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Zippin Pippin' Gets Ready to Rattle and Roll on Saturday

Green Bay Press Gazette

Original Article »

May 18, 2011

The only thing missing now is Elvis.

The Zippin Pippin roller coaster roared into action Tuesday as the newest attraction at Green Bay’s beloved Bay Beach Amusement Park.

At a special sneak preview for the news media, city officials showed off the wooden roller coaster in full operational mode after nine months of construction.

It is a replica of a coaster that operated for years in Memphis, Tenn., and was renowned as rock n’ roll legend Elvis Presley’s favorite amusement park ride.

The attraction opens to the public Saturday.

Mayor Jim Schmitt likened the widely anticipated roller coaster to the 2003 renovation of Lambeau Field, in terms of impact on the community.

“We build on successes,” he said. “This is the perfect ride for Bay Beach.”

Schmitt joined other city officials Tuesday at the construction site to provide a guided tour and a behind-the-scenes look at the coaster.

Kevin Hehn, a representative of construction manager Martin & Vleminckx Rides LLC, said he was prepared to turn the ride over to city employees who have been trained to operate and maintain it.

“They’re ready,” he said.

Members of the news media and city officials were treated to several successful test runs, with the coaster’s orange and bluecars speeding atop the wooden frame.

Rides will cost $1 each when the Zippin Pippin makes its public debut at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Ed Wiesner, the city’s public works director, said he is not generally a roller coaster fan, but he thoroughly enjoyed the Zippin Pippin.

“It’s a nice ride — a very nice ride,” he said.

With scenic views of the waterfront, the coaster towers over the merry-go-round, bumper cars and other rides and attraction that have drawn families to Bay Beach for decades.

After a consultant in 2008 recommended a roller coaster toupgrade the park, Schmitt and other city leaders visited Memphis to examine the original Zippin Pippin as it was being dismantled.

In March 2010, the City Council agreed to spend $3 million acquiring the rights and recreating the wooden roller coaster at Green Bay’s city-owned amusement park.

Some aldermen criticized the expense, and the project ran into cost overruns during construction. Schmitt said the final price tag is just under $3.8 million, with private donations of more than $700,000 expected to make up the difference.

The city borrowed $2.4 million in municipal bonds and tapped a Bay Beach reserve for $600,000 to complete the funding without any direct taxpayer support.

City officials on Tuesday repeated assurances that ridership would generate enough revenue to pay off the bonds and continue Bay Beach’s track record as a financial success.

“It fits the park,” Wiesner said. “It fits the history of the park, and it fits the tradition of the park.”


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