You know that feeling when you’re on the cusp of passing out but you don’t dare because you might miss what’s next? Then step on up to ride the Jurassic World VelociCoster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. If you dare.
This ride is not for the faint of heart or men with baby stomachs. More on that in a moment. Looking at you, Matt Austin.
On this week’s edition of Florida’s Fourth Estate podcast, anchors Ginger Gadsden and Matt Austin speak with the man who knows every twist and turn of this thrilling new ride and he should because he’s responsible for all the twists, turns, drops, speed and everything in between.
Gregory Hall is the creative director at Universal Creative. He’s basically the man who turns your wildest roller coaster fantasy into a reality.
Hall says he wanted to give guests a thrill.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “We want to build this for the guests. We want to give them what they wanted, what they are asking for and surpass that.”
Mission accomplished. Talk to any breathless rider who just stepped off the ride and they will tell you they could have never imagined how many surprises were in store. Not to mention its building speed. The VelociCoaster has about 4,700 feet of track. That means for more than 2 minutes there is no stopping, slowing or braking until it’s over. No time to recover from a drop or a dip, only time to get ready for the next roller coaster revelation.
The VelociCoaster has four inversions, two launches and a 155-foot tall “Top Hat” which gives the illusion of flying over Islands of Adventure before you are drooped 140 feet.
At a top speed of 70 mph, it is the fastest coaster at any Universal park. As Samuel L. Jackson said in the original Jurassic Park movie, “Hold onto your butts.”
If you have a so-called baby stomach as Matt Austin has admitted to having, then this ride is probably not for you. Unless you’re willing to reveal to the other riders what you had for lunch that day. Matt has admitted he’s not exactly a roller coaster enthusiast. His exact and scientific words to describe how these coasters made him feel are, “pukey, pukey.”
But what about the guy who designed this prehistoric beast of a ride? Hall says it’s a must that he had to test it out for himself. In fact, he said it’s the most asked question he gets. People want to know how many times he has ridden the VelociCoaster.
“I’m in the 60s,” he says with a big smile. “But some of the engineers, they are in the hundreds. One is almost at 200 rides.”
Each time he rides there is something different to look out for or experience.
“We know every single inch of the attraction and we are just looking, when we are on a ride, to make sure things are correctly going off at the right times and the right moments,” he said.
If you’ve ever watched a video of Hall on the VelociCoaster (there are plenty of videos on Twitter) riding with different people you can tell he’s anticipating just about every moment. It’s as if he’s doing a dance with a partner who is going 70 mph. You can see him anticipating each twist, turn and drop.
He’s also watching the person sitting next to him. Hall says he loves seeing the surprise looks of unsuspecting passengers and even team members.
“We’re just as excited as them because they know nothing that’s about to happen and we haven’t had that luxury of not knowing what’s on the next turn so we’re experiencing that with them. It’s sort of like you have a surprise party or gift for someone and you’re just as excited as they are to open the box to see how they are going to feel.” Hall went on to explain. “We know what’s in the box but we still want to have ‘ahhh, that’s cool right?’”
He’s not only watching for facial expressions, he’s also listening for the perfect scream. The kind you hear in a darkened theater when someone jumps out of a darkened corridor and all you can do is open wide to let the blood-curdling sound escape your face.
Hall explains, “It gets really specific. That’s the exact scream I wanted to hear right there. The exact “Oh my God!’ We’re looking for ‘oh my God.’”
I’m guessing he gets a lot of people who find religion riding his latest creation.
While all of this is fun, we can’t forget it can also be somewhat of a competition with other theme parks in the area. After all, everyone wants to boast about having the fastest, tallest, longest, scariest and most mind-blowing ride in town. Hall say’s he doesn’t see it as a competition with other parks, rather he is competing against himself.
“Were trying to raise the bar for ourselves with this. This ride, which I love the most about it, it’s only something that we can do here at Universal. We have this awesome intellectual property, Jurassic World and you know we could really just enhance the thrills.
Part of being at Universal and Island’s of Adventure is it’s a rite of passage. We have the rides where, ‘Hey mom and dad, i’m a big kid now, right, and I need to ride that thing.’ That’s a big kid ride.
So this is the opportunity for us to raise the bar for ourselves and make the new generation of ride that people aspire to grow up and ride.”
Based on that last statement, we get the feeling Hall has a lot more thrills and intoxicating excitement up his sleeve.
Even if those rides make you a little “pukey, pukey,” we’re cool with that.
Florida’s Fourth Estate looks at everything from swampy politics to a fragile environment and even the crazy headlines that make Florida the craziest state in the Union.
Ginger Gadsden and Matt Austin use decades of experience as journalists to dissect the headlines that impact Florida. Each week they have a guest host who helps give an irreverent look at the issues impacting the Sunshine State. Big influencers, like Attorney John Morgan, renowned Florida journalists and the scientists protecting Florida’s ecosystem, can often be found as guests.
Look for new episodes every Friday on Apple podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
Listen to the full episode of Florida’s Fourth Estate on Apple podcasts here or on Sticher here.