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Six Flags pulls plans for new roller coaster
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff

Six Flags Great America has pulled documents seeking permission from Gurnee to build this roller coaster.

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Published: 7/9/2010 12:19 PM | Updated: 7/9/2010 4:38 PM

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Six Flags Great America appears to have abandoned, at least for now, putting a new-generation roller coaster inside the Gurnee park.

And a spokeswoman for Six Flags indicated Friday that any notion that the coaster would be built was premature, even though the park management was at the last step in the process to get village approval.

Great America had petitioned for permission to build a 150-foot roller coaster near the main entrance of the park near the parking lot.

Village documents showed the coaster previously operated at a now-closed Six Flags park in Kentucky, and the company needed a special permit because the ride would have topped the 125-foot height limit.

At the May 26 zoning board of appeals meeting, Great America General Manager Hank Salemi said the roller coaster is a new-generation model produced by Bolliger & Mabillard of Switzerland. It was intended to be the fifth B&M coaster at the park, joining the likes of Raging Bull and Superman: Ultimate Flight.

Zoning board members recommended the roller coaster be approved and Great America was then expected to take its case to the village board for final approval.

However, park officials backed out of a village board appearance listed on the June 21 agenda. Great America officials at the time said they were still considering the roller coaster.

On Friday, however, Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said Six Flags has withdrawn its petition to build the ride.

Kovarik said she is disappointed, but added Great America isn't standing still.

"They're going to look at some other options that they think are just as exciting," Kovarik said.

Six Flags spokeswoman Meredith Kelleher said the fact the company went through the process to gain the special permit from Gurnee never meant the coaster would be built.

"We're still looking forward to many things in 2011 at the park," Kelleher said Friday.

Great America's parent company, Six Flags Entertainment Corp., announced in May it had emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company filed for bankruptcy in June 2009, citing high debt and declining park attendance.

In a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing June 24, Six Flags argued for the company's viability, saying it benefits from a lack of direct competition and the limited availability of land needed for amusement park construction.

"Based on our knowledge of the development of other theme parks in the United States," the company says in the SEC filing, "we estimate that it would cost at least $300 million and would take a minimum of two years to build a regional theme park comparable to one of our major Six Flags-branded theme parks."