Busch Gardens Williamsburg Officially Announces Tempesto

March 22, 2015, 3:13 PM · After months of off-season rumors and speculation, Busch Gardens Williamsburg officially has revealed the name and anticipated opening date for its newest attraction - Tempesto. What park officials frequently referred to as a “landscaping project” will instead be the Virginia park’s seventh roller coaster to accompany Verbolten, Griffon, Alpengeist, Apollo’s Chariot, Loch Ness Monster, and Grover’s Alpine Express. The official announcement was made at the park’s annual Passholder Preview event. As a Busch Gardens Williamsburg Ambassador Blogger and Theme Park Insider contributor, I was invited for a behind the scenes look at the attraction and an opportunity to speak with team members responsible for conceptualizing, designing, and bringing Tempesto to life.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Replies (6)

March 22, 2015 at 8:28 PM · Thanks for the update, Russell. I look forward to your media preview coverage when this "flat ride coaster" opens next month. Personally, I would have hoped for something with a lot more throughput, but as you noted a lot of the BG faithful may skip this ride. However, the Kings Dominion coaster boys (and girls) will make a pilgrimage which will offset the loss of some BG regulars. End result: very long waits.

Did they mention that they would be assigning rows in classic Disney fashion to keep things efficient? Seems to me that assigning rows is the only way to ensure every seat is filled on every train if they are not offering a single rider line.

March 22, 2015 at 9:05 PM · Superman: Ultimate Flight is just ok. The launch isn't that intense, and the elements aren't that impressive. This will be a coaster most likely replaced in 10-15 years due to lack of popularity and low capacity...
March 22, 2015 at 11:51 PM · Based on my experience with Superman Ultimate Flight at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, this is going to be a good but disappointing ride compared to the other coasters at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. To me, Superman was a fun ride worth a 15 minute wait or so, but not something I would go out of my way for and not a must ride attraction. Plus, there are serious capacity issues: If Superman can pull an hour wait at a mid-sized park, Tempesto will likely have 2-3 hour waits in its inaugural season (I also doubt they'll realistically get much more than 500 riders per hour on the ride). While I don't like to be negative about rides without riding them, I really think Tempesto is the worst major coaster addition in recent memory, at least in North America. I'm betting most visitors will probably ride this once and then go back to riding Alpengeist, Apollo's Chariot, Griffon, and Loch Ness Monster.
March 23, 2015 at 6:44 AM · James - Based on the way the loading area is configured, I would expect that cast members will be assigning rows to eliminate empty seats. I did not ask anyone about that, but it would seem like the logical solution to prevent artificial reduction in the ride's capacity. The park has done assigned rows on its coasters in the past, and I would anticipate a similar strategy when the attraction debuts next month. Perhaps as the buzz dies down, they will let guests queue themselves.

AJ - The park noted that they expected to get closer to 500 guests per hour, and that the 700 number was more of a theoretical maximum. However, I disagree that this is a "major coaster". It is dwarfed by every other coaster in the park except for Grover's Alpine Express.

Court - In general, I have found that launched coasters from Premier do not have very intense launches, especially when compared to Intamin (both their LSM and hydraulic launches). I don't think this coaster is about the launch as much as it is that slow roll element at the top. A lot of coaster aficionados are already complaining that the OTSRs on Tempesto (the other installations of the Sky Rocket II are just lap bars) will further degrade an already "meh" experience.

Again, we'll have to wait and see, but I do think the park recognizes that this should not be considered a "big" addition to the park. The fact that they waited until the first day of the season, and less than 6 weeks before they plan to open, to announce it should say that they don't want to get people too excited about it. Much like the "Giant Loops" that Six Flags is adding to many of its parks this season (which aren't even technically roller coasters - they don't actually "coast"), Tempesto should be viewed as a flat ride like Mach Tower, Falcon's Fury, a Huss Giant Frisbie, or a Top Spin. However, I think Tempesto is satisfying a need in the park of newer, more intense flat rides to give thrill seekers something to do between the coasters. If you look at it, aside from Mach Tower, all of the other true flat rides in the park are all over 2 decades old and more geared towards families (Catapult, Tradewind, Turkish Delight, Battering Ram, Flying Machine, Davinci's Cradle, Das Wirbelwind, and the Kinder Carousel), and are all pretty tame by modern standards. Tempesto represents the park trying to give guests who want something more intense without having to build something really big, take up a lot of space in the park, or remove an existing attraction (only the rarely open Splashus Maximus water balloon battle area was lost to build Tempesto).

March 23, 2015 at 8:29 PM · As for not leaving empty seats, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train loader CMs separate the riding parties into ODD groups (to left line) and EVEN groups (to right line). Two ODD groups equal one even group and, what do you know, a bigger even group and no empty seats.
March 24, 2015 at 6:58 AM · Tony, Disney has indeed devised a clever way to load 7DMT to avoid empty seats, and I noticed how they were doing that on our most recent visit. However, loading a 20-person train on a continuously loading platform requires a bit more efficiency than loading an 18-person train on a shuttle coaster, where there will be 3+ minutes between cycles. Staff will have plenty of time to call down the line for a single rider or group size that will fill the train. Based on the size of the station, I don't think they will have the space or need to sort rider groups as they do at 7DMT.

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