Perez said. "When you go upside down, it's just perfect."
Goliath is Great America's fourth wooden roller coaster, with a top speed of 72 mph along a 3,100-foot-long track. It's 165 feet tall and features the speed, smooth ride and upside-down thrills of a more high-tech steel roller coaster, park officials said.
Andrea Bowling, 36, of McHenry, credited Great America for continuing to add rides such as Goliath to keep the park interesting.
"I've been coming here since I was 8 years old," Bowling said. "I come here every year, and every year they have more things that just make this park great."
Goliath had been scheduled to debut last month, but poor weather pushed back the timetable. Construction on the ride began in September after the Gurnee village board approved a special-use permit that was necessary because of Goliath's maximum height of 165 feet was above the property's allowable 125 feet.
New rides historically have boosted attendance at Great America, according to Gurnee and theme park officials.
Kovarik said village residents benefit if the park does well. Great America generates sales, amusement, property, and food and beverage tax income for the village.
An added benefit for Gurnee is the national and international attention Goliath has garnered, she said.
"It's the most excitement that we've had in Gurnee for as long as I've been mayor," said Kovarik, who was elected in 2005.