Jump to content
Our forums are back up and running! Sorry for the interruption.

Retired State Fair CEO uses coaster background to develop speedboat thrill ride


Recommended Posts

Retired State Fair CEO uses coaster background to develop speedboat thrill ride

The Dallas Morning News - September 26, 2015


Forty-two years ago, Errol McKoy set off a thrill ride arms race when he introduced the world’s tallest, fastest, longest wooden roller coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia.


“The first year after we introduced the Great American Scream Machine, attendance jumped by 350,000 people,” McKoy says. “Everyone recalibrated their products to do a bigger coaster than ours.”


Now the 73-year-old retired CEO of the State Fair of Texas hopes his latest invention will become the latest must-have ride for entertainment parks around the globe.


His ride is a drag race on water that takes two 24-passenger speedboats from zero to 62 miles an hour in four seconds.


Talk about an adrenaline rush.


And McKoy holds patents that could make him a very rich man.


The rides will cost about $15 million a pop, McKoy says. His royalty take will be between $750,000 and $1.5 million apiece.


All he has to do is sell the first one.


“It’s going to take somebody who’s a risk taker and not afraid to step up,” McKoy says. “Once that happens, everybody’s going to want one. Right now everyone’s saying, ‘That’s a lot of technology and a lot of intricate stuff.’ I say, ‘I know. So was the Parachute Drop decades ago.’”


Riders will experience the roaring sounds and jostling motion of a real speedboat, while flames shoot from the exhaust pipes and 20-foot water rooster tails spout from the sterns.


“Everything is special effect,” McKoy says. “The idea is to create the feel and sound of a massive, 1,500-horsepower supercharged speedboat.”


Riders on each boat push individual go buttons, hoping to give their boats a nanosecond edge out of the launch pad.



McKoy, who holds 10 U.S. patents on his linear synchronized motor technology, has licensed the ride to Intamin Amusement Rides in Switzerland, one of the world’s largest thrill ride manufacturers.


His LSM system uses electromagnets instead of submerged rails to move the boats. It’s similar to the science used in Japanese bullet trains.


“But any time you combine a boat with linear synchronized motors or linear induction motors — I hold the patents,” he says.


Intamin has completed the engineering and started its worldwide sales campaign about a year ago.


Summer of ’63

When McKoy took a summer job as foreman of Six Flag Over Texas’ Log Flume Ride in 1963, he had no idea it would derail his plans to become a stockbroker and lead to a career in amusement parks.


After graduating with his degree in economics in 1965, McKoy was hired back by his legendary boss, Angus Wynne, who dispatched him to the New York World’s Fair to oversee the Lake Amusement Area, which featured two Six Flags log rides.


McKoy’s experience showed him the universal infatuation with water and introduced him to the latest and greatest rides, as well as traditional ones at nearby Coney Island. “I had never seen a fast wood coaster or a parachute drop,” he says. “I put all of that in the memory bank.”


He then worked as general manager of Six Flags Over Georgia, where McKoy suggested to Wynne that the second Six Flags build a mega-wooden coaster to boost stagnant attendance.


“Angus said, ‘Young man, if you ever do anything that harkens back to the past, you’ll have a very short career in theme parks,’” McKoy recalls. “So I shut up.”


Wynne was forced out in 1972, and McKoy successfully resurrected his coaster idea with the new CEO.


McKoy also introduced a system that allowed guests to reserve a ride time, much like the FastPass used today amajor theme parks.


“In 1975, we added the Parachute Drop and in 1978, the Mind Bender, the first multilooping, twisting roller coaster in the Six Flags system. Within five years, our attendance in Georgia went from 2 million to 3 million.”


In 1979, he returned to Six Flags Over Texas, where he built Judge Roy Scream, which proved to be another hit.


State Fair of Texas

McKoy took over the reins of the State Fair of Texas in 1988 after a four-year stint in water parks. Under his leadership, the fair emerged from a troubled decade of security and ride safety problems.


Working with the Dallas Police Department, he pioneered scissor-jack platforms and elevated stands for officers in the park and parking lots.


The greenhouse at the fairground bears his name as a tribute to his innovations in landscaping and programming. McKoy introduced Steve Martin’s wildly popular bird show and opened the aerial tram and the revolving 500-foot-tall observation tower.


McKoy officially retired from the fair in April 2014 but still serves as a consultant.


For the last decade, McKoy has worked with engineers to refine his propulsion system. He doesn’t have a company, preferring to license his technology and free his efforts to create other rides. “I don’t get bogged down. I’m onto a new bobsled ride that I think is going to be as exciting as this one. No water in this one. It’ll be ice.”


The timing for his speedboat race couldn’t be better.


There are 65 amusement parks being developed in China, including ones by Disney, Universal Studios and major Chinese operators, according to industry figures. Another 20 or so are in the pipeline in the Middle East.


“There will come a time when the bigger developers begin to push for market dominance,” McKoy says. “When they do, they’re going to want the biggest, fastest, tallest, coolest. And cost in those cases might not be a problem.”


Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc., agrees.


The ride is “thrilling, fast and gives the rider a phenomenal experience of motion and sensation. It’s the kind of thing we’re looking for in the industry,” says Speigel, whose Cincinnati-based company has worked on 500 amusement parks in 50 countries. “I see this ride as having great magnetism in China and the Middle East, where they like bold and new and have the money.”


Intamin and McKoy have taken the idea to a big casino operator in Macau, China; Ferrari World in Dubai; and Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.


“In the theme park industry, it becomes monkey see, monkey do,” McKoy says. “‘Boy, that was a good idea. Can you do something a little different for me?’ And I’ve got six different iterations in different scales.”


Vittorio Fabbri, president of International Amusements Inc. in Flower Mound, is helping Intamin establish a foothold with the ride.


“His attraction is an entire show,” says Fabbri, formerly vice president of Intamin sales. “There are no other water rides that can come close to this.”


Fabbri says he and McKoy have had nibbles but no one has taken the bait.


“Everyone we’ve spoken with was very enthusiastic,” Fabbri says. “Unfortunately, we still haven’t found the right customer at the right time. Many of the big players already have a five-year plan of investment set.


But it is not just the price. The ride is highly technical and may intimidate some potential buyers. A magnetic system of this magnitude has never been done, not even on a coaster. It will be the world’s first for many technical aspects.”


There are other issues — like power.


“When those boats are released, the amount of electricity is just hellacious,” says McKoy with a huge grin. “It has to launch eight tons of boats and passengers from zero to 62 in four seconds. That much weight and that fast is huge.”


Cedar Point, the “coaster capital of the world,” has worked out a deal with its utility companies to store lower-cost energy in a capacitor at night to handle the power spikes in the day.


“So they’ve figured out how to have that kind of electricity draw without bankrupting the budget,” McKoy says. “I’ve been told all my life, ‘You can’t do that’ or ‘That’s not possible.’ I know the impossible is possible under different sets of circumstances. The devil’s in the detail.”


Link to comment
Share on other sites

It looks interesting. Since it's Intamin, I wonder if their past boat ride problems like the multiple issues with Shoot the Rapids and Pilgrim's Plunge at Holiday World will cause potential buyers to be hesitant. With this ride on a track, maybe it will be more reliable?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...