Starliner Update

Seth Kubersky reviewed Cypress Garden’s new Starliner coaster for Orlando Weekly.

Well, he tried to review it..

Florida’s theme parks feature roller coasters filled with zero G-force inversions, magnetic launches and flailing yetis, yet none of those steel machines can match the organic thrill of a classic wooden coaster. Many of the legendary woodies have been mulched, but thanks to Cypress Gardens Adventure Park, one has received a welcome, if belated, resurrection.

In 1963, famed designer John Allen of the Philadelphia Toboggan Co. built the Starliner for the Miracle Strip Amusement Park. Panama City Beach’s original scream machine thrilled for 40 years with 2,640 feet of track, a 65-foot first drop and a top speed of 70 mph. Florida’s first e-ticket nearly vanished when the park was shuttered in 2004, but it found a champion in Kent Buescher, owner of Winter Haven’s revived Cypress Gardens. Three years and $4 million later, the coaster’s out-and-back layout has been exactingly reconstructed, with a bonus in the tighter turn-around.

At the July 6 opening ceremony, Buescher credited God with leading him to rescue Cypress Gardens and the Starliner. Unfortunately, the Lord wasn’t able to keep the contractor from having to be replaced mid-relocation, or to get the new computer that replaces the original manual brakes working in time for a scuttled June 30 opening. Nor could he get the ride’s state safety paperwork on schedule for the follow-up July 6 event that I drove down to attend. Thanks to still missing “accelerometer tests,” we grand-opening attendees were denied an actual ride. Instead, a handful of coaster club members were “hired” for the day as temporary employees, allowing them to ride, and they reported “lots of medium floaty air and some slammers”: sounds like a thumbs-up.

By last weekend, though, the Starliner was legal and functioning. Coaster fanatics and Winter Haven locals have cause to celebrate; the rest of us can only wish the whole thing was 20 miles closer to I-4.

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