Living a Dream
La Selva Beach Native Finds Career in Theme Park Industry
By Erik Chalhoub
What started as a kindergarten hobby has turned into a lifelong pas- sion for La Selva Beach native Nicholas Laschkewitsch, and he has taken that love to find not only a career, but the opportunity to work on a project that will be seen by millions of people from throughout the globe.
If you plan to brave the crowds later this year when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is slated to open at Disney- land, you too can see just what Laschkewitsch helped make a reality.
Laschkewitsch recently wrapped up a five- month internship at Walt Disney Imagineering, a prestigious group of folks who dream up and build everything you see at Disney theme parks.
“My five-month stint at WDI truly grounded my love and passion for the themed entertainment industry, and the friendships I made while there will last a lifetime,” he said.
“The amount of detail going not only into this attraction, but the entire Galaxy’s Edge land, is a sight to behold, and I am excited to check it all out in person later this year,” he said.
Laschkewitsch, who graduated from Aptos High School, attended Cabrillo College before transferring to San Jose State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in May 2018.
He’s known what field of study he wanted to pursue since he was 5 years old, when he received the critically-acclaimed PC game, “RollerCoaster Tycoon.” In that game, players build and construct their own roller coasters, and design fictional theme parks around them.
Around that same time, Laschkewitsch and his family began making frequent visits to what was then known as Paramount’s Great America in Santa Clara, riding the small collection of kiddy coasters before working his way up to the larger, more intense offerings.
“It was this combination of events, mostly ‘RollerCoaster Tycoon,’ though, that made me want to strive for designing roller coasters as an adult, way back then,” Laschkewitsch recalled. “Sadly, I actually do not recall my first roller coaster ride, though it was likely a roller coaster at Great America – I’m guessing either Green Slime Mine Car or Taxi Jam as they would have been known then. It is ironic I don’t remember, considering how important they are to my life.”
As roller coasters began playing a larger role in his life, Laschkewitsch began studying them on the internet, where he discovered Playland-Not-at-the-Beach, a now-closed museum in El Cerrito that was dedicated to the former Playland at the Beach amusement park in San Francisco while also paying homage to other smaller parks. It was there in 2009 Laschkewitsch and his father Brian met the late owner, Richard Tuck, who told them about the American Coaster Enthusiasts, a group of fellow roller coaster fans from throughout the country that strive to preserve, learn about and enjoy the thrill rides.
Laschkewitsch and his family joined the group, and immediately attended a behind-the-scenes tour of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk that ACE was holding. Surrounded by like-minded individuals, he became more involved with the group, and now serves as the Northern California Regional Representative, and has developed a series of short films and documentaries on a variety of industry subjects.
But through all the volunteering, trade show attendances and a longtime friendship with a Disney Imagineer, Laschkewitsch knew that a career in the industry was within his grasp, so he applied for an internship with the largest theme park company in the world.
Not surprisingly, it worked out.
“I was lucky that all of my passion was noticed and showed very well in my interview with them and thought I would be a great fit in the Ride Engineering department,” he said. “I still remember the day when I got accepted, and I just could not believe it. I still can’t believe it happened, and I’m not even there anymore!”
Now that his internship is over, Laschkewitsch landed a job as a technical designer at LA ProPoint in Sun Valley, which specializes in rigging systems and show action equipment, such as the mechanical systems you might spot in a Disneyland attraction.
“It is truly exciting to be working on theme park projects full-time using my mechanical engineering degree, and I hope to someday, sooner rather than later, end up designing or working on a roller coaster project,” he said. “As you know, it’s the dream!”
So for all you young children who absolutely love playing “Planet Coaster” or can’t get enough airtime while riding on local coasters and want to break into the industry, Laschkewitsch has this advice: “Get out there and don’t be afraid to reach outside of your comfort zone.”
Join ACE. Set up a chapter of the Themed Entertainment Association at your university. Attend the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions tradeshow in Orlando. And don’t forget to bring your resume when you brush shoulders with some of the heavyweights in the industry.
“The themed entertainment world is one happy family where everyone knows everyone,” Laschkewitsch said. “Yes, we may compete with each other, but it’s the friendships and passionate people who work for themed entertainment that make it a wonderful industry to work in.”