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 Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Best Restaurants 2017

Best Restaurants 2017

This year Pittsburgh Magazine's independent Restaurant Review Panel recognizes 34 establishments as our regions's top restaurants. Our list includes All Arounders, Killer Casual, Fancy Night Out, Best Budget and Classic Comfort establishments.
Pittsburgh Chef of the Year: Bill Fuller

Pittsburgh Chef of the Year: Bill Fuller

Bill Fuller’s portfolio includes overseeing five specialty restaurants — Eleven Contemporary Kitchen, Casbah Mediterranean Kitchen and Wine Bar, Soba, umi and Kaya — as well as 14 fast-casual Mad Mex restaurants and a full-service catering operation. Even in an increasingly competitive environment, his restaurants remain in-demand and relevant.
Pittsburgh's Best New Restaurant: Apteka

Pittsburgh's Best New Restaurant: Apteka

Apteka, operated by Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski, is a vegan eatery that draws on Lasky’s sixth-generation Pittsburgh roots and Skowronski’s Polish heritage.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Getting Started with Startups: A Peek at Alphalab Demo Day

Getting Started with Startups: A Peek at Alphalab Demo Day

Technological innovators present what could be “the next big thing” at the Carnegie Music Hall in Homewood.
Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference Helps Writers Tell Their Stories

Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference Helps Writers Tell Their Stories

The fifth annual Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference brings writers from across the country together to improve their craft.
Watch: Radio-Synced Highlights of Pens 7-0 Win in Game 5

Watch: Radio-Synced Highlights of Pens 7-0 Win in Game 5

Nothing beats listening to Mike Lange describe a Penguins' goal.
Break It Down: Byham Theater

Break It Down: Byham Theater

When you walk into the Sixth Street entryway of the Byham Theater, Downtown, you will see patches of green and black tile on the walls: These are originals from the early 20th century, says John Mumper, facilities manager at the Byham. The grand theater has plenty of history to go with its 100-plus years; let’s break it down.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Best Restaurants 2017

Best Restaurants 2017

This year Pittsburgh Magazine's independent Restaurant Review Panel recognizes 34 establishments as our regions's top restaurants. Our list includes All Arounders, Killer Casual, Fancy Night Out, Best Budget and Classic Comfort establishments.
Pittsburgh Chef of the Year: Bill Fuller

Pittsburgh Chef of the Year: Bill Fuller

Bill Fuller’s portfolio includes overseeing five specialty restaurants — Eleven Contemporary Kitchen, Casbah Mediterranean Kitchen and Wine Bar, Soba, umi and Kaya — as well as 14 fast-casual Mad Mex restaurants and a full-service catering operation. Even in an increasingly competitive environment, his restaurants remain in-demand and relevant.
Pittsburgh's Best New Restaurant: Apteka

Pittsburgh's Best New Restaurant: Apteka

Apteka, operated by Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski, is a vegan eatery that draws on Lasky’s sixth-generation Pittsburgh roots and Skowronski’s Polish heritage.
Can the Restoration of a Church Lead to the Revival of a Town?

Can the Restoration of a Church Lead to the Revival of a Town?

A small group of dedicated residents sees the restoration of their church in Tarentum as a window to the potential rebirth of their once-booming community in suburban Pittsburgh.
Remembering Henry Hillman

Remembering Henry Hillman

Reflecting on the impact of the businessman, civic visionary and philanthropist.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Getting Started with Startups: A Peek at Alphalab Demo Day

Getting Started with Startups: A Peek at Alphalab Demo Day

Technological innovators present what could be “the next big thing” at the Carnegie Music Hall in Homewood.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Station's Hours Expand and Le Lyonnais Opens Downtown

Station's Hours Expand and Le Lyonnais Opens Downtown

Station, the excellent Bloomfield eatery, now offers lunch service. The Big Y Group opens a French bistro in the space previously occupied by Sonoma Grille.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Vital Happy Hour Alert: Great Cocktails at the Wigle Tasting Room

Vital Happy Hour Alert: Great Cocktails at the Wigle Tasting Room

The third outpost of local distillery Wigle, found in the Omni William Penn Hotel, is an instant destination for cocktail fans.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Frightened about Game 7? You Should Be

Frightened about Game 7? You Should Be

A win will send the Penguins to the Stanley Cup finals for a second year in a row and re-write team history.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Pittsburgh on a Plate

Pittsburgh on a Plate

The way to a beer lover’s heart is mapped out on notNeutral’s plate, which highlights Pittsburgh breweries (and other points of interest) across the city.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The Alien Series Jumps the Shark with Covenant

The Alien Series Jumps the Shark with Covenant

Reviews of "Alien: Covenant" and "Everything, Everything," as well as local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
New York Bridal Designer Shares Her Secrets

New York Bridal Designer Shares Her Secrets

Pennsylvania native Jaclyn Jordan brings her newest collection to the Blanc de Blanc Bridal Boutique in Carrick.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Get to the North Side for Home & Garden Tour, Epic Yard Sale

Get to the North Side for Home & Garden Tour, Epic Yard Sale

Explore lavish homes and gardens with the West Allegheny Historic District’s annual Tour and Tasting, or go on the hunt for hidden treasure during The Great Mexican War Streets Yard Sale.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Explore Your Future with Point Park University

Explore Your Future with Point Park University

The university will host three summer workshops for high school students from July 17-20.

Comments