Monday, January 05, 2015

Merriott's Great America, 1984

Today I have some nice "special guest photos" from Ken Martinez to share, featuring Marriott's Great America in Santa Clara, California (circa 1984). It is now called "California's Great America", and is owned by Cedar Fair. I used to drive past this park once in a while when some of my siblings lived in San Jose, but never actually went to it; I think it might have been closed during large chunks of the year, opening for the Spring and Summer.

As always, Ken has provided some helpful info to go along with the pictures. This first one is a view from the Sky Whirl (an Intamin Triple Wheel). A triple wheel?? I think Magic Mountain used to have a double wheel (as did Hershey Park), but I don't recall ever seeing a triple wheel. Nice view!

Here's another shot from the Sky Whirl, looking at a coaster called "The Demon" - a loop/corkscrew coaster from Arrow Development. I wish I had a "then and now" comparison so that we could see how the Santa Clara Valley has changed over the last 30 years.

Now we're at ground-level looking at the corkscrew section of The Demon roller coaster. Wheeee! I wonder how much change (and how many wallets/hats/cell phones/dentures) they find in that pond at the end of a day?

There's one of those free fall rides; this one is called "The Edge". I haven't decided if I like free fall rides or not! I guess the old "Maliboomer" at DCA was OK, and I do like "Tower of Terror", so I guess I have to vote "yea".

Here's another shot from the Sky Whirl, this time featuring The Tidal Wave, which Ken tells us is an Intamin shuttle-loop coaster. Reminds me of Magic Mountain's "Montezooma's Revenge".

And finally, here's a very nice shot of The Tidal Wave in action. I still love loops in roller coasters, especially looking out to the side to watch the world turn upside down. It's freaky! But fun.

THANKS to Ken Martinez for sharing these photos with us!


Nanook said...


Thanks for sharing these great images from MGA. It's been a long time since I've been there, but it all looks very familiar.

TokyoMagic! said...

I have always regretted not making it to Magic Mt. for my first visit until just after their "double wheel" (The Galaxy) had been taken out. Does anyone know if this "triple wheel" is still at Great America or if there are any versions of this attraction still in existence in any parks?

I remember hearing at the time that Knott's was running their commercial for the then-new Montezooma's Revenge (in 1978), that the footage was actually of Great America's Tidal Wave attraction because the Knott's version wasn't finished yet.

TokyoMagic! said...

P.S. Great pics! Thanks for sharing these, Ken!

Chuck said...

These are great, Ken!

I visited Marriott's Great America once back in '76, the year it opened, and it's still a wonderful memory. I had my souvenir map for years, and I used to imagine returning often, but since we left California in '76, it never happened.

Strongest memories are the two-story carrousel at the entrance, the opposing flume rides, and absolutely refusing to ride the Sky Whirl (the triple Ferris wheel). I can also still remember the ad jingle - "the rides are great, the shows are great, the fun is Marriott's Great America." And now that will be in my head all day.

Unknown said...

I spent many many days there every summer. For some reason The Tidal Wave used to scare the heck out of me.

K. Martinez said...

Nanook - glad you like these. The original theme of the park has pretty much been obliterated.

TokyoMagic! - Unfortunately the Sky Whirls (Triple Wheel) have been removed from the Great America parks both here in California and in Illinois.

These pics show the whole ride where you can imagine the mechanical movement. One wheel was always loading while the other two wheels held riders up in the air and rotated. When it was time to load another wheel the whole triple-arm structure would rise (tilt upward) and rotate clockwise until the next wheel came into position and then lower (tilt-downward) into the landing. The whole cycle took about 18 minutes which was a long time. I remember being glad to get off the ride because it felt like a long time. It really was a unique creation and spectacular to see from other areas of the park.

K. Martinez said...

Chuck - The double-decker carousel is called "The Columbia". It's still there. The opposing intertwined flumes were the "Logger's Run" (logs) in Yukon Territory and the "Yankee Clipper" (boats) in Yankee Harbor. The Yankee Clipper is long gone.

I'll complete the ad jingle for you.

"It's a country of fun for Marriott's Great America

The rides are great, the shows are great, the fun is Marriott's Great America."

Paolo - I used to go quite a bit from 1976 to throughout the 80's. After that only once in a great while.

MRaymond said...

Didn't Knotts used to have a corkscrew coaster as well? Called: The corkscrew? How original.

Nanook said...

@ MRaymond-

Knott's indeed had a corkscrew. In fact, it had the first Arrow Corkscrew - which Arrow actually built on spec. Luckily Marion Knott and her husband went to Arrow. He rode it, then she gave the go-ahead, and the prototype was bought 'right out of their yard'. And the rest, as they say, is history - beginning the modern-day renaissance of the looping roller coaster. It operated from May 21, 1975 thru September 17, 1989, and is now operating at Silverwood Theme Park, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, since 1990.

DBenson said...

The 49ers' new Levi Stadium occupies what used to be Great America's parking; I think the 49ers ended up buying a stake in the park to make up for effectively closing the place on game days.

TokyoMagic! said...

I was just now looking at the satellite view of Great America on Google maps and I can't find Tidal Wave. Is that still at the park or has it been removed? Also, I see a ride called "Orleans Orbit" that looks identical to Knott's old "Loop Trainer/Flying Machine" and Magic Mountain's old "Enterprise".....does this attraction still operate at Great America? I thought these were removed from all parks back in the day due to some kind of defect in the manufacturing. If it is still operating at Great America, I'd be tempted to make the trip there just to go on that one ride!

Chuck said...

TokyoMagic! - Based on the CGA website, it looks like The Orbit, the Great America incarnation of the Enterprise, is no longer there, but there are still many examples in operation around the country (one of them just up the road from me at Six Flags St Louis).

While CGA may not have an Enterprise anymore, they do have something else that may make the trip worthwhile - one of approximately ten Von Roll Type 101 skyrides remaining in operation on the planet. Of course, if you're living in SoCal, it may not be such a big deal - there are survivors at Sea World and the San Diego Zoo.

K. Martinez said...

TokyoMagic! - The Tidal Wave is long gone along with Stealth and Invertigo coasters. The new big coaster there is Gold Striker.

Chuck - The Orbit is still there. It's shown and labeled on the pdf map.

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, thank you for the info! I hope Knott's never takes out their Montezooma's Revenge. It's such a short coaster, but I still enjoy it.

I also noticed a sky tower/observation type of attraction on the current satellite view of Great America. Did that attraction originally have a parachute ride like the one at Knott's? The towers look very similar.

Major Pepperidge said...

Wow! The Merriott's Great America photos were a hit! Way to go, Ken! ;-)

K. Martinez said...

TokyoMagic! - It was strictly an observation tower with the rotating cabin. It looks similar because it was built by the same company. A Swiss firm known as Intamin which also installed many of the skyways and sky wheels of that time. Intamin also built the Sky Whirl and Tidal Wave at Great America.

I read that inside the industry, Great America was sometimes referred to as Great Europe because so many of the attractions built there came from European companies.

K. Martinez said...

Thanks, Major. I'm glad your readers enjoyed it.

Nancy said...

great pictures!! :)

the Sky Whirl is so cool looking, very 70s to me.

at our local amusement park we had a ride in the 80s and 90s called the Laser Loop, which is called Tidal Wave here. Loved that coaster!

thanks for sharing these with us :)

Anonymous said...

I can see Willards whizzer on the right hand side of the demon photo

Anonymous said...

Just a small correction:
The Tidal Wave was NOT build by Intamin but by legendary German ride manufacturer Anton Schwarzkopf.
Other Schwarzkopf rides in this park: The Whizzer coaster, The Monster, The Calypso and I think there used to be a powered coaster from that company in the park too.

Intamin was mostly a ride broker and sales company. The rides sold under the Intamin name through out the 1980s were built by Swiss company Giovanola. At one point their top engineers (Bolliger & Mabillard) formed their own company, starting the coaster evolution in the early 1990s.

Anonymous said...

This takes me back! My mom used to bring me to Great America in the late 80's as a child, the triple wheel was one of my favorites; as a toddler, I felt like I was in a bird cage. She used to point out the office building my dad worked in to me.

My first job was in a gift shop in the park back in 2005; the park had changed a lot at that point, it was owned by Paramount. I went back summer 2014 to visit, and I feel like it's a shadow of its former self. Sad to see it lose a lot of its charm, but then again, I think most would argue its heyday was back when it was owned by Marriott.