El Loco at Adventuredome has been thrilling riders, MGM Resorts for a year

Since the Circus Circus Adventuredome’s El Loco roller coaster ride opened, its cars have traveled more than 61,000 miles — about 2½ times around the world.

But MGM Resorts International is getting even more mileage from the popularity of the ride that debuted a year ago at the nation’s largest indoor theme park.

“It’s definitely exceeded our expectations,” said Tom Nolan, vice president of operations for the park.

In the first 10 months of operation, 621,062 people rode El Loco, including 1,487 on opening day in March 2014.

The ride has emerged as the most popular in the park and company officials say attendance and revenue have increased as a result of the ride’s presence.

Coaster aficionados and adrenaline junkies have planned trips around riding it and MGM Resorts officials have welcomed roller coaster enthusiasts to check out the ride since there are only two of its kind in the United States and six in the world.

“It has pushed the envelope of what can be accomplished in a small footprint,” Nolan said.

El Loco, designed by S&S Worldwide of Logan, Utah, the same company that brought the Big Shot ride to the top of the Stratosphere Tower, represented a major challenge to designers and engineers who planned the layout and then manufactured and moved tracks and support structures into the pink-domed structure piece by piece. During hours when the park was closed, workers moved 325 tons of steel into the building, piecing it together like a gigantic three-dimensional puzzle.

It took five years to plan the ride, design it and develop the strategy to build it in the tight Adventuredome quarters.

The ride’s components came from three different countries — the support structure from China, the track from Italy and the 2-ton cars from the United States.

At one point, company officials had to raise the ceiling of one of the food outlets to gain enough clearance to move a part of support structure into place.

The electric yellow track towers over the park’s faux red rock facades.

Unlike most roller coasters, El Loco has four-passenger cars instead of a lengthy train. As a result, each vehicle can negotiate tight turns and accomplish maneuvers unlike most coasters.

El Loco doesn’t claim any superlatives as the highest, fastest or longest, coaster, but riders routinely rate it as the best they’ve ever ridden. Ride reviews routinely rank it in “excellent” and “good” categories. One criticism is the ride’s too short: It lasts only 72 seconds from start to finish over 1,300 feet of track.

It climbs only 90 feet, not even half the height of the Desperado roller coaster in Primm, and its maximum speed is about 45 mph, which, by roller coaster standards, is like a kiddie ride.

But in between the fast-paced ascent to the first hill, riders make their way through a 90-degree dive — that’s straight down — a 45-degree outside tilt, a reverse 240-degree roll and two inversions, including an inverted drop into the station at the end of the ride.

“Like parks all across the country, we know it’s important to keep the experience fresh and we think this ride will do that,” Nolan said when El Loco opened to the public.

Tickets are $10 per ride or $30 for an all-day pass that includes admission to all Adventuredome rides.

Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Find him on Twitter: @RickVelotta

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