Flood didn't weaken Valleyfair's wood structures

  • Article by: GRAISON HENSLEY CHAPMAN , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 22, 2014 - 2:28 PM

Spillage from the river has affected the park several times.

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Several Valleyfair rides were closed due to floodwaters but none of the rides needed repairs, even after standing in water for weeks.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores • eflores@startribune.com,

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A swollen Minnesota River spilled over its banks and onto the footings of three rides at Valleyfair in Shakopee. Two are made of wood.

But spokeswoman Robin Stinnett said none of the three suffered long-term damage or even needed repairs before reopening earlier this month.

“There’s nothing we can do as far as pumping water out of the area,” she said. “We just had to wait for the water to physically recede.”

The three are outside of the protective dike that kept its other rides dry during the June floods.

All three of the rides, including the two wooden roller coasters, are built to weather standing water as well as rain.

The rides went through routine tests — normally performed on each ride daily — before opening to the public.

The rides involved were the roller coasters Excalibur and Renegade and water ride Thunder Canyon. The roller coasters opened in time for July 4th, and Thunder Canyon was splashing again by July 8.

Dennis Speigel, president and CEO of International Theme Park Services, an industry consultant in Cincinnati, said that every year a handful of parks nationwide temporarily close some or all rides due to power outages, tornadoes and other mishaps.

“If you have a park that’s located on a river,” he said, “you’re going to get flooded at some point in time.” Speigel added that until the 1960s, when smaller theme parks were overtaken by Six Flag-like behemoths, flooding could be an annual occurrence as many were built on rivers, a legacy of the riverboat generation.

At Valleyfair, officials said, the dike was built during the original construction of the park, which opened in 1976.

Flooding has affected the park in the years 1986, 1993, 1997, 2001, 2010, and 2014.

The park should have better weather until its regular season ends in mid-September. In contrast to the June deluge, the NWS predicts equal chances of normal, above-normal and below-normal precipitation through the end of September.

Statewide, highways and river crossings were closed in response to what was the wettest June on record, with more than 11 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

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