New Mexico Rattler: Celebrating 20 years of thrills

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico’s tallest, longest and fastest roller coaster is about to celebrate 20 years of thrills.

“It makes the park special. Gives it I think more of a traditional amusement park feel and look,” said Justin Hays, the general manager at Cliff’s Amusement Park in Albuquerque.

Hays says after 20 years of thrills, the New Mexico Rattler is still offering quite the ride for guests. The hybrid wooden roller coaster towers 80 feet above the park, and takes riders up, down, around and even under Cliff’s.

Hays also says the way the coaster was built offers 2 different experiences in the front and back of the train.

“In the back, you get, you get a pulling sensation, going over a dip,” he said. “And running right in the front, you get a pushing sensation has it comes out of the dip. So it’s two different sensations. And they’re both fun.”

Getting the Rattler built inside the park was its own wild ride.

Hays says park management decided to build a coaster in the winter of 2001. Not long after, they found a manufacturer in Custom Coasters International. That company is known for its installations at Six Flags parks across the nation.

Hays says the first hurdle was figuring out where the coaster would go inside the small theme park.

“The hard part was that we had existing stuff in the way,” he said. “Rather than just putting it into a bare spot on the ground somewhere, we actually had to relocate a lot of other equipment and rides.”

Hays says construction got started in early 2002. The coaster was on schedule to open that summer, but then a bombshell announcement – Custom Coasters International was bankrupt.

“They were a reputable company. And so when they went bankrupt, it was not at all foreseen,” Hays said.

The company shut down in July of 2002, leaving Cliff’s with a half-built roller coaster. Hays says it was a do-or-die decision to continue building the coaster.

“We basically took the reins and we started working with everyone that was already building it and we just kept it going,” said Linda Hays during an interview with KOB 4 in 2002.

The New Mexico Rattler finally opened to the public on Sept. 28, 2002. During the 2004 season, it was named one of the top 25 wooden roller coasters in the country by the Golden Ticket Awards.

Hays says it was important to bring a world-class thrill ride like the Rattler to New Mexico.

“We’ve always been a community amusement park here for the state of New Mexico,” Hays said. “We have patrons from all over the state come and see us in every year, and so it seems important for the community to have that.”