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Work has started on converting Hades to a looping roller coaster at Mt. Olympus.

Next summer Mt. Olympus will feature the world’s first wooden roller coaster with a 360 degree inversion.

Owner Nick Laskaris said the park’s largest and fastest coaster, Hades, is being re-configured to add the inversion. When completed it will be re-christened “Hades 360”, and will fulfill part of the dream he had for the family business.

“When my Dad got into go-karts, good things were happening, one after another, and it was because we were different,” Laskaris said. “We were the first in the world to develop elevated tracks — we were the designers and builders. My Dad was conservative about business, but I pushed it. I knew in order for us to grow we had to broaden our horizons and get into the theme park business, which, to me, meant roller coasters. Cyclops was our first coaster, a wooden coaster. Wood was always the way to go because it was always more economical and it’s a better ride anyway — you can feel the structure, feel the ride. I have a love affair with wooden coasters.”

Talking about the existing coaster and how the new section will be integrated, Laskaris said, “Hades is the big, tall one you see, which is already the longest underground roller coaster in the world. After going underground, it comes up where you now see the partial structure in front by the highway. It used to go up high right there, but we’ve taken that part out. That’s where it’s going to happen — where the inversion will happen — right out by the road. You can’t miss it.”

“We built Hades originally in 2005, and we’re building the inversion ourselves,” Laskaris said. “We use an engineering firm called Gravity Group, then take their information and build it.”

The ride will feature a new, half million dollar train. “I have wanted the inversion all along,” Laskaris said, “but it wasn’t possible because the cars couldn’t articulate enough to allow it.” The new train not only allows the cars to rotate and pivot adequately while providing complete restraint for the passengers, but allows Laskaris to finally have his dream.

Completed, Hades 360 will travel 4,746 feet, 1,400 of them underground, negotiate a 90 degree underground turn and the 360 degree upside-down roll, and reach a top speed of 70 miles per hour.

Asked if it will be completed by Memorial Day, Laskaris said, “absolutely!”

With regard to his recent, aggressive acquisition of properties, Laskaris said, “Entertainment is one of the necessities humans have. We have to eat, drink, and we have to have entertainment. I just think it’s one of the things people need. I just don’t believe in the economy as a factor. The Dells will do well in a good economy or a bad economy. It’s all about the product. We have a great product. The Dells has a great product.”

Also, Laskaris said, “I saw the need for getting in the resort business. The only way to compete in this town at this time is to be in the resort business and provide a good amenity for the customer. You can’t just open up your amenity and go to the general public. You have to have housing facilities included. And our product at Mt. Olympus, compared to our competitors, is more diversified. We have roller coasters and go-karts and a huge waterpark on top of it that are included with accommodations. Indoor and outdoor water parks, and indoor and outdoor roller coasters and go-karts. We also have 1,000 rooms with a campground that will meet everyone’s budget, and the same amenities — free with their stay — are available to all.”

“Advance bookings are way up from last year, so next year is looking very promising,” Laskaris said, “and we’re seeing an 80 percent rate of return from our guests. The reasons we’re doing well is because of our amenity, and because we’re doing a better job marketing, of telling our potential consumer what we have. Internet is our number one tool for marketing. TV is still good, but internet is the best. It’s inexpensive, easy to offer specials, and it’s live.”

“I always wanted to be the biggest,” Laskaris said. “Last year we did 1.2 million guests in the park, about 40 percent of whom stayed in our accommodations. We now bring in more individuals than any other single attraction in Wisconsin. At one time it was House on the Rock, but we’ve gone past that.”