Park of the Week: Islands of Adventure

Emperor Adds More Fun to California's Coaster Scene

February 28, 2022, 9:34 PM · Excellence isn't always measured by statistics when it comes to roller coasters. A ride that stands far from being the tallest, fastest, steepest, or longest in its category still can paste a smile on your face and fill your heart with joy.

Just like Emperor does.

SeaWorld San Diego previewed its new Bolliger & Mabillard dive coaster for reporters today. I say "new" because the ride won't open to the public until March 12, but San Diego neighbors have been watching this coaster stand still over Mission Bay for the past two years, while SeaWorld Entertainment held four of its new coasters across the country in reserve during the pandemic. So along with its siblings, these might be the oldest "new" rides in recent coaster history.

Still, Emperor delivers that B&M just-opened buttery smoothness. Unlike the recently opened Ice Breaker and Iron Gwazi, airtime is not the point here. The goals of a B&M Dive Machine are great views, a harrowing pause to look face-down at your towering 90-degree drop, and then a delightful flight through a series of graceful loops and turns on your way home.

Emperor ticks all those boxes.

Yes, at 150 feet, it's a smaller version of this model than Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Griffon, Tampa's SheiKra and the king of B&M dive coasters, Yukon Striker at Canada's Wonderland. It is a touch bigger than Efteling's Baron 1898, but lacks that attraction's thematic elements.

So, no, Emperor isn't the "-est" anything, save for being the first B&M dive coaster on the west coast. But as a west coast resident, that's enough for me. Emperor is a fun addition to the local coaster scene. Enjoy my front-row POV video from today.

A few operation notes. A couple of pieces of fabric above the loading area provide only slight relief from the sun and none from the heat, but since SeaWorld declined to spend any of that nearly-two-year delay building a station for the ride, come with sunscreen if you're riding this spring or summer. A hat won't help you, because all loose items must go into one of the paid lockers at the queue entry. It's a 52-inch height requirement, and SeaWorld does provide a sample seat at queue entry.

For more of my reaction to Emperor, including my thoughts on SeaWorld's attempt to become a better coaster destination, check out my theme park news video today.

And for discounted tickets to the park, please visit our travel partner's SeaWorld San Diego tickets page.

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Replies (10)

March 1, 2022 at 8:55 AM

I recognize that budgets are always a huge consideration with new coaster installations, and that the pandemic impacted a number of new attractions around the world not only in terms of their opening dates, but also their budgets. However, I'm really disappointed that Sea World did a "coaster in a parking lot" treatment with this. As Griffon has shown, it doesn't take a lot to provide some theming and intrigue to an otherwise vanilla ride.

I also understand that Sea World has been battling against local officials to try to build larger attractions, which has forced their hands in terms of color schemes to build anything that exceeds the 100-foot barrier. I just think that if they're going to use the same colors, they could at least provide some differential in their thematic elements so the collection is not so homogeneous.

March 1, 2022 at 10:26 AM

I know this is a "Sea" World park and not a Busch "Gardens," but man, this park really could use some more trees around this area.

I thought that what SeaWorld did with the black, white, and grey rocks - evoking the colors of a penguin - was a nice touch over just leaving the striped pavement underneath (looking at you Six Flags), but as another person at the event pointed out, at least Six Flags built a station for Scream.

March 1, 2022 at 1:25 PM

Hmm - theming is real weak here and not even any landscaping ?? I’m sure it’s great for San Diego tho

March 1, 2022 at 1:28 PM

It does seem like a super fun ride and a welcomed addition to Sea World SD. But I will have to jump on the main complaint here which is the lack of theming and shade. Very bare bones. San Diego has possibly the best weather in the country but that still doesn't mean that the sun doesn't make its presence known. Trees, shades, canopies, preferably a structure to improve guest experience would have been wonderful.

Anyways the ride looks fantastic, looking forward to checking it out myself.

March 1, 2022 at 1:42 PM

Some shade or a canopy is not only important for guests, but also for employees, who are working hard to keep load times manageable. To not give them some shade in their work area (loading platform) seems a bit inconsiderate and short sighted.

March 1, 2022 at 2:33 PM

Lets be serious this whole project was half a**ed from the start. I will never forget when they "revealed" it at IAAPA and they had [literally] a blanket over a poster of just the logo and it looked like it was made last minute at Kinko's. They had already announced it before under the name of Mako so this whole charade was pointless they could have just tweeted the new name. If this isn't the saddest thing you have ever seen from a major park let me know what is.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YAQ1eV7eUc

Also I agree its weird that a ride named after penguins is sky blue. I assume that's a city regulation thing because it is confusing for the GP if every coaster is the same color.

March 1, 2022 at 2:56 PM

The "buttery smoothness" has left me craving for toast. No covering over the station!!! What the....

March 1, 2022 at 5:15 PM

Well, after nearly two decades I think Scream may have lost its title as the laziest "drop in a coaster" effort in California. While the ride is over parking stripes, at least the queue has shade and landscaping and the station has a building. Emperor sadly seems to have the minimum necessary for the ride to function, which is a real shame given that not even five years ago SeaWorld parks were praised for their theming. Even if they'd done something similar to Electric Eel with some basic landscaping, fancy umbrellas in the queue, and a proper building for the station, this would look a whole lot better. Oh well...

Regardless of appearances, I'm looking forward to going to ride this during passholder previews on Friday. It's probably my most anticipated new coaster for California since Twisted Colossus opened in 2015, and it will be interesting to see how a smaller dive coaster stacks up against the other four in North America. Like Robert said above, SeaWorld has really been on a roll with coasters in recent years, and if Emperor delivers, there's a good chance it will become a full time AP park for me.

Also, for those wondering why everything at SWSD is blue, there's an ordinance that everything over I believe 65 ft. has to be painted a shade of blue to blend in with the sky. This is why Journey to Atlantis was repainted blue instead of keeping the original color scheme when it was refurbished a few years ago.

March 2, 2022 at 4:10 PM

"Ordinance that everything over I believe 65 ft. has to be painted a shade of blue to blend in with the sky?" Shades of Alton Towers, where parts of Rita's track are painted green (other sections are red) in order to blend in with the trees. Emperor looks like a fun ride and given its stats, SeaWorld may be targeting a different group of riders than Busch Gardens, Cedar Point or Canada's Wonderland.

March 2, 2022 at 6:19 PM

not covering the station is absolutely brutal for the ride operators. the sun is particularly intense during san diego summers and not providing at least a tarp or canopy seems a bit cruel for guest and employee alike.

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