September 22, 2014

Yep, that was a Gator you walked on!

Part 2 in our theme park series

A recent blog kicked off a series of three posts on Gator’s work with amusement parks. If you haven’t read Part 1, “Orlando: A Gator Haven,” check out the story Jon Fleischman told us about a famous park’s “secret” swivel bridge. The park featured also has another unique aluminum structure -- after watching some of the ocean’s largest mammals, visitors can travel a pontoon floating dock system to go paddle boating.

So, to continue a theme from Part 1, if you have ever been to a Florida amusement park, chances are you have seen or walked on a Gator structure and didn’t know it. Have you visited Pleasure Island, Seven Seas Lagoon, Epcot, or Magic Kingdom? Have you stayed at the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge or Contemporary hotel? If so, you get the drift: you’ve probably walked on a Gator—the aluminum species that doesn’t rot or chomp!

Orlando’s theme parks are dotted with Gator-made aluminum structures that make up parts of rides, attractions and park infrastructure.

One of Orlando’s universally-known parks has an assortment of bridges and docks. Some you may notice but many of them are for employee transport. Logistics of the characters and staff is a tricky job, especially when a park features large amounts of both land and water. Jet ski docks, gangways and personal watercraft launches are just a few of the Gator structures you might spy after grabbing a Butterbeer in the fictional town of Hogsmeade.

The first custom aluminum dock we built for this movie-themed park is one we won’t easily forget. Like other parks, this park changes its stunt show “plots” all the time to create new entertainment for their visitors. The aluminum Gator structure we first built for stunt shows has been repurposed since its installation decades ago, according to Jon Fleischman (our theme park historian, based on his long, long J tenure at Gator).   

rig-setAlthough the original oil rig structure has been repurposed, we imagine the whole thing looking something like this.

Gator was commissioned to build an aluminum structure that looked like an oil rig. The stunt show plot line features the bad guys (drug-running criminals) against the good guys (cops and agents). Speed boat and water ski chases framed the climax of the story line. Just as the good guys would get close to catching the bad guys, the criminal’s speed boat would “crash” into the Gator-built aluminum “oil rig,” exploding into flames, fireworks and smoke. What the audience didn’t know is that this faux oil rig was not just a part of the scenery – it was a well-disguised boat ramp. The actor’s boat was actually driven up the ramp and launched out 50 yards. The pyrotechnics hid this from the audience in order to achieve the perfect end:  Good guys always win! 

Last, but not least, is the park that features our first and most recent theme-park installation.

Every little kid’s dream is to meet his favorite cartoon characters at the most famous theme park in the world. The park’s fabled “lands” and hotels are built around a large man-made lagoon. Dozens of dock systems dot the lagoon, allowing passengers to travel between them all—on foot, ferries, or rented jet skis. These floating docks and custom gangways safely deliver passengers from the land to water and back.

Many of the waterside walkways are also Gator structures. As noted in the first blog about another park’s the “secret” swivel bridge, having an aluminum structure as the frame and foundation of a walkway means less maintenance—even when using wood decking.

Oh, did we mention Gator’s “footprint” around Orlando?  Have you been outside of ESPN Zone walking to a restaurant at Pleasure Island? Have you taken a hot air balloon ride there? Or travelled to the kingdom on a ferry? If yes, then you have travelled on a Gator structure.


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