The Instigator
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Pro (for)
Losing
1 Points
The Contender
bluesteel
Con (against)
Winning
9 Points

Steel Roller Coasters vs Wooden Roller Coasters - you choose!

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
bluesteel
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/2/2012 Category: Science
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 12,511 times Debate No: 24523
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (13)
Votes (3)

 

F-16_Fighting_Falcon

Pro

Resolution: Given the choice the build a new roller coaster, an amusement park must build a wooden/steel roller coaster over a steel/wooden one.

Background
:
Wooden roller coasters and steel coasters give vastly different rides and have different features. Wood coasters have been around a lot longer where as Steel coasters are a relatively recent invention.

In this debate, Con will choose which type of roller coaster he wants to argue in defense of. I will argue for the other. The point of view is from the perspective of the Amusement park in question. Hence the resolution.

Burden Of Proof: BOP is shared. Whichever debater better proves that their type of coaster must be built wins. It is a cost-benefit analysis.

Rounds:
Round 1: Acceptance - Con chooses whether he wants wood or steel.
Round 2: Opening arguments and rebuttals
Round 3: Rebuttals and Defence
Round 4: Rebuttals and Defence (no new arguments)

Rules:
1) All arguments must be made in the debate. Sources must be provided in the arguments section not in the comments or on a separate page.
2) Dropped arguments are considered to be conceded.
3) All sources must be directly linked and provided with page numbers if the source is long.
4) No sources may be given where the opponent/voters have to pay for access or need to locate where it is. Books may not be cited. If a book is cited, every part of the argument that references the book is considered automatically invalid.
5) Absolutely no semantics. In case of conflict on undefined terms, the most general and relevant definition of the word should be considered.

Definitions:
Amusement Park: Amusement Parks and Theme Parks are terms for a group of entertainment attractions, rides, and other events in a location for the enjoyment of large numbers of people. Examples of Amusement parks are Disneyworld and Six Flags. [1]

Roller Coaster: A steep, sharply curving elevated railway with small open passenger cars that is operated at high speeds as a ride, especially in an amusement park. [2]

Wooden Roller Coaster
: A roller coaster with running rails made of flattened steel strips mounted on laminated wooden track. [3]





Steel Roller Coaster
: A steel roller coaster is a roller coaster that is defined by having a track made of steel. [4]




Questions:
Please ask in the comments section before accepting this debate.

Sources:
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org...
bluesteel

Con

I choose steel.
Debate Round No. 1
F-16_Fighting_Falcon

Pro

I thank Bluesteel for accepting and look forward to an awesome debate. He chose steel. Therefore this is the resolution I will be defending.

Resolution: Given the choice the build a new roller coaster, an amusement park must build a wooden roller coaster over a steel one.

The goal of an amusement park for investing in a roller coaster is to recoup its investment and increase profitability by way of attracting a larger number of people to the park and having repeat customers. I will now show why an average amusement park will make more profits by installing a wooden roller coaster as opposed to a steel one.


1) Attracts roller coaster enthusiasts

Roller coaster enthusiasts often prefer wooden coasters to steel coasters. For example, in June 2010, more than 400 members of the American Coaster Enthusaists arrived at Pittsburg to ride wooden roller coasters [3]. While the age of the coasters was part of the appeal, a major reason for this preference was the changing nature of wooden roller coaster rides. According to the group's secretary Bill Linkenheimer "Modern coasters can be extreme and fast, but the ride tends to be the same every time, while everything from the time of day to the humidity can change the ride on a wooden one. [3]" Roller Coaster enthusiasts ride hundreds of roller coasters while Linkenheimer himself had riden over 600, so appealing to them multiplies the potential profits by hundreds of times compared with a novice roller coaster rider who might ride coasters occasionally.

Members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts are coaster critics [4]. They can provide accurate feedback on the coasters based the ride. Their reviews also encourage first time riders to choose coasters that they recommend. This is another reason for amusement parks to appeal to roller coaster enthusiasts more than the general public.


2) Unique features

Wooden roller coasters have many unique features such as a rougher ride and a greater illusion of danger than steel coasters. According to the University of Houston, the track of the Rattler, a wooden roller coaster sways [8]. This is true for most wooden roller coasters. When a coaster turns, the energy in the coaster car is absorbed by the track [9]. The wooden structure responds by swaying as much as two to three feet back and forth before returning to equilibrium [8]. Swaying is an integral part of any engineering structure and the amount of swaying depends mostly on the strength of the material of the structure. Steel is stronger than wood and so steel roller coasters sway less than wooden ones. Steel coasters cannot replicate the rough feel of the wooden coasters which convey the illusion of danger and makes humans psychologically fear that they will fall as the coasters rattles and shakes [8]. This is one of the primary reason humans seek thrilling rides like roller coasters - for the illusion of danger (while no real danger actually exists). Wooden roller coaster strikes to the heart of the purpose people go to amusement park rides.

Wooden roller coasters can also have tighter twists and turns than steel coasters [10]. This is because they are often slower. Steel roller coasters might try to achieve those turns but that negates speed which is usually a selling point on a steel coaster since steel by itself is not a selling point.


3) Fills a need

There are much less wooden coasters in existence currently than steel ones. According to the roller coaster database, there are currently 545 steel roller coasters and 113 wooden roller coasters in the United States [2]. Building a wooden roller coaster would fill the deficit in wooden coasters as opposed to add to the already increasing number of steel coasters that are already available. Many people have preferences as to the type of roller coaster they want to ride or may be specific about taking a ride in both the wooden and the steel coasters. Also, the uniqueness of the coaster as well as the fact that it can be advertised as a wooden coaster will bring in crowds. A steel coaster cannot generally be advertised merely as a "steel coaster" since steel coasters are the status quo and anything special about it would have to be built separately such as themes and features.

A typical amusement park would likely have 4-5 steel roller coasters and 0-1 wooden coasters already existing. The only motivation to build yet another steel coaster is to top an already existing record but such attempts cost a massive amount of money but there are limits to how much a human body can take before self-destructing. In fact, the Ferrari Experience's F1 Coaster will be capable of a speed of 150mph but will be operated at a lower speed by park officials [7]. This negates the entire point of having record breaking coasters.


4) Comparison Polls

In a poll done by Best Roller Coaster Poll which has been ranking roller coasters since 1994, it was seen that two wooden coasters (El Toro, The Voyage) beat every steel coaster they were compared against by mutual riders [5]. In fact, the top three steel roller coasters lost mutual rider comparisons to wooden coasters ranked 4, 2, and 9 respectively.

The methodology of the study involved only considering ballots from people who had ridden both wooden and steel coasters and compared them. Roller Coaster enthusiasts responded positively to the methodology of the poll pointing out that the weighting system ensures that each coaster recieves a fair ranking [6].


Conclusion

Wooden roller coasters are preferred by large numbers of roller coaster enthusiasts who have their own clubs and organizations, ride hundreds of roller coasters, and write reviews of amusement parks and roller coasters thus encouraging novices to try them. Wooden roller coasters invoke a sense of nostalgia as well as have unique features such as swaying which makes the fact that a coaster is wooden a selling point by itself. Most amusement parks don't currently have a lot of wooden coasters, and given the choice, they must opt to build one to increase their profitability and ability to sell as opposed to building just another steel coaster.


Sources

[1] http://science.howstuffworks.com...
[2] http://www.rcdb.com...
[3] http://travel.usatoday.com...
[4] http://articles.mcall.com...
[5] http://www.ushsho.com...
[6] http://www.ushsho.com...
[7] http://www.thecoastercritic.com...
[8] http://www.uh.edu...
[9] http://www.familykingdomfun.com...
[10] http://www.nytimes.com...
bluesteel

Con

I thank F-16 for this debate. It looks to be an interesting one.

== Weighing mechanism ==

We should weigh today's debate on a cost-benefit analysis, *from the perspective of the amusement park,* not from the perspective of society. As self-interested capitalists, we should build a ride that benefits our park. This isn't contestable because it's in the rules: "The point of view is from the perspective of the Amusement park in question."

== Steel coasters are better investments ==

1) Unique Features

Because steel is much stronger than wood, it can hold up more complex and interesting ride designs. Isaiah Churchwater explains, "Because of steel's superior strength, these coasters can be pushed to speeds and made to perform stunts considered unsafe for wooden roller coasters." [1] One of the major selling points of roller coasters – inversions (loops) – is not possible on a wooden coaster. "The fact that fewer supports are needed means steel roller coasters have made a large variety of features possible, such as Loops, Barrel Rolls, Corkscrews, Zero-G Rolls and Beyond 90� Drops." [2] Comparing a wood coaster to a steel coaster of the same price, the steel coaster will go faster and have higher (and thus longer) drops. Liana Thomas explains, "A steel roller coaster of one length is generally taller than a wooden roller coaster of the same length because it is easier and safer to build the steel structure at a larger height than it is to build the wooden structure." [3] She continues, "Steel roller coasters typically go a lot faster than wooden roller coasters." [3]

As mentioned, steel has more bang for the buck. It can support additional track weight (and thus drop height) without needing additional (expensive) reinforcements built. Roller coasters are rated based on the height of their drop: less than a 200 foot drop is a "junior coaster" (for children), 200-300 is a "mega coaster," 300-400 is a "giga coaster" and above 400 is "ultra." [1] Only 2 ultras exist, both steel. [1] With steel, we get a bigger drop height and thus, potentially, a better rating.

2) Popularity

Steel coasters are far more popular among the general public than wood coasters. One coaster enthusiast points out that the general public doesn't like wood coasters as much as coaster enthusiasts do: "The [general public] doesn't like wood[] [coasters] as much as we do though, and parks don't like the high cost of mainten[an]ce involved, so it's not surprising to see fewer of them being built these days." [4] My opponent brought up an online poll of 400 people, but these are all coaster enthusiasts and the poll suffers from selection bias.

Gallup hasn't done a poll among the general public, but the coaster enthusiast listed above and the articles I've cited seem to suggest that most people prefer the features of steel. "A roller coaster sells the thrill of both height and speed as it suspends a group of people in the air while it travels speeds up to 70 mph." [3] People like height and speed – both selling points of steel. "Roller coasters give riders the opportunity to experience zero gravity and crushing downforce without ever having to step into harm's way." [1] My opponent points out that the only selling point of wood coasters is that you "feel like you're going to die" because it rocks, jolts, and shakes. Most people don't consider the feeling that the coaster might collapse as a major selling point. "The popularity of steel coasters rose dramatically after 1950." [1]

Since there isn't any legitimate widespread study on steel vs. wood use statistics, I thought I'd provide some anecdotal evidence as well. Top Gun (steel) was far more popular at my local Great America than its wooden counterpart, the Grizzly. Top Gun typically had 2.5 hour waits, at peak hours, The Demon (also steel, but nothing special) had 1.5 hour waits. The Grizzly had 30 minute waits. Top Gun was super-fast, had cork screws and went upside down. It was a hanging coaster - rather than sitting on top of the track, it hangs under it, letting your feet dangle - allowing it to fly really close to the water. Top Gun truly feels like you are flying, with the wind rushing through your hair, as you duck, weave, and fly low to the ground. The Grizzly is nothing. It rattles your teeth and makes your head hurt.

As an aside, variety in train car style is another thing wood coasters lack. Steel coasters can have you standing, sitting, hanging, lying flat, hanging inverted while lying flat, going down backwards, etc.

3) Cost

The cost of the coasters is comparable. "The construction costs of steel roller coasters are higher than wooden ones. Steel is more expensive than wood, and it costs more to design and build a steel roller coaster than a wooden one. However, over the long run the costs between wooden and steel roller coasters will be about the same, since maintenance costs for wooden roller coasters are significantly higher." [5] Wood degrades and needs to be replaced. Steel doesn't.

In addition, you can write off the depreciation value of the coaster on your taxes. You cannot write off maintenance costs. So since more of our costs for the steel coaster are tied up in the coaster itself, we will be paying lower taxes due to depreciation. "For initial outlay, a wooden coaster is cheaper but maintenance wise, a wooden coaster will cost *more* over the lifetime of a coaster. Steel is a more expensive initial cost, giving a larger depreciation value each year on the books for tax purposes." [4]

== Rebuttal ==

R1) Attracts enthusiasts

My opponent points out that in one of the biggest roller coaster enthusiast events ever, 400 enthusiasts met in Pittsburgh to ride wood coasters. 400 tickets, during a "special event," isn't a lot of sales. The general public matters more than enthusiasts, who have eclectic, unique, and sometimes strange tastes. Enthusiasts also like the wood coasters more because the lines are often shorter. Enthusiasts also buy season passes which aren't as profitable as one-off ticket sales.

Catering to unique enthusiast tastes is not smart. Computer enthusiasts often prefer the Linux operating system. However, that doesn't mean if we were a computer company, it'd be smart to stop bundling Windows with the PC's we sell to the general public. Indie music listeners have unique tastes, but nearly by definition, if we, as a music company, catered to them, our company would go out of business.

Conclusion: companies turn a profit by catering to the general public, not enthusiasts.

R2) Unique features

This has already been covered. Wood is uncomfortable because it jolts. It is loud and hurts your ears. After the big initial drop is over, most people no longer find wood interesting. The point of a coaster is to experience big drops *without* fearing for your life. Thinking the coaster might collapse isn't fun to normal people, who unlike enthusiasts, don't understand the physics of why the coaster *won't actually* collapse.

R3) Fills a need

My opponent argues from society's perspective, not the park's perspective. There are so few wood coasters nationwide because a) they are more expensive, and b) they don't attract as many patrons. The free market has allocated resources based on what is most popular.

In addition, as my opponent points out, the typical park has 1 wood coaster and 4 steel coasters. Once you've ridden one wood coaster, another one is unlikely to be that different. They all jolt. With steel, you can build a unique new ride experience – with different types of cars, different inversions, etc. But your second wood coaster is unlikely to be much different than your first.

R4) Poll

This just shows the opinion of the enthusiasts who were aware enough about online roller coaster polls to sign up to take the poll. The fact that the site itself puts "poll" in quotation marks is pretty telling. They know it's not a real poll. It reads: Wooden versus Steel Roller Coaster 2010 "Poll" results.

[1] http://tinyurl.com...
[2] http://tinyurl.com...
[3] http://tinyurl.com...
[4] http://tinyurl.com...
[5] http://tinyurl.com...
Debate Round No. 2
F-16_Fighting_Falcon

Pro

My case:

C1) Attracts enthusiasts
The event is Pittsburg is an example, not an isolated event. 400 people came to just that event. There are many events such as that every year. The American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) have 25 more events scheduled in 2012 [2]. It is June right now so that is roughly 50 events a year. Consider the fact that the ACE has thousands of members, it is just one organization of many, and the fact that enthusiasts ride coasters hundreds of times, the revenue generated by the enthusiasts is vast.
Secondly, the enthusiasts influence the opinions of novice and intermediate riders with their expert critical reviews. An analogy with movies is that if a movie is rated highly on Rotten Tomatoes, more people will want to see it. The critical acclaim it recieves will improve its popularity. Novices and casual riders can't usually appreciate the differences between wood and steel but rave reviews of a wooden coaster by an enthusiast will sway their opinion and make them try the wooden coasters.

Enthusiasts prefer wooden coasters for the nostalgia, the element of danger, and the unpredictability as I showed last round with actual quotes from people attending the Pittsburg event. All these attributes can apply only to wooden coasters. Enthusiasts often travel from far away to experience roller coaster rides. Superficial reasons like line length are irrelevant.

Con's analogy that computer enthusiasts often prefer the Linux operating system fails because the general public does not know how to use Linux. This creates a barrier to entry. On the other hand, anyone can ride a wooden coaster. They don't need to learn how to do it.


C2) Unique features

Airtime

Con says that the point of a getting on a roller coaster is to experience big drops. Why does one find a "drop" exhilarating? This is because of what is known in roller coaster terminology as "Airtime" [7] - basically freefall. "When a coaster train crests a hill at high speeds, riders typically rise from their seats for a free-floating few seconds. Most coaster fanatics crave airtime and consider it to be exhilarating" [7]. However, wooden coasters actually fill this requirement better and are well known for providing great airtime [5][6].

Pre-fabricated

Con claims that wood is uncomfortable because it jolts. This is actually an option, not a pre-requisite. El Toro at six flags for instance is a wooden coaster that is pre-fabricated. Due to this, it offers a smooth ride [3]. Critic Arthur Levine describes it as "smooth as silk" [4]. So, people who want a smoother ride can use a pre-fabricated wooden caoster while people who enjoy the rougher ride can use a wooden coaster built on site. If a park already has a regular wooden coaster, they can build a second pre-fabricated one for a different ride experience. The support structure will still gently sway from side to side creating a natural lateral movement, provide great airtime and have all the features of a wood coaster.

Swaying
Con doesn't address this. Swaying provides an an authentic and natural feel - a great selling point.


C3) Fills a need
The way a park generates revenues is by giving society what it needs. This directly increases profits by bringing "society" into that park.

Wood coasters come with many features such as smooth vs rough rides, swaying, and better airtime and lateral g-forces. Now, let's say a park has 1 wood coaster and 4 steel coasters. Why build a 5th steel one rather than a second wood one?

Free and volunteer advertising
The ACE is committed to increasing their visibility of wood coasters[9]. Free advertising = more profits.


C4) Polls
Coaster enthusiasts are experts in riding and reviewing roller coasters. A novice or intermediate rider is more likely to weigh the opinion of an expert who rode over hundreds of roller coasters over that of other beginners who have no idea what the finer details of the roller coaster are. Enthusiasts can review various features such as airtime and lateral g-forces and understand what underlying mechanics make a coaster ride exhilarating.

More importantly, the general public have not ridden enough coasters to give an accurate comparison of which is better. This causes skewed data and an abundance of outliers due to a small sample size of data that each person has access to - the number of coasters they have ridden. The methodology of the poll I mentioned is superior to a random sample because it eliminates the problems created by a small sample size. If a person only rode two coasters, they wouldn't be able to accurately compare airtime, speeds, accelerations etc because their body hasn't experienced the variety.


Rebuttals

R1) Unique features
Con says that steel can support additional drop height. But why do people need additional drop height at all? So they can experience more time in free fall, i.e. Airtime. The "butterflies in your stomach" feeling that makes you feel as if you are flying. Wooden coasters do that better.


R2) Popularity
Con says people like height and speed but we seem to both be making the assumption that a typical amusement park already has about 4 steel coasters. Let's say that they are 200, 300, 400, and 500 feet each. The "height" and "speed" is only relevant for the 500 foot coaster. Why would an amusement park build another 350 foot coaster and advertise "height and speed?" But by building a second wooden coaster, they advertise an experience which changes based on the climate, is smooth or rough based on choice, provides great airtime and sways in a different fashion. The same applies to the features my opponent mentioned such as inversion, beyond 90° Drops, barrel rolls. One steel coaster can have all those features. If there are 4 steel coasters, they will likely have a variety in train car style as well.

Besides, wood has plenty of types of coasters like twisters, racers, and out and backs.

Con's anecdotal evidence is his own personal preference. He could easily have compared a top of the line steel coaster with a poorly reviewed wooden one. If his local park builds another wood coaster that can compare to El Toro or Voyage, his opinion will surely change. The people mentioned in Con's source likely have the same problem.


R3) Cost
While wooden coasters are cheaper initially, steel ones are cheaper to maintain. The overall cost comes out to be pretty much the same. Con says that wood degrades and needs to be replaced. That is part of what "maintenance" is. Replacing wood is why the cost is higher but this is offset by a lower initial cost. Depreciation favore building steel coasters but buying a cheaper initial coaster enables the remaining money to be invested for maintenance.

Also, wood can be pressure treated. Pressure treating is the process of immersing wood in a liquid preservative and placed in a pressure chamber. The chamber forces the chemical into the wood fibers. Pressure treated wood lasts several decades [9].

Steel coasters become old sooner. If you build a record-breaking coaster, some other park will likely beat your record very soon. The features of steel coasters will soon become outdated in a few years giving a poor return on your investment. Wood coaster features (like a different ride each time) are intrinsic to wood and don't become outdated. A well built wood coaster like El Toro or Voyage will be a landmark for decades to come.


Weighing mechanism
What the park should build. We both agreed so there is no issue here.
bluesteel

Con

Thanks for the response F-16.

== Rebuttal ==

{{{ Enthusiasts }}}

My opponent claims there are a lot of smaller events too. That doesn't matter. These parks need to sell *thousands* of tickets on a *daily* basis, not a couple hundred tickets to enthusiasts on a yearly basis.

In addition, F-16 drops/concedes my argument that season passes aren't profitable. Enthusiasts ride coasters often. They thus buy season passes. If you buy the season passes in bulk, they are just as much as a single day-pass. [1] So having an enthusiast go to your amusement park 100 times per year is no more profitable than having him go once per year.

My opponent claims that enthusiasts write reviews. Really, where? Unlike movies, where reviews are published in legitimate publications like the New York Times and aggregated by Rotten Tomatoes, roller coasters are only discussed in obscure roller coaster forums. Six Flags and Great America get most of their new revenue from advertising (tv spots, placements on soda cans, etc). It's easier to advertise a taller and faster new steel coaster than a wood one.

It's not really that impressive to say, "people on ultimaterollercoaster.com really like our new wood coaster."

Nostalgia also isn't impressive to the general public. Video game enthusiasts are often nostalgic about old 16-bit games. That doesn't mean that Ubisoft should build Assassin's Creed III using the original Mario graphics engine.

What percent of enthusiasts even prefer wood?

{{{ Unique Features }}}

For airtime, my opponent merely provides a quote about coaster "fanatics." Most people don't like the bumpy ride of wood coasters, which throws people into the air and then slams their butts, painfully, back into the seat. People get a much longer zero G experience from long drops. Steel has longer drops. Because of the design of wood coasters, they can only have one large drop because they are propelled by pulling the cart, by chain, up a hill. Steel coasters have alternate propulsion systems which can allow them to have multiple large drops.

In addition, the up and down design of wood coasters can be done with steel as well. Most coaster designers don't use this design with steel because there are more interesting thrills.

My opponent claims wood can have a smooth ride. Firstly, the only reason wood is better than steel, according to my opponent, is because of the bumpy ride. Why pay more for maintaining wood if it has the same ride experience as steel, minus the inversions? In addition, prefabricating wood is expensive. Traditional wood coasters are only cheap because "track is built on site … Prefabricated track, on the other hand, is manufactured in a factory. It is made of many thin layers of wood that are glued together and then laser cut to the exact shape needed." [2] This expensive manufacturing process needs to be done with replacement wood as well, which would add significantly to the cost of our coaster.

Swaying – I did address this. Feeling like the track might collapse isn't a nice feeling to most people.

{{{ Fills a need }}}

Con asks if you have 1 wood and 4 steel coasters, why buy another steel one? Because each steel one can be different. My local Great America had these four steel coasters: Top Gun (legs suspended, car rides under track), Vortex (standing, legs not hanging, car rides on top of track), The Demon (classic car steel coaster, with two loops), and Invertigo (launched propulsion, suspended coaster with passengers facing each other; goes through 3 cork screws forwards, stops, then goes through the same 3 corkscrews backwards). They also had the Grizzly, which was wood. When they had money for an additional coaster, rather than build another typical wood coaster, they decided to build an additional steel coaster where people were suspended, lying flat on their backs. The name of said coaster, however, escapes me.

Steel adds additional variety. Wood doesn't – it offers much the same experience.

{{{ Poll }}}

My opponent claims this poll is so legitimate. If it is, why didn't they aggregate the data? Why can't you tell us, "57% of coaster enthusiasts prefer wood"? My opponent never even tells us what the results of the poll were.

The site says they can't aggregate because it's not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Also, F-16 claimed that enthusiasts have said the methodology of this poll is super great. One such enthusiast wrote that this poll was good because "a great but rarely ridden coaster will beat a mediocre coaster that everyone has ridden."

That's all well and good, but what park wants to build a "rarely ridden coaster"?? Critical acclaim counts for nothing. F-16 keeps ignoring the fact that the tastes of enthusiasts and the general public differ greatly. Enthusiasts even *admit* this.

== Defending my case ==

{{{ Unique Features }}}

Why do people need more drop height? Free falling for 6 seconds is more fun than free falling for 1/2 a second. A higher drop height also means the coaster gains more speed.

It also has to do with advertising appeal. A mega coaster sounds better than a junior coaster. Similarly, 3 Ghz for a computer process sounds better than 2 Ghz. You have to do something to set yourself apart. Wood seems like an outdated medium to most people, kind of like trying to advertise for a slide rule rather than a calculator. It's not "cool."

{{{ Popularity }}}

F-16 doesn't answer my sources that the general public does not like wood as much as enthusiasts do, that it was steel that skyrocketed in popularity starting in the 1950's, and that people prefer height, speed, and loops. F-16 drops that demand (more steel built) proves popularity.

In addition, F-16 assumes, without warrant, that we already have a 500 foot coaster. Yet, there are only 2 such ulta coasters in the world. It is quite possible that our park does not even have a giga coaster, so we could build bigger or faster.

But as I showed with my local Great America, each steel coaster offers a unique ride experience. The Demon only had loops. Invertigo had lots of cork screws and went backwards and forwards, using a unique propulsion system. This is the reason steel coasters cost more to design: because there are more design *options.* Of the top 10 "coolest" roller coasters, all are steel. [3] Ranking criteria include speed, height, unique modes of acceleration (one is self-pedal powered), and unique track designs (one unexpectedly shoots underwater).

And F-16 assumes our park is an average size park. The fact we want to expand typically means we are starting on the smaller side, since it means we still have extra land. We may only have 1 wood coaster and 2 steel coasters.

In addition, the three car types F-16 cites for wood are mostly small variations of the same typical roller coaster "car" design, which travels above track, on wheels, with the rider seated face forward.

{{{ Cost }}}

F-16 says it's good we can save our money for maintenance. However, consider this:

Let's say we are willing to spend $30 million over the next 15 years on a new roller coaster. With steel, most of our money can go into building the coaster itself. We can use more of the money up-front to ensure that the ride itself has some amazing features. With wood, most of the money needs to be held back, to pay for maintenance. This means that less can be spent on the build. So we get a less impressive roller coaster because more of our money is saved for maintenance.

Pressure treating the wood ups the cost and even pressure treated wood coasters need constant maintenance. [4]

F-16 claims someone will top our steel coaster. Same could happen for wood. Not only that, people rarely travel super-far just to go to an amusement park (besides Disneyworld). We only need to be the fastest or tallest in our local region.

[1] http://tinyurl.com...
[2] http://tinyurl.com...
[3] http://tinyurl.com...
[4] http://tinyurl.com...
Debate Round No. 3
F-16_Fighting_Falcon

Pro

C1) Appeal to Enthusiasts
There are tens of thousands of roller coaster enthusiasts. The ACE alone has over 6000 members [1]. Enthusiasts from all over the country will ride our quality wooden coaster and write online bringing in even more people. The season passes point is irrelevant. My argument is that because enthusiasts ride more coasters, it increases the likelihood of them riding our coaster.

A critically acclaimed roller coaster positively reviewed by the ACE, coastercritic.com, or ultimatecoaster.com is an advertising point. “A top 3 wooden coaster in North America as rated by 3 independent sources.” That is a tagline. It is also free advertising. This saves millions of dollars required to get multiple spots on a TV commercials or put it on soda cans [2]. Besides, novices and casual riders would likely be afraid of a coaster that is the “tallest” or might want to try a regular sized coaster first.

C2) Unique features
I provided quotes that wooden coasters have better airtime. In response Con merely asserts that “most people” don't like a “bumpy” ride. First off, it has nothing to do with airtime. Secondly, some people like bumpy rides, some don't. The bumps are optional.

The real value of wooden coasters lies in the fact that it generates airtime (the butterflies in your stomach feeling) that is a primary reason people go on roller coasters.

Con also misunderstands what “swaying” means. Swaying is the lateral movement of the wooden structure which provides an additional dimension of movement. The natural feel of this movement is impossible to replicate in steel simply because it is an intrinsic property of wood. Con says it isn't fun for him but most people go on roller coasters for the thrill and the percieved danger.

Con source does not say that pre-fabricated wooden coasters are more expensive but it does say that they require less maintenance. Less maintenance = more profits.

C3) Fills a need
Con's local amusement park only has 1 wooden coaster and 5 steel ones (per Con's testimony). Top Gun and Invertigo are both suspended coasters as seen on these videos[3][4] and through Con's descriptions but Invertigo has the passengers facing each other. That's hardly a different variety.
Many of steel's features can be integrated into the same coaster. Having about 3-4 steel coasters is reasonable to accommodate different seating arrangements. But beyond that, you are essentially looking at the same thing with minor variations.

C4) Polls
Con drops that the poll is superior because enthusiasts have a wider variety of experience to their body. They can write reviews for novices better than the novices themselves.

The data isn't aggregated because it is based on mutual riders - riders who ride both coasters evaluate which is better. For example, the no.1 wood coaster El Toro beat the no.1 steel coaster Bizarro. Because every coaster is different. This is the most accurate method for data collection with this type of data.

The enthusiast that Con mentions never says that "great" coasters are rarely ridden. He merely says that the poll emphasized quality and has nothing to do with popularity. I addressed the argument for popularity in R2.



Rebuttals

R1) Unique features
Time in free fall is not the same as drop height. If you are jammed into the coaster with shoulder restraints and fall at the exact same speed as the coaster, you are not experiencing airtime (freefall). The properties of the wooden support structure gives wooden coasters the edge as the car sinks beneath you letting you fly through the air for the entire duration of a massive drop.

R2) Popularity
Con's case is fallacious as he assumes that steel coasters are more popular based on the fact that there are more steel coasters in existence. Parks have built steel coasters because they have assumed that taller, faster, and steeper coasters will get them more profits. In the long term, however, wooden coasters are better investments since the parks are going into an untapped market with less competition.

El Toro and Voyage have been around for over 6 and 7 years respectively and are still the best critically acclaimed coasters [5][6]. The fastest coaster is Formula Rossa in Abu Dhabi built in 2010 [7]. Before that, it was the Kingda Ka built in 2005 [8]. And before that was Top Thrill Dragster built in 2003 [9]. This proves that if a record breaking coaster is built, it will be beaten very soon.

People come to Disneyworld from far off places because it is the stuff of legend. To bring people, we must make our coaster legendary.

Steel coasters operate based on superlatives as opposed to intrinsic qualities of the ride. When the superlative is beaten, they can no longer advertise their ride as the tallest, fastest or steepest. When no superlatives are attempted, the steel coaster merely becomes one of many steel coasters already in the park. The loops, G-rolls etc can all be on one coaster. With 3-4 coasters, they can have different seating as well.

Wood has variations on car types. Twisters feature exciting high speed turns and give the illusion of nearly colliding with side of the track. Racers involve two trains to simulate racing. Out and Backs give good airtime over consecutive drops.

R3) Cost
Con's source says that pressure treating allows wood to last over 20 years before needing to be replaced. If the park chooses to build a steel coaster, it most likely will be completely outdated by that time and need to be replaced anyways.

Our wood coaster won't be “topped” because the way to measure the quality of a wood coaster is not linear. It is not simply the “tallest” or the “fastest.”

The end costs of similar steel and wood coasters come out to be the same although more money is paid upfront for steel and maintenance for wood. This means that building a wood coaster of similar caliber to a steel one will cost less initially but will catch up with maintenance.

Con drops his earlier argument that wood needs to be replaced when I pointed out that that is part of what "maintenance" is. Con is simply throwing out a bunch of arguments with incorrect calculations.

How to judge this debate

Weighing Mechanism #1
As voters, did reading this debate make you want to try out a quality wooden coaster? If so, vote Pro because my arguments were convincing enough for you to try it out and the amusement park gets increased profits because of it. If a bumpy ride is a discouragement, still vote Pro due to better airtime, and the authentic wooden swaying which provides an additional dimension of movement. Riding a pre-fabricated coaster gives a smooth ride while retaining those features.

If your local amusement park doesn't have a good wooden coaster that meets those requirements, vote Pro because if they build one, they get your business = increases profits and because I am advocating that they build one.

Weighing Mechanism #2
Weigh long term benefits over the short term ones. To increase long term profits, parks must build a stellar reputation among the community and build its roller coasters in such a way that not only will they last longer but will also be critically acclaimed.

Most roller coasters are currently steel. Parks have built them to achieve record-breaking speeds, stunts and heights. But if we try to build a record breaker in our park, while it might generate business in the short term, another park will beat that record. With a wood coaster such as El Toro or the Voyage, our park will go into an untapped market and give out a great return on investment for decades to come.

Con also dropped that steel coasters become outdated in a few years while wood coasters don't.
For these reasons, construction of a wooden roller coaster is a better decision for an amusement park than constructing another run of the mill steel coaster or even a record breaking steel coaster.


Sources
[1]bit.ly/M0HVOg
[2] usat.ly/xcXi3F
[3] bit.ly/991Fqp
[4] bit.ly/Os5myI
[5] bit.ly/NBmcXm
[6] bit.ly/MWaPO1
[7] bit.ly/9a0Ged
[8] bit.ly/wCWTr
[9] bit.ly/sYV4J
bluesteel

Con

Thanks for the debate F-16.

{{{ Weighing Mechanism }}}

Remember, we're evaluating today's debate from the perspective of the amusement park. We thus want to build the most profitable ride possible. Profitability is a function of cost and popularity. As a result, arguments like "unique features" don't matter unless they tie into popularity. If I prove steel is more popular, I prove that the general public doesn't care about the "unique" properties of wood.

{{{ Popularity }}}

Half the argument comes down to popularity, and the other half cost. I'll combine all of F-16's popularity/poll/enthusiast arguments under this heading.

First, let's look at all the pieces of evidence that F-16 dropped, and thus conceded to - as per the rules. There was the evidence from one enthusiast that said that unlike enthusiasts, the general public doesn't like wood coasters. There was the evidence that the general public prefers speed, drop height, and inversions – all features of steel and not wood. There was the evidence that steel coasters have *skyrocketed* in popularity ever since their introduction in the 1950's. And there was my (dropped) analysis that wood is perceived by the general public as an outdated medium. It's perceived as about as "cool" as a slide rule or a 16-bit video game.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that most wood coasters are rarely ridden. There was my anecdotal evidence from Great America: short lines at The Grizzly. There was the enthusiast who said he was happy that a rarely ridden ("but great") wood coaster would still be ranked high. And here's more anecdotal evidence from enthusiasts and park employees, who are talking about how much they love Gemini (a wood coaster at Cedar Point); yet, a park employee says that the line at peak hours for Gemini is only 5 minutes long. [1] That's really bad for a "critically acclaimed" coaster.

The last evidence in my camp was market share: as F-16 pointed out in round 2, wood coasters only have 17% market share. This is even worse considering that most wood coasters were built a long time ago, before steel became the clear winner. Market share proves popularity. Companies do a lot of market research before building expensive new products. They look at their own park and similar parks to see how often various coasters are ridden each day.

F-16's response to this is that parks have falsely assumed that faster and taller will get them more profits. But companies that succeed never *assume* anything. They do careful market research before making major decisions. F-16 next says that firms can enter an "untapped market" for wood coasters, but wood coasters are an unpopular part of the same "roller coaster" marketplace. If we are a Best Buy and have to decide whether to stock Apple iPods or Microsoft Zune's on our limited shelf-space, we're going to stock iPods (80% market share) instead of Zune's (10% market share). Zune's are not an "untapped market." They are an unpopular part of the same market. Market share reflects consumer preferences. That's Econ 101.

Combined, all of this evidence makes a powerful case that steel is *much* more popular among the general public.

F-16 has two main arguments as to why wood is more "popular."

First, he argues that having the best wood coaster is harder to beat. If that's true, then our park is unlikely to beat The Voyage or El Toro, the #1 and #2 ranked wood coasters. A lot of money went into those coasters. In addition, of the 83% of coasters in the world that are steel, there's no way that every park thought they were building the "fastest" coaster. Steel is popular regardless of whether it is the fastest in the world. Also, F-16 drops that you only have to be the fastest in your local region. In spite of Formula Rossa in the United Arab Emirates, Kingda Ka can still be advertised as the fastest coaster in North America. Almost no one is going to fly to the UAE just to ride a roller coaster. It suffices to be fastest in the Bay Area or fastest in the Tri-State area.

Second, F-16 argued that enthusiasts prefer wood. He has yet to *substantiate* this claim with his poll. The poll is garbage. What *percent* of enthusiasts prefer wood? F-16 could not even answer this question. If F-16 cannot even prove that enthusiasts prefer wood by a *wide margin,* then he can't win all the arguments about "critical acclaim."

Regardless, critical acclaim is ignored by the general public. Enthusiasts rank El Toro as #2 and Superman: Ultimate Flight as #86, [2] yet the line at Six Flags Great Adventure for Superman is typically twice as long as for El Toro. [3] People don't care that El Toro is a rare wooden coaster, ranked higher, or newer. As one enthusiast put it: the general public prefers a "mediocre" steel coaster to a "critically acclaimed" wood coaster.

Since our park is unlikely to take the #1 spot in either the steel or wood category, we're better off with building a mid-range steel coaster than a mid-range wood coaster. With steel, we're guaranteed that the general public will like it. With wood, we can't even be sure that critics will give our coaster high marks. We may get a review that says "this wood coaster pales in comparison to The Voyage." Appealing to the general public is a *much* safer bet.

In fact, Six Flags Great Adventure built Kingda Ka in 2005, and as F-16 points out, it is still the fastest coaster in North America. They built El Toro in 2003, and The Voyage was built only 3 years later, unseating El Toro as "the best wood coaster." F-16 is wrong when he keeps asserting that our wood coaster is guaranteed to be ranked #1. Wood coasters are rated using different criteria than steel; that doesn't mean it's any easier to get a high ranking. The Voyage cost half a million dollars more to build than Superman: Ultimate Flight. [4]

{{{ Cost }}}

Cost is the other side of the coin.

F-16 argues that best case, steel and wood cost the same in the long run. That means if I lose cost, I still win the debate if I win popularity, since steel translates into more ticket sales for the same price. But the cost curve slopes heavily in favor of steel:

F-16 concedes my analysis that if we have a fixed amount of money (say $10 million), with steel, nearly all $10 million can be put into the build. With wood, only about $2-3 million can be put into the build. The rest must be saved for maintenance costs. We can build a more impressive coaster with $10 million than with $3 million. So lower maintenance costs *also* translate into building a *better* coaster for the same price. This turns the critical acclaim argument. With a fixed pool of money, we are more likely to garner critical acclaim from steel.

F-16 also drops the argument that depreciation value means we get a much larger tax write-off from steel. The corporate tax rate in the US is around 35%. Every million dollars we can write-off on our taxes is free money. We can make almost *all* of our construction costs back by writing them off as depreciation. We can't make any of our maintenance costs back. So in the above $10 million example: if we can make back 80% of our construction costs, then with steel, we eventually make back $8 million through tax write-offs, but with wood, we could only make back $2.4 million out of the $10 million.

F-16 argues that if you pressure treat wood, it doesn't need to be replaced for 20 years. That might be true for furniture, but not for a roller coaster, which is exposed to the elements, a heavy load, and friction from the track cars. The source I cited last round says that all wood coasters are already pressure treated to protect against rain, so my maintenance cost sources already took this into account.

It's pretty clear that steel is a better investment in terms of cost.

Conclusion: Building a "great" wood coaster isn't cheap. The Voyage was an expensive build. Because steel provides more bang for the buck, I urge a Con vote.

[1] http://tinyurl.com...
[2] http://tinyurl.com...
[3] http://tinyurl.com...
[4] http://tinyurl.com...
http://tinyurl.com...
Debate Round No. 4
13 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by thett3 5 years ago
thett3
Good debate.

Much of the debate got wrapped around which type of roller coaster is better or funner to ride, but since the resolution is from the perspective of an amusement park and both of them accepted the mechanism of a cost-benefit analysis, these arguments are non-topical distractions.

The debate came down to, and really had to come down to popularity and cost.

On popularity bluesteel made very compelling arguments-showing that the popularity of steel has exploded in the past 60 years, and showing that the market share indicates popularity as well. I DO buy the argument that it's beneficial for a park to have a "legendary" or special roller coaster, but F-16 had a hard time weighing this in the debate as a whole. In his defense, it's a difficult argument to weigh since what makes a coaster become legendary is hard to judge if it can even be judged, but I disgress. The popularity point was a critical win for bluesteel, and a major factor in my decision. The anecdotal evidence favors con, but I put little stock in that--same with the polling data.

On cost it's really a toss-up. Bluesteel argues successfully that you can create a steel coaster with the up-front money because of maintenance costs on wood, but he doesnt weigh this in an actual financial sense. He just gives a card saying "maintenance costs for wooden roller coasters are significantly higher", since what quantity is "significant" is a matter of subjective analysis, I can't hand the cost argument to con, especially since it's highly unlikely that a company will set aside the maintenance costs, those are matters to be dealt with using profits. Given f-16's compelling argument about the lifespans of steel vs. wood coasters, this arg. actually ends with a slight pro lean to me, but not enough to negate the decisive Con win on popularity.

So Con gets my vote, but ever so slightly.
Posted by bluesteel 5 years ago
bluesteel
Maybe - we discussed space. But I'm busy for the next week and not starting any new debates. And I need to first start a debate with LaissezFaire, and then Royal when she gets back. I'd be happy to debate you, but it won't be for a couple weeks.
Posted by bluesteel 5 years ago
bluesteel
Yeah, I do too. But I sympathize with our judges, and enjoy the challenge of performing with fewer rounds as well. On some level, I'd rather have a well-read debate than a fully-fleshed out one.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Blusteel, do you want to do another debate on a different topic?
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Fun debate. I *really* wish we had more rounds.
Posted by bluesteel 5 years ago
bluesteel
lol @ BV; what will you be thinking about now?
Posted by thett3 5 years ago
thett3
BlueSTEEL chose to defend steel rollercoasters? Shocker :P
Posted by BlackVoid 5 years ago
BlackVoid
After reading this, I dont think I'll be able to go to an amusement park and look at a roller coaster the same way.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Just done. I am looking forward to your round :)
Posted by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
No pics.

All roller coasters have steel tracks. The difference is whether the supporting structure is wood or steel.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
F-16_Fighting_FalconbluesteelTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Steel coasters are better for the parks; Con had the numbers.
Vote Placed by thett3 5 years ago
thett3
F-16_Fighting_FalconbluesteelTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Comments
Vote Placed by ldcon 5 years ago
ldcon
F-16_Fighting_FalconbluesteelTied
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Total points awarded:13 
Reasons for voting decision: I give s&g to F16 because he has a better response format. It's an interesting question. Both debaters appear to agree that assuming parity between coaster types, i.e. equal numbers of wood/steel coasters, that steel would be the preferred design. (this I take from pro's argument for wood as a response to steel) So then I'm left weighing the marginal benefit given existing proportions. This seems impossible to do with the evidence given, but I'm not going to contradict the market's prefere