Watch a timelapse of the construction here: https://youtu.be/_YglmqFK8jw
Courtesy Amusement Today: Tim Baldwin firstname.lastname@example.org
Established in 2009, the National Roller Coaster Museum and Archives facility in West Texas is seeing considerable growth.
In its first decade, the property expanded from the original warehouse to three, along with a climate-controlled archival room. Donations from American Coaster Enthusiasts were able to get the initial building up and purposed. Placed on land donated by Larson International, collections and roller coaster vehicles now had a home. A donation from Cliff’s Amusement Park added a second, connected warehouse, essentially doubling the space, along with the archive room which houses major collections of blueprints and historic materials. Knoebels Amusement Resort donated funds to continue expansion with a third connecting warehouse as collections began to amass.
Those steps were just the beginning.
The NRCMA board, comprised of industry professionals and enthusiasts, have recently swung for the bleachers. From those original storage warehouses came a plan for a usable and engaging museum space.
“As something that started only four years ago with a fundraising drive to honor former museum board member Mark Moore, it’s exciting to see the building expansion as it comes to fruition,” said Jerry Willard, NRCMA treasurer. “Donations have allowed the museum to purchase materials and services to erect the building and construct the interiors, while volunteers have provided most of the labor for free, so limited dollars can stretch further and accomplish more.”
Over the past year, much work has been done. Two new additions have seen auspicious progress. The new museum hall is well underway. The grand space is 8,400 square feet, but also features a mezzanine offering 2,400 square feet, making that entire building more than 10,000 square feet to be used for exhibits. The new hall is all climate controlled. In addition, what the NRCMA board terms the “connector building” is an additional 1,620 feet. When added to the original warehouses (7,840 square feet), the completed installation will soon offer close to 20,000 square feet of usable space.
One of the most active board members is Amusement Today Publisher Gary Slade. As a frequent recipient of industry donations and a liaison with Larson International in propelling momentum, Slade is a frequent visitor who transports materials and donations to Plainview.
“The connector building is 95% complete,” Slade reported. “It serves as the entrance to the museum, has a lobby area, a welcome theater, restrooms and utilities. From it, there are entrance portals to the new museum as well as the storage warehouses. One of the nicest parts is a bar/reception area that has a lot of details that coaster fans will love.”
Those Easter eggs come from both repurposed and custom-made aesthetic touches. A bar was donated by Rocky Mountain Construction and was first seen at the Golden Ticket Awards in Idaho last fall. Made from repurposed wood from Cedar Point’s Mean Streak, the bar top also has Ben Schiff kiddie coaster parts from Fun Spot America (Kissimmee) embedded into the wood below the acrylic surface. Larson International created a custom-made lighting fixture above the bar that uses sculpted metal to give flair to the room, while at the same time using repurposed wood from Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Colossus.
More Easter eggs follow throughout for coaster aficionados. One of the portal entrances is a barn door constructed from wood reclaimed from AstroWorld’s Texas Cyclone, of which some structure is on display in the museum. The mezzanine’s entire floor is repurposed wood from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s Gwazi, and the staircase to the upper floor is created from ledgers from Mean Streak and supported by track from Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Big Bad Wolf.
“The mezzanine is for lightweight exhibits,” said Slade. “It could be models, signage, souvenirs, etc. The heavy-weight artifacts will be on the main floor. As for the mezzanine floor, you can see the drill holes, stains and where other boards have come in. It’s really neat to look at. It’s really solid, too.”
The intention for the mezzanine is to have a general flow as visitors walk through the upstairs exhibit. Elevated 12 feet in the air, right at the edge of the mezzanine is a Hersheypark train from Gerstlauer that ran on the park’s SooperdooperLooper roller coaster, which can be viewed from below or from the mezzanine. Larson created the track on which the train is positioned. One of the displays on the mezzanine will be an updated version of the historical timeline of the roller coaster that was first displayed at the IAAPA Expo in 2013.
Below the mezzanine, the current plan is to display the NRCMA’s considerable collection of models. Protected by plexiglass, visitors can stroll through and see various rides and attractions portrayed in miniature for promotional reasons over the years. Slade hopes to showcase close to 20 models in that space.
Once final spacing is determined in the new grand hall, water park artifacts and other donated items can be evaluated for display or rotation. The main focus — as the facility’s name implies — is on roller coasters.
Overseeing the construction is Hunter Novotny, VP of sales and marketing, Larson International.
“The museum is really beginning to come to life. We’re beginning to transition from a building construction project to the stages of filling the building with meaningful artifacts and décor,” said Novotny. “As we finish the first stage of construction in the connector building that serves as our entrance, theater and restrooms, one can really start to see the space change from a set of enclosed spaces to a museum.”
Progress on the main room has now allowed the initial exhibits and vehicles to find their way into the museum hall.
“Virtually every piece of roller coaster hardware currently in those buildings will move into the new museum showroom,” said Slade.
“Placing the first few items in the museum has definitely gotten our team excited and proud to see all of their work come together to form something that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world,” said Novotny.
Once that is accomplished, the previous warehouses become usable space for expanded archive rooms, storage and overflow areas. When the power is turned on in the museum showroom, it will be the equivalent to that of four 2,000-square-foot homes.
Several industry companies have also come on board to show support. Baynum Painting was involved with the polished, painted concrete throughout the new additions. Amuse Rides has recently refurbished sections of Texas Cyclone track to be structurally sound to be moved and placed inside the museum. With design work provided by Skyline Attractions, Great Coasters International, Inc. is building a section of display track for Idlewild’s Rollo Coaster train to be displayed with flair. American Coaster Enthusiasts, Larson International, Ride Entertainment, Gerstlauer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Uremet and Vekoma have provided monetary donations.
In a year where every single move seems impacted by COVID-19, it has proven to be a double-edged sword in this case.
“The virus has been ironically helpful in that it has created a lot of free time,” Slade said. “There’s no trade shows or sales trips. We can’t do the things that we normally would do, so we can dedicate time to the museum. [Larson] has dedicated six to eight people a day working in the museum building. That physical labor has helped some things come about very quickly. But that will slow down eventually. However, the health crisis has created a hiccup in fundraising.”
Slade is quick to acknowledge that donations from ACE continue to help keep things moving forward.
“Additional financial assistance and donations are appreciated so that exhibits and displays can be developed to make the dream of an operating museum a reality. We are closer than ever to that reality,” said Willard.
Slade reported that a target of Fall 2022 is possible for completion, but also noted that doing things right is of importance, even if it has to extend beyond that goal. Already, displays and signage are being written and produced.
“I have personally been helping in the process of bringing some of the display concepts to life by taking our models and sketches and creating shop drawings for building some of the track sections and supports for the vehicles and signage,” said Novotny. “With a ton of help from the team here, we are making headway to something that we hope can be appreciated for years to come!”