Friday, December 15, 2000

Coaster firm says it's not at fault

Kings Island blamed for problems

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — The delays and shutdowns Paramount's Kings Island experienced last summer with Son of Beast, the world's tallest and fastest looping wooden roller coaster, was the result of the park's own poor decisions, extensive project changes and errors in construction, a spokesman with the Roller Coaster Co. of Ohio said Thursday.

        The Georgia-based coaster company, which contracted to design and build Son of Beast, defended its reputation for the first time nearly four weeks after being sued by Kings Island on charges of shoddy design and construction.

[photo] Riders top a small hill on a portion of the Son of Beast roller coaster at Paramount's Kings Island in May.
(Enquirer file photo)
| ZOOM |
        Michael Black, managing partner of Roller Coaster Co. of Ohio, issued a statement Thursday saying it was Kings Island's desire to save money, not shoddy design, that nearly doomed the park's signature attraction.

        Last month, the Mason amusement park sued three companies involved in building the $15 million coaster. The suit, filed in Warren County Common Pleas Court, claimed the design contained insufficient support structures and other defects that required Paramount Parks Inc. to hire other workers to correct. Paramount has asked for unspecified damages.

        Defendants named in the suit are Roller Coaster Co. of Ohio; Wood Structures Inc., a Georgia firm hired as the lead structural engineer; and Universal Forest Products of Hamilton, which provided the lumber.

        Mr. Black said Kings Island officials initially picked his company to oversee the ride's design and construction, but later dismissed the firm from those duties as a cost-cutting measure.

        “When they ran into budget problems early in the ride's development stage due, in part, to site development cost overruns, they advised (us) that they could no longer afford to hire an experienced contractor-manager and that they would build the coaster themselves in-house,” Mr. Black said.

        “We advised them against trying to take on such a massive and specialized building project themselves, because we felt it was beyond their capabilities and experience to handle.”

        He also charged that Kings Island officials refused to listen to recommendations or follow the procedures of his company or the project's design structural engineer, Wood Structures Inc. Those decisions resulted in many problems during construction of the ride, including federal and state safety violations and a partial structural collapse of the coaster due to inadequate bracing.

        Kings Island spokesman Jeff Siebert declined to comment about Mr. Black's statements Thursday, but said the park stands behind its lawsuit. He also reiterated that the roller coaster is safe.

        “Experience counts when a construction project is as large as Son of Beast,” Mr. Black said. “We believe that by attempting to save money by doing the job themselves, Paramount's officials in charge of the project made ill-advised decisions and errors which have cost their company millions of dollars.”

        He said Kings Island's lawsuit is merely an attempt to find a way to dispute contracted payments that are due to his company. Mr. Black said his company has filed a lawsuit for breach of contract against Kings Island in an Atlanta court.


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