Larry Giles, Engineering Vice President, explained the concept as the greatest trick by one of the best Italian daredevil pilots. The Sky Rocket II model coaster from Premier Rides is expected to be one of the most intense, exhilarating rides in the park due to its speed and compact layout, as noted by Park President Carl Lum. The turquoise blue track and orange supports were erected in just a couple of months with the final piece bolted into place in late January. The ride has an anticipated debut on April 25, 2015. During our behind-the-scenes look at the coaster, they were already performing preliminary testing on the train and launch systems. Ride engineers noted that they had not yet done a full circuit launch, but they expected to do so very soon with load testing to begin in the next couple of weeks.
Tempesto is a linear synchronous motor (LSM) shuttle coaster that will launch the train forward up a twisting track. Once the forward momentum is gone, the train will roll backwards and be accelerated through the LSM launch until it again stalls. Finally, the train will be given one final boost of acceleration through the LSM launch at speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour so it can reach the top of the track. Once at the top, the train will slowly roll through one of the highest inversions in the world, 154 feet above the ground. After the roll, the train will be slowed by a set of magnetic brakes before gravity pulls riders down a 90-degree drop, through a non-inverting loop, back through the station, partly up the first twisting spike, and backwards into the station. Guests will be secured with a lap bar with integrated leg restraints (shin pads) and soft, padded over-the-shoulder belts that will buckle independently to the lap bar. The anticipated ride time is expected to be about 55 seconds, and with a maximum of 18 riders per cycle, the park predicts that the ride will be able to thrill at most about 700 guests per hour.
For an attraction that expects to draw a crowd, that capacity is going to be an issue, and the park has already done what they can to make the ride as efficient as possible. The other versions of this coaster design — Superman: Ultimate Flight at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Sky Scream at Holiday Park in Germany — have just 12-person trains, so Busch Gardens has increased the capacity of the design by 50% by using 18-person trains. Also, the park expects to have extra staff in the station to expedite the loading and unloading process to keep the coaster running at peak efficiency. However, even with those considerations, I would expect significant waits for this ride, and the park has already noted that Tempesto will open with no single-rider line, and with no Quick Queue (the park’s upcharge line avoidance system) available for purchase. However, they will be offering front of the line passes as prizes for a Plinko-style game administered just outside the ride entrance, which is a strategy introduced by Cedar Fair for their most popular attractions.
Tempesto is a roller coaster, and is being billed as such by the park, but I look at it more as a flat ride. The speed at which the line is likely to move will be more like a very popular flat ride than your average roller coaster, particularly compared to Busch Gardens' other coasters that all have high capacities. Additionally, the location of Tempesto in Festa Italia, literally in the shadow of Apollo’s Chariot, and its compact footprint contribute to the flat ride feel. When rumors started flying about this new attraction, there was a lot of criticism of the park adding a coaster with such a low capacity. However, with a 54-inch height restriction and intense elements, it’s likely a good number of typical Busch Gardens Williamsburg guests will probably not be interested in experiencing the thrill ride. Only time will tell – whether the park sees two hour waits and repeat riders, or if the capacity issues and extreme elements chase potential riders away. If nothing else, the park has added something that I feel that it lacks - more intense, thrilling flat rides to spread guests around the park. With mostly smaller flat rides and the towering Apollo’s Chariot nearby, Tempesto represents a good alternative for those wanting to test their mettle. It’s just a question of how long the lines will get and how long they will be willing to wait.
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