Brave riders aboard the world’s tallest roller coaster could spiral toward the ground at 65 mph from a height of 570 feet at a new attraction planned for Orlando’s International Drive.
Work on the towering coaster, called Skyscraper and designed by Orlando-based US Thrill Rides, is scheduled to start next year with an opening in 2016, its developers announced Thursday.
The coaster, designed to be the tallest structure in the Orlando area, would be the centerpiece of an attraction called Skyplex. It’s planned by the father-and-son development team of David and Joshua Wallack, who own Ocean Drive’s Mango’s Tropical Cafe.
The Wallacks’ company, Mango’s Entertainment LLC, outlined the project during a news conference Thursday at the 12-acre Skyplex site near the northeast corner of I-Drive and Sand Lake Road.
The proposed $200 million development also would include a tower-top restaurant, observation deck, ground-level stores and 1,500-car parking garage.
Michael Kitchen, president of US Thrill Rides, said the 3-minute ride would include loops, inversions and barrel rolls during its 50-story descent. Closer to the ground, the coaster cars would detour through the retail part of the complex and skirt above I-Drive pedestrians.
The maximum speed would be about 65 mph, Kitchen said. Riders would be held in with a waistband-style restraint instead of shoulder harnesses that might impair the view, he said.
Ticket prices haven’t been decided, but a pass would “certainly be under $20 for unlimited rides,” said Joshua Wallack, Mango’s chief operating officer.
Coasters with superlatives such as tallest, highest, longest and fastest are magnets for fans, said Chris Kraftchick, regional representative for the American Coaster Enthusiasts fan club. He said he was intrigued by the Skyscraper’s strong, vertical design because despite its height, it would have a small footprint.
“Not only is it high, there’s nothing else like it in the world,” Kraftchick said. “I know this is something that will probably bring a lot of thrill-seekers to Orlando.”
People who didn’t want to venture onto the coaster could take glass elevators to an observation deck about 55 stories up. The coaster’s tracks would wrap around the elevators.
“I think the elevator ride is going to be amazing, just to see this train, this beautiful coaster running around you as you go up the tower,” Kraftchick said.
The Skyscraper first garnered attention last fall — under the name Polercoaster — during the IAAPA trade show for the amusement industry at the Orange County Convention Center. Kitchen said then that it would be built somewhere in Florida.
The reigning tallest coaster in the world is the Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, according to the Roller Coaster Database. Kingda Ka is 456 feet tall.
Because of its extreme height, the Skyscraper will require approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We don’t anticipate any issues with the airports, but that will be up to the FAA to decide,” Kitchen said.
Skyplex is the Wallacks’ first foray into the attractions business. They have owned Mango’s Tropical Cafe in Miami Beach since 1991. The Orlando Mango’s is expected to open later this year, just across of the Skyplex.
Kitchen approached the Wallacks in late 2012 about turning their open 4-acre parcel of land across from the Mango’s Orlando location into the coaster site. They jumped on the idea and bought five more adjacent parcels.
“We are in the entertainment business, and we saw this as a great way to delight to people that come to Orlando to vacation and come to the conventions and the locals that live here,” Joshua Wallack told the Miami Herald on Friday.
US Thrill Rides is known for developing the SkyCoaster — seen locally at Fun Spot locations near I-Drive and in Kissimmee — and the SkyVenture, an indoor-sky-diving attraction that started near International Drive.
The Skyplex site is a few blocks north of where the 400-foot-tall Orlando Eye observation wheel is under construction. It’s the centerpiece of new entertainment hub called I-Drive 360 scheduled to open in spring 2015. The project includes a Madame Tussauds wax museum, a Sea Life aquarium, shops and restaurants.
The one-two punch of tall attractions could encourage out-of-state tourists to stay an additional day in Orlando, said Abe Pizam, dean of the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
“I believe that the combination of those two — going vertical rather than horizontal — is very good for our community.”
Miami Herald writer Chabeli Herrera contributed to this report.