The vision to build a thrilling outdoor roller coaster through the Black Hills might have been derailed for a bit, but the owner of Rush Mountain Adventure Park is pleased to announce the track is open and ready to ride.
The park will host a grand opening for the new Rushmore Mountain Coaster from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 20-21.
“We went for it being unique, fun, safe and family friendly,” said co-owner Tom Hagen. Hagen owns the adventure park with his wife, April Hagen, and Paul Thorstenson, Bobby Sundby and Ross Johnson.
The adventure park has a lengthy history, beginning with the Ferguson family in 1927, who originally opened Rushmore Cave and opened it for tours.
Hagen and his co-owners purchased the cave in 2008 and are the third owners of the property.
“When we purchased it, we decided to expand and do more than tours,” Hagen said. In 2011, the group added the area’s first commercial zip line, the Soaring Eagle Zip Line.
It was the start of something great, he said.
“That was very successful,” he said. “People loved it and it exceeded our expectations.”
They decided to add another attraction in 2012 with the Interactive Dark Ride, a 3-dimensional movie with motion seats and laser guns.
“Things attack you, and it’s like being inside a video game,” Hagen said. “People love it. They yell and scream and it’s just super fun. It went over well and we were very proud of and happy to have it.”
The latest venture didn’t happen quite as seamlessly as the others. After adding more infrastructure to the park, including concessions, Hagen visited a friend in Colorado in 2015 to try out his mountain coaster.
“I rode it and looked at him and said, ‘you’re right, this is what we need,’” he said.
An additional fun, family friendly ride was what they were looking for, but were unprepared for the permitting challenges they were up against.
“We started working on permitting and everything was going to be built in 2015 but then we had issues with the county,” Hagen said. “We finally got it done mid-September of last year. We had a soft opening, but the retail part was not done. We worked over the winter and now we are 100 percent ready to go and celebrate.”
The wait was worth it, he said.
“We’ve traveled and ridden other coasters and they’re all really fun, but ours is built on the steepest hill this company has ever built on, and they’ve built 320 coasters.”
It sets the Black Hills roller coaster apart, he said.
“It really changes the experience so you have that high up in the air and the speed and the corners,” he said. “Our guests love it.”
Safety remains their number one concern, Hagen added.
Each rider wears a seat belt and the coaster has been designed to reach a maximum of 30 mph. Children must be at least 38 inches tall and ride with an adult until they are 54 inches tall.
“We don’t want anybody to get hurt,” Hagen said. “The rider has control of the brakes. You can control speeds so you can go super fast and fly down the hill, or go slow down and have a more gentle ride.”
The grand opening will be a great way for customers to try it out, Hagen said. All guests attending the opening will receive one free ride. Until Memorial Day, drivers can buy one pass for $15 and a rider for $10. Visitors can also purchase a wrist band before Memorial Day for $35, which provides a free cave tour and unlimited passes on all adventure park rides. The price is $50 after Memorial Day.
For more information, visit RushMtn.com.