Felix Rappaport is president and CEO of Foxwoods Resort Casino. But on Tuesday, he was just another guy falling 120 feet to the casino courtyard.
"I wouldn't say it's scary, but it's unknown until you do it," he says.
Rappaport was one of dozens trying out Thrill Tower at the Mashantucket gaming mecca. The tower is made up of two thrill rides. The four-person Sky Drop chair slowly rises to 120 feet, then free falls to the courtyard.
The two-person Sky Launch flings two people into the sky about 10 stories high at dizzying speed, and then drops them, protected by cables, to Earth.
Rappaport had just tried the Sky Drop. "You get this unsurpassed view of the countryside. You're lulled into what a beautiful view. ... You're lulled into a sense of relaxation," he says. "And then whoosh!
"When you drop you feel a moment of weightlessness. It's very cool."
Lynn Page, who works at the casino, tried the Sky Launch. "You shoot up so fast you don't have time to think about it," she says.
Dennis Champlain, also a casino employee, was Page's Sky Launch partner.
"It was nice and smooth. I can't say that I was scared," he says. "The g-force going up was something I always wanted to experience."
Eric Frost, who runs Thrill Tower, says the Sky Drop is a true free fall, which uses magnets in the tower, rather than cables, to break the fall.
"The magnets get stronger as the seat falls down," he says.
As with all thrill rides, restrictions apply to riders regarding minimum height, maximum weight and those with health conditions. Passengers are strapped in securely and are forbidden from fiddling with the restraints once they are fastened onto the ride. Purses, backpacks, hats and glasses are stored in bins during the ride, as are loose-fitting shoes like flip-flops.
Thrill Tower is the first phase in a plan to broaden the casino's appeal and to maximize appreciation of the Mashantucket Pequot reservation's wooded acreage.
"We want to transform from being a gaming center to a full-service destination resort," Rappaport says.
Riders in the Sky Drop get a panoramic bird's-eye view of the surrounding countryside before they fall. But they'd better look fast: The lull on the top of the tower lasts only three to 12 seconds, Frost says.
There are more thrills to come: A HighFlyer Zipline will open this fall, says Jason Guyot, vice president of resort operations and development.
"It will start off the roof of the Fox Tower, 330 feet in the air. It will go 60 miles per hour, and be 3,700 feet long," he says. "You would land adjacent to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center."
THRILL TOWER is at Foxwoods Resort Casino, 350 Trolley Line Blvd., in Mashantucket. It is open noon to midnight daily. Admission is $15 per person for the Sky Drop; $25 per person for the Sky Launch; $35 for both. A 25 percent discount is available for members of the Foxwoods Rewards program. foxwoods.com/thrill-tower.