Six Flags ramps up work on Texas Giant roller coaster

ARLINGTON -- Six Flags Over Texas won't reopen its popular Texas Giant roller coaster until next year, but on Wednesday amusement park officials whetted the appetite of coaster enthusiasts by announcing that the ride will once again become one of the fastest in the world.

Steve Martindale, Six Flags Over Texas president, said some "serious math and physics" went into the design of a $10 million renovation. The 20-year-old ride will have a top speed of 65 mph, the steepest drop in the world at 79 degrees, the steepest bank of any wooden roller coaster at 95 degrees, and "a lot more air time."

About 15 percent of the Texas Giant's wooden structure is being rebuilt, and the steel track is being replaced. It's also getting new passenger trains, and braking and control systems, Martindale said.

"It will be as smooth as glass," he said Wednesday. "Today the real excitement begins. What we've got right here is a new crossbreed. It's going to take the entire industry by storm."

Crews on Wednesday laid the first piece of the new red track that will replace the existing mile-long rail system.

Rocky Mountain Construction Group, based in Hayden, Idaho, is handling the work. The company has worked on roller coasters at other Six Flags parks.

Park officials expect roller-coaster riders from around the world to convene in Arlington next spring for the ride's reopening. More than 700,000 guests rode the Texas Giant in the 2009 season, and that could top 1 million in 2011, Martindale said.

"Everyone is always looking for that next big thing," he said.

Six Flags opens Saturday for its 2010 season. The park has added a few attractions to its lineup this year, including:

Dick Clark's Face the Music: An interactive trivia show testing guests' music and entertainment knowledge.

Robots from Mars: A computer-animated ride in which guests help Mad Doctor, Sparky the Robot and other mechanical misfits defeat the evil Supervisor of Mars and save the universe.

Bamboozle Roadshow Festival: The national tour will stop at Six Flags on May 29. It features All Time Low, Boys Like Girls, Hanson, Good Charlotte, Cartel, Forever the Sickest Kids, the Downtown Fiction, the Ready Set, Vita Chambers, Great Big Planes, Mercy Mercedes and Cady Groves.

SANDRA BAKER, 817-390-7727