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Thrill Kill? Cyclone fans fear coaster will become kinder, gentler

The Brooklyn Paper

The legendary Coney Island Cyclone will get a major overhaul that promises a safer, smoother, and less rickety experience — but roller coaster aficionados worry that the fix-up will take the thrills out of the 85-year-old thrill ride.

Beginning this month, workers will replace sections of the coaster’s wooden track that have been worn down by decades of heavy use — and the end result will be a coaster that rides more like a Cadillac than a Jeep, according to Tom Corsillo, of Central Amusement International, the owners of Luna Park who operates the city-owned coaster.

“It’s going to be a much smoother ride,” Corsillo told us.

But some Cyclone fans say getting banged around by the coaster is a big part of it’s appeal.

“There’s nothing more fun than riding the Cyclone and getting a few bruises,” said Josh Bauchner, who rides the Cyclone multiple times a year.

Bauchner was one of many coaster boosters who bemoaned the upgrades.

But Corsillo said the Cyclone’s faithful had nothing to worry about, claiming the Cyclone will now be safer, but still be scary — its top speed of 60 miles per hour will not be changed, and its hairpin turns that have been famous since the 1920s will not be affected by the update.

“What made the Cyclone popular is not changing,” Corsillo said.

Amusement experts we talked to were split on the upgrade’s impact on riders’ overall experience.

“The average person won’t be able to tell the difference,” said Jim Barber, a spokesman for the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Organizations.

But Jason Herrera, the director of Amusement Safety Organization, said hard-core fans are in for a surprise.

“The changes will take away that shake, rattle and roll,” said Herrera, who says he’s familiar with the Cyclone experience.

The coaster’s last major upgrade came in the mid-1970s, when the city saved the ride from demolition.

The coaster has seen its share of mishaps since then. In 2007, a man died after breaking his neck on the Cyclone’s first 85-foot drop. According to Herrera, 19 riders were injured on the Cyclone in 2011 — including four terrified people who bit their tongues.

Longtime neighborhood boosters say the fix-up of the Cyclone was long overdue.

“Riders should be excited, enthusiastic and grateful,” said Dick Zigun, the man behind the Coney Island Mermaid Parade and Sideshows by the Seashore.

Borough President Markowitz also applauded the renovation — but said his famous fear of strapping himself into one of the cars won’t be abated, no mater how “safe” the ride becomes.

“I never once considered safety issues in my decision not to ride it,” said Markowitz. “It’s always a matter of feeling more secure with my two feet planted firmly on Brooklyn soil and sand — cheering on the riders with a Nathan’s hot dog in hand.”

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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