Speculation of a new attraction for 2000 started as early as opening day 1999. As I arrived to the park opening day and drove around Perimeter Road, I quickly noticed the tracks for C.P. & L.E Railroad. The railroad had been moved over closer to road and land clearing had already begun. It was later learned that the largest foundations had already been poured over the winter so they could properly be cured by the time actual construction started.
Another thing that everyone noticed early on was the new Paddlewheel boats. They were smaller and the stacks were shorter, meaning less clearance was needed for new ride crossing overhead. Throughout the season, track arrived and stored in the old boneyard (where Lighthouse Point is now). Once that area filled up, ride pieces were stored in the Soak City parking lot. The C.P. & L.E. railroad and Paddlewheel Excursions were popular attractions that season, as coaster enthusiasts would ride to see markers and speculate about where the ride would go.
Millennium Force was announced on July 22, 1999. Construction really kicked in soon after. The only ride that closed early was the railroad due to digging foundations so close to the tracks. The last weekend or two as I arrived to the back lot the lift towers were being built in sections in the parking lot and then craned around Perimeter Road to the site.
Once the park closed for season, I kept an eye on the construction through their webcam. In early 2000, the park invited many enthusiasts to a tour in March. We then divided up into three groups and walked the entire site. The only thing that was off-limits was underneath the lift area, as work was going on and unsafe. A “pull-through” car was on the course. A pull-through car applied a piece of plywood to the car to simulate the shape of outstretched hands. The car was pulled through the course with cables and pulleys to check the clearances. Apparently, that was not good enough as after the first season a support on the first overbanked turn was modified due to multiple guests reaching out and smacking it.
I rode Millennium Force the weekend before opening day during company buyout. Longaberger Basket bought the park on that Saturday and then Sunday was sold-out to AAA and a couple of other companies. I went on Sunday as well. After getting my first Magnum ride of year, I headed over to Millennium Force, where it was already packed. I waited about two and a half hours with a two-train operation (they were not certified to run three yet). The thing that was better about a two-train operation is the lift started at full speed. Whereas with three trains the train started up the lift at slower speed until the train ahead cleared the final block, then sped up.
Knowing that the lift would not slow down as it crested the top, my first ride was in back seat. It was a great choice! I really loved the first drop and overbank. The ride was very intense. The ride kept the high speed throughout the entire course. Media Day for Millennium Force was the following Thursday. Once that was done, the ride remained open for employees. Many enthusiasts stuck around and rode with them. I ended up with over 60 rides that day.
By - Jerry Fleming