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The story behind the simulator ride at the Olympic Center

Getting it to Lake Placid took a back-breaking effort

February 19, 2010
ERIC VOORHIS, News Staff Writer
LAKE PLACID — In November, Frank Scsigulinsky opened a motion theater ride in the Olympic Center to give visitors a virtual taste of what bobsled, luge and skeleton athletes experience when sliding down the track. Five mechanical seats in the theater are synchronized to the action of real point-of-view footage — shown on a big-screen LCD television — captured by sliders wearing helmet cameras. As the image on the screen shoots through sharp turns the seats in the theater jolt and shudder, moving back and forth to steep angles and making viewers feel as though they are right there on the track.

The six minute long ride also puts viewers in the boots of a ski jumper, launching off Lake Placid’s K-120 meter jump and features old footage from a luge run down the 1980 Olympic track, which no longer exists.

But getting the teeth-chattering ride up and running was no easy task. Scsigulinsky literally broke his back — his T 12 vertebrae to be exact — in the process.

“The motion platform was built in Orlando, Fla.” Scsigulinsky said. “I decided to drive down there to pick it up so I could see what went into building it and get a better sense of how the machine works. But I ended up staying down there for a little longer than expected.”

The base of the theater — weighing in at 2,000 pounds — was built last May by an electronics specialist who primarily works on designing equipment for the military.

“When I got there, the guy who built the platform had it set up it his garage,” Scsigulinsky said. “The trouble was we didn’t have a fork-lift to get it onto my truck.”

Scsigulinsky said they found some volunteers from around the neighborhood to help lift the bulky platform, but ran into some trouble.

“It was starting to slip, so I jumped up on the bed of the truck and lifted up with all my might,” Scsigulinsky said.

He managed to budge the platform a little, but heard a loud snap — an incredible pain surged his back.

“It hurt but I thought I had just pulled something at the time,” Scsigulinsky said.

An hour later things only got worse and Scsigulinsky said he was soon vomiting and passing out from the pain. He hadn’t known any of the guys he was with until arriving in Florida, but the group — a few local high school football players and the electronics specialist — band together, bringing Scsigulinsky to the emergency room and staying with him throughout.

“It was almost like being with family,” Scsigulinsky said.

After waiting for three excruciating hours he was finally seen at the busy emergency room in Orlando and referred to a nearby trauma center to receive further treatment.

“They took more x-rays and I finally got the news that I had shattered my T 12 vertebrae,” Scsigulinsky said.

After spending two days in the hospital Scsigulinsky underwent a major surgery getting two metal rods and 10 screws put into his back. Two days later he was up and walking and five weeks after that he was down at the Olympic Center hanging sheet-rock in preparation for his new business venture.

“Getting this place ready was one of the hardest things of my life, but I showed up day after day and got the job done,” Scsigulinsky said. “I would usually come in and work for about an hour before having to stop from the pain.”

Scsigulinsky — who also owns and operates the A & W Restaurant in Wilmington — said he was discouraged by the delays.

“It was a four week job that ended up taking four months,” he said.

Now that the job is complete the virtual theater in the Olympic center is open seven days a week from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. The current theme of the ride is based entirely on Lake Placid venues and before each group gets ready to take off Scsigulinsky gives a little scpeal about the history of the area.

“This is a great way to introduce people to the sports and amazing venues we have in our backyard,” Scsigulinsky said. “I’m hoping it gets people excited about being here and maybe leads to them trying the real sport.”

To help with the programing of the ride Scsigulinsky has enlisted the help of John Rieley, a computer whiz waiter who works at A&W during the summer.

“We joke around about me being the George Lucas of the operation and him being Speilberg,” Scsigulinsky said. “He handles a lot of the technical stuff, and I’m more on the creative vision side of things.”

The motion theater uses a very sophisticated computer — which operates using MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) technology — allows Scsigulingsky and Rieley to synchronize the motion platform to the movements on the screen, adding very subtle details that make the experience seem real.

Scsigulinsky is still tweaking the motion theater, frequently getting notes from young hockey players about how to improve the ride, and hopes to add different sports such as base jumping and mountain biking as options for the ride.

For those who have seen the Lake Placid experience, Scsigulinsky said he has five other tracks including Nagano, Japan and Salt Lake City, Utah, which are available upon request. Each ride is $7 with discounts for children and groups.

“People have really been enjoying the ride. Especially the kids,” Scsigulinsky said. “And it’s only getting better.”

Contact Eric Voorhis at

523-8594 or

Article Photos

Frank Scsigulinsky sits inside the simulator at the Olympic Center, which literally took a back-breaking effort to bring to Lake Placid.

Photo/Eric Voorhis/Lake Placid news

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