Lagoon is a powerhouse for in-house roller coaster building
Lagoon in-house head engineer, Dustin Allen is currently working on a brand new ride with unique elements never experienced before. Although he could not provide any specifics he did say he is building a mountain and that the coaster will go both through and around the mountain.
“This will be the only place in the world where you will be able to experience this ride,” he says. “When it’s finished, it will be awesome.”
Founded in 1886, not only is Lagoon one of the oldest amusement parks in the US but by designing and building their own coasters, Lagoon is also a leader in the roller coaster industry―a feat unheard of for a park their size.
“There’s definitely a history of out-of-the-box thinking at Lagoon,” says Adam Leishman, spokesperson for the park. “This approach is one of the most gratifying parts of being associated with the company.”
One of its biggest steps in distinguishing the company from the competition was hiring their own in-house engineer, Dal Freeman―an expert who famously worked on Disney’s Splash Mountain and Universal Studios’ Kongfrontation―in the 1990s. After joining the team, Freeman set an impressive standard by introducing a new ride to the park almost every year. Though at the time, these rides weren’t built in-house―they were usually built via collaboration between Freeman and different contracted companies or purchased from different ride manufacturers.
But that all changed in 2012 when Lagoon executives were looking to bring an innovative family coaster into the park.
“After looking for [an engineer] for quite a while and not finding anyone, Dal went in with the owners, David Freed and Kristen Freed and said, ‘I think we can do it ourselves. Let’s make our own [coaster],’” explains Allen of the process.
With that “let’s make our own” attitude, Freeman and his team engineered and built BomBora. Although a smaller ride built to accommodate both adult and child riders, it is still complicated including sudden drops, banked turns, and compound spirals―all to a rock and roll soundtrack. Not only that, but almost everything, besides the train and control equipment, on BomBora was fabricated, built, and installed in Utah.
“It wasn’t a real innovative ride at all, but the innovation of it really was the process of managing both the design and the build,” says Allen. “And doing that made it so that we could get exactly the coaster we originally wanted when we started out trying to find a family coaster [for the park].”
Shortly after construction on BomBara was complete, the owners decided that if they could build a little coaster, then they could definitely build a big one. So they immediately began drafting plans for a much more complex ride.
The idea for Cannibal started with a hand-drawn colored pencil sketch and quickly evolved into a ride so intricate that certain loops have never been replicated by other rides, including the Lagoon Roll named by Allen himself. Additionally, Cannibal also has two patents on the design of the seats and restraints.
Since the ride opened in 2015, the same year Freeman retired, Allen was the head engineer on the project, and he says he still gets excited about Cannibal six years later. “Any given day at the opening, we still have groups of people running to be the first ones on that ride, every single day still. Six years later, we still have that. It’s so much fun to see the riders come off of that ride and high-fiving, smiling and laughing and talking about how cool this was or how cool that was. That’s the thing that I love about my job. It’s so gratifying and gives me such a feeling of accomplishment when you do something that makes somebody happy. I love it.”
Allen credits his freedom to create and push the boundaries in coaster creation to the leadership of the Freed family who took over Lagoon after World War II. “The [Freeds] are not just doing those kinds of things to make the company successful. They are passionate about it and they really care for the park and hopefully, that shows in our final products. They try to keep the charm and the history of the park but they are also adding new attractions. It’s a family-owned business and you really feel when you work for them that you are part of the family.”