Fred Grubb: Coaster King

IN PERSON

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Owner of Rocky Mountain Construction Fred Grubb talks about the company's patent new roller coaster track that is becoming more poplar among amusement parks as it reduces the amount of maintenance for the parks.

HAYDEN - They start them before they can even walk at Rocky Mountain Construction.

Just ask Fred Grubb.

His daughter Amy Garcia works the front desk while his four-month-old granddaughter, Analise, sleeps in a front pack attached to mom.

"It's nice when your dad is the owner," Amy said with a smile.

The 52-year-old Grubb chuckles and grins.

"We start them young here," he says. "She has two more kids and they've all been raised here."

Good place to spend time growing up.

The Hayden company, as its brochure says, builds dreams.

Lately, those dreams revolve around roller coasters. Big ones.

Business is anything but up and down for Rocky Mountain Construction, which builds and designs roller coasters. Only up.

Up, up and up.

"There's not a lack of work," said Grubb, who was employed at Silverwood Theme Park before starting his own company. "We're just really, really fortunate."

The 14-year-old company with around 25-30 employees is ready to move into its new 18,000-square-foot building, where it will build new steel, innovative tracks for roller coasters.

There are two types - the I.Box steel track, billed as an all steel track system that "adds unparalleled flexibility," and the Topper steel track, credited as cost effective, and providing a smoother ride.

The track is made in Hayden, then shipped to the work site, where it is put on an existing roller coaster by Grubb's crew, or used in construction of a new one.

Four years in development, Rocky Mountain just put its new steel track on the Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington.

The Texas Giant is considered one of the country's top coasters. Grubb's company just made it better.

"It's turned out to be very successful," he said.

Grubb, who also serves as company president, is a "self- taught" man who grew up in DuBois, Wyo., and didn't go to college. He was a carpenter and man of all trades.

Besides roller coasters, Rocky Mountain handles specialty projects like water parks, including Boulder Beach at Silverwood, and zip lines. Rocky Mountain has built coasters and completed coaster repairs throughout the nation, and installed coaster track in South Korea.

All of which keeps Grubb on the go.

He rises by 4, is in the office by 5, and works until around 6 that evening.

Wife Suanne Dedmon handles the finances.

"Everything I'm not good at," Grubb added, smiling. "I'm better at thinking up stuff."

Suanne said Rocky Mountain Construction has excelled because it has "a really innovative product for the market. Nobody else has that."

She said they've built their business on a good reputation. Fred "always goes the extra mile for his client. That's the way he is."

How important are your new steel tracks to your company?

Huge. We've won the Brass Ring Award for the best new product.

What's the secret?

We figured out how to take flat steel, big flat sheets, cut out patterns and put it back together, end up with the three dimensional shapes it takes to put their roller coaster together. Our engineer we feel is one of the best.

Why has it worked so well?

It's been a big success because of the smoothness of the track. The track has tested out very smooth. Minute measurements count. It's the difference between having the ultimate smooth ride, or one that's a little bit rough.

This product allows less wear and tear on the coaster and cuts down on maintenance costs.

We've had these tracks out now for a couple years and there's virtually no maintenance on them.

Where else have you put in this track?

The Texas Giant was an existing old wooden coaster at Six Flags in Arlington, about 4,500 feet long and 153 feet tall. The old existing structure, we took the track off, re-profiled the whole coaster, re-engineered and redesigned the whole coaster. We took this newly developed track back over the top of it to fit all of that shape.

What was the result?

Texas Giant is the smoothest ride I've ever ridden.

Will your new steel tracks work on any wooden coaster?

We can go in and we can insert this track in the middle of an existing wood coaster just to take out trouble spots for them or we can rebuild the whole coaster.

One advantage of this track is, we can retrofit the wood coaster tracks. The track will last. It's not something that takes all of their maintenance. It is more expensive, but you don't have to repair it like they do existing tracks.

How did you get into this business?

I had worked in Seattle, did zoo exhibit work before coming to Silverwood. Silverwood wanted to build a roller coaster. That's how I got into it. Other people started asking if I would go out and do work for them. I figured we might as well start our own company.

What do you like about this?

I like building different things. I really like doing the oddball stuff.

Since your business is thriving, have you increased manpower?

We're working five days, may be going to six. We'll probably have to go to double shifts.

What's the most challenging aspect of this work?

Multi-tasking. There are so many things we have to do to be able to do one project, all the different medias of work we have to know about.

Do you always meet your deadlines?

There is no excuse for being late. The parks have to be open. It's their bread and butter. There is no forgiveness here.

Will you be expanding overseas?

Possibly.

When did you first ride a roller coaster?

I grew up in a little town in Wyoming. I never even saw a roller coaster until I moved out of Wyoming, and I lived there until I was 26. I think I first went on one when I was about 30 years old.

Did you like it?

Yeah. I still like them. I'm an adrenaline junkie.

Paul Villano, welder for Rocky Mountain Construction, works on fabricating a section of roller coaster track Tuesday during his shift at the Hayden shop. The company designs, fabricates, installs and repairs roller coasters worldwide.

 

Grubb describes some of the larger coasters his company has been involved in erecting.

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