Busch Gardens Tampa made history when it opened Florida's first dueling wooden coaster in 1999, Gwazi, and now the park is about to make history once again with an insane record-breaking 210-foot hybrid coaster replacing the long-closed attraction.
When it first opened, Gwazi was a departure for Busch Gardens, where metal coasters and animal displays were more common. The coaster packed a punch in its two 3,508-foot-long tracks. But after years in Florida's brutal weather, the wooden coaster was such a rough ride that even the most hard-core coaster fans questioned if the pain was worth the coaster credit.
With dwindling popularity and increased maintenance costs, the coaster closed for good in 2015 after three years of running only one side. Since then, there has been rumor after rumor
of what Busch Gardens plans to do with the 105-foot-tall coaster.
That all changed late last year when new permits for the coaster confirmed that the park was finally moving forward with plans to update Gwazi.
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, Busch Gardens confirmed that Gwazi would be reimagined, with permits establishing the project is being done by famed Rocky Mountain Construction
The Idaho-based roller coaster construction company is known for the bold, groundbreaking designs that are credited with ushering in a new golden age for wooden coasters. The Gwazi redo will shift the coaster from a true wooden format to a modern hybrid format, such as Fun Spot's Mine Blower
. This mix of wooden rails with more steel supports allows for features that wood alone wouldn't be able to provide while also cutting down on the required maintenance.
At the 60th anniversary event on March 1, Busch Gardens confirmed
that the new Gwazi (though expect that name to also be changed) will be the world's steepest and fastest hybrid coaster.
New permits confirm that the Gwazi hybrid coaster will be 210 feet tall
, nearly ten stories taller than the previous wooden coaster, making it the tallest hybrid coaster in the western hemisphere and the second tallest in the world after Zadra in Poland. A recent setback
with the Zadra coaster, though, could delay its opening, causing Gwazi to also hold that world title for a short amount of time.
The dueling nature of the former coaster has been removed, and the two former lift hills are now thought to be two of the new coaster's biggest airtime hills
. Other "restored" elements of the previous coaster will also be included in the new layout. Using elements of the two previous tracks may also make the updated coaster one of the longest coasters in the world.
This is similar to other projects that RMC has done, including a recent one at Cedar Point that is viewed by many in the coaster fan community as one of the best hybrid coasters ever built. That coaster, Steel Vengeance
, did see a number of issues with operations, as did other recent RMC coasters, including Dollywood's Lightning Rod
. This series of recent negative results might be part of the reason why SeaWorld Parks turned to RMC. Many are pointing to Gwazi as a potential proving ground for the coaster construction company.
Photo via Busch Gardens
Tigris at Busch Gardens Tampa
With the opening still more than a year away, construction has been going strong on Gwazi with RMC crews seen working on the site nearly every day.
In the meantime, Busch Gardens Tampa is working to open a new Sky Rocket II coaster, Tigris, that will be the state's tallest launch coaster. It will be the park's eighth major coaster.
When the new record-breaking reimagined Gwazi opens in 2020, it will help cement Busch Gardens as a must-visit park for any coaster enthusiast, helping draw in a new audience to the park that already has an impressive line-up of thrill rides.
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