Structural design & layout continue evolving for Skyplex plan

UPDATED: MARCH 28, 2016 5:03 PM — Work continues on the rollercoaster and tower structure designs for Joshua Wallack's Skyplex entertainment complex, with bid documents potentially ready in June for steel and concrete suppliers to price raw material for the project, the project's pre-construction director told GrowthSpotter on Monday.

Orange County planning staff have a new Development Plan (DP) submitted for Skyplex, which should go before the Development Review Committee in April. New design images from that DP can be seen in the photo gallery above.


Liechtenstein-based Intamin Amusement Rides, the rollercoaster manufacturer, continues to work with structural engineer Celtic Engineering on plans for the entire structure's design. When finished this spring, a wind tunnel test of the tower's world-record height would follow, said John McNary, project executive for Euforria, a subsidiary of Winter Park Construction that's serving as pre-construction manager on the project.

"After that (wind tunnel test), we'll be looking to get a set of documents, hopefully in June, that we'd be able to issue to steel and concrete providers for pricing on the tower, garage and hotel," McNary said. "This project is unique because you do have three types of structures: the concrete tower, steel tower and the rollercoaster all attached. So we have to analyze the structural design of each entity."

After rezoning was approved in December for Wallack's Skyplex property, applying for a DP with the county was on hold through January to allow for a window of appeal time, McNary said. No appeals were made, despite Universal Orlando leading a lobbying campaign against the project through much fo 2015.

At the current pace of Orange County's review and scheduling for the DP, McNary estimates the building foundation permits could be acquired in the Fall, with ground broken on foundations in November or December.

McNary previously projected that concrete bid packages could be put out for multiple stages, with one for the basement, pile caps and shallow foundations. Concrete for the property's structures like the parking garage, polercoaster tower and hotel could all be bid out in one or more packages.

The DP for Skyplex specifies plans to build a 35,860-square-foot restaurant, 340,470 square feet of entertainment retail space, 66,751 square feet of general retail and a 350-room hotel on a total of 11.46 acres. Those are in addition to the main attractions: a 501-foot vertical rollercoaster, a 450-foot drop tower, and a 600-foot zip line.

"We're still fluid with the programming inside," said Skyplex developer Joshua Wallack. "Incredible things are coming, and we'll talk more about that in the weeks and months to come."

The project's design has continued to evolve since its rezoning approval in December. For example, the square footage measurements for the entertainment and retail areas have grown, while the main restaurant space for Perkins is down about 4,000 square feet, said Michael Chatman, lead architect on the project for Helman Hurvey Charvat Peacock/Architects (HHCP).

"We're evolving every aspect of the project, every day. It's important to continue so we know it will be able to be approved by the county," Chatham said. "We continue to work with (Orange County staff) on the I-Drive Vision Plan to create the most walkable and pedestrian-friendly frontage we can on Sand Lake Road and International Drive. We're coordinating the undergrounding of utilities there."

HHCP, Celtic Engineering and polercoaster designer U.S. Thrill Rides recently sent staff to Switzerland in February to meet with Intamin, to coordinate planning for attachment of the coaster to the tower.

"The coordination of curves and clearances of track, and how they move through the building, is an extremely complicated process," Chatham said.

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