Wicked Twister was on my oldest daughter’s mind. After all, there it was, smack dab in front of us: two demented twisting towers standing more than 200 feet in the air. This ride consists of rocketing brave souls up a tower, spinning them more than 20 stories high. Then it drops the participants backward, spiraling them into an unseen abyss, before spinning the wide-eyed shaking hostages in reverse to the top of the second corkscrew spire.
It’s amazing what people will do for thrills and chills, isn’t it?
Because it was the newest addition at Cedar Point — an annual trek for the Skaer clan and thousands from around the world — it was a no-brainer.
Close your eyes. Hang on for dear life.
That’s what Cedar Point is all about. Voted “Best Amusement Park in the World” by Amusement Today for four years in a row, this theme park/resort in Sandusky, OH, is about sharing family fun and surviving daring rides that have appropriate names — Millennium Force, Corkscrew, Mean Streak, Demon Drop, Magnum, Blue Streak …
A DIFFERENT CHALLENGEMonty Jasper has a far different perspective on this “fun-derland.” As vice president of Maintenance and Construction, Jasper is responsible for running the department that is responsible for maintaining everything on the 364-acre premises — from the rides to the grounds to the heating and cooling needs. He has 145 full-time employees at his disposal, but only three are full-time HVACR technicians: seven-year foreman John Willinger, five-year tech Russ Dickman, and Bill Dobbins, who has been around for four years.
This crew, among other tasks, makes sure the 2,500 A/C units on the premises are kept in working condition. They also ensure that the enclosed live entertainment venues are kept cool for both audiences and performers, the multitude of food stands and restaurants keep food fresh and refrigerated, the gift shops remain invitingly cool on 90-degree summer days, and the brand new ice arena (where Snoopy skates for admiring children and parents) remains an ice (and not swimming) arena.
It can be a daunting task, but the affable Jasper is calm about it.
“This is an old property,” he said, taking time out on a recent hot summer day to discuss his job inside the cozy confines of his air conditioned office. “As such, there are a lot of places that were built around here before air conditioning was even available. So there are major sections of the Hotel Breakers that are still not air conditioned because they were built around the turn of the century.
“That being said, we have a lot of A/C in a lot of buildings and in a lot of facilities. It’s tough keeping up with it. We really have a need for A/C maybe a month a year, but when that month hits, we’re running.”
Should Jasper need more HVACR help, local contractors Hohler Furnace & Sheet Metal Inc. and Gundlach Sheet Metal Works Inc. are but a phone call away. For instance, when it came time to turn the Cedar Point Cinema, which housed IMAX film presentations at the park since 1975, into an ice rink, Gundlach was there in the design process and retrofit.
“The only way you can do this job is to surround yourself with good people and let them use their expertise to tell you how to fix problems,” said Jasper. “Give them the tools they need to accomplish their job, and then let them run with the ball and score the touchdown, so to speak.”
Even when the park is closed during the winter months, the need for HVACR help exists. For instance, there’s the task of converting the picnic area, located near the park’s entrance, into a huge, makeshift heating garage. Temporary sides are constructed, insulation is placed as roofing, and then portable heaters are put inside to supply warmth for the 38 ride mechanics. They will be inside this bubble for several months, tearing down rides and rebuilding them.
Jasper makes sure preventive maintenance measures are kept in place for the cooling, refrigerating, and heating needs, too.
Over the next few years, Jasper estimates Cedar Point will spend $25,000 to $50,000 per year on new A/C equipment. It will also spend $20,000 a year on emergency repairs.
Somewhere along the line, Jasper and his crew may find time to experience Wicked Twister.
Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446; 248-362-0317 (fax); firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail).
Publication date: 08/19/2002