Image via Premier Rides | Facebook
Electric Eel, SeaWorld San Diego's new Sky Rocket II coaster
In the two years since the opening of Cobra’s Curse, the last major ride to open at Busch Gardens Tampa, the park has seen rides closed, budgets slashed, and even entire lands closing
unannounced. But like the entire SeaWorld Parks company, things have begun looking up
for the struggling park.
Summer has brought back traffic jams
to get into the park, and the free beer promotion gained some of the most favorable coverage the park has received in years. Now it looks like there will be an even bigger reason for the park to celebrate.
Despite the park remaining silent on their future plans, all the signs now point to Busch Gardens getting a brand-new coaster opening next year, and it won’t be like anything else in the park.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg opened Tempesto in 2015. The ride is an off-the-shelf Sky Rocket II
model coaster manufactured by Premier Rides. Despite the much lower cost to purchase than a traditional, custom-made roller, Tempesto proved to be a hit for the park. Even as the company struggled with leadership
shakeups and endless bad news, they worked to re-create the success they saw at Busch Gardens Williamsburg with Tempesto. While Orlando's and San Diego’s poor performance
caused issues across the company, Williamsburg seemed not to suffer as badly.
The quick build and low impact on nearby areas gave SeaWorld Parks the ability to quickly add a second Sky Rocket II coaster to their chain of parks, with SeaWorld San Diego’s Electric Eel opening to rave reviews
earlier this year.
Now it looks like the company wants to do a three-peat.
While not nearly as severe as what San Diego has gone through, Busch Gardens Tampa has had its fair share of struggle over the past few years. Multiple rides are now shuttered but still standing, with few new attractions replacing them.
Busch Gardens Tampa abruptly closed their Tanganyika Tidal Wave flume boat ride in early 2016. Since then the attraction has sat closed and mostly untouched. Then earlier this year, permits were pulled for the demolition of the ride
and only the ride. The permits specifically mentioned that “no trees or buildings will be demolished under this project.” While many fans had hoped for a giant, custom-made coaster, the small work area pointed to something different, the most obvious choice
being the same coaster the chain opened in San Diego.
Earlier this month new permits showed a new building that the park plans to build directly in the ride path area of the former water ride. With a layout nearly identical to the ride buildings at both Busch Gardens Williamsburg and SeaWorld San Diego, it is now all but confirmed that Busch Gardens Tampa will be getting a Sky Rocket II come 2019.
After a nearly five-year hiatus, theme park news site Park Rumors inexplicably posted
a new story earlier this month comparing the new proposed Busch Gardens Tampa building to the ride buildings for other Sky Rocket II attractions. Four oddly placed staircases found on both Electric Eel and the Busch Gardens Tampa plans point to this either being a Sky Rocket II or a coaster that’s nearly identical to it in its station requirements and design.
While eight Sky Rocket II models are currently in operation around the world, the ride would be unique in Florida where coasters tend to require higher capacity and more theming
. The construction area, not far from residential areas just across the street from the park, requires a tight build site
with little impact to nearby areas – just like Electric Eel required in California, where the ride was wedged in between animal habitats and protected beach.
The water management permits for Tampa call for a reimagined plaza area between the new attraction and the Stanleyville Theater. It also shows a winding path the loops around the south side of the building and connects with it on its west side. A pre-existing nearby gift shop remains untouched in the plans. Two nearby metal buildings, one used for Howl-O-Scream, also remain intact.
2019 will be an intense year of major new attraction openings across Central Florida and Busch Gardens Tampa will need to add something new to stay present in people’s minds.
While not a major investment, the type that SeaWorld Parks likely can’t afford in its current state, the Sky Rocket II addition would be a thrill ride unique to the market. The looping coaster uses linear induction motors to push the ride vehicle back and forth through the station, similar to a swinging ship ride,
until the coaster makes the complete circuit with a top speed of 62 miles per hour. A heartline roll 15 stories in the air and a massive non-inverting half-loop give this ride a big punch despite its small footprint. At 150 feet tall, the ride also gives the park a great addition to its skyline. At Busch Gardens Tampa it would be going in just 300 feet away from a busy public street.
A sizable undeveloped pad sits just north of the new coaster where a future attraction or animal exhibit could also be built.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg seems to hope to re-create the same success with their next off-the-shelf thrill ride next year. Rumors, mostly thanks to industry news tracker Screamscape
, now point an S&S-Sansei Screamin’ Swing
. The high-intensity swing ride flings riders more than ten-stories into the air at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. With a desirable cost, quick build time, an impressive hourly capacity that’s higher than even some rides at Disney World, and a small footprint this just might be the next ride SeaWorld walks out to multiple parks, though after two new family rides it might be SeaWorld Orlando’s turn for a new thrill ride.
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