Roller Coaster Tycoon

The Sky Rocket, Kennywood's newest thrill ride, opens this summer. Get to know the architect of terror who helped build it.



Photo by Inmagine

Every job has its ups and downs. His just has a few more—plus some twists, turns, loop-de-loops and 10-story plummets.

Matt Hyatt, of Moon Township, is Kennywood’s project manager—or at least that’s what’s printed on his business card. During any given day, he could go from a sales presentation to a board meeting to “drop everything—the concrete truck is here.” Hyatt is in the business of building roller coasters, both in the office and out on the construction site.

The latest project on his résumé is what the park calls a “fully caffeinated, double-shot adrenaline espresso on rails.” The Sky Rocket, Kennywood’s newest coaster, opens this month.

The ride rockets from zero to 50 mph in under three seconds, takes a full-throttle 95-foot vertical climb and then plunges 90 degrees due south. And that’s just the beginning. The Sky Rocket is also the park’s first roller coaster with inversions (sending riders on upside-down barrel rolls and corkscrews) since the Steel Phantom.

Hyatt, 39, started his career at Kennywood 20 years ago as a carpenter apprentice working on the Steel Phantom. When it was completed in 1991, this 80-mph, four-loop roller coaster had the longest drop and fastest speed of any coaster in the world. Hyatt and his fellow workers enjoyed first dibs on taking it for a ride. Pre-public riding privileges are definitely a job perk—after the test dummies get their turn, of course.

Hyatt spends Kennywood’s off-season months listening to sales pitches from roller-coaster manufacturing companies, which all have their own vision for the park’s next big thrill. Premier Rides, of Millersville, Md., builders of the Sky Rocket, was one of three companies whose designs were considered for the project. Hyatt and his team weigh the gravity-defying options then present them to Kennywood’s top brass for a final decision.

From there, Hyatt is busy lining up subcontractors, bringing in steel erectors and overseeing carpenters. Often, he throws on a hard hat and boots to get his hands dirty on the work site. Despite 2,100 feet of track, the Sky Rocket’s construction took only about a year. Hyatt is also responsible for making sure your Kennywood experience is as magical as it was when you were 6 years old, paying attention to every detail—from the shine of the carousel ponies to the paint jobs of the paddleboats.

Stratospheric drops aside, Hyatt says that the best thing about his job is being part of one of Pittsburgh’s most cherished traditions.

“Everyone from Pittsburgh knows Kennywood, loves Kennywood,” Hyatt says. “It feels good to be able to look up into the sky and say, ‘Yeah, we built that.’”

Thrill-seekers won’t want to miss the Sky Rocket’s launch this month. Hyatt promises that riders will be head over heels. Literally.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in January

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in January

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
2016 Pittsburghers of the Year: The Pittsburgh Penguins

2016 Pittsburghers of the Year: The Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins' hoisting of Lord Stanley’s Cup in June year speaks to the ability of the team and the organization to persevere, to dig deep when things looked bleak, and to roll up their sleeves and go to work when tough jobs had to be done — traits Pittsburghers have always appreciated.
The Big Guy with the Big Voice

The Big Guy with the Big Voice

After joining the Penguins in mid-season, head coach Mike Sullivan instills the focus needed to win the Stanley Cup.
The TV Series ‘Outsiders’ Finds a Home in Millvale

The TV Series ‘Outsiders’ Finds a Home in Millvale

Go behind the scenes to meet set and production designers and artisans who work magic, transforming neighborhoods into rural Kentucky.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Watch: Preview of Fascinating Rachel Carson Documentary

Watch: Preview of Fascinating Rachel Carson Documentary

Carson, a native of Springdale, is credited with launching the modern environmental movement. She is the subject of a new “American Experience” documentary airing Jan. 24 on PBS.
Joe Manganiello Knocks off Superman, Batman is Next

Joe Manganiello Knocks off Superman, Batman is Next

The Mt. Lebanon native and insanely loyal Pittsburgh Steelers fan is engaging in superhero trash talk with one of his movie co-stars.
Pipe Dream? Get From Pittsburgh to Chicago in 30 Minutes

Pipe Dream? Get From Pittsburgh to Chicago in 30 Minutes

Developers say such a trip, at speeds faster than a passenger jet, could be possible in five years.
Pittsburgh Pride Expands Events, Adds First-Ever Zip Line

Pittsburgh Pride Expands Events, Adds First-Ever Zip Line

The summer celebration of the region’s gay, bisexual and transgender community, already the fourth largest special event in Pittsburgh, will be even bigger in 2017.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in January

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in January

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
2016 Pittsburghers of the Year: The Pittsburgh Penguins

2016 Pittsburghers of the Year: The Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins' hoisting of Lord Stanley’s Cup in June year speaks to the ability of the team and the organization to persevere, to dig deep when things looked bleak, and to roll up their sleeves and go to work when tough jobs had to be done — traits Pittsburghers have always appreciated.
The Big Guy with the Big Voice

The Big Guy with the Big Voice

After joining the Penguins in mid-season, head coach Mike Sullivan instills the focus needed to win the Stanley Cup.
The TV Series ‘Outsiders’ Finds a Home in Millvale

The TV Series ‘Outsiders’ Finds a Home in Millvale

Go behind the scenes to meet set and production designers and artisans who work magic, transforming neighborhoods into rural Kentucky.
Restaurant Review: Spoon in East Liberty Gets a Fresh Polish

Restaurant Review: Spoon in East Liberty Gets a Fresh Polish

Hiring Jamilka Borges as executive chef and a fresh interior design revive the East Liberty restaurant.
Talk of the Tahn: The Gift I Was Given

Talk of the Tahn: The Gift I Was Given

My brother taught me how to ski on rented metal sticks. Boyce Park. It was the first thing we ever did together besides fight over the last slice of pizza.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Watch: Preview of Fascinating Rachel Carson Documentary

Watch: Preview of Fascinating Rachel Carson Documentary

Carson, a native of Springdale, is credited with launching the modern environmental movement. She is the subject of a new “American Experience” documentary airing Jan. 24 on PBS.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
G&G Noodle Bar Downtown Will Close

G&G Noodle Bar Downtown Will Close

Its shuttering is the first significant Pittsburgh restaurant closing of 2017.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Popularity of The Flats on Carson is a Mystery

Popularity of The Flats on Carson is a Mystery

After Dark visits the South Side bar which attracts big crowds on the weekend — and, on Sunday, was the scene of a well-publicized arrest.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
You Can Hope, but Don't Expect an Easy Steelers' Win in KC

You Can Hope, but Don't Expect an Easy Steelers' Win in KC

Pittsburgh blasted Miami because the Steelers performed as expected against an opponent that was depleted by injury and overwhelmed by its circumstances. But that isn’t likely to happen again.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Check out the chic decor from Pittsburgh-based artist and designer Janice Nelson.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Scorsese's Silence Proves Worth the Wait (and the Weight)

Scorsese's Silence Proves Worth the Wait (and the Weight)

Reviews of "Silence," "Live by Night" and "Patriot's Day."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Pittsburgh Romance: How Their Love Survived Long-Distance

Pittsburgh Romance: How Their Love Survived Long-Distance

From coast to coast and continent to continent, these couples showed that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Urban Fit Co. Opening Flagship Shop in Sewickley

Urban Fit Co. Opening Flagship Shop in Sewickley

The locally owned active wear boutique is slated to open in March. Plus, get all the details on Pittsburgh’s new luxury residential real estate firm, Piatt Sotheby’s International Realty.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Pittsburgh Artist’s Work to be Featured at Thiel College

Pittsburgh Artist’s Work to be Featured at Thiel College

Benedict Oddi’s collection “Scouts and Nomads” will be on display in a campus gallery.

Comments