‘Looping Thunder’ goes silent at Oaks Park

Don’t be sad! Oaks Amusement Park is installing a new ride for next season …

Carefully, piece-by-piece, the crew from WBF Construction Services dismantled Oaks Amusement Park’s Looping Thunder, which perhaps may yet thrill riders at a new home.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

When it opened 21 years ago, the Looping Thunder roller coaster was the first real “thrill ride” at historic, non-profit Oaks Amusement Park in Southeast Portland.

But, when this year’s Oktoberfest celebration ended, Looping Thunder went silent – except for one last ride, on September 25, to give park employees, and the crew that diligently maintains their rides, one last unforgettable ride.

Unbolted from the ride for the fist time since it was installed in 1996, this section of track was lifted from the Looping Thunder roller coaster as it was dismantled.

“It’s given millions of 45-second rides since it’s inaugural run in 1996, my second year working here; I grew up with this ride,” recalled Oaks Promotions and Events Manager Emily MacKay. “During my breaks back then, I’d ride it all the time!

“But now, it’s time to ‘retire’ it, and replace it with something new,” MacKay told East Portland News.

She wouldn’t go into great detail about the replacement ride, about which their CEO was in Germany making final arrangements, but we did get a few hints: The new ride will be a roller coaster, and it will be located in about the same space as the old one being dismantled.

Nick Galash of WBF Construction Services watched as a segment of track from the Looping Thunder roller coaster ride was lowered to the Oaks Park parking lot.

Workers unbolted another piece of the venerated Oaks Park Looping Thunder roller coaster that is being hoisted away; next spring, to be replaced with a “more extreme” but also more “family friendly” new coaster.

“It will be a little larger, 30 feet taller, have three inversions instead of one – and it features a greater-than-vertical initial drop,” revealed MacKay. “And, importantly because our emphasis is on being a family-oriented park, our new coaster has lower height limit, which opens it up to more kids!”

If all goes well, the new roller coaster will be operational on the park’s opening day next year, April 28, 2018, she said.

Now through December 1, they’re holding a contest to name the new ride. The winning entrant will receive a $500 Oaks Park Gift Card, to be awarded at the new coaster’s grand opening next spring.

“Another hint could be that the colors will be blue and fuchsia pink,” MacKay suggested with a wink. “Don’t let the fact that we’ve received about 4,000 entries already deter you; there have been a dozen or more so far for ‘Coasty McCoasterface’, and as many as 50 entries similar to ‘Oaks Park – The Coaster’, so be creative!”

This contest has now closed, and the winning name selected.

Very soon, all that remains of Looping Thunder is its famous loop; but in a few days, it, too, has disappeared from Oaks Amusement Park making way for an all-new thrill ride.

“Although millions of people have enjoyed the old ride, guests have been begging for a more extreme roller coaster, and we are going to deliver on that request!” promised McKay.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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