Patriot opens at Great America with much fanfare

Just a week into the 2017 season, California’s Great America launched Patriot on April 1, a floorless conversion of the park’s 1991 Vortex standup roller coaster.

Before the ride officially opened to the public, Great America invited ACE to a media day preview event on March 31, featuring a ribbon cutting ceremony and exclusive ride time on Patriot.

Military officers take the inaugural ride on Patriot during the media preview on March 31. | Photo: Robert Ingle

As the first floorless roller coaster in the park’s history, Patriot stands nine stories high, and reaches speeds of up to 45 mph as it traverses through a loop, hairpin turns and a corkscrew. It now sports a blue and white color scheme, allowing it to be visible in many areas of the park.

“The most exciting aspect of the ride is that from the guest perspective, they are going to be dangling their feet inches above the track,” said Great America’s Vice President and General Manager Raul Rehnborg.

Patriot on opening day, April 1. | Photo: Robert Ingle

Based on early reviews, Patriot seems to be a hit with riders.

ACE NorCal Regional Representative Nicholas Laschkewitsch said Patriot is a “real nice improvement over Vortex.”

“The train smoothed out a lot of those transitions,” he said. “With the standup, it was a little bit rougher, a little bit shakier. I think the floorless experience really added a whole new twist to the ride.”

ACE member Robert Ingle agreed.

“Patriot is a really good addition to the park,” he said. “It’s a smart way to market an older attraction.”

With Vortex, Ingle added that he would ride it once and avoid it for most of the season. It’s a different story now with Patriot.

“It offers a much more comfortable ride experience, and I’ll actually re-ride it now,” he said.

VP and General Manager of CGA, Raul Rehnborg, poses for a photo in front of Patriot during the media preview. | Photo: Robert Ingle

Rehnborg noted that Patriot is the last attraction Great America has added during the pre-rezoning era. In January, the Santa Clara City Council approved a rezoning request by the park that will allow it to build taller rides, have a longer operating schedule and construct an entertainment district outside the main gates.

“We couldn’t be more excited about where this park is going,” he said. “The excitement that is coming here is really incredible. I encourage each and every one of you to keep an eye on what’s happening at Great America. It’s going to be an amazing ride.”

Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor said the major investment in the near future at Great America will be a boon for the city.

“This state-of-the-art roller coaster is the first of many great things that are coming to California’s Great America,” she said. “We’re excited to see California’s Great America’s new developments and appreciate Cedar Fair’s vested interest and huge investment in the community of Santa Clara.”

The media day event also offered samples of the new menu at the park’s renamed Maggie’s Smokehouse and Fried Chicken.

To celebrate Patriot’s opening, Great America is offering free admission to current and past military members through May 29.

For information, visit www.cagreatamerica.com.

About Erik Chalhoub

Erik Chalhoub is the Managing Editor at the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian newspaper (and a roller coaster fanatic!). He is also the proud recipient of the 2016 ACE NorCal Richard Tuck Spirit Award.

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