What it's like to ride the Steel Vengeance

Tom Gromak
The Detroit News

Cedar Point has broken the mold with Steel Vengeance, its new “hyper-hybrid” rollercoaster set to debut when the Ohio amusement park opens in May, but previewed for the media and select coaster enthusiasts on Wednesday.

It’s wood. It’s steel. It’s what you’d get if neighboring Maverick was 150 feet taller with the speed of Millennium Force. With a whole lot of other twists thrown in.

It rises to 205 feet tall with a 90-degree initial vertical drop followed by what’s billed as the fastest airtime hill ever – the ride reaches 74 mph -- on a hybrid coaster. It includes four inversions in which riders are twisted and turned upside down. And there’s a 116-foot-high curve on the back in which riders are unnervingly banked to the outside, rather than the inside.

The Steel Vengeance train goes over the first drop, a 90-degree incline from 205 feet.

“The big things we wanted to do were we wanted to be the first hyper-hybrid. We built the first hyper-coaster with Magnum at Cedar Point. We wanted to continue that legacy,” said Jason McClure, Cedar Point’s general manager.

“Then we wanted to get some records: We wanted to have the most inversions, the tallest drop. But the thing we really like about this coaster that’s different than any coaster anywhere is the airtime. We’ve got more airtime on Steel Vengeance than on any coaster on the planet.”

It succeeds. The ride is loaded with drops and undulations that lift you out of your seat and make you thankful for the seat belt and individual lap bar that hold you in. The real airtime: Row 12, the back seats of the train, where it feels like you spend more time out of your seat than in it.

The Steel Vengeance completes a 116-foot-high curve, unusual in that the curve banks outward, creating an unnerving feeling like the rider could fall out.

“The first few times I rode it were all in the front, the front, the front, and somebody said, ‘you know, we need to check out the back.’ And I’ve never been on a coaster where the back row experience is more different than the front row than this ride,” McClure said.

His favorite feature?

“What stands out to me is the time you spend inside that structure. There’s wood all around you and you kind of lose track – am I right side up? am I upside down? It’s just a different and unique experience.”

“I’m hearing from the riders that, oh boy when they go back in and out of the structure it’s one of the most exciting parts,” said Fred Grubb, of Rocky Mountain Construction, the inventor, designer and builder who oversaw the project.

That inside-experience takes place inside the framework of what was Mean Streak, a classic wooden coaster that once stood on the Frontier Town location, though not as tall, not as fast, and definitely not as smooth.

Grubb said about 80 percent of the wood in the structure is still the original Mean Streak superstructure. Even the old covered pass-through walkway remains as part of the waiting line.

Riders go upside down in one of four inversions on Cedar Point's new rollercoaster "Steel Vengeance."

“We’ve probably added 20 percent new wood. We added height to the hill – 40 feet. Typically when we rebuild these classic coasters, we’re raising the hill and lowering the profile because we want to gain more speed,” Grubb said.

And the smoothness of the ride versus the old bone-shaker that was Mean Streak?

“It’s the new hybrid track that we’ve developed. The track allows us to do all these elements which you can’t do with a traditional wood track. It’s the new hybrid I-box track that makes it possible.”

“My favorite part is the down drop. It’s so tall. It’s 90 degrees. And just being on that wood structure. That’s my favorite,” Grubb said. “It’s exciting. But I like it all,” he said with a broad grin crossing his face.

The seating set-up includes a lap belt and individual lap bars with cushions that secure riders at the thighs and the shins.


Tony Clark, director of communications, said his sentimental favorite coaster in the world is still Millennium Force. But Steel Vengeance is his favorite coaster in the world.

“It’s way better than I thought it was going to be. It delivers everything you could want in a coaster: Height, speed, airtime, twists, turns. It’s unlike any coaster I’ve ever been on,” Clark said.

He’s looking forward to the May 5 park opening and to interacting with park guests, something he does daily, walking the park and tweeting giveaways and meet-ups as @TonyClarkCP.

“The former ride closed while we were still open and so that caused a lot of speculation,” Clark said. And park fans have been following the construction since. “But we really want ‘now’ to happen, and it’s happening, where people actually get to ride it. The reaction so far has been fantastic. We can’t wait.”

Sure to be one of the most photographed spots on the ride is a section near the end where the train is coming straight at the waiting line.

Cedar Point is set to open to the public for the 2018 season May 5 and 6 with a Steel Vengeance world premiere weekend, with special events and giveaways in Frontier Town. It will be closed the following weekdays, but reopens with its regular daily schedule on May 11 through Labor Day.

Want to ride sooner? Cedar Point will host a LeBron James Family Foundation fundraiser on Friday at which guests can ride Steel Vengeance. Tickets are $50. And the park’s season and platinum passholders can get free tickets to special previews to be held April 30, May 1 and May 2. Tickets are limited. Information for both can be found at cedarpoint.com/events.