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Idora Park Wildcat Roller Coaster

Posted by LOTGK on December 11, 2008

idora park wildcat roller coaster

Idora Park – Wild Cat – Back Seat View

My family loves riding roller coasters. We have been on hundreds of them. From the modern steel coasters to the old fashioned rickety chain clanking wooden ones, we ride them all. However, Youngstown’s Idora Park, home of the Wildcat, was one of my particular favorites.

Idora Park is now closed, a casualty of an arson fire back in 1984 that burned the Wildcat and a good portion of the midway. The park lay in disarray for years before it was completely bulldozed and now just a vacant field stands there. Here is a video I took of the park back in 1988, four years after it burned. Idora Park – 1988

My loving wife Patty and I frequented the park while we were dating and loved riding the Wildcat. (She also insisted on me riding the Ferris Wheel which I have a fear of, but it was love, and she asked me in a way I could not say no. Patty asked, “If you love me you would get on the Ferris Wheel with me.” Needless to say, I was sicker than a dog when I got off and had to lay on a park bench for an hour before I felt better. BTW, that was the last time I was ever, or ever will be, on a Ferris wheel.) The Ferris Wheel spins in the wrong direction, but that is another story.

Back then, in the 70’s and early 80’s, the Wildcat was ranked as one of the best roller coasters in the world. In 1984, it was still ranked in the top ten. And for good reason. The Wildcat had killer hills, blinding speed, wicked curves, and a few dips that would lift you right out of the seat.

The Wildcat began like most coasters. Passengers loaded from a wooden platform. We would slide into the car, (Of course the back and front seats were coveted) strap on the leather seat belt, (Nowadays, coasters have restraints that snap down on your body so you cannot get out of the car but not the Wildcat, you could stand up and get out of the seat if you wanted. But who would be crazy enough to even think about getting out while the ride was in motion?) and wait for the operator to release the big wooden brake lever sending us off on a thrilling ride.

The coaster train would quickly move forward and dip down a slight hill into a dark tunnel. The wind rushing inside the tunnel was deafening along with all the girls screaming. The tunnel lasted about 15 seconds or so and when daylight appeared, we were at the foot of the first hill of the Wildcat.

Being a wooden coaster, the train glided up the hill just a tad and then locked itself onto the chain drive in the middle of the tracks. You could hear the chain attach itself to the train as it tugged and jerked us slowly up the hill smacking against the wood underneath. The chain would make clackity clack sounds and sometimes rise up and slam down in it’s slot making it seem like the chain would snap. (It never did)

Once we peaked at about 85 feet at the top, the chain disengaged and the train would slowly coast around a large bend heading for the first hill. Everyone would look out over the park and point out where they parked their car and other places. The front seat was the best view while the back seat was the fastest ride. At this time, everyone who was fearless raised their hands over their heads preparing for the deep plunge.

In a heartbeat, the train plunged down the first hill with steel wheels screeching against uneven tracks smacking against its wooden frame. People screamed, yelled, swore, and laughed just to get them through the dip. The coaster would reach speeds of 65-70 miles per hour on this first hill. (Urban legend had it that the coaster would exceed 80 miles per hour at night time after it had just rained. Something about the water and cool night air making the wheels slide faster)

At the bottom of the hill was a little dip that would lift you right out of your seat. You would have a split second of the feeling of weightlessness. (When I was much younger, a friend of mine, Guy, and I rode the Wildcat. At the bottom of the hill, after the dip, he was so light, that the force was pushing him out of the car. I grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him back down.) I figured he owed me a sno-cone for saving his life.

Instantly, we were rushing up the second hill and then the wild fall down. Then the third hill. Then a wicked bend in the tracks forcing everyone to one side. Then a few dips lifting the riders off their asses and into the air. Then a vicious covered curve that would bring us speeding into the station for a safe landing.

The brake man would pull his levers and the coaster would stop. The people would jump out laughing and high fiving each other. (High Fiving – It was a 70’s thing) The people in line would then take their turn and jump into their seats.

Getting back to who would be crazy enough to even think of standing up while the Wildcat was in motion. Well, let me tell you about my loving Dare Devil wife Patty. (You thought it would be me didn’t you?) Patty used to work for Idora Park and the employee’s would have a contest on who could start from the back of the coaster and make their way to the front seat of the coaster before it went down the first hill. Patty won the contest.

Patty was in the back seat, the coaster would start, and when it came out of the tunnel, she was three cars ahead. Going up the hill, she would jump another car ahead. At the top of the hill and rounding the bend, she made her way to the very front car just in time for it to plummet down the hill.

From that moment on, Patty was a bona fide member of the Dare Devils Club.

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13 Responses to “Idora Park Wildcat Roller Coaster”

  1. ulla said

    that looks like an efficient way to lose a blue plate special ;p

    LOTGK Replies:
    The Ferris Wheel yes, roller coasters, never.

  2. Contessa Confessa said

    I share your love of coasters– as well as your hate for the ferris wheel. It’s not that they make me sick, they just scare the living daylights out of me. Funny, but I hadn’t noticed they go backwards (until you mentioned it). For me, it’s that you get “stuck” at the top of that THING (and NO!, it’s not funny to rock the bench!).

  3. Contessa Confessa said

    Off topic question– do you wear Yaktrax on your winter runs when there is snow/ice on the roads? If so, do you recommend them? Was thinking of buying a pair…

  4. LOTGK said

    No, I do not wear Yaktrax. I should though for I have taken several falls. Usually the cemetery drive and road is cleared and once I get going on a steady pace, my footing is pretty good. When I run the school yard, it has to be without snow on the ground.

    When there is to much ice and snow, I use the treadmill but it becomes so boring. So far this December, twice on the treadmill, the rest outside. It was raining like hell two days.

  5. ben said

    The only ride my husband will go on is the ferris wheel. I am the one who prefers faster and scarier. My favorite coaster (thus far) is the one at New York New York in Vegas. It was the best money I spent in sin city.
    As for Patty, she is my new hero!

    LOTGK Replies:
    I thought Sylar was your favorite hero?

  6. slub said

    great post pat! your wife is old school! lol

    I only remember a few rides on that coaster. I was about 8 years old I think. I loved it then. good times!

  7. tom link said

    what happened to the idora park farris wheel after the park was closed down i herd it was somewhere in the us is it still around

  8. tom link said

    oh i ment the merry go round sorry TOM

  9. Angus said

    I don’t think that the fire was ever proved to be an arson fire. It was supposedly ignited by a welder’s torch who was getting the Lost River ready for the season opening by making sure that the trough that the boats went through were water tight. That tunnel ran right through the Wildcat, and the fire took hold so fast that nothing could be done about it. Does anyone know whatever happened to The Rockets Ships, and also The Orbit?

    • LOTGK said

      The rumor had it as going that the park was in debt and the only way to get out from under it was a fire sale. Destroy the biggest and most loved ride and the park would be certainly doomed. And it worked.

  10. marlin fetty said

    I Loved Idora Park.When i was a kid. I would look all over the home and the hood (2000)thing. For pop bottles to sell back to A&P stores for 10 cents.Little did they know we were taking then from the back to sell in the front. When we got anuff money we would ride from the east side to the park on are bikes.One day it was hot and we didnt have shirts on. So we could,nt get in. We road around intill we found some shirts on a line. Kids stuff more like baby stuff. Me and my friend forced the shirts over are big heads and went back and got im. We had all day pass and money for the worlds best frys.Im sorry to A&P and the peaple we took the shirts from. It was the bestest summer and will all ways be remembered. PS We live at adora and Boardman Skating Ring.Happy Times!!!!!!

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