SANDUSKY -- After 28 years, it all came to an end at 11:53 p.m. Sunday, July 29. Disaster Transport, the indoor Cedar Point ride that offered many youngsters their first roller coaster experience, made its final stop.
After taking more than 30 million guests through its echo-filled dark, twisted tunnels, Disaster Transport will soon be nothing more than a memory as the space-themed attraction is demolished and scrapped to make room for a new ride set to debut in 2013.
"Thank you," 26-year-old Matt Gruenemeyer of Mentor said to the ride with tears in his eyes as he looked up at itswarehouse-looking building, which was glowing from the Giant Wheel's nearby flickering lights.
He had just taken his final emotional ride on the roller coaster he had fond memories of from his childhood.
"This has always been my favorite coaster, man. It bums me out that I won't get to take my kids on this ride or anybody else," Gruenemeyer said reminiscing about the first time he hopped aboard in 1995. "It's like nostalgia. I'm not into the big coasters."
Others reflected Gruenemeyer's emotions.
"I'm sad. I wouldn't be surprised if I shed a tear," Joe Cappello Jr. of Ashtabula said before taking his final ride on Disaster Transport. "It's sad to see it go, but I know bigger, better things are coming. But it's the end of an era. It's really going to be sad. It's heartbreaking, actually."
Howie Hammon, who has worked at Cedar Point for three years, fell in love with Disaster Transport when he was just 5 years old and eventually became one of its ride operators.
"Best memory of Disaster Transport was my first big ride back in '95," Hammon said. "All the lights and everything still worked inside. It was incredible."
Even those who couldn't be present for its final day were chatting on social media sites discussing their memories and feelings about the ride -- many saying they will miss theair-conditioned linemost.
As fans gathered to experience the two-minute ride for the final time,park officials hosted a farewell party just outside its doors as a fundraiser for the Give Kids The World charity.
"We partner with Give Kids The World and they provide children with life-threatening illnesses a week-long vacation for them and their families to just enjoy and get away from the hospitals and the illness they're experiencing," spokesperson Annie Zelm said.
Guests who paid a $20 fee and made a $50 minimum donation were welcomed to the event, which included one hour of exclusive ride time on Disaster Transport from 10:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. after it closed to the general public.
In total, more than $16,000 was raised.
The 10 people who raisedthe most money for Give Kids The World were given the opportunity to fill Disaster Transport's final train, which zipped them along the bobsled-style track with the lights on.
As thatlast trainreturned to the station just a few minutes shy of midnight, thefinal 10 thrillseekers cheered, clapped and high-fived before walking away from it forever. Nearly all of themproudly wearing the commemorative Disaster Transport T-shirt they had been given at the event, featuring a neon orange color that vibrantly glowed inside the black-lit queue line and launch area.
One fan walked away with Disaster Transport's height measurement stick after offering park officials a $30 donation to the charity.
With the attraction now closed, Zelm said the demolition process will start very soon.
"The ride is slated to be dismantled August 6, and the process will take several weeks. It will involve more than 3.4 million pounds of steel and about 8 million pounds of concrete, requiring almost 400 trucks to remove."
Zelm said crews will essentially be using a "giant pair of shears" to cut through the building starting with the back.
Disaster Transporthas also already been removed from the park's list of attractions at CedarPoint.com.
Disaster Transport's demise also means the death of Happy Jack's Toy Factory -- a haunted attraction housed inside the same building for the annual HalloWeekends. A new haunted attraction for the 2012 spooky season will be unleashed. Although nothing has been officially announced,the new haunt will be located within Mean Streak's infield.
While Disaster Transport'sparts are primarily being recycled, Zelm said part of its track, two of its cars and the main entrance sign autographed by all the Disaster Transport crew will be donated to theNational Roller Coaster Museum in Arlington, Texas.
A Disaster Transport banner, which was signed by all of the final riders at Sunday's party, will be placed inside Cedar Point's own museum located at the back of the park near Skyhawk.
Disaster Transport, which originally opened as an outdoor ride in 1985 known as Avalanche Run, becomes the second roller coaster to land in the Cedar Point graveyard this year. Prior to the start of the 2012 season,WildCat was removed to make room for Luminosity, the new night-time show.
Claiming the footprint along the lake that Disaster Transport called home for nearly three decades is a yet-to-be-announced attraction, rumored to be a wing-style roller coaster.
As a result of the new ride for 2013, park officials will also demolish and remove Space Spiral, the park's 330-foot tall rotating observation tower. Zelm says it will be permanently closed shortly after Labor Day and will not be relocated once its torn down.
"The Space Spiral has made its last run," Zelm says of the ride's shortfuture. "We cannot reuse it. It would be too expensive. It's just not cost-effective to move it."
Space Spiral, which sits next door to Disaster Transport, has been an icon of Cedar Point's skyline since opening in 1965.
As far as the new 2013 attraction is concerned, few newdetails or teases have been unleashed, but Zelm says an official announcement will be made very soon.
"I can say that we never take out rides for no good reason, and we also are, of course, losing a coaster," Zelm says. "That puts us at 15 when we had been at 17 at the beginning of the season. We lost two coasters already this season and I know that we don't like to be behind in our coaster standings. So stay tuned..."