(March 13, 2015) For all the high-rise hotels and condos of previous decades’ building booms, the resort’s great engineering marvel of the most recent 10 years may very well be–a go-kart track.
Speedworld, the karting facility at the Jolly Roger Amusement Park on 30th Street, plans to open its new, elevated, spiraling kart track to the public this weekend, weather permitting.
Dubbed “Cyclone: The World’s First Cart Coaster,” the track stands five stories tall on the park’s northern edge, just south of 32nd Street. The raceway is more than 1,500 feet long, built on 78 pilings that are buttressed together by 22,320 square feet of lumber and 83,000 steel bolts.
“We didn’t want to build just ‘another track,’” said Steve Pastusak, Jolly Roger’s general manager. “We’re hoping this becomes a destination.”
Speedworld is already the highest-volume go-kart facility on the East Coast, with 10 tracks and more than 500 cars. Now, it’s one of only three with a multi-deck track–the others being located in Tennessee and Florida.
“The amusement industry, like a lot of industries, is in constant flux,” said Dean Langrall, director of sales and marketing for Bay Shore Development, Jolly Roger’s parent company.
“You have to grow continually to keep your visitors coming back. We’ve had something new, if not every year, then the vast majority of years since I’ve been here.”
The Cyclone occupies space formerly taken up by two older Speedworld tracks, which were used as low-speed courses for children and families. The move is part of Jolly Roger’s overall strategy to continue building more headline attractions, while modifying existing structures to continue to accommodate the family demographic. In Speedworld’s case, more tracks will be open this year to children riding with parents.
“We’ve moved to having double-seater karts on more tracks,” Pastusak said. “It was a whole process for us to be able to accommodate families on other tracks before building more adult attractions.”
Last year, the park purchased 200 new karts, mostly twin-seaters. This year, the investment went into building the Cyclone, and purchasing 40 additional karts dedicated to the new track. Because of the long, spiraling incline, karts used on the Cyclone have tighter gear ratios to in order to maintain enough power to accelerate uphill.
Remarkably, the track was built by Jolly Roger’s staff, in keeping with the park’s history of using its own people to build custom infrastructure.
Speedworld has existed in some form, Langrall said, since the park opened in 1964 with a dirt kart track and a golf range.
“For the most part, the park has been built by the people who’ve worked here over the past 50 years,” Langrall said. “Between our full-time staff and the people we bring on for projects, we have the manpower.”
Construction on the Cyclone began the Tuesday after Labor Day this past year, and the structure itself was done by December. Setup of the karts and the electronic control system, which can remotely stop and start the karts via a central control panel, took another few weeks.
Now that the Cyclone is finished, Speedword is scheduled to be open weekends through the spring and fall, even when Jolly Roger’s signature water rides are shuttered.
“We’re looking to expand the season farther into the shoulder,” Langrall said. “It used to be we would roll up everything after Labor Day, except for a few things down at the pier that stayed open on weekends.”
Jolly Roger holds a long-term franchise with the city to operate rides on the downtown pier, including the iconic ferris wheel. The 30th Street park, at 35 acres, is the largest privately-owned contiguous land parcel in Ocean City.