POWELL — The American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) on Saturday unveiled an ACE Roller Coaster Landmark plaque for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Sea Dragon, the oldest operating roller coaster in Ohio. Sea Dragon, which opened in 1956, is also considered an ACE Coaster Classic owing to its traditional operating methods, including hand-pulled manual brakes and no seat dividers.
The designation as an ACE Roller Coaster Landmark is reserved for rides of historic significance. Sea Dragon is notable as the oldest roller coaster remaining from famed designer John Allen. During the height of the postwar baby boom of the 1950s, amusement parks began adding junior-sized roller coasters, designed for younger riders. Allen, president of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC), began designing his own coasters after taking control of PTC in 1954. Among his first designs were three nearly identical junior wooden coasters that opened between 1956 and 1957 at three different parks. The first was at a zoo amusement park located adjacent to the Columbus Zoo with construction supervised by PTC’s Frank Hoover.
“We are incredibly proud that Sea Dragon is receiving this wonderful recognition from American Coaster Enthusiasts. We value sharing the roller coaster’s history with our returning guests and those who are experiencing the excitement and thrill for the first time,” said Anthony Sabo, vice president of Waterpark Operations and Guest Services.
“In addition to the nostalgia it offers, Sea Dragon serves as a strong foundation and inspiration for us as we continue to offer new experiences. In fact, with the addition of Tidal Twist in 2021, the Columbus Zoo became the first zoo in the United States to feature two roller coasters. Sea Dragon continues to be a family favorite, and we look forward to sharing it with future generations of roller coaster enthusiasts,” Sabo said.
Originally called Jet Flyer, the coaster has a height of 37 feet, reaching a top speed of 25 mph along 1,320 feet of track. The coaster was renamed Sea Dragon in 1984 after the park was leased to Funtime, Inc. and the park rebranded to Wyandot Lake. Six Flags took control of the park from 1996 until 2006, and a year later management returned to the Columbus Zoo, which annexed the park and included a complete refurbishment of the coaster.
Founded in 1978, American Coaster Enthusiasts is a nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to the preservation, promotion, appreciation and safe enjoyment of roller coasters. With 6,500 members worldwide, ACE is the largest and longest-running enthusiast organization in the world. Members of ACE receive exclusive park benefits, newsletters, magazines and the opportunity to attend national, local and even international tours at parks. ACE hosts more than 75 national and regional coaster events across North America every year and has been prominently featured on various news programs and many cable networks, such as the Travel Channel.