By Tim Kelly
Just two years after its Gale Force roller coaster changed the face of amusements – and the skyline – in Ocean City, Playland’s Castaway Cove is adding four new rides for 2019.
The historic park is not standing pat as crews energetically prepare for its 60th year in front of the Flanders Hotel at 10th Street and the Boardwalk.
“Nobody adds rides like we do on a regular basis,” said vice president Brian Hartley, who oversees day-to-day operations.
This year is no exception. In addition to the new rides, an old favorite, the High Seas log flume, is undergoing a complete renovation.
Here’s a sneak preview of the new attractions:
A brand new Double Shot. Arguably the park’s signature thrill ride before Gale Force emerged on the scene, a brand new model of almost the exact same ride has already been installed. The old one was dismantled and removed approximately three weeks ago. Riders soar 110 feet above the ground with a force of 4 G’s on the way up and 2 G’s on the descent, not once, but twice – hence the ride’s name.
“The new one has a little bit updated technology and different colors, but it’s essentially the same ride that has been so popular,” Hartley said.
The Matterhorn. Hartley describes this as a “music express type ride. It has a fast circular motion the kids will really enjoy.” It consists of passenger cars attached to axles that swing in and out. As the ride picks up speed, the swinging motion becomes more dramatic.
Squadron 66. This new “airplane” ride is sure to be popular with fans of interactive amusements. The planes travel in a circular motion and can move at a 45-degree angle using a flap the rider controls.
A new 3-lane Super Slide. Sometimes the best rides are the “old school” low-tech ones. Visitors climb to a height high above the park and jump on top of what is essentially a burlap bag. A little push and gravity does the rest. It’s a gleaming new attraction sure to be even more popular than the old slide, a standby for decades, that has been absent the last few seasons.
In another improvement, the steel structure of the High Seas log flume has been galvanized, Hartley said, and has been reconditioned and given a fresher look for this season.
Hartley said he and Castaway Cove owner Scott Simpson attend industry trade shows each year to look for ways to continue improving the park and keeping it fresh for visitors. Simpson is the second generation owner who took over for his late father, David, who founded the park in 1959 and built it where the Flanders’ former salt water pool was once located.
The company, formally known as SNT Amusement Co., also owns the Go-Kart ride adjacent to the park, mini golf at 9th and 11th streets, Dippin Dots ice cream and Dairy Queen, among other Boardwalk entertainment and food staples.
In 2015, Simpson showed his belief in the future of “America’s Greatest Family Resort,” as Ocean City calls itself, when he announced plans for the Gale Force and began construction the following year. It made its debut in time for the 2017 season.
The roller coaster soars 125 feet above street level and is one of the first things visitors notice, as is the Double Shot, when traveling into town via the 9th Street Causeway.
The coaster has a top speed of 64 miles per hour, and has taken Castaway Cove to another level in popularity. The park boasts some of the tamest so-called “family fun rides” as well as those that appeal to veteran daredevil riders.
The combination has proven to be a hit. However, Hartley said management of Castaway Cove always searches for ways to re-invest in the park and the town’s resort culture.
“We have more than 100,000 visitors a year,” he said, while noting it is impossible to calculate how many actual people pass through, since many are multiple guests.
“Between July 4 and Labor Day in a typical year, we will have between 6,000 and 7,000 people visiting each day,” said Hartley.
This time around, they will have a lot more to explore and experience at Playland’s Castaway Cove.