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Lagoon's iconic roller coaster turns 100

Posted at 10:10 PM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 00:10:11-04

FARMINGTON, Utah — Few man-made structures are as much a part of Utah’s cultural heritage as Lagoon’s Roller Coaster.

Starting in 1921, it has lifted it’s riders 62 feet off the ground for a quick view westward toward the Great Salt Lake before sending them on a series of hills and dips over the next 2,500 feet.

The ride is the same today, even if the cars are more high-tech, and the wooden structures that support them have been replaced multiple times due to age.

In the memories of many Utahns, the Lagoon Roller Coaster is white.

“Originally it was brown,” Jake King told FOX 13.

King is the Head Carpenter of the Roller Coaster.

“The white paint isn't a necessity anymore. We use a treated lumber now, versus back then, they used to paint it to preserve it,” King said.

King and his crews work year-round replacing the Roller Coaster’s wooden support beams, and checking it’s structure for safety.

“Despite how creaky, how much it shakes, how much it wobbles, it's not going anywhere. It's survived floods, fires, earthquakes, hurricane strength winds, and it’s still standing,” King said.

Another man who keeps the coaster going is Rides Maintenance Manager Jeremy Tullis.

“I've worked on it for 20 years. I'm gonna hit my 20 year anniversary about the same time it hits it's hundred year anniversary,” he told FOX 13.

Tullis often works in an area underneath the Roller Coaster’s loading station that visitors don’t see, where technology and safety features are constantly updated.

“I put my family on it. So it means a lot to me to make sure it’s safe and ready to ride,” Tullis said.

“It's a classic. It looks fun, it looks scary, but it's not,” said Lagoon spokesperson Adam Leishman.

“This was designed by legendary coaster designer John Miller. Miller had designed coasters in Coney Island and all over the country,” Leishman said.

“He came up with innovations that roller coasters new and old are using today. When you hear the train go up, the ‘tic, tic, tic, tic’… that's the ratcheting safety rollback that John Miller invented,” Leishman said.

The Roller Coaster is the seventh-oldest in the world, fourth-oldest in the United States, and is on the National Historic Register today, but was almost destroyed by fire in 1953.

“It was an electrical fire that started it,” said Julie Freed, current Lagoon spokesperson, and granddaughter of Peter Freed who owned the park at the time of the fire.

“I remember him telling me the story of the fire in 1953. He said he got called, he looked outside, and the sky was just black,” Freed said.

The Roller Coaster’s station and first lift hill had both burned, but the rest of the ride was intact.

“The fact they rebuilt the coaster means so much to all of us,” Freed said.

Lagoon will open this coming Saturday, March 20, rain or shine.

Freed says masks will be required to be worn by guests in queue lines and other gathering places at Lagoon.