SeaWorld Orlando announced that they were building a new family-style coaster to bridge the gap between the parks’ big B&M coasters and its Oscar kiddie coaster located in the rethemed Sesame Street land. Ice Breaker was touted as a ride the whole family could enjoy together, and early indications were that the custom-designed creation from Premier Rides would be exciting enough for experienced coaster fans while still being able to accommodate younger thrill seekers who aren’t tall enough for the park’s existing “big-boy” coasters. Over the past decade, SeaWorld has established itself as Orlando’s coaster mecca (until Velocicoaster took the market by storm of course) with some of the highest-rated machines in Florida including Kraken (floorless), Manta (flying), and Mako (hyper).Two years ago,
Adding a launching coaster would round out the park’s collection, and designing a coaster accessible to younger guests would help draw more families to SeaWorld as they try to compete with industry leaders Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, all the promise and hope for Ice Breaker’s billing as a family coaster was dashed when the park increased the attraction’s height restriction to
52 54 inches (*corrected) just before it made its public debut over President’s Day Weekend, when we arrived in Orlando to try it out for the first time.
Rumors and online speculation indicate that the park raised the height requirement after pass member previews in response to incidents that occurred during the soft opening period. It appears that the restraints do not adequately secure smaller riders (or larger riders for that matter), and the park suddenly increased the height restriction in response to the incidents “out of an abundance of caution.” Whether SeaWorld and Premier will eventually make modifications to the restrains to address these issues is unclear, but this change definitely undermines SeaWorld’s goal in installing this coaster.
Since we didn’t arrive to SeaWorld until later in the day on Sunday of President’s Day Weekend, we wanted to avoid long lines and chose to hold off on experiencing Ice Breaker until later in the evening. It was probably for the best, because it appeared that the coaster was experiencing intermittent downtime throughout the day. When we approached the station in the early evening, we noticed the 54” height restriction, and since we had not yet heard about the change, we were pretty shocked. Zach in particular was surprised to see the change since he had been following this coaster since it was announced. The last time we were at the park he was too short to ride any of the park’s big coasters and empathized with younger thrill seekers looking for attractions at SeaWorld that could cater to their needs. While the revised height restriction didn’t prevent him from riding, he was pretty frustrated by the sudden change that belied the marketing campaign for the attraction that billed this as a ”family coaster.”
I harkened back to another example from the SeaWorld chain where a coaster was marketed for the entire family, but the height restriction didn’t fully meet that expectation. Verbolten at Busch Gardens Williamsburg was built to replace Big Bad Wolf on the same tract of land (including reutilizing some support pads and station). While the 48” height restriction on the coaster marginally fits the definition of a family coaster, it was 6” taller than the coaster it replaced, alienating a segment of coaster fans who could ride Big Bad Wolf, but could not ride Verbolten. Ultimately, BGW installed Invadr (with a 46” height requirement) to try to bridge the gap, but it was frustrating that most 5-7 year olds were being left out in the cold for the six years between when Big Bad Wolf was retired and Invadr debuted – in fact, BGW still doesn’t have a non-kiddie coaster for riders in the 42”-46” range.
While Ice Breaker doesn’t yet fulfill the goal of having a family coaster, it’s still a fun ride. The coaster is a modified version of the Sky Rocket line seen around the SeaWorld chain (Tempesto at BGW, Electric Eel at SWSD, and Tigris at BGT), but instead of a compact shuttle-coaster-style layout, Ice Breaker uses a complete circuit design with a sliding track switcher to allow one train to be loading in the station while a second train is on the course. Ice Breaker uses similar trains to other Sky Rockets, seating a total of 18 riders per train. As I noted on my review of Tempesto, the rows in each car are tightly spaced, and the third row of each car is especially cramped to get in and out of the seats. The primary restraints are lap bars with shin pads to secure riders’ legs in the train with a “comfort collar” clipping into the lap bar with a carabiner-style clip. As with Tempesto, these trains can be tricky to get in and out of if you’re not used to the design, and if you’re not paying attention, you’re bound to sit down on the “comfort collar,” which may necessitate ride ops unlocking the train to clip the rubberized shoulder straps to the lap bar. While the coaster has two trains, the loading process is still slow and arduous, and the management of the Quick Queue line, which essentially gives riders purchasing the upcharge product immediate boarding, makes the standby line move unnecessarily slow. We ended up waiting just over 30 minutes to ride, but if this coaster was actually accessible to more guests with the previous height restriction of 48”, I could easily see lines extending beyond two hours on busy days.
Once you’re seated and locked in, the train moves forward to a sliding transfer track. I was surprised by how fast this track slid us over onto the main course, as we were ready to launch in under 10 seconds after leaving the station. The first launch is backwards and up a beyond vertical spike.
Zach and I sat in the last row, and even on the first backwards launch, you could tell the track was beyond vertical. The train is then launched forward over a quick bunny hill towards a top-hat element. However, the train purposely does not have enough speed to clear the top hat, and careens backwards through the LSMs for another burst of speed that pushed the train to the top of the spike. This is where sitting in the back row really pays off as the train stalls and you experience a couple of seconds of hang time. The train then rolls back through the launch section to get another burst of speed. This is probably the most intense portion of the ride as the train is traveling at a top speed of 52 MPH while it negotiates a small bunny hill, creating a massive pop of ejector air before finally clearing the top hat.
The back side of the course is a number of twists, turns, and hills including another quick bunny hill, an upward twisting turnaround, and overbanked airtime hill, and a final small airtime hill before the brake run.
It looked like the turnaround would be the most intense element, but I found the overbanked airtime hill to be the best element aside from the bunny hill along the launch section. This element is very similar in design and feel of those found on much larger coasters like Steel Vengeance, Lightning Rod, Candymonium, and Orion. The forces created by this element are pretty intense given the initial billing as a family coaster, but at no point did I feel unsafe. This version of the element is not as intense as those other larger coasters, but it’s exciting to experience the simultaneous ejector and floating air sensations on a smaller attraction.
Much like many of the chain’s recent installations, breaking records is not needed to give riders a thrilling experience. Ice Breaker isn’t quite as dynamic or intense as the park’s other coasters, but it fills its niche quite well. Hopefully the park and Premier will figure out a way to make this accessible to the riders that they originally intended to make it a family attraction. However, even with the 54” height restriction, Ice Breaker is a fun addition to a coaster lineup that is the most well-rounded in all of Orlando - for adults and teens, that is.
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