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Iconic Wildcat Returns | Lake Compounce

Wildcat Returns - Lake Compounce
Wildcat Returns - Hands Up!

Back & Better Than Ever, Lake Compounce Welcomes Wildcat's Return

Classic wooden roller coasters continue to be a treasure at amusement parks, delighting many for years. One great example is the 97-year-old Wildcat located at America's First Amusement Park, Lake Compounce. This timeless New England destination began its tradition of fun more than 175 years ago and today features more than 45 rides and attractions, including Crocodile Cove, Connecticut's largest water park.

Lake Compounce Logo

The Wildcat roller coaster has been a staple at Lake Compounce since 1927, replacing the Green Dragon roller coaster. Wildcat was designed by Herbert P. Schmeck and built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1926. It's a true testament to the park's history.

When you think of a classic wooden coaster, you can envision the starting points of thrills for many people growing up and a ride that excites the entire family. As a ride ages, some of that fun can get replaced with a bit more roughness, leading to less fun for all.

When a ride reaches this point, a park really has two options. One would be to remove the ride and replace it with something new. Sometimes, this might be the best or easiest option. However, other times, when a park cares about history and tradition, another option is explored. That option looks to take this historical attraction and preserve it by finding ways to restore or even improve it beyond the original.

Wildcat Highlights Through The Years

By the end of the 2022 season, it was well known that Lake Compounce had a decision to make. Although Wildcat was a staple in the park, it had become very rough and a ride many disliked. So, what would the park do?

Wildcat Closed For 2023 Season - Lake Compounce

That answer started to become more apparent on March 3rd, 2023, when Lake Compounce posted the following on Facebook:

"Since 1927, the Wildcat has delighted riders of all ages at Lake Compounce. It is an iconic part of our park's history, and we intend for it to be a cherished part of our park's future. With that in mind, our team has decided to begin a restoration project on the coaster that will create a more enjoyable experience for all riders. Wildcat will remain closed for the entirety of the 2023 season for the start of this improvement project."

Now, everyone knew Wildcat would be closed for the upcoming season, but this news was accompanied by great optimism about what was in store for the iconic ride. However, who was the park going to work with, and what was the plan for improving Wildcat?

A Labor of Love - The Gravity Group

Throughout 2023 and the off-season, Lake Compounce and The Gravity Group worked on Wildcat, diligently breathing new life into this classic coaster.

More than 800 feet of the coaster was completely re-tracked with The Gravity Group's innovative precut, vertically stacked wood track. The patented engineered precut track allows this historic wood coaster to maintain its integrity while completely removing the bouncing effect that riders feel when they hop aboard older wood coasters. That means Lake Compounce riders will now get a smoother and more thrilling experience.

The Gravity Group Plan

Wildcat Returns!

Wildcat 2023-2024 - Lake Compounce

Wildcat Returns Logo - Lake Compounce

New for the 2024 season, thrill-seekers are now invited back to enjoy a new ride experience on the nearly 100-year-old Wildcat roller coaster. During the 2023 season and the park's off-season, Lake Compounce completed the first phase of a two-year wood re-tracking project in partnership with The Gravity Group.

"This season, our new park leadership team of industry veterans is focused on enhancing the overall guest experience throughout the park," said General Manager Doug Hemphill. "We are proud to have restored the Wildcat coaster while also maintaining its integrity as an all-wood roller coaster as the ride celebrates nearly 100 years."

Doug Hemphill & Meg Forno - Lake Compounce
Doug Hemphill & Meg Forno Welcome Us To Wildcat

With Wildcat ready for the 2024 season, the park invited media members to experience the new and greatly improved Wildcat experience. While there, we had the chance to speak with the Lake Compounce Team about the ride and their excitement and take some new photos while walking around it.

Of course, the highlight for those in attendance was taking several rides on Wildcat and experiencing firsthand just how good this classic now is, with some additional fun added in by The Gravity Group and a tremendously better ride experience.

I had the chance to ride along with Hector Molina and Tom Zukowski from Connecticut's Channel 3 Eyewitness News. After our rides and time at the park, I also briefly spoke with Hector about Wildcat and Lake Compounce in general. Part of that discussion was featured on their evening broadcast.

WFSB 3 Live at 5:30

Now that we've discussed Wildcat, shared views of the construction, and seen what the results look like, how is the ride experience? Well, check out this new POV of Wildcat in action!

Wildcat In Action

Final Verdict?

I'm genuinely blown away by The Gravity Group and their engineered precut track. In general, I'm not someone who says you have to keep a coaster just for the sake of it. At another event, I spoke to a few members of The Gravity Group team, and they described the Wildcat project as a labor of love.

Their efforts, along with Lake Compounce's dedication and desire to restore it, come through clearly in the results. This is not keeping the coaster for the sake of it; instead, it is the first phase results of a desire to bring back excellence to an iconic classic. We love it already and can't wait to see what's next when phase 2 of this project is completed.

CW3 Adventures & Wildcat Mascot - Lake Compounce
Two Wildcat's Hanging Out!

A huge thank you to Lake Compounce for allowing us to experience Wildcat. I hope everyone who gets to ride it enjoys it, too. I know the team at Lake Compounce is excited about the park's future and has a clear vision of where they want to take the park and its rich history. If the results seen with Wildcat are any indication, I can't wait to see that vision come to life!

Classic Wildcat Shot - Lake Compounce


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