Following an 18-month, one-million-dollar restoration, Playland Amusement Park is thrilled to announce the Playland Wooden Roller Coaster is once again open! We chatted with PNE spokesperson Laura Ballance to find out more. —Noa Nichol
Hi Laura! Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.
I’ve worked in the media relations department for the PNE/Playland since the 1990s and my love for the Wooden Coaster is well known! I am so proud of that ride, and I think it truly is part of the collective memory of our province.
We hear that he Playland Wooden Roller Coaster is once again open, and we are so excited (we remember riding it as kids)! First question, what is the history of this iconic coaster?
The ride was built by legendary ride design/construction team of Walker Leroy and Carl Phare in 1957 and early 1958, opening in summer 1958. It had an “astronomical” construction budget of $200,000 at the time, and is considered to be one of the greatest wooden coasters in the world today. It’s also the last remaining Leroy/Phare ride left in the world.
How long was it closed for, and why?
It’s a “living” coaster, meaning that the structure is built from wood. We replace wood each year as needed, but during COVID the decision was made to do a large restoration of the north end of the ride. It was closed for 18 months for that project, and has now reopened.
What went into restoring/retrofitting it?
An international team of engineers was assembled to complete the extensive project sought to ensure the signature Playland Wooden Coaster ambience of yesteryear was retained and respected in the modern retrofit. Twelve-hundred lengths of structural grade Douglas Fir was installed, equating to over 12,000 feet of lumber.
What’s the coaster made of, and what makes it unique?
It’s built from Douglas Fir, which is incredibly strong but also flexes depending on things such temperature and moisture, so each ride of the coaster is unique.
What are some of the accolades the coaster has received over the years?
The American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) have named it an Ace Coaster Classic and a Coaster Landmark. It is regularly in the top wooden coaster rides in the world according to various online polls (but I know it’s actually the best).
What are some “fun facts” about the coaster that even longtime Vancouverites may not be aware of?
One of my favourite facts is that the coaster is powered by its original 75 hp electric motor, which lifts the 16-passenger, specially designed train up the first hill. Once each train passes over the first hill, it is driven through a series of climbs, dips, banks, horseshoe turns and a classic reverse curve only by the law of gravity.
When and how do we ride the coaster this season?