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SeaWorld Orlando announces new river rapids ride for 2018

April 13, 2017, 8:43 AM · SeaWorld Orlando will create a new tropical rainforest-themed section for its park next year, highlighted by a new Intamin river rapids ride.

Infinity Falls will feature a vertical elevator that will lift rafts into a 40-foot drop into the river, which the park is calling the world's tallest drop on a river rapids ride.

"To bring Infinity Falls to life, designers were inspired by the rainforests of South America and the flowing rivers found within," SeaWorld said in a statement. "Each raft will twist and turn through a lush jungle environment as guests experience the feel of exhilarating Class IV rapids."

The 1,520-foot, four-minute ride will be the centerpiece of a new rainforest area in the park, which include animals native to South America, as well as other interactive, educational activities.

Infinity Falls is scheduled to open in Summer 2018.

Replies (19)

April 13, 2017 at 8:50 AM · AWESOME! Great for SeaWorld, great for theme park fans!
April 13, 2017 at 9:27 AM · That sounds very similar to River Quest in Phantasia Land in Germany, except that the lift there is 22 metres high, considerably taller than the 40ft mentioned here. Has there been any artwork released showing how the ride will look and how the drop might be record-breaking?

By the way - delighted that Seaworld are meeting the challenge of dropping attendance with investment in big new rides. Rapids rides are perfect for Florida and always popular.

April 13, 2017 at 9:39 AM · Did Sea World really need a raft ride? Based on rumors, it appears this will be located near the old Hospitality Pavillion near Shamu's Happy Harbor, so at least it will provide another attraction on the east side of the park aside from the woefully outdated Wild Arctic. This would also put it far enough away from Journey to Atlantic so as to balance water rides across the park.

However, the real question is will this even move the needle? I know water rides can be popular in Orlando because of the climate, but guests don't go to theme parks because of a raft ride. Even the best ones (like Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Barges and Grizzly River Run) aren't big draws compared to other attractions in those parks. They also tend to be rather low capacity even when compared to log flumes and water coasters. I just don't think this was a needed addition with so many issues going on in this park - Antarctica's dark ride being boring, Wild Arctic being out of date, Blue Horizons going back to a stock dolphin education show, and the whole Shamu conundrum. A raft ride doesn't do anything to improve Sea World's position in the market, and is probably the last place where this park should be spending its limited (compared to Disney and Universal) resources.

April 13, 2017 at 10:32 AM · I wish I could get excited about this, but maintenance has always been spotty for SeaWorld. Journey to Atlantis is in miserable shape, the Sky Tower is closed 75% of the year, and Gwazi has been left to rot at Busch Gardens Tampa for over 2 years now.
April 13, 2017 at 11:27 AM · I disagree Russell they need one. SeaWorld has decided to transition the parks away from animal entertainment and focus on rides and educational experiences, a decision I strongly disagree with. However, that means SeaWorld needs to ramp up the ride lineup in advance of the demise of their animal shows.

This isn't about creating necessarily a huge draw, however river raft rides have proven to be a marketable attractions at parks around the world. Instead I view this as serving two purposes for SeaWorld. One it creates a new attraction they can market in 2018 and more importantly, it creates yet another attraction in total, rounding out what they have to offer in terms of big rides.

SeaWorld is also looking to select ride systems that they can use to tell their stories and raft rides are perfect for that purpose. Besides a river raft ride is very fitting for the warm Orlando climate. It's also a staple attraction at the two other SeaWorld parks and they're not low capacity attractions either as you state. Raft rides depending on the seating configuration, 6 or 9, have rated capacities of up to 1,600 pph. In real operation a nine-seat system can easily do over 1,000 pph.

Doing nothing will be the death of SeaWorld. Everyone wishes they had a Harry Potter they could put to use, but when you don't it's rapid rides and roller coasters that will have to suffice. At least they're investing in the property and that's what is important.

James- Gwazi was garbage the year it opened, and every year thereafter. Even with new trains it was still junk. The fact that it is sitting there unused has no impact on the experience at Busch Gardens Tampa and the rest of the lineup of attractions is fantastic.

April 13, 2017 at 11:27 AM · The deterioration of JTA is rather disturbing. Screamscape noted that it went down for a lengthy rehab over the winter, and while a lot of operational equipment was repaired or replaced, very little was done to the show pieces and thematic elements when it reopened recently. It used to rival Dudley Do Right and Splash Mountain when it opened, but now is barely more entertaining than a regional park's log flume.

The Sky Tower has always been a problematic attraction, not only from an operational side, but also from an economical side. Sea World really wants to operate the attraction as an up-charge, but there simply isn't enough demand for it. Thus on the days that it does run, very few people actually ride it, meaning that equipment that should be operated continuously is only run intermittently, accelerating the decay.

Gwazi was a bit of a maintenance nightmare for BGT (as many GCIs built in the late 90's have become), but I think something will be done by 2018. The MF trains purchased for Gwazi a few years ago are now on InvadR at BGW, meaning BGT is either going to RMC Gwazi, or will raze and rebuild something new on the site (a very valuable piece of real estate in the park). When I mentioned RMC to Jonathon Smith (in charge of rides for the entire chain) at the InvadR Media Day, he didn't make any denials, but noted that "Gwazi now lives in Williamsburg". I wouldn't be surprised to see something like what happened to Colossus to be done to Gwazi.

April 13, 2017 at 1:19 PM · "Doing nothing will be the death of SeaWorld."

I agree that doing nothing is unwise, but I don't think this is the time for Sea World to add a raft ride. They need to swing for the fences to try to get some of the guests they're bleeding to UO and Disney (and Legoland). A relatively stock raft ride is nothing special (even though their marketing may make it seem like it is). I do think it fills a void, but it's not what the park needs right now, and will not have the desired impact of stopping the bleeding.

It's true, the park is in transition, and needs to bolster its ride lineup to pick up the slack from reduced interest in their animal shows. However, they really needed to do something more impactful. Whether it be an update to the Wild Arctic simulator (the same simulator system is getting a VR upgrade at BGW), or some other unique attraction to the Orlando market. I think the people at Sea World sat around and looked at the parks and said, "what don't we have at SWO", then they spun a wheel, and it landed on white water raft ride. Sorry, it just doesn't cut it when in 2017 they're only adding a VR upgrade to Kraken. If Sea World is going to compete in the now ultra competitive Orlando market, they need to build a new attraction every single year (or at least complete a major rehab). A raft ride like Infinity Falls would have been perfect for 2017 with a larger addition in 2018, but with 2 years between builds, Sea World is getting lapped by the competition, and will continue to lose market share.

April 13, 2017 at 1:52 PM · Very excited for this new ride. I wish they'd keep the shows the way they used to be though. I loved Blue Horizons.
April 13, 2017 at 2:12 PM · Doing a roller coaster is hardly impactful either. SeaWorld needs to compete with Disney and Universal, but how? Immersive theming is more important than the medium so it matters with the story surrounding the ride. Yet doing VR and screen based attractions are also me too and will hardly impress guests when trying to win new customers.
April 13, 2017 at 2:49 PM · Intamin? Vertical lift? Didn't we see this already on the (much taller) Pilgrim's Plunge/Giraffica at Holiday World? Granted, that was a 'roided-up shoot-the-chutes ride, not a river rapids, so there's an opportunity here for a better overall ride experience, even if the initial drop won't match the insanity of what Holiday World once had.
April 13, 2017 at 3:57 PM · I'm looking forward to this new themed area. I like these kind of rides and love the plants and animals in there.
April 13, 2017 at 4:08 PM · I really hope Sea World emerges from all of this misguided hate better and stronger than before!
April 13, 2017 at 10:31 PM · Great points made by Russell. I visited Sea World just once, way back in 1994 before it was rides and such and enjoyed it. But with so much competition around, they need to focus on getting that younger audience. The Arctic section was going to be it but it underperformed so I guess this new South American section is a good place to start but they need to get something bigger and one of a kind if they want to be taken more seriously in Orlando.
April 13, 2017 at 11:13 PM · I think this sounds cool. The lines for most rapid's rides at parks makes me disagree about the popularity of them. It seems kind of like a staple ride that is expected to be at most every theme park, and to not have one is actually odd. Each park gets an opportunity to have their own take on it (Kind of like the Mine Train coaster..... it is expected to be at most parks.... to not have one is weird..... and each one is unique to it's park). These are also rides that have more mass appeal than say Manta or the Hyper Coaster..... as awesome as those are, everyone is not a thrill seeker to that extreme..... this rapids ride might add something more family thrill ish to the park and it needs to build those numbers since the majority of it's major investment rides are over the top thrill rides. I think it's a great move for Sea World. Makes me want to go more.
April 14, 2017 at 12:23 AM · A raft ride is a nice reprise from the coasters.The promo vid also shows the raft lifting up by a giant water geyser. The park also gets some vegetation in the forests. I'm hoping for them to secretly rebrand as Six Flags Orlando long term. The next ride after should be a 4th dimension rollercoaster.
Then, bring back a world class theatre show like a musical/Cirque Du Soleil type experience.

They are never going to compete with Disney and UO. They have to be different. Mako and Discovery Cove are both wins. Big Thrills and Education are both wins. Sea World operates on a different ethos. It's not Disney magic, but magical nonetheless. Audiences need to temper their expectations.

April 14, 2017 at 4:34 AM · This won't move the needle on attendance. SW just spent huge $$$ on Mako. It is far and away the best coaster experience in Orlando ... and among the best in the entire country. And yet on most days (weekends included), it is barely more than a 5 or 10 minute wait. We were just there 2 Sundays ago on a picture perfect day at the height of Spring Break season, during the Seven Seas Food Festival and when Jack Hanna was performing at the park. And at 12 noon on that Sunday, Mako was a front row walk-on.

And what about when Shamu gets shuttered at the end 2018? SW's problems will continue. Blue Horizons was transformed into Dolphin "Doze" - nothing you can't already see at many regional aquariums.

Our family loves SW passionately. But the writing appears to be on the wall long-term for them.

April 14, 2017 at 10:27 AM · @jeremygary - Actually, roller coasters are relatively inexpensive purchases comparatively. Even the largest roller coasters come in under $30 million, while a fully immersive attraction like Antarctica cost well over $40 million, and many Disney/Universal attractions approach $100 million or more. So while $30 million is a pretty big investment at your typical regional park, it's a relative drop in the bucket in the Orlando market. Infinity Falls appears to be another relatively small investment, and while numbers aren't available, it'd predict SWO will not shell out more than $15-20 million for the entire project (including ride and surrounding environment).

I think the coasters are a hard sell in the Orlando market. You can have one or 2, but all three (3) of SWO's coasters (Shamu Express aside) require guests to be 54" tall. For a typical family of 4, that means 1 or 2 of the members are not going to want to ride the 3 biggest rides in the park. It's a hard ask to get a typical family to come to the park if they're going to be fractured for half of the day.

Don't get me wrong, I love Manta and Kraken (haven't been on Mako yet), but most people visit Orlando to be with their family, and the other parks try hard to make sure there are attractions they can all ride together, even many of the roller coasters. Sea World needs to recognize the market their aiming for, and start catering to it.

April 15, 2017 at 4:21 AM · @Russell Meyer

All very good points. While Infinity Falls will no doubt be a very popular ride among guests (the same way Journey to Atlantis is), I don't think a raft ride will increase the number of spins of the turn style by a very large margin.

My other concern is hourly capacity. One only has to look at sister park BG's new Cobra's Curse coaster. A great and unique family attraction with a low height restriction. And a painfully low hourly capacity. I've timed Cobra's Curse on several occasions and capacity is as follows ...

1 dispatch approx. every 38 seconds (95 dispatches per hour)
8 riders per dispatch
Approx. hourly capacity of around 750 ... ouch!

This is my fear for Infinity Falls. Journey to Atlantis, Antarctica and Manta already suffer from this as well. And when VR hits Kraken, well that's anyone's guess what happens to hourly capacity there. I guess we will have to wait and see.

With that being said, the concept art for Infinity Falls looks like the attraction will be a great addition to the park.

April 15, 2017 at 9:13 AM · I hope they will look at revamping Antarctica before considering new builds. On many days this spring, they didn't even run the ride portion, assumedly for cost saving. This was hyped as a major attraction when it debuted. JTA is also full of theming problems (namely a non-existent one) after the refurb, and Wild Artic is in desperate need of refurbishment. These attractions all need attention!

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