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The story of Iron Menace: How a pandemic fizzle resulted in Dorney’s big investment

2024 Iron Menace Infographic .jpg
Dorney Park
Dorney Park's proposed Iron Menace roller coaster

SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. — In April 2020, the staff at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom was getting ready to seek approval for a plan for a new ride – a 106-foot wooden roller coaster.

But the coronavirus pandemic shut down the world, the theme park instead shifted into survival mode.

  • Plans for Dorney Park's upcoming new roller coaster Iron Menace came after another roller coaster plan fell through due to the pandemic
  • The ride is a multi-million-dollar project that officials hope will bring attendance back to pre-pandemic levels
  • Iron Menace is the first story-driven ride at the park, and its theme will be featured at this year's Halloween Haunt

And from the rubble of that idea came a new, more ambitious plan that park officials hope will bring attendance levels back to pre-pandemic levels, according to Dorney Public Relations and Communications Manager Ryan Eldredge.
Dorney Park is building a steel "dive" roller coaster called Iron Menace that will pay homage to the Lehigh Valley's industrial heritage.

The last new roller coaster constructed at the park was Hydra, which was built in 2005.

Iron Menace will be the park’s first story-driven ride, Eldredge said. The entire area by the entrance will be designed to make visitors feel like urban explorers at the abandoned steel mill in the ride’s backstory.

“It's given us this new vision where we can theme out the space and be a little more reflective and representative of the Lehigh Valley."
Dorney Public Relations and Communications Manager Ryan Eldredge

Eldredge said he is glad the wooden roller coaster plans from 2020 could not be built because that roller coaster was not going to be story-driven.

“It's given us this new vision where we can theme out the space and be a little more reflective and representative of the Lehigh Valley,” Eldredge said.

The new ride will be erected on the site of the former Stinger roller coaster, north of Dorney Park Road and Lincoln Avenue.

Construction is slated to finish in April 2024. Before opening day, the park will hold scheduled preview rides on the roller coaster for season ticket passholders, Eldredge said.

The tale of Hiram McTavish

The backstory behind Iron Menace will feature a fictional greedy steel baron from the 1900s, Hiram S. McTavish. The story goes that he mistreated his workers, then mysteriously disappeared, leaving the steel mill to rust and crumble.

The ride itself is meant to represent a massive steel halter, and 95-degree drop at the beginning simulates getting dumped into a blast furnace.

Eldredge said the area surrounding the roller coaster will be decorated to make visitors feel like they are urban explorers walking through a steel yard. The creative team will redesign merchandise stands and redo one of the dining locations to contribute to the atmosphere, he said.

Dorney’s historic train ride Zephyr also will play into the experience, but Eldredge did not reveal details about how.

2308110 Dorney Iron Menace haunt.jpg
Olivia Marble
A Halloween Haunt maze attraction that will be themed based on Iron Menace's backstory. This building is part of what has been constructed so far.

Dorney Vice President and General Manager at Dorney Park Jessica Naderman said the ride’s theme also will be part of this year’s popular Halloween Haunt at Dorney.

She said the team is redoing the Enigma maze “to help us tell the story of the roller coaster.”

Park officials will announce more details about this year’s Halloween Haunt on Sept. 7.

Why Iron Menace?

Naderman said when she first started in her position in June 2022, she was given multiple ride designs from which to choose.

She said she picked the dive coaster because it would be a first for the Northeast, and she decided the industrial theme would honor the local area.

“I hope that from a cultural standpoint, it kind of brings some pride to the Valley,” Naderman said. “It's nice to pay homage to it and to give nods to it in a respectful way,” Naderman said.

“Steel Force was our largest investment ever. And right now with projections, we're gonna be right on that.”
Dorney Vice President and General Manager at Dorney Park Jessica Naderman

Eldredge said the team almost named the ride Iron Inferno.

“But then we decided, you know, maybe we won't go with the fire elements,” Eldredge said.

The name Iron Menace has a double meaning, Eldredge said, because the ride is an iron menace and Hiram McTavish is a menacing character.

Naderman said she could not give the project’s exact cost, but said it was a multi-million-dollar investment and one of the most expensive projects the park has ever done.

“Steel Force was our largest investment ever,” Naderman said. “And right now with projections, we're gonna be right on that.”

Construction schedule

230810 Dorney Iron Menace construction.jpg
Olivia Marble
The construction site for Dorney's upcoming new roller coaster, Iron Menace.

The construction team broke ground on Thursday to start laying the foundation for the roller coaster. The team likely will start laying track in mid-September, Naderman said, and hopes to start testing the ride in March.

Naderman said she expects the ride’s construction to be generally on schedule.

“We're very familiar with what we're working with here,” Naderman said. “So I can't imagine anything at this time that would significantly delay us.”

She said the ride should be operational by April. Season ticket pass-holders will be able to ride Iron Menace before the park opens at pre-scheduled times.

The details of the preview event will be announced in January, Naderman said.