From  The Sandusky Register

SANDUSKY

As Cedar Fair’s corporate vice president of planning and design, Rob Decker helps Cedar Point chart its destiny for years to come. But Decker says his wife finds out about new rides at Cedar Point the same way anyone else does — when the news is announced in the media.

“My wife never knows what’s going on,” he said.

It’s not as if Decker never speaks to his wife. Cedar Point’s plans for the future are kept quiet until the amusement park is ready to go public.

Cedar Point announced Sept. 3 it’s building a new water flume ride, Shoot the Rapids, that will be ready when the park opens in May. The ride, which will cost $10.5 million, is aimed at pleasing the whole family but has an element of thrills. Riders will drop down an 85-foot hill before making their big splash.

The announcement wasn’t the result of a spur-of-the-moment decision. Cedar Fair may have announced the ride only a few weeks ago, but it made the decision to build Shoot the Rapids after years of secret planning.

The decision was made three or four years ago, Decker said. When the economy sank, the ride was put off a year. Cedar Point built a cheaper new attraction for 2009, the $1 million Starlight Experience light show.

Cedar Point maintains a five-year plan for capital improvements, and some planning goes out 10 years. The park has plans in place for new attractions in 2011, ’12 and ’13, although Decker says they are “subject to review.”

Only a few Cedar Fair executives who serve on the company’s planning commission are allowed to know about the amusement park’s capital improvements plans.

The code of secrecy also extends to the companies that build rides for the amusement park. They are required to sign nondisclosure agreements, so word about the attractions doesn’t leak out prematurely to coaster fans or to rivals such as the Six Flags chain.

Shoot the Rapids will be built by IntaRide of Glen Burnie, Md., the same company that built Maverick, Top Thrill Dragster and Millennium Force.

The company’s president, Sandor Kernacs, answered questions about Shoot the Rapids last week, but said he was willing to talk only because Cedar Point had announced the ride and now wanted publicity about it.

Cedar Point executives planning new rides often try to excite coaster fans, giving them new reasons to travel long distances and return to the park.

Millennium Force, about 300 feet tall, was the tallest roller coaster ever built when it opened in 2000. Cedar Point officials wondered if they had gone too far, Decker said. Was it too scary, too tall? Would only teenagers dare to ride it?

No, and no.

“When we opened up, everybody got on,” he said.

That emboldened Cedar Point executives who went on to build the even more extreme, 420-foot-tall Top Thrill Dragster.

But aside from delivering the world’s top thrills — Cedar Point has 17 roller coasters, more than any other amusement park on Earth — park executives also have to worry about making everyone happy, not just the extreme thrill-seekers.

Water rides are second in popularity only to roller coasters, said Robin Innes, a spokesman for the park.

Cedar Point will have three water rides after Shoot the Rapids opens. The two incumbents are Snake River Falls, which puts riders in a big boat that takes a plunge into the water, leaving its passengers soaked, and Thunder Canyon, a river rafting ride.

Shoot the Rapids fills the slot for a traditional flume ride, a ride in which boats float along in a water trough, Innes said, although it uses a chain to get up the first hill. A vacancy for a flume ride was created when the last one, White Water Landing, was dismantled after the 2005 season to make room for Maverick, which opened in 2007.

Guests have been asking for another water ride, said John Hildebrandt, the park’s general manager.

“Our guests wanted another option to cool off on warm summer days,” he said.

It’s also meant as a ride that everyone can enjoy, including Grandma and little kids, Decker said.

“We are hoping we can catch families and not dissuade the thrill seekers from coming to the park,” he said.