Not Your Normal Construction Job for CES Kissimmee
In the coming weeks, steel beams will crisscross all the way up to over 400 feet in the air. The ICON Park Drop Tower and Slingshot will both stand 40 stories tall over International Drive’s Orlando Entertainment District, Walt Disney World Resort, and Universal Orlando Resort.
Later this year, down below, a nervous crowd will look on, watching as people load into a two-seat ride vehicle or strap into a 30-seat ride carousel, preparing for takeoff. If you don’t receive frequent flyer miles, you might want to look into it.
For CES Kissimmee, this isn’t just another construction job, and that’s just how they like it.
“Anyone can supply materials for a house or a small commercial buildout,” said CES Kissimmee Branch Manager Bill Gurley. “Working on the world’s tallest free-standing Drop Tower and Slingshot is something special. You don’t get to work on giant rides like these every day.”
Most branches don’t, but CES Kissimmee usually does. So far, they’ve built four Slingshot rides at various locations between Panama City and Orlando. If you’ve ridden one in central Florida, chances are everything that powers and lights it was supplied by this branch.
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“It takes about 2,000 amps to supply the rides with power. We’re talking big Eaton-Cutler Hammer switchgear and massive transformers,” Gurley said. “The Slingshot takes one 1,000-amp breaker. The Drop Tower has two 800-amp breakers, plus another panel for lightning and surge protection.”
Did he say lightning? He sure did! On top of these rides being two of the tallest ever built in the U.S., they’re also being built in the lightning capital of the U.S.
“We’re providing some heavy-duty lighting surge protection,” reassured Gurley. “On Starflyer, the world’s tallest free-standing swing ride, we saw lightning strikes before we even finished.”
Even though these rides do not operate when lightning is within close range to the ride, it’s peace of mind you can’t do without when you find yourself hurtling through the air at 100 mph on the Slingshot or plummeting back down to Earth at 75 mph on the Drop Tower.
Last Gurley heard, lightning struck Starflyer 27 times. But, thanks to the surge protection devices they installed, it has stood strong through it all.
CES Kissimmee & Toolman Electric
So, how does a branch even win these sorts of jobs? Well, one day, a contractor who works with CES Kissimmee just wanted to do something different besides working on homes and commercial buildings.
“Kevin White, the owner of Toolman Electric, has a great relationship with the park owner. He’s the only guy he trusts to complete these rides,” Gurley said. “No one works on these besides him and his crew.”
“Thanks to our long-term relationship with Kevin and his team, he knows all of the requirements we have at our new installations,” said Ritchie Armstrong, owner of the Slingshot Group of Companies. “We do not have to go over all of the unique scenarios every time we start a new project. I can rely on him to relieve me of all issues and questions from architects and engineers to local authorities.”
And because Armstrong only trusts Kevin to work on their rides, that means CES Kissimmee is the only branch that Kevin trusts to supply him. They’ve worked hand-in-hand for the last eight years, but Kevin’s been a customer for over 20.
“Toolman Electric has continued to source from CES time and time again,” Kevin said. “The fast responses, exceptional product knowledge, and dedication that Bill and his team provide us has helped our projects run smoothly.”
For Kevin White of Toolman Electric, working with electricity in the U.S. lightning capital wasn’t enough. He decided that doing it 400 feet in the air would make things a bit more exciting.
“Toolman Electric is always up for a challenge,” he said. “There is no question these uniquely engineered amusement rides have tested the limits of our skills. At 450 feet in the air, these projects are both a challenge and a joy to work on.”
A joy to work on is right. If you ever visit the job site as the rides are nearing completion, you might find them already in use. It’s not uncommon to see a contractor doing some rigorous safety testing themselves.
“That’s real,” Gurley laughed. “They test the rides every single day, and you’ll definitely see a contractor strapping in to give it a spin.”
Strap In with CES Kissimmee
For CES Kissimmee, this is yet another huge project they can put in their portfolio, and they certainly have a lot of them. On top of amusement park rides, they’ve even worked on attractions and hotels from the ground up right outside Universal Orlando Resort.
“It’s always exciting to work on something besides what you usually do day to day,” he said. “The Drop Tower and Slingshot are both a huge deal. Customers have heard about it, and I’ve had friends share local news stories on Facebook. Knowing that we’re connected to it is very special.”
But, even though Gurley and his team are excited to work on these rides, they won’t be strapping themselves in anytime soon.
“I will not be riding this,” Gurley laughed. “I’m not a rollercoaster guy, and no one else at the branch is, either. I’ll keep my two feet firmly planted on the ground.”
Now let’s just hope Gurley and his team keep their two feet firmly planted outside of hurling range.