Busch Gardens Offers a Divine Experience on Pantheon

March 21, 2022, 1:46 PM · In 2020, SeaWorld parks were set to debut a collection of highly anticipated roller coasters around the country. Texas Stingray was the first to debut, doing so prior to the pandemic in February 2020. However, the rest of the coasters slated for debuts in 2020 have had to wait two full years before being unleashed on thrill seekers.

Iron Gwazi, Emperor, and Ice Breaker already have opened, leaving Pantheon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg as the remaining coaster due to finally give its first rides. In advance of the Media Day and official public opening later this week, we had the opportunity to ride Pantheon as part of their VIP Passholder/Member preview events that have been running over the past two weekends.

Pantheon is billed as the fastest multi-launch coaster in the world. With a top speed of 73.0mph, it tops Phantasialand’s Taron by only 0.3 miles per hour, but Pantheon is far more than speed. The coaster is located in the Festa Italia section of the park, and like nearby Apollo’s Chariot, is themed around Roman Gods. In fact, each of the five main sections of the coaster is designed to represent a different Roman God. Guests pass by columns in the queue that describe each of the gods and the part of ride that represents them.

Pantheon

While the use of five different Roman gods to describe the main elements of the coaster is extremely clever, the most striking design element of Pantheon is the train. The zero-entry trains are easy to get into and have well contoured and cushioned seats.

Train

Guests are secured with lap bars with no seat belts or over-the-shoulder-restraints (OTSRs), which allows for an amazing amount of freedom while riding. However, the restraint design does have a low tolerance for guests with larger midsections and/or thighs, so it is recommended to try a test seat prior to waiting in line. Also, due to the track and support layout along the course, guests taller than 76 inches (6’4”) cannot ride. The minimum height is 52 inches. While a large percentage of park guests wanting to ride Pantheon probably fall inside the rider requirements, the limitations here are probably more restrictive than other roller coasters around the world and might catch some visitors off guard.

Once the restraints are checked and the station is cleared, the train rolls into a tight left turn and approaches the first section of launch track evoking the goddess Minerva.

Minerva

This relatively mild launch leads into a slow corkscrew followed by a series of quick outward-banked airtime hills. This section is an excellent warm-up for the much more intense sections to come.

The next part of the coaster is designed for Mercury, the God of speed.

Mercury

This section of track is what makes Pantheon so unique. The train gains speed through an initial set of linear synchronous motors (LSMs) and then over a quick bunny hill before gaining more speed through a second set of LSMs. However, the train purposely doesn’t gain enough speed to clear the top hat and rolls backwards. While the coaster is stalling, a sliding switch track alters the configuration to allow the train to access a vertical spike, representative of Neptune's Trident.

Neptune

As the coaster rolls backwards, the LSMs accelerate the train backwards, creating a massive jolt of ejector air over the bunny hill and solid positive G's on the lead up to the vertical spike.

Spike track

I had noted the bunny hill on the launch track of Ice Breaker, and Pantheon’s is similarly surprising, particularly on the backward launch when you can’t see the element coming.

The train then stalls again and starts plummeting back to the Earth, passing through the LSMs a third time, which now provide enough speed to just clear the top hat, the element evoking the king of the gods, Jupiter.

Once the train clears the top hat, it plunges down a 95-degree hill, and into a high-speed right turn. That 95-degree hill is very noticeable as reaching beyond vertical, especially in the back row, and you feel like you’re being yanked out of your seat as the train drop and gains speed.

Jupiter

The next set of elements are designed to represent Pluto, as the train rises up into a sublime outward-banked airtime hill and dives into a hard right turn that pulls some serious positive G’s before what I think is the coaster’s best element - a hanging inversion that puts riders upside-down for what feels like two seconds.

Pluto

After this surprising inversion, Pantheon finishes with a tight left turn and another outward-banked airtime hill before the brake run.

While Pantheon is billed as a record-breaking coaster, that’s not what makes this coaster so good. The combination of comfortable seats and non-cumbersome restraints give riders a ton of freedom, accentuating all its elements.

Those elements are all well designed and give a great amount of variation over a relatively compact course. There are twists, turns, inversions, launches, and ejector and floating airtime moments paced throughout the 3,328 feet of track. Pantheon never lets up and treats riders to an experience with ebb and flow, without a single dull moment. I don’t think I’ve ever ridden a coaster that has been so well paced as Pantheon. Even a coaster with seemingly relentless intensity like Steel Vengeance has moments near the end where the course gets repetitive or provides a lesser variation of a previous element, but Pantheon keeps throwing curve balls at riders with plenty of variation and intensity.

With all that is great with Pantheon, even the best coaster isn’t quite perfect. This ride is going to have a lot of issues with loose articles falling from people's unsecured pockets – cell phones particularly, so securing those in a locker or zipper pockets is going to be a must if you don't want to lose them. One of the other issues with Pantheon is that it is not currently able to operate when it's windy. We encountered this on Saturday afternoon as winds picked up over 15mph (probably gusting over 20mph), keeping Pantheon closed for nearly six hours. It's possible that the park is taking a cautious approach during this soft opening period, but if the park is unable to operate Pantheon on a slightly windy day, it is going to create a lot of frustration among guests, especially for a coaster many have been waiting two years to experience.

However, those two long, pandemic-filled years definitely were worth the wait. Pantheon is a solid addition to Busch Gardens Williamsburg's already world-class lineup of coasters. It has so many impressive elements that you can’t possibly appreciate it all in a single ride. In fact, each of those elements is better depending on where you’re sitting, though as with many coasters, I found most of the elements better in the back. It’s not the one-trick pony that so many coasters these days have become, and the smooth transitions between each of the iconic elements are nearly flawless.

Pantheon truly calls upon all of the gods to create a ride that keeps riders on the edge of their seats from beginning to end for a divine experience.

For discounted tickets and passes to the park Busch Gardens Williamsburg tickets page.

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Replies (8)

March 21, 2022 at 2:28 PM

I have had a chance to ride Pantheon three weekends in a row. It was definitely running faster this past weekend versus the first two weekends, which was a real treat. And night lighting has been added, but it is anybody's guess if it is permanent or not. I will say that a night ride in the dark on Pantheon was a total blast.

Russell is spot on about the wind being an issue, but keep in mind this is an Intamin! The switch track was an issue twice yesterday, including on the first train of the day. The switch was not made in time, resulting in the train coming to an emergency stop coming back down the tophat and guests getting walked off. A rider on one of the stopped trains already posted a video of the evacuation on YouTube.

One other issue folks have been talking about are the OSTRs, with some seats being more sensitive than others, and hopefully the park gets that figured out.

Everything else you possibly want to know about this ride is documented across 700+ pages of postings here: https://parkfans.net/threads/project-2020-2022-pantheon.4887/

March 21, 2022 at 2:53 PM

@I64Trekker - Yeah, I definitely noticed that some seats were more sensitive than others. We waited through a slight delay on Saturday mid-day (before the wind closure) for maintenance to reboot the system and recalibrate the restraint sensors. The issues with the restraints are definitely with the sensors and not the safety of the restraints themselves. It seems that certain sensors are more touchy than others (and the screens used by the ride ops checking restraints is not always in tune with what is displayed on the control panel), so a guest of a certain size may not have an issue getting a green light in one seat but might get a red light in another. This is pretty typical for all coaster sensors (not just Intamin) as they are typically very finicky when first installed, and just take some testing and experience to get the kinks worked out.

I was aware of the lighting package installed last week (with different colors for each of the main elements/gods so it does appear to be a permanent feature), but we ended up leaving Saturday afternoon when it was clear that Pantheon wasn't going to come back up for a few more hours.

March 21, 2022 at 3:57 PM

The loading process was much longer than I anticipated when I went for the platinum preview. Granted the ride duration isn't that long but it was troublesome to see approximately 80 ppl wait almost an hour during both times I was in line. Although I went in with low expectations since I've have about 20+ rides of Velocicoaster under my belt, Pantheon was still a good ride. The first half was a bit of a bore, but the hill during the backwards launch was impressive. A barrel at the very end would've been phenomenal though. I'm also confused why BG chose to block off what would be some of the best views of the ride while your waiting in line before the steps with a wooden fence.

March 21, 2022 at 6:59 PM

Nice, comprehensive review. If I ever get back to BGW I'll definitely give it a whirl.

March 21, 2022 at 9:47 PM

Yeesh, talk about a rough start for the new coasters.

The new family coaster Ice Breaker is forced to undergo a major height requirement change. Iron Gwazi had to cut off portions of their beams after a guest (allegedly) hit their hands while riding. And now Pantheon risks becoming inoperable on a windy day?

And we're only a month in on a couple of these.

March 21, 2022 at 10:26 PM

Could SeaWorld use some of the beams they cut from Iron Gwazi to build a station for Emperor? /s

March 22, 2022 at 12:50 AM

Sounds like Pantheon is a major win for Busch Gardens Williamsburg! I wasn't originally planning to get to this one in 2022, but given the positive reception and the cancellation of a different trip, it's now looking like a prime target while my SeaWorld platinum pass is valid. The wind issue does concern me a bit, as I'd hate to fly across the country only for it to be down all day due to a gentle breeze, but perhaps the launch system can be tweaked to boost the train slightly faster in higher winds.

March 22, 2022 at 9:17 AM

@James - At least they haven't had to take out major elements (Maverick), cut the number of seats on the trains in half because of constant roll backs (Volcano), or reprofile the track because riders are blacking out (Intimidator 305).

@AJ - I would hope that the current hesitancy to operate in high winds is just precautionary during the shake down period. My guess is that a roll back forces a lengthy system reset (unlike other launch coasters like TTD that can simply reset the launch track), and that simply giving the train more speed to clear the top hat will negatively impact the rest of the course (there are no trims once the train clears the top hat that I noticed). I think once they fine tune the launch and figure out the additional speed needed to counteract any winds (the orientation of the top hat puts it straight into the prevailing wind direction), they should be able to operate Pantheon in more diverse weather conditions.

@sxcymike - You're right, it is a bit of a bummer that they installed fencing in the queue that takes away some of the best views of the coaster. BGW has done such a great job in the past of creating viewing areas for their coasters, yet almost all the action on Pantheon is blocked by the station and maintenance bay. There's long been a rumor that the park would add another bridge to connect the back side of Festa Italia (by Roman Rapids and now Pantheon) with Oktoberfest (behind Verbolten). It was perceived that Drachen Fire failed because it was located in a dead end, and that if BGW were to reutilize that land for a ride again (a previously rumored project named "Drachen Spire"), adding another connection across the Rhine River would be necessary to create foot traffic to the new attraction. Doing this would open up new paths on the back side of Pantheon's top hat for better viewing of this coaster. However, as it stands, Pantheon doesn't really have any great places to get good views of the ride - hence why my photos aren't that great, though I was only using my pocket-sized camera instead of my SLRs I will bring for the Media Day.

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