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Adrenaline Peak replaces Oaks Park's aging roller coaster, opening in time for Spring Break

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Oaks Park's new Adrenaline Peak Roller Coaster includes a huge loop and a corkscrew element (visible in photo), as well as a partial inversion, making it three opportunities to be upside down.The old roller coaster provided plenty of thrills, but now it sits idle, disassembled, in the parking lot at Oaks Amusement Park. Some people have shown interest in it, but it hasn't sold — yet.

So if you want a roller coaster, 1990s-style, Oaks Park has one for sale. It'll likely be forgotten, though, after Portland's 113-year-old amusement park unveiled its newest roller coaster on the Sellwood park's opening day and the first day of spring break, Saturday, March 24.

Riders should prepare to be wowed.

Adrenaline Peak, as it's called, starts with a 72-foot vertical climb and then a past-vertical, 97-degree fall. It has a bigger loop than the previous coaster (70 feet, as opposed to 40 feet), a partial inversion and a full corkscrew — meaning three opportunities to be upside-down. And the ride takes less than one minute — theoretically and depending on lines, a great number of rides can be had in an afternoon at Oaks Park.

"I'm excited," says Joe Dement, Oaks Park ride maintenance supervisor. "I've been looking forward to this since I started working here 18 years ago."

Adrenaline Peak opened to the public March 24. So far, only water dummies have ridden the coaster, and they're revealing results for conditions such as possible disorientation, but not talking.

Dement anxiously awaits his first ride. George Kolibaba, interim CEO of Oaks Park, held off on retirement in part because he wanted to see Adrenaline Peak through its opening.

"I rode one just like this in Minneapolis," he says. "It's great. It's the suspense of going up on your back ..."

Indeed, the vertical ride up and 97-degree plunge down sets the stage.

"The vertical climb and coming down at 97 degrees is quite a bit different," Kolibaba adds. And, then the loop, inversion and corkscrew follow.

Overall, it's a major upgrade from Looping Thunder, the previous roller coaster that made its debut at Oaks Amusement Park in 1996. It had a loop, but not an inversion or corkscrew. The other excitement came from speed corners.

"It's a bigger track, a smoother ride. The cars are bigger," Dement says. Cars seat eight, and three cars can be prepared to roll. "It was an upgrade. The other one was a little rougher."

Another thing, which could be distressing, is that it has a lap restraint for riders, not a shoulder harness.

German company Gerstlauer Amusement Rides built the roller coaster; they've built many similar ones, called the "Euro-Fighter," with its distinctive 97-degree vertical drop, in the United States. Kolibaba and Dement toured the Munich-area plant.

Senior management decided on the colors — blue and purple. Lighting was installed by the same company that put lights in Yankee Stadium in New York City.

Adrenaline Peak, which will cost about $5 million, is the largest roller coaster in Oregon, and rivals the other two prominent coasters in the Northwest at Wild Waves Theme and Water Park in Federal Way, Washington, and Silverwood Theme Park in Athol, Idaho.

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