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FANTASY ISLAND GETS GREEN LIGHT FOR NEW RIDE

Martin's Fantasy Island will open a new attraction this summer that whisks riders up and down a 116-foot tower and generates intense G-forces.

The owner of the 77-acre Grand Island amusement park said he hopes the new ride will bring in older visitors.

"We want to appeal a little bit to the older kids who still go with their family. The older teen market," Martin DiPietro said.

The attraction will cost more than $1 million to build and should open in time for Memorial Day crowds, DiPietro said.

He would not be specific about its exact cost.

The ride is known generically as the Sling Shot, though DiPietro said he hasn't decided what its name at Fantasy Island will be.

The steel tower, which is 136 feet tall at the tip of its flagpole, is the newest major attraction at the amusement park since the $3 million Silver Comet, a wooden roller coaster, debuted in 1999.

Riders on the Sling Shot attraction will be strapped into harnesses and sit in a circle facing out from the tower. The ride will whip the riders up the long, slender tower and quickly back down, producing G-forces ranging from 2 to 4.3 G's, DiPietro said.

"It's like being in a rocket," he said.

However, DiPietro said the ride is smooth enough that even he would ride it.

DiPietro said the park will be open seven days a week this summer. Up until now, Fantasy Island had been closed Mondays.

He also said the park will not raise admission prices.

The Grand Island Zoning Board of Appeals Thursday night granted DiPietro permission to build the structure.

He needed a variance from the town's zoning law that limits the height of structures at amusement parks.

Board members Marion Fabiano and Ted Bates said they wanted to be sure that firefighters could reach the upper part of the tower in case of an emergency. DiPietro assured them that emergency personnel will be able to reach the tower.

Fabiano also said she was worried that the tower, which is not supported by guy wires, might topple over in heavy winds.

DiPietro said the tower will be bolted into a concrete base and is safe.

Board Chairman Peter McKee said he shares their concerns, but he's satisfied the ride will be safe and felt DiPietro should be able to build the Sling Shot.

"It's an amusement park. In order to compete, they've got to have bigger, higher, faster" attractions, McKee said.

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