Cedar Point’s carpenters busy all year long

From the Sandusky Register


Cedar Point in the winter can seem like an odd sight. Snow is on the ground, and it’s empty and quiet.

The picnic shelter near the park’s entrance is boarded up from view.

Inside the temporary makeshift shelter, equipped with heaters and work tables, the seeds of Cedar Point’s spring renewal are being sown.

Bellevue resident Jim Sumser, 38, one of two carpenter foremen working for Cedar Fair, is doing his part to make sure the park will be ready to open on May 14.

The various areas in the park seem to compile lists of what’s broken and what needs to be refurbished.

During the summer, the carpenters have to concentrate on keeping things running, so the winter shutdown lets them play catch up on other tasks.

“This is pretty much our main time to get those lists completed,” Sumser said.

As Sumser spoke, a brown wooden horse with a broken leg lay stretched across a table.

“The painters have taken all of the paint off with heat guns,” Sumser said. “Once we finish it, it will go back to the painters. This particular horse is from the Kiddieland Carousel.”

The carpenters are also responsible for other tasks: Fixing the wooden decks where passengers stand as they prepare to get on a roller coaster; putting up signs; building the walls that provide the maze for guests walking through the haunted houses during Halloweekends.

The workshop has big stacks of yellow pine boards.

“We use that for the ride decks, because it is a strong material and holds up well,” Sumser said.

Sumser grew up in Sandusky and still enjoys taking his wife and children to the park.

He said he especially enjoys how his work contributes to Cedar Point.

“It’s really nice to see that people are enjoying their vacations, because of something you were a part of, that you were able to make happen,” he said.

Much of the winter work takes place outside the warm cocoon of the temporary shelter.

In fact, about half the work takes place in the cold.

“We try to keep the guys out of the really nasty weather,” Sumser said. “A lot of times, there are projects that have to get done. That’s when we have to work outside.”

As the May 14 opening date nears, the carpenters will become even busier as everyone picks up the pace.

“About the month before we open, pretty much every department is on overtime,” he said. “We pretty much are running around like crazy, trying to make all of the last-minute fixes and changes.”

Once the park is open, the carpenters work day and night on three shifts.

One shift runs from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. That way, any serious problem can be fixed promptly.

“If there’s a problem we can’t fix, it might reflect on how certain guests feel about this place,” Sumser said.

The park maintains 1,528 hotel rooms, including the rooms in Castaway Bay. Some of the issues in the hotels demand immediate action.

For example, when an electronic lock suddenly refuses to work, a carpenter is dispatched to fix it.

Usually, it simply needs power.

“We have to take the lock apart, put a new battery in,” Sumser said.

If that doesn’t fix it, the carpenter has to take the circuit board out.

Sumser doesn’t get called at home very often to deal with an emergency at work, but hotel problems can prompt such a call. A bad roof leak or a sprinkler system leak has to be fixed right away to prevent additional damage.

Sumser has been a union carpenter for 21 years. He’s a member of Carpenters Local 940, which negotiates contracts with the amusement park on behalf of the park’s carpenters.

“Recently, we just negotiated a five-year contract with Cedar Point,” he said.

Seeking the assurance of steady work and an interesting job, he went to work for Cedar Point after working in the construction business.

“It seemed pretty exciting to work in an amusement park, all of the roller coasters,” he said.

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