Book Review: Dick Kinzel Biography
Dick Kinzel: Roller Coaster King of Cedar Point Amusement Park is a new biography by Tim O’Brien about one of the most polarizing legends in the amusement industry. He is responsible for creating the first 200, 300, and 400 foot tall roller coasters during his 39-year career (25 as president and CEO) with Cedar Point and Cedar Fair.
Below are just a few of the interesting tidbits I discovered while reading this fascinating book:
- Dick applied to work at Walt Disney World but was rejected before finding a job at Cedar Point as assistant manager of food services.
- Magnum XL-200 at Cedar Point was originally designed with a maximum height of 187 feet. A board member asked why not go to 200 and after Dick found out it would only cost an additional $100k he went for it.
- Dick’s first and last attempt to theme a ride was spending $4 million dollars on transforming the Avalanche Run bobsled ride into Disaster Transport “I put a big box around a junk ride and we ended up with a junk ride inside a big box.”
- Dick is adamant that building Mean Streak was not a mistake even though it had no impact on attendance the year it opened and required more maintenance than the other steel coasters at the park.
- 1994, the year Raptor opened, attendance topped out at 3.6 million visitors, a mark that hasn’t been surpassed since.
- During the development of Millennium Force, discussions were underway with an unnamed manufacturer (Arrow perhaps?), but according to Dick the engineers were not able to solve two issues – how to get the cars to the top quickly and how to come up with more durable material for the wheels. Intamin was selected as the manufacturer and along with help from Cedar Point the issues were solved.
- Wicked Twister was a “fill-in” coaster
- 50% of Cedar Point guests don’t want to ride Dick’s “dumbest decision”, Top Thrill Dragster. On a cost per rider basis, it is the most expensive ride in the park to operate.
- The last major coaster on Dick’s five year business plan was Fury 325 at Carowinds.
- Another coaster on the five year plan was a 300-footer to be built at the back of Cedar Point that was eventually scrapped for GateKeeper.
- Dick was not a fan of pay-to-cut systems, even though he was leaving money on the table, it just didn’t feel right to him.
- In 2000, Cedar Fair was close to a deal to manage and potentially later on purchase Visionland in Bessemer, Alabama but Dick pulled the plug.
- Cedar Fair considered building a new park from scratch in Michigan several times before purchasing Michigan’s Adventure in 2001.
- Geauga Lake was purchased in 2004. Cedar Fair had a three-year turnaround plan for the property, so in 2007 when it was obvious the park was behind the curve, they decided to close the park, a move that some fans still have not gotten over (more on this in a second).
The biography is a fairly easy and quick read. While it doesn’t get too deep or detailed on any one ride or project, there are numerous little pieces of information and quotes I found to be quite interesting. I’d also like to say the book is not being reviewed fairly on Amazon. Half the reviews are one star, and only because of Geagua Lake. I don’t think these people even read the book and if they did, they’re rating it based on their opinion of Dick Kinzel and, shamefully, not on the quality of the book.
Love him or hate him, you can’t deny his impact on the amusement industry. Pick up a copy of Dick Kinzel: Roller Coaster King of Cedar Point Amusement Park from Amazon.com today.