HERSHEY Pa. (WHTM) — To create a new roller coaster for a theme park, there needs to be plenty of planning, time, and effort. The park needs to see what roller coaster manufacturers can do, and they need to create a partnership to have a smooth process from start to finish.
When it came to building Wildcat’s Revenge at Hersheypark, this feat was no small task. This was not building a coaster from the ground up, but instead, this was a total overhaul of an already-built coaster. Some coaster manufacturers are not used to doing something as massive as that.
One company, however, is known for taking on this daunting task and succeeding. Idaho-based Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC) is a roller coaster manufacturer that takes old and aging wooden coasters and converts them into steel-wooden hybrid coasters. RMC also produces other coasters such as single-rail coasters and family coasters.
Hersheypark had a wooden coaster named The Wildcat. Built in 1996, it was beginning to show its age. The ride became rough and ridership started to decline. Many amusement park and coaster enthusiasts saw the coaster as a perfect candidate for the ‘RMC treatment’.
“Based on our guest feedback, we knew coaster fans would love a hybrid at Hersheypark, and Rocky Mountain Construction has gained a passionate following who have been asking us to consider “RMCing” a coaster for years. Like most of our coasters, Wildcat’s Revenge was in development for years as we worked together on the vision. RMC helped us create a legendary coaster as part of an iconic collection,” Quinn Bryner, Director of Hersheypark Public Relations, said.
Taking an all-wooden coaster and making it into a hybrid is a feat in itself. Jacob Kilcup, the Director of Design and Engineer for RMC, says that planning a coaster like this is challenging no matter how big or small the project is.
“Reprofiling rides is difficult. We provide a full engineering package for the new ride and compare it to the existing,” Kilcup said.
The RMC team was in contact with the Hersheypark team to make sure that the project was exactly what the park wanted it to be.
“We worked back and forth with the park for quite a while to settle on the current layout. They gave us some parameters, to begin with [such as] height, length, and inversions. We threw something over the fence to them and they responded with their thoughts. It was an iterative process,” Kilcup said.
Bryner echoed what Kilcup said about the process being a collaborative effort.
“We were thrilled to work collaboratively with RMC on a custom wood and steel coaster that feels unique to us in Hershey. Our team had a lot of input into the elements and pacing. Instead of just one of RMC’s signature thrills, Wildcat’s Revenge features the very best of all four – with the World’s Largest Underflip, Inverted Stall, Zero-G Roll, and Reversing Downhill Roll. It is the tallest underflip RMC has ever fabricated and the longest one measured by track length,” Bryner added.
“The park had team members out riding other RMC rides to tune in the exact feel they wanted to create. Ultimately, when a customer knows what they want and put in the work, the end product is always better for it. The team at Hersheypark really cares about the ride experience, they were wonderful to work with,” Kilcup said.
RMC uses steel running rails called their I-Box track. According to their website, this track allows for new elements such as inversions, steeper drops, higher banking turns, and much more. To get the new track onto what already existed, portions of the original coaster needed to be removed to make way for the new elements.
“We do our best to recycle the structure and hold on to that original look. It’s our goal to build off the history and memories already created by the original ride,” Kilcup said.
“RMC was also able to retain much of the wooden trusses that defined the edge of Hersheypark you can see from Hersheypark Drive, but the skyline looks much different with Wildcat’s Revenge. History and innovation are important to Hersheypark!” Bryner said.
The all-wooden Wildcat was announced by Hersheypark to close on July 31, 2022. When the park announced the ride was closing, speculation was already pointing to the ride getting the ‘RMC treatment’. Right after the closing day, work began immediately on the structure. Guests inside the park got to see all of the ride’s tracks and a large portion of the lift hill being removed piece by piece.
Sure enough, on Nov. 2, 2022, it was announced that Wildcat’s Revenge would be taking over the former coaster’s spot and that RMC would manufacture and build the ride. The park only gave an opening time frame of summer 2023. This means RMC needed to get to work as fast as possible.
Pennsylvania weather can be unpredictable, especially during the wintertime. But Kilcup said that their first build in Pennsylvania went smoothly.
“We’re installing rides in the off-season, so the weather is unpredictable. It wasn’t too bad at the park, but the rain can slow you down a bit,” Kilcup said.
The ride opened on June 2, 2023, which meant the coaster needed to be totally completed and tested before that date and before any guest set foot on the ride. Kilcup said that everything needed to be exact to pull off a ride project such as this one.
“Top to bottom, the whole team really pulled together in a tight schedule. Design to manufacturing to installation had to be completely in tune to pull this off,” Kilcup said.
Kilcup also added that Hersheypark was great to work with through the entire process, from conception to completion.
The final result of the conversion is the Wildcat’s Revenge we have today, which is the first RMC conversion in the state of Pennsylvania. It features a new steel truss lift hill of 140 feet, four inversions, one of which is the world’s largest step-up under flip, and features speeds of up to 62 miles per hour.
The coaster brings Hersheypark into the future, while also never forgetting where the park came from, dating back 100 years to the very first coaster Milton Hershey purchased for the park, which was named The Wild Cat.
“The Wild Cat was the first coaster at Hersheypark in 1923. It was an original Milton Hershey purchase, and 100 years later, this new hybrid coaster reclaims the name and uses steel track to exact revenge on the wooden structure to take the rider experience to a new level,” Bryner said. As guests enter the Midway America region of Hersheypark, they are welcomed by a fully renovated coaster station with a design that harkens back to the iconic 1923 Wild Cat station, with low-pitched gables around the perimeter of the roof.”
Below is a comparison of statistics between the two coasters:
|Statistics||The Wildcat||Wildcat’s Revenge|
|Height||106 feet||140 feet|
|Speed||50 miles per hour||62 miles per hour|
|Length||3,183 feet||3,510 feet|
|Track/Structure Type||Wooden Track and Structure||Steel Track and Wooden Structure|
|Manufacturer||Great Coasters International||Rocky Mountain Construction|
You can take a virtual ride on the coaster down below.