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Interview with GCI Designer Adam House

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KICentral had the opportunity to talk with Adam House from GCI, the senior design engineer of Mystic Timbers. We got a lot of information from him starting from the design of Mystic Timbers all the way to constructing the ride. We hope you enjoy this great interview. KICentral wants to thank Adam House for taking time out of his day to talk with us.

1.    Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got into coaster designing?

I am originally from the Northern Kentucky area and went to Kings Island more times than I can count through grade school and high school.  After riding rides like The Beast and The Vortex, something clicked in my head that designing roller coasters was something that I had to do.  When I got to college, I attended the University of Louisville and received my mechanical engineering degree.  While attending UofL, I was required to take on various professional internships as part of my degree.  After reaching out to several roller coaster manufacturers, Great Coasters found a place for me as one of the first Great Coasters Interns helping to build Millennium Flyer trains in Sunbury, PA.  Upon graduation, GCI brought me on full time and I have been with the company since. 

2.    How long have you worked for GCI?

I started with GCI in 2007 as an intern and started full time in 2009.

3.     Have you designed other coasters, if so which ones?

I have been a part of the team at GCI now for several years and have touched various projects in several different ways, but one of the first rides I actually got to play a true design roll in the centerline was GhostRider at Knott’s Berry Farm.

4.     What is your favorite part of designing roller coasters?

Just the challenge of balancing all of the various constraints and still being able to deliver something that is both thrilling and maintenance friendly is one of my favorite parts of the design process.

5.     For those interested in designing roller coasters on KICentral, what degree and background do you have? What recommendations would you give on where to start down that career path?

I would say that a degree in either mechanical or civil engineering is a must.  The next best recommendation I can give is getting some real world, hands on, experience.  Whether it is an internship or working as a ride mechanic at a park, understanding how things work in the real world is invaluable and something you can’t learn in the classroom.

6.     Does GCI make a coaster from scratch when approached by a park, or do you have concepts already thought of beforehand and make changes to fit the land?

It depends on the constraints of the park.  GCI can handle the situation either way.  Some parks, like Kings Island, don’t really have a flat plot of land for a cookie cutter or clone ride, while some parks can save money on design by choosing something already designed.  We have utilized both instances for different customers in the past.

7.     Did you design the trains as well or just the coaster?

So, I actually got started on the design side of things at GCI by being a part of the team that brought the Mini-llennium Flyer trains to fruition for Legoland in Florida.  Mike Boodley is really the mastermind behind the original Millennium Flyers, although we are constantly redesigning and updating components on the trains.  The biggest, most noticeable change to have recently taken place on the Millennium Flyers is the change to seat foam.  We find this holds up better over time and allows the park several more years of service out of the seats.

8.     What was your inspiration for the design for Mystic Timbers?

Really, the inspiration for Mystic Timbers came from a few different facets.  We wanted to fill in that gap for a modern day wooden roller coaster, but not take anything away from the already great collection of wooden coasters that Kings Island already has.  Additionally, we wanted to help revitalize both Kings Island and Miami Valley railroad and White Water Canyon by designing the perfect complement for both rides.  At the end of the day, I believe we captured all of this with Mystic Timbers.

9.     With the Train, White Water Canyon, and the terrain how did that impact your design for Mystic Timbers?

Ultimately all of these factors played a role in shaping the layout of Mystic Timbers that you will see on opening day.

10.  What element on Mystic Timbers was the hardest to design?

This would definitely be the lake/lagoon crossing.  We wanted to be able to cross this lagoon and still allow the park to fill it during the season so that WWC could remain operational.  Additionally, we didn’t want a lot of foundation in that area to give some great visuals and allow the appropriate fill volume in the lagoon.  At the end of the day, this element is going to be visually appealing and functional and was well worth the challenge. 

11.  How long did it take you to design and present the layout of Mystic Timbers?

For Mystic Timbers, this process took about 3 months.  We typically start off with a preliminary layout that we then work with the park about dialing in to exactly what they want.  Altogether, I think we went through 3 or 4 different layout revisions.  Without a doubt, the final product that will be opening next month is superior.

12.  How often are you onsite once construction starts?

I am typically on site for new rides around once a month.  This allows me to answer any outstanding questions from our field guys and follow along with the installation of the coaster.

13.  What challenges have you faced while building Mystic Timbers?

Even though we have had a fairly mild winter, weather is always a bit of factor.  I think we had 24 days of rain in January, so you can imagine that there were some hurdles there.  Additionally, working out the construction logistics of the lake/lagoon crossing was a challenge.  At the end of the day, everything will be well worth all the blood, sweat, and tears.

14.  What signature GCI elements are used in Mystic Timbers?

Mystic Timbers will feature 16 airtime moments throughout the ride, a mid-course tunnel in the turnaround, and a double camel back trick track.  Additionally, it will feature several high speed directional changes, and let’s not forget…#Whatsintheshed!

15.  What new elements will we see in Mystic Timbers?

As I eluded to before, we are excited for the double camel back trick track which will be two back to back bunny hops that switch directions up and over each element.  There is also a quadruple S turn going back into the mid-course tunnel that will catch everyone off guard.

16.  What design element are you most proud of that you incorporated into Mystic Timbers?

I think Mystic Timbers does a great job at capturing some typical GCI elements, but still throwing in several new and unique elements.  Mystic Timbers will be smooth enough for everyone to enjoy, but thrilling enough to make thrill seekers rejoice!

Pictures provided by Don Helbig


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