Custom Coasters International (CCI) has seen great critical success in recent years as the company builds one wood coaster after another to rave reviews. In 2000 alone CCI brought seven new gems to the industry. We recently secured a few moments of Denise Dinn-Larrick's time to chat with her about her company's stellar rides.
CB: Tell me a little bit about how you ended up carrying on the family legacy.
DDL: After working on some of my dad’s projects I really started enjoying the art of wooden roller coaster construction. So it was born into me. Once it is in your blood, you have to either love it or hate it. I would have to say I love it based on completing 32 wooden coaster tracks.
CB: CCI has enjoyed incredible success in the past few years with dozens of new rides. What do you think makes your wood coasters so popular among enthusiasts and the general public?
DDL: Creativity in design and fitting them into the park make the rides special. No two roller coasters are the same. We have some wonderful design engineers that are perfectionists. The trackers and the construction workers carry on that perfection so the rides perform as designed. With the rides, we try to tell a story from beginning to end, and this is a team effort. It has taken a while to get where we are, and we like the front seat.
CB: Enthusiast mythology says that you were quoted as never wanting to build an excessively tall coaster. Is that true, and how do you feel about the notion that “bigger is better?”
DDL: I do not think that bigger is better. You can build an excellent, thrilling ride at 50 to 70 feet tall based on the profile, banking and thrill factor. If you look at most of the top rated wooden rides, you will find that smaller rides contend for the top spots. In addition, bigger is not always better because the long-term maintenance involved.
CB: Did you ever expect your relatively young company to do as much as it has so soon?
DDL: We have a good product, and we were confident it would do well. We have filled a void in the industry for affordable, world-class rides.
CB: What is the reason for using steel support structures?
DDL: In addition to the maintenance cost, smaller ground space is a big factor. The galvanized steel structure also gives the opportunity to build where there are environmental issues such as proximity to salt water.
CB: How do you choose the trains you use on your rides? Is it your call, or a decision made with the customer?
DDL: The train decision is ultimately up to the park. They are always looking for a lower maintenance train, and we try to fill their needs.
CB: Boulder Dash was a huge success this year. What special challenges did you face in designing the ride? Would you do another on the side of a mountain if a customer wants it?
DDL: Some of the main challenges were the foundations and getting to the ride. A large amount of the ride was inaccessible by most equipment because of trees and boulders. Of course we would build another – whatever the customer wants.
CB: Tell me a little bit about your design process. Do you borrow from previous designs? Do you have any “classic” influences? Do the customers generally give you free reign?
DDL: We design the rides around the park’s features and what the park owner wants, based on his experiences. The design is a group effort among the CCI staff with input from the park personnel.
CB: Do you have any favorites among you complete projects?
DDL: The last one I was on. I like them all, because they are all different.
CB: Enthusiasts can’t go a day without using the word “airtime.” Is that one of the most critical elements of a wood coaster?
DDL: If you don’t have airtime, you don’t have a woodie. Who wants just g-forces? How boring is that? You have got to mix it up with a variety, and we strive for that perfect balance.
CB: Loops on woodies: Comments or feelings?
DDL: I feel inversions made completely of wood need to be perfected, but they can be done well.
CB: How do you feel about the state of the amusement industry? Are we on a roll in our strong economy? Do you see the building craze of 2000 continuing in to the next several years?
DDL: I think we are up to date in the states, but not overseas. I don’t think the industry will ever stop growing. However, it is on a two-year cycle, and this can be seen in the majority of parks.
CB: There are a lot of young CoasterBuzz members who want to get into the coaster design and manufacture field. Do you have any advice for these kids?
DDL: I hate to depress them, but there are only so many parks, new roller coasters and manufacturers. Learn all you can about the science behind roller coasters. Have a good attitude about it and see what happens.