Construction crews get on board unusual project for Green Bay
Miron Construction crews faced a steep learning curve when the company took on construction of a wooden roller coaster in Green Bay.
The Neenah-based company had never built a roller coaster before, but it was a challenge that excited everyone involved, said Kurt Wolfgram, project manager.
Not just any ride, the wooden Zippin’ Pippin’ Roller Coaster is a replica of Elvis Presley’s favorite ride at Libertyland Amusement Park in Memphis, Tenn.
“Everyone’s more excited to come to work every day when they get to work on something that’s on the news,” Wolfgram said. “They get to tell their family, ‘I built that.’”
Crews spent an entire Wisconsin winter working on the coaster.
Despite the difficulty of working on sharp vertical curves, the job of connecting parts wasn’t much different than on most construction projects, he said.
“It’s something new and exciting,” Wolfgram said. “We looked at the plans and felt it was something we were capable of doing.”
Adding the roller coaster to the park was a risk for Green Bay. The city bought the name and the design of the historic roller coaster with the goal of giving new life the city’s Bay Beach Amusement Park, the ninth oldest amusement park in the country. But the down economy had some taxpayers wary of the $3 million price tag for construction.
That put the pressure on Miron to make sure the project was done on time and on budget, and executed flawlessly.
The original Zippin’ Pippin’ dates back to the 1920s and operated for 75 years to rave reviews.
Cincinnati-based Gravity Group Inc.’s engineering work kept the design to original specifications.
The tools and skills needed to piece the ride together gave modern-day Miron a challenge, however. The nails needed to secure the rails to the frame were too big for an air gun, forcing the work to be done by hand.
“It brings you back to the basics of carpentry,” Wolfgram said, “when you can’t use a lot of power.”
Team members fabricated all components on the ground in order to get buy-in from the engineer to erect the vertical supports.
Careful planning kept the work on schedule, and the Zippin’ Pippin’ opened to riders when the park opened in May.
“We needed 200,000 riders to retire our bond payment, at a dollar a ride,” Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt said. “People said we’d never hit those numbers.
“The Zippin’ Pippin’ had 452,000 riders last year.”
— Jennifer Pfaff