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Holiday World plans $22 million winged roller coaster

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The Holiday World amusement park in southern Indiana is building a new $22 million roller coaster that it says will launch riders to 60 miles an hour in 3.5 seconds, with a 14-story loop and four inversions.

Construction of the Thunderbird coaster, which has already started, will cost more than double any other ride ever built there, according to park officials who announced the project Thursday night.

Riders will sit in wings along the track, with nothing above or below them. Thunderbird will be its first major steel roller coaster, joining its Legend, Raven and Voyage wooden coasters.

The new ride is expected to open next spring at the park about 35 miles east of Evansville.

Leah Koch, the daughter of longtime park president Will Koch, said her father talked of adding such a ride before his sudden death in 2010 at age 48.

"He had definitely planned on something like this before," Koch told the Evansville Courier & Press. "It's truly a dream come true."

Holiday World has drawn more than 1 million visitors during recent summer seasons. Will Koch's father and grandfather opened the park, then known as Santa Claus Land, in 1946.

The park teased fans for more than two months leading up to Thursday's announcement, doling out daily, not-very-revealing clues on the park's website.

Visitors on hand for the announcement said they were looking forward to the new attraction.

"I think it's amazing how many roller coaster enthusiasts come in," park season-pass holder Ray Shepherd told WFIE-TV. "Now having this steel coaster with the launch and the wings, I think this is going to pack the park."

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