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Launching the sooperdooperLooper

Billboard advertising a new ride coming to Hersheypark for the 1977 summer season.
Billboard advertising a new ride coming to Hersheypark for the 1977 summer season.

The early years of the newly redesigned Hersheypark were filled with highs and lows. In 1972 Hurricane Agnes had closed the Park for nine days and caused it to suffer significant budget shortfalls. 1973 marked the new Park’s first truly successful season and erased all doubts about the wisdom of redeveloping Hersheypark as a themed amusement park. The energy crisis of 1974 again caused financial challenges and forced the Park to scale back its redevelopment plans. Hersheypark’s success was firmly established a few years later, with the addition of the sooperdooperLooper which marked Hersheypark’s entry into the category of nationally recognized theme parks.

This coaster was the first looping coaster on the East Coast and only the second of its kind in the United States. The new coaster was the Park’s most expensive ride at that point, costing more than $3 million. Building a proto-type roller coaster created a major challenge for the Park and presented unbelievable problems. Being a new style ride, the Park would practically re-engineer the ride from the original plans before being satisfied with the ride’s operation. All the bugs had not been worked out by opening day. That day the Park’s General Manager, Bruce McKinney, and his wife Sally boarded the ride car to officially launch the ride. The ride successfully made it through the loop only to only to get stuck on the next rise. Park engineers were unable to get the ride to move and the passengers had to exit the ride by walking down the catwalk, witnessed and documented by news photographers and television cameras.

In spite of such an eventful launch the ride made the Park’s 1977’s season a huge success. Hundreds of thousands of people came to the Park that year to ride or simply to watch the new looping roller coaster. The most popular Park souvenir that summer was a T-Shirt with the words “I Survived the sooperdooperLooper.” That year the Park set daily attendance records that still stand as record breaking days to this day. The summer of 1977 would stand as the Park’s most successful season for years to come.

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