The year Rocky Point put a *cork* in it! (Part I)

“Rocky Point is getting what?!”

That was the reaction of most Rocky Point Park faithful in late 1983 when they learned that their traditional Warwick, RI park would be getting an esteemed Arrow Development Corkscrew coaster for the 1984 season.  I mean, Corkscrew coasters were staples in the big theme parks such as Knotts Berry Farm and Cedar Point Park, but *little* Rocky Point?  You gotta be kidding me?!

 

 

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To better appreciate how significant this addition was, let’s look back at the company that designed the Corkscrew.  Arrow Development operated 1946 to 2001 and had several different names over its run under different ownerships and locations.  It produced some famous hyper coasters (those that surpass 200-feet high) in its later years.  But here we’ll focus on Arrow’s contribution to Rocky Point Park in 1984.

First, you should know that Arrow designed and built many rides for the opening of Disneyland in 1955, but it was in 1959 that Arrow answered a huge challenge from Walt Disney when the company built the world’s first tubular steel roller coaster inside a faux mountain.  Witness the Matterhorn!  Virtually every roller coaster since the Matterhorn can trace its lineage to Arrow’s breakthrough innovation on the now-classic Disneyland ride.

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As for Arrow’s Corkscrew coaster, ten exact replicas of this same design were produced 1975–1979 at a bunch of theme parks, followed by numerous other installations around the world featuring updated supports. After being sold as the prototype, the Corkscrew originally operated at Knott’s Berry Farm from 1975-89.  Developed by Arrow’s Ron Toomer (May 31, 1930 – September 26, 2011), the Corkscrew was the first modern steel inverting roller coaster open to the public.

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Ron Toomer with one of his hyper looping coaster designs

But getting back to Rocky Point…on November 22, 1981, Huss Trading Corporation acquired Arrow Development. The new company registered in Utah as Arrow-Huss, with design and administrative offices in Scott’s Valley, CA.  At that time, Arrow had already moved on to designing much larger and dynamic coasters.

According to a former Rocky Point general manager David Cascioli , “ I had the pleasure of working directly with Arrow’s Ron Toomer.  Two of RP’s owners and I signed the deal directly with the President of Arrow Development in 1983. Huss was not involved. Later in 1983 we flew to Toronto to meet the the President of Huss. Can’t remember his name but we had worked with him previously relative to the Enterprise (1977) and other discussions. Now it was Arrow Huss.  It was built from scratch for Rocky Point. Thus the meetings with Ron Toomer because the loop was an added feature to the original Corkscrew. It was built at Arrow’s original factory in Salt Lake City, Utah.”

Installion began at Rocky Point following the 1983 season.  It was erected on the site of Kiddieland.  Ironically, Kiddieland was on the footprint of park’s former Wildcat wooden coaster (1926 to 1938).  The kiddie rides, such as the Flivvers below, were relocated elsewhere on the midway, so that a new monster of the midway could be built.

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The Corkscrew construction was a fascinating sight to behold!
Cork BuildCork Construct.jpg

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It wasn’t too long before promotional collateral began appearing.

Corkscrew Ad

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Rocky Point management scheduled a Press Day for the media to experience the coaster and shoot on-ride photos.  The Providence Journal was all over the opportunity, capturing these images below.  As you can see, much of the coaster’s amenities weren’t complete at that time.  But from the looks of things, the thrills were in full swing!

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After the Corkscrew’s opening, the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) paid a visit.

ACE 2

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Ace

Arrow-Huss filed for bankruptcy late in November 1984, yet soon reorganized and went on, five years later, to build the world’s first coaster to surpass the 200-foot barrier: Magnum XL-200 at Cedar Point Park in Sandusky, Ohio.  Below is a photo I took of the Magnum in 1998.  It’s another Ron Toomer masterpiece, giving Rocky Point’s Toomer-designed Corkscrew even more significance.

Magumn 1998

So how did the Corkscrew impact Rocky Point Park after 1984?

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To be continued….

 

Photo Credits:

Providence Journal

Anita Cerri Ferla

You Must Be This Tall

Rhode Trip Photography

Jake Tasho

John Carothers

Adam Townsend

Scott Brown

Marilyn Creelman

Paul Paliotta

George LaCross

 

 

 

 

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