SANTA CLARA, Calif. - California's Great America is opening a revamped version of one of its old roller coasters.
The new ride called the "Patriot" debuts Saturday. Season passholders will get to preview it Friday night.
Park management says it's just the beginning of a major expansion plan that was just approved by the city. The city of Santa Clara just approved expansion plans and rezoning the park. It allows the park operators Cedar Fairs to build rides that are up to 250-feet tall. Their highest coaster currently tops out at 110-feet tall.
"Now it's going to allow us to take this park to the next level. We're going to be able to build to heights we were never able to before bring the latest technologies add a marketplace concept and just really enhance the overall experience at Great America," Great America General Manager Raul Rahnborg said.
Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor is pleased about the expansion, which includes up to 20 rides and attractions in the next two decades. She's most excited about the construction of an entertainment district that will include restaurants in the front of the park.
"They are going to build a front gate project which will be open 24/7. They'll have shopping and entertainment so you don't need to necessarily come to the park and visit Great America, you can enjoy the front gate project," Gillmor said.
Another major project called CityPlace which includes a hotel, retail, restaurants, and housing is across the street from Great America. It's expected to be built in the next four years, right around the time new attractions will be ready at the theme park.
"It's going to stimulate our local economy by the taxes and filling up our hotels," Gillmor said.
The 9 story tall "Patriot" is the park's first floorless roller coaster. It has the same track as the Vortex, which was a stand-up roller coaster. It now has new trains which make it a sit-down version.
The first riders were members of the military. "Hitting the loop was crazy, they hit us with fireworks as soon as we came around so it was quite an experience," Marine Corp Staff Sgt. Daniel Little said.