When Holiday World opened for its 63rd season it introduced a record-breaking new shoot-the-chutes, Pilgrims Plunge. With its 131ft drop, the ride immediately claimed the bragging rights to the world’s tallest water ride. Paul Ruben gets wet in Santa Claus, Indiana.
The new ride claims the title from the 115ft Perilous Plunge at Knott’s Berry Farm, which opened in 2000. Designed by Intamin and installed by IntaRide, Pilgrims Plunge’s tower height is 165ft, crowned by a giant Holiday World logo.
The ride’s signature feature is a straight-up open-sided elevator that swiftly lifts each of five 10-person boats over 130ft in 22 seconds, or six feet per second. The boats pause briefly and then rapidly descend the 131ft drop at a 45-degree angle, reaching a top speed of more than 50 mph before ending with a dramatic splashdown. On the way back to the station area, the already-wet riders are sprayed by geysers as they complete their 1,480ft journey.
“We asked Intamin what it would cost for the world’s tallest shoot-the-chutes,” recalls Will Koch, president of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari. “They proposed a design with the elevator lift.”
The name Pilgrims Plunge recalls the pilgrims who held the first Thanksgiving feast in America. Because of its nature, the water ride is accessible from both the Thanksgiving section and by a pathway from Splashin’ Safari so that riders may board in their swimsuits if they wish. It accommodates up to 960 riders per hour.
The ride represents the second largest project in the park’s history. Koch says the price tag for the ride was $4.3 million (€3.0m), or more than half of the $8.4 million that was invested for 2009. Other additions include more shade structures at the Splashin’ Safari waterpark plus improvements to the Legend Parking Lot.
“We have talked about doing a shoot-the-chute for many years,” says Koch. “There have been two reasons why we didn’t. First, we were sort of behind the curve – every other park already had one. Second, we couldn’t decide where to put it – waterpark or ride park? The first reason was resolved partly due to the passage of time; it’s been a long time now since anyone introduced a new shoot-the-chute in our markets. The second concern was resolved by deciding to provide access from both the waterpark and the ride park. And when we saw the opportunity to break the world record, we couldn’t resist!”
“Pilgrims Plunge is certainly a new signature attraction for the park,” acknowledges Koch, “but I wouldn’t say it is the signature attraction. That honour belongs to The Voyage coaster, for now at least. But with its significant ‘skyline’ impact and title as world’s largest, Pilgrims Plunge certainly is very impressive. Our guests have responded very favourably to it.
“Frankly, even though it’s enormous, it’s still a family ride. Sometimes our guests cheer after coming down the drop hill, so I think they like it. I’ve ridden. It’s a lot of fun. The drop is the ‘big moment,’ of course. However, the elevator lift is unique and is a very different experience. It’s definitely part of what makes Pilgrims Plunge special.”
With a major new attraction like Pilgrims Plunge one would expect a big attendance increase, but that’s not happened so far. “This season has been a tough one to call,” admits Koch. “Our corporate picnic business is down significantly due to the economy. However, our ‘walk-in’ business has been very strong, thanks to Pilgrims Plunge. With a little luck, we could see an increase in attendance compared to 2008, which I would consider to be a huge success. Had we introduced Pilgrims Plunge in a ‘normal’ economy, I think we’d have been looking at a five to eight percent attendance increase.”
Koch remembers being surprised by the ride’s construction. “The design of the concrete footer for the tower is amazing. It’s the only place in the park we’ve ever used number 11 rebar [reinforcing bar] – that’s rebar that’s 1 3/8 inch [41mm] in diameter. I’d never even seen rebar that big before.”
Pilgrims Plunge is the prototype of a new style of shoot-the-chutes from Intamin. It employs boats with two-abreast seating rather than the four seats found on Intamin’s earlier chutes rides. Not surprisingly, the narrower boat creates a smaller splashdown.
“We are disappointed with the splash as it is,” confesses Koch. “IntaRide is planning to return at the end of the season to make modifications to the runout and ‘reshape’ the way the boat enters the water there, to try to create a larger splash.”
As with any prototype, there were also some computer bugs to eliminate. “We have had a number of operating issues primarily related to the control system,” Koch acknowledges. “All such systems are designed to shut the ride down in the event of any unexpected signals. Pilgrims Plunge has a very complex control system with a large number of sensors. As a result, during early operations we had many control system ‘faults’ that shut the ride down. The incidents that caused these faults were never ‘serious,’ but our guests perceived them as such because of the time required to clear the errors and restart the ride. As we’ve put more operational days and weeks under our belt, we’ve learned a great deal and have eliminated many of these problems. The ride is running much more reliably now with fewer faults.”