Friday, April 11, 1997 | 11:59 a.m.
PRIMM -- The new ride at Buffalo Bill's is a big letdown.
But in this case, that's a good thing.
It only takes about 10 seconds for riders of Primadonna Resorts' new Turbo Drop to climb 200 feet for a bird's-eye view of the desert around the California state line.
When the 12 riders in padded saddles and shoulder harnesses, seated three across along the outside of a cube, reach the top of the tower, there's an audible click locking the pod in place. Thrill-seekers don't get a lot of time to sightsee from that vantage point because, without warning, they're yanked earthward at 45 mph, bouncing on a cushion of air just above Ground Zero.
It's an even more dramatic rush than Primadonna's other big thrill ride, the Desperado roller coaster, because air jets power the downward push beyond the free-fall realm.
"I've been on rides all over the world, and the Turbo Drop offers a unique sensation," said Dan Rasmussen, director of rides and attractions at Primadonna Resorts, which operates three hotels, including Buffalo Bill's, and a handful of rides in Primm, about 45 miles south of Las Vegas. "We specialize in the you've-got-to-try-this type of ride."
To try it, riders (who must be at least 52 inches tall) will have to shell out $5, the same price as the Desperado, but now that there are multiple attractions, Buffalo Bill's is selling package deals for discounts. The resort also is offering all-day wristbands for $25 for unlimited riding, a movie, a hot dog and a soft drink.
For the Turbo Drop's grand opening Saturday and Sunday, ride wristbands will go for $12.50 and hot dogs and drinks will sell for $1 with ride and buffet passes being given away as special prizes.
Rasmussen said that although Primm has 400 acres around Buffalo Bill's and the resort has added several new ride attractions over the years, there are no plans to turn the resort into an amusement park.
"The majority of our market, about 80 percent, comes from the mecca of theme parks, Southern California," said Rasmussen. "At this time, we don't plan to become a theme park, but we do want to offer attractions that are unique in their own way. We offer that with the Desperado and with the new interactive features of the Adventure Canyon (flume ride) and now with the Turbo Drop."
For Turbo Drop riders who see a similarity between that ride and the Stratosphere Tower's Big Shot, they're on target. Both are manufactured by S&S Original Amusements of Logan, Utah. Stan Checketts, chief executive officer of S&S, said the Turbo Drop has been in development for two years, coming on the heels of the Big Shot's creation.
Both rides are structurally similar and riders will recognize the same hissing noises of air transferences in the Turbo Drop.
Because of the ride produces a negative gravity force, some riders will produce a vertical comet tail with their hair. The experience is a gag for a ride souvenir -- a tie with the phrase, "If you can read this, you must be riding the Turbo Drop" -- printed upside down.
Primadonna officials would not disclose the cost of the ride, but said it is owned as a partnership with S&S, which won't build another ride like it in North America until 1998.