Ledge Removal Continues in Vermont Before More Rocks Tumble on Highway

Sky’s the Limit: Fun Spot America Expands Park

Wed June 12, 2013 - Southeast Edition
Mary Reed


Fun Spot America is celebrating an expanded park featuring new rides and attractions, including the gigantic and hair-raising SkyCoaster ride.
Fun Spot America is celebrating an expanded park featuring new rides and attractions, including the gigantic and hair-raising SkyCoaster ride.

Charles Dickens observed that everything is fun to a young heart. Now the latest ride at Fun Spot America (formerly Action Park) in Orlando, Fla., will delight young and old — provided they have brave hearts.

The grand opening of the park took place in June 1998. Now, 15 years later, on its birthday on June 8, they celebrated an expanded park featuring new rides and attractions, including the gigantic and hair-raising SkyCoaster ride.

“SkyCoaster is the name of a ride that is in 150-plus locations worldwide. Most are 100 to 150 ft. tall. Once a ride is over 200 ft. they need to be approved through the Federal Aviation Administration and need to be fitted with blinking lights so small aircraft can see them. So very few rides are ever over 200 ft.,” said Mark Brisson, director of marketing of Fun Spot.

“Our new SkyCoaster is 250 feet high, and we have the world’s tallest at 300 feet at our Kissimmee Amusement Park. I would describe the SkyCoaster as an ultimate thrill ride.”

Introduction of the SkyCoaster, a ride combining the experiences of skydiving and hang gliding, formed part of the first phase of an ambitious $25 million expansion project which Fun Spot began in September 2012 and was completed June 1.

Landmark Tower and Kyle Hampton were part of the design team for the SkyCoaster. If a ride on the soaring St Louis-type arched edifice does not provide enough excitement, visitors can try two other new rides: the White Lightning wooden roller coaster, manufactured by Great Coaster International Inc., of Sunbury, Pa, and the Freedom Flyer, a steel suspension roller coaster from Chance-Vekoma of Wichita, Kan.

The 15 acre park (formerly five acres) offers thrills and family rides such as a 100 ft. (30.5 m) giant wheel, bumper cars, bumper boats, a tilt-a-whirl and a double carousel, as well as a Himalayan ride, which Brisson described as the type of ride often seen at carnivals.

“It is a circle with something like a bobsled on a track inside the circle. The ride begins and you go up and down as the carriage swings left to right. Then the ride stops and you do the same circuit, now backwards,” said Brisson.

Fun Spot offers four multi-level go-kart tracks, rides and an arcade, as well as free admission and free parking. Visitors may purchase an all-day armband or pay individually for each ride they take.

The expansion project began about 27 months ago. Fun Spot personnel spent a year visiting other parks and developing a plan. The final decision was to focus on roller coasters in order to take the park to the next level, according to Brisson.

Fun Spot itself is building its new 45 ft. (13.7 m) high go-kart track, but Orlando general contractor H. J. High Construction Company is carrying out the bulk of the project.

“H. J. High is design-builder for the park, which includes three buildings, as well as all site utility infrastructure for electrical, storm, sanitary and potable water. The main entrance building will house two retail shops, ticket sales, all administrative functions of the park, and restroom facilities,” said Project Manager Paul D. Fulks.

The food service building serves two purposes, first as the name suggests it is a full service commercial kitchen and dining facility for park visitors. But, the building is the ticketing and entrance to the SkyCoaster ride. Patrons will purchase their ride ticket on the ground floor and then go onto the roof via stairs or elevator to mount this extreme swing ride, for which we served as design-builder for the concrete foundations, comprised of nine deep [45 and 60 ft.] caissons and concrete pile cap.”

H. J. High coordinated with the SkyCoaster erector during its assembly, served as design-builder for the concrete foundations of the steel coaster and constructed the foundations for the wooden coaster.

The company worked with several consultants, including Associated Consulting International Inc. of Winter Park, Fla., architectural design; Orlando’s Foster Conant & Associates, landscape architecture; Kimley-Horn & Associates Inc., civil and EEI Engineering mechanical engineering; BBM Structural Engineers, based in Longwood, Fla., structural and Architectural Consulting Engineers, Inc. in Altamonte Springs, Fla., electrical.

Major subcontractors for the job included Tri City Electrical Contractors of Altamonte Springs, Fla., building site and ride electric; Jon M. Hall Company, Longwood, Fla., site development, site utilities and pavements; and Coastal Caisson Corporation of Odessa, deep foundations for the SkyCoaster.

Orlando-based subcontractors include Tharp Plumbing Systems Inc.; Century Air Conditioning & Heating Inc., HVAC system; OLP Construction Inc., concrete; AIT Life Safety, fire suppression; Architectural Sheet Metal, roofing; and Spectra Contract Flooring, floors.

“With 75 to 100 working on the job, this project has been very heavy in the different types of equipment employed, which included front end loaders, off road trucks, tandem axle road trucks, motorgraders, skid steer loaders, excavators and mini-excavators, cranes of various sizes, dewatering systems, pump trucks, concrete trucks, asphalt pavers, scaffolding and pile drivers,” said Fulks.

Equipment used included John Deere, Volvo and Caterpillar models. For the SkyCoaster, Coastal Caisson used a Bauer Caisson rig to install the foundations and Fun Spot used a track-mounted crane to erect the structure. For the buildings, various snorkel and scissor lifts were used. Snorkel lifts and wheeled cranes were used for the roller coasters.

The short duration of the project schedule presented some difficulty.

“The owner needed the park completed in time for the summer tourist traffic, which of course is his most profitable three months of the year. Compounding the schedule complexity is the extensive site electrical infrastructure between all the rides,” Fulks said.

“There is very little consistency in the work sequence; meaning that the details vary throughout the park. So, management of the project has been extremely hands-on with nearly every trade working simultaneously on site. With all of the site trades working across the park with all of the building trades, safety was a big concern. We treated the project site similarly to a busy road construction project and outfitted the employees with high visibility clothing. Thus far, the project has been performed with zero loss time due to accidents, and only two minor first aid incidents,” said Fulks.

The project featured two unusual aspects. In addition to the Federal Aviation Administration clearance required for the SkyCoaster, there was a difference in foundation design for the three major rides.

“The SkyCoaster sits on a deep foundation system, the wood coaster sits on grade beams with pedestals and the steel coaster sits on large pads with large piers. The construction tolerance for the steel coaster was extremely small [+/- ¼ in.] plan and elevation) but the construction tolerance for the wood coaster foundations was large [+6 in./ -12 in.]. The wood coaster framing was designed based on the actual survey of the pier locations and elevations. We still constructed it with +/- ¼ in. but the tolerance allowed was much more. We have never constructed roller coasters. This is a pretty unique project. It encompasses many different items with which we do have previous experience, but the combination was what made the project unique,” Fulks said.

Changes for the park are not through yet and Brisson alluded to plans in the works for Phase two.

“The addition may or may not include four new water rides, a mini water park, a performance area and band shell, a larger food court and birthday room area that may convert to a small dinner theater in the evenings,” said Brisson.

“Additionally we were able to purchase another 10 adjacent acres across the street, although no definite plans have been developed at this time. We were able to successfully work with the city of Orlando and change the name of the access street that will come to our new parking lot and separates the 15 acres with the new 10 acres, from Touchstone Drive to Fun Spot Way,” said Brisson.

The Orlando Fun Spot Park currently hosts some 450,000 visitors a year and has been voted Best Family Entertainment Center in America by the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions (IAAPA) as well as Best Budget Attraction in central Florida by the Orlando Sentinel.

Fun Spot America is a family-owned business that opened the Fun Spot amusement park in Orlando, Fla, in June 1998. In 2005 the company purchased nine acres in Kissimmee, Fla, 14 mi. from Orlando, and opened its second park, Fun Spot USA. According to the company, the timetable for Phase II of the Orlando park and development of its new 10 acres depends on the public’s response to Phase 1.

For more information visit www.FunSpotAttractions.com.

H. J. High Construction Company is a family-owned business. It has been in business since 1936, and has constructed K-12 schools, higher education facilities, hospitals, religious facilities, television studios, casting centers, manufacturing plants, cold storage facilities and office buildings.

For more information, visit www.hjhigh.com.