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Enjoy the ride!

image Aerial view of The Wave Breaker at Sea World

SAN ANTONIO - Straddling a jet-ski style car, racing out over a man-made lake, then launching 60 ft into the air through banks and turns along 2,600 ft of track sounds like a thrill-seekers dream come true. For Casias Construction LLC and Morganti Texas Inc., the Sea World Wave Breaker Roller Coaster was just that.




    The Wave Breaker Roller Coaster had an original construction time frame of nine months but given the actual start date of construction, this would have meant a completion date at the end of summer.  “In a joint effort with Sea World of Texas, our subcontractors, suppliers, and our staff we successfully completed the project two and one half months early and Sea World was able to open the ride for the summer,” says Frank Casias, Owner of Casias Construction. 
    The Wave Breaker Roller Coaster was designed and created to further the Sea World mission of providing awareness to their Animal Rescues and Educational platforms. Each roller coaster train is comprised of eight cars (two riders per car) that mimic a jet ski going down the track side by side.  Designed to bring the exhilarating rush of a roller coaster and the educational aspect of animal rescues, the ride traverses through new buildings where people get a visual experience of real animal rescues and culminate in over 2,600 ft of thrills and fun that take the rider over an existing man-made lake. 
    Primary construction materials consisted of 309 ride footings in a variety of sizes and depths with an accuracy requirement of +/- two millimeters to accept the ride columns. Construction of the ride also included a structural steel, two-story main launching facility which contains the ride’s gift shop, an arched metal building where the rescue theme of the ride is enhanced, and a structural steel building with exterior sheathing and metal roof that serves as the electrical building to house the vast amount of electrical components that control the ride and a pre-engineered maintenance building.
    There were several challenges that had to be overcome during the project.  First and foremost was the extremely short construction schedule.  Like most entertainment parks, Sea World gets most of its park attendance during the summer months.  Due to the award and start date of the project it was a major challenge to open the ride in June of 2017 especially considering that also included the time to commission, test and certify the ride before the public could start to enjoy it.  Secondly, each pier had to be drilled in solid rock and had to be spot-on to ensure each column supporting the ride was in the exact location required.  With pier diameters between 18 in. and 60 in. and depths between 24 and 48 ft, the speed required for drilling in rock – with the accuracy mandated by the ride manufacturer made this a nerve-wracking experience to say the least.  Next, the design team was almost entirely based outside of the San Antonio market.  This meant that countless hours of online communication was required to get answers that were desperately needed in the field when conflicts arose.  Finally, like most entertainment-based owners, as it became evident that we were going to finish the ride in time for the summer crowds, Sea World’s entertainment sectors added scope to enhance to the ride for its customers.  This took an already abbreviated construction schedule and mounted additional challenges.  In the end, it took round-the-clock shift work to accomplish everything.
    The uniqueness of this roller coaster that travels over a man-made lake in simulated jet-ski cars designed to give the rider the thrill of the ride and yet showcase the parks larger mission of animal care is the first of its kind ride in the Continental United States.
    This project in large part was successful due to the great working relationship with the magnificent people who work at Sea World San Antonio.  Larry Giles Vice President for Busch Gardens at Williamsburg, Virginia was sent to San Antonio to be Sea World’s on site project manager.  He brought over 20 years of ride construction experience and provided valuable leadership to the team.
     Key players included Morganti Texas VP of Operations Joe Kummer, Frank D. Casias; Sr. PM Paul E. Lindsey; Preconstruction Mgr. Thomas S. Johnson; Asst. PMs Frank D. Casias III and Daniel Santos; Gen. Superintendent Carlos Torres; Superintendent Steve Chavez; Asst. Superintendent McKenzie Faulkner; and Proj. Admin. Audrey P. Casias.  The architectural firms on the project were FORREC Ltd. and Alonzo Alston with Sol Studio. Casias Construction LLC, a General
Contractor founded in San Antonio in 2003 and Morganti Texas Inc. established in 1990, established the Morganti Texas/Casias Joint Venture in San Antonio in 2011. –cmw

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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net