Busch Gardens Williamsburg
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
General Park News - (6/24/20) According to the local news, Busch Gardens Williamsburg says that reopening the park under the current rules of the state is not an ‘economically sustainable situation’. So what is going on exactly? Apparently the state of Virginia has lumped amusement parks into the same general category as bowling alleys and other small entertainment venues, and as such, has limited the total attendance for the massive theme parks at just 1,000 guests at a time.
Despite the fact that major theme parks like Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Kings Dominion typically span between 100-200 acres or more, the current rulings will prevent the parks from opening at all this year unless they can bring in at least 5,000 or more guests a day. Meanwhile the parks are not only a bit frustrated at their own treatment, but also are claiming unfairness as special rules and treatment went into reopening up Virginia Beach. Even if the rules are adjusted to treat theme parks fairly, Busch Gardens says it will take them 2-3 weeks of preparation before they can actually open the park, so the summer window is getting very narrow at this point.
(5/25/20) Perhaps it is just a bit of optimism, but while looking over the Busch Gardens Williamsburg website I noticed that they appear to have revised the park’s operational calendar to now show operational hours beginning on June 13th for itself as well as the nearby Water Country USA waterpark.
While I believe some of the Colonial Williamsburg area has been allowed to reopen under the state’s Phase 1 reopening guidelines, this does not allow for a theme park like Busch Gardens to reopen. The exact guidelines for Phase 2 have not yet been made public so perhaps the park is just being hopeful that they might be included in Phase 2 at this time.
(3/28/20) SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment confirmed late yesterday that they would not be reopening their parks on April 1, 2020. They do not state when they they believe they will reopen the parks, but I’d assume they would try to follow the model of the other theme parks in each market. Right now in Florida, the other parks seem poised to stay closed until April 18 or 19th before they determine if the time is right to reopen in about 3 more weeks. In California, Disney and Universal say the same thing, but Cedar Fair, the parent company behind Knott’s Berry Farm said they were not planning to reopen until mid-May. Either way, take that for what you will, though I’m sure it will come down to how the conditions are in each region at that time.
On a sad side note, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment also sent word to 90% of their employees late yesterday afternoon that they were putting “temporary furloughs” into effect for almost all positions. Unlike in many cases where this is done for a “temporary leave”, those unfortunately affected by this will also see their heatlhcare benefits also terminated on March 31, 2020, giving everyone just a couple of days to get their affairs in order and pick up any needed prescriptions or refills to get them through these troubling times.
While some say that this is necessary for the employees to be able to file for unemployment benefits, it is a sad reflection of the company that they are doing this while their direct competitors (Disney and Universal) have been very up-front about the fact that they are still paying their team-members and keeping health benefits active through the closure dates that have been announced so far.
You can see a copy of the letter SeaWorld Parks is sending to their staff in the Tweet below, where it also clearly says that this is not a guarantee of future employment, so no one’s position is guaranteed once the parks do reopen, though many will be called back into work.
One more side note for anyone interested. While one might assume that the 10% of the work force staying on the books would likely be made up mostly of upper management and animal care staff, apparently this is not entirely accurate. Screamscape has been informed that the staff staying is mostly made up of those with salaried positions, and even full-time hourly animal care and zookeeper staff are being furloughed. To pick up the slack needed to care for the park’s animal populations, it seems many salaried staff members with office jobs may be quickly turned into apprentice animal caretakers for the next few weeks.
(3/13/20) SeaWorld Entertainment has announced that the company is now going to close all of their theme parks (SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Sesame Place, Aquatica, Discovery Cove, etc) starting March 16 through to the end of the month. Click here to find out more or who to contact for specific questions.
(2/28/20) Pantheon Construction Status and Aquazoid Supercharged
(2/14/20) An interesting local news report about two new lawsuits filed against Busch Gardens Williamsburg was sent my way this week. The two lawsuits combined from guests are asking for $2.25 million from the theme park.
The first lawsuit is from a woman named Heather Gonzalez who claims to have been injured at the park while riding The Trade Wind, a standard Himalaya style flat ride common to many theme parks as well as traveling fairs. You can see The Trade Wind in action by watching this video and you’ll remember immediately what kind of ride this is. The question is, exactly how did she injure herself on this? The ride is fairly simple, you sit, it goes around in a circle as a medium speed, and you get off. The trick may be that the pathway you navigate up and around these rides to get on and off undulates along with the ride path, resulting in going up and down some steep hills, so I have to wonder if she fell. Unfortunately no details were provided to tell u s exactly how the injury happened, or even to what part of the body.
The next lawsuit I’ve got to call a big foul on right off the bat. This is another one of those lawsuits from a guest claiming they were scared by an employee while attending the Howl-O-Scream event, and managed to hurt themselves in the process. In this case she claims to have hit her head in a locker room area “before she entered the park”. As Busch Gardens fans are sure to point out… there is no locker area outside the theme park. The locker area is inside the park, well past several of the gift shops and across the pathway from the Old Globe Theater building. Perhaps the reporter got the details wrong here, but otherwise this can’t have happened the way described, as she was inside the park and thus fair-game for any scareactors to frighten her. The victim, Courtney Telles, is asking for $1.5 million from Busch Gardens to cover her medical care from the injury as well as lost wages.
2020 - Pantheon - (3/2/20) Good news from Busch Gardens Williamsburg this weekend as the park posted a nice picture of the first Pantheon train sitting on the tracks to Twitter.
(2/28/20) Good news from Busch Gardens Williamsburg this week as the park has confirmed that the last piece of track has been installed on Pantheon. Now once they get the trains on the track and programming done we will probably see some testing start before the end of March if all goes well.
(1/24/20) BGWFans has posted a gorgeous photo update of the Pantheon coaster, with images shot from the air showing off the entire project area! As you will see, it appears that most of the track for the new coaster has been installed, giving us our best look at the fun to come!
(12/3/19) Coaster Studios has posted an interesting new video about Pantheon, showing off construction footage of the coaster at the park along with interview footage with Daniel from Intamin at IAAPA who talked about the creation of this new coaster system first introduced for Taron at Phantasialand was evolved into Pantheon.
(11/21/19) A quick update as a few readers quickly responded to my question about which current coaster holds the record for fastest multi-launch coaster in the world, and that would be Taron at Phantasialand, which has a top speed of 72.7mph according to RCDB.
Another reader brought up a point worth mentioning, as Intamin’s Soaring with Dragon coaster in China hits 77mph, and lanches forwards, backwards and forwards again on the launch track. This is apparently not counted as “multi-launch” in the terms here, as Taron and Pantheon each feature two entirely separate launch track areas, thus the “multi-launch” definition, while Soaring with Dragon launches back and forth across the same piece of launch track.
While we’re talking about Pantheon, you can also see a picture of the lead train car on display at IAAPA this week below.
(11/20/19) According to this new video from Busch Gardens Williamsburg, they have decided to boost the speed of Pantheon in order to take a new World Record for being the fastest multi-launch coaster, with a new top speed of 73mph.
For those wondering what the difference is… it seems it’s just 1 extra MPH, which is all that was needed to bump Pantheon up from being the fastest multi-launch coaster in America to having the world-record instead. Which international coaster they just beat-out for this record, I’m really not sure. Anyone else know?
(10/23/19) Busch Gardens Williamsburg tweeted out a series of pictures to their Facebook page showing off several sections of Pantheon track that has already been put into place. Lookin’ fit for the gods!
(10/8/19) A reader sent in some great new photo from Busch Gardens Williamsburg showing off the Pantheon construction site. Still no track going up on site yet, but it looks like it shouldn’t be much longer now, especially with a giant crane already sitting on site.
(9/18/19) Special thanks to Carl Stieren for sending in current pictures of Pantheon under construction. Currently there is no vertical construction, but a lot of ground moving, footers along with prep work for the pedestrian bridge.
(9/16/19) A new concept art image of the Pantheon coaster was released by Busch Gardens Williamsburg this week, giving us an artistic look at some of the coaster’s primary elements, inspired by the legends of the Roman Gods.
(7/31/19) Busch Gardens Williamsburg has announced the new 2020 coaster will be called Pantheon, and themed around the legends of five different Roman gods: Pluto, Neptune, Mercury, Minerva and Jupiter. While an exact layout or animation was not made available, the park does mention details about a number of the ride’s impressive features, and that at 72.5 mph, it will be the fastest multi-launch coaster in North America.
All together, they say that Pantheon will feature four launches, forwards and backwards, two inversions and a beyond vertical 95º drop. The overall track length will be 3,328 feet and take riders up to 180 feet in the air at the highest point. The coaster is from Intamin and will be able to run two trains at once, with each train able to hold 20 riders. You can see one layout on the official website.
(7/26/19) Busch Gardens has released several more of the Roman flag animated teasers, representing different Gods, on their social media channels. There are now flags for Jupiter, Minerva and Neptune.
(7/3/19) Following the teaser about Pluto for the BGW 2020 coaster project comes another teaser, this one themed to the Roman god, Mercury, which takes us back to Rome… and the existing theme of the area just outside the proposed entrance to the new coaster next to the Roman Rapids. So I guess the hope for the new Greece theme land was short lived, as it looks like they will be keeping this all Rome.
Since they have already mentioned two gods so far… I’ve got a feeling more are to come between now and July 30th.
(6/27/19) Busch Gardens Williamsburg has posted a quick teaser for their 2020 coaster project that ends with a bunch of Roman Numerals that I believe are giving us the announcement date for the ride: 7/30/2019.
There are a few other hints you might notice in the post, such as the description text that says “Escape Pluto’s twisted Underworld and be immortalized in the garden of the Gods”. Pluto is an interesting clue, as Pluto is the Greek God of the underworld who is more widely known under his previous name, Hades. There are some differences between the use of the two names, but for intents here, both names apply to the God of the Underworld. Meanwhile in the short animation from the park the banner flag has an interesting symbol on it, where the top half seems partially inspired by an ancient symbol for Pluto, and also features a Grecian Fret pattern across the top.
So in addition to the announcement date, we also seem to have a clear theme for the ride, which is Greek in origin, which suggests that the ride may be the start of the new ‘Greece’ themed area for the park going forward.
2020 - Aquazoid Supercharged - (2/28/20) BGWFans reports that a small leak about something new at Water Country USA was mentioned in a corporate investor report this week. The popular Aquazoid waterslide will be getting some kind of upgrade to become “Aquazoid Supercharged” this summer, where it will reopen as a “new water slide experience” where guests will ride through color changing rings with dynamic sound and more. From the sound of things, the old slide tower is being replaced with a new steel tower, plus sections of the old slide will also be replaced with new slide pieces to allow for the new visual effects.
2021 - Project 2021 / A Tall Attraction - Planning - (1/24/20) Another new update regarding the BGW 2021 coaster project has been posted to BGWFans this week, revealing even more details!
(1/21/20) The latest updates from BGWFans on the park’s 2021 coaster project shows that they have uncovered what appears to be the layout for the coaster project. According to the description, it seems to be a multi-launch shuttle coaster, where the train will move out of the station onto a launch track, shoot forward up a hill, roll-back through the reverse-launch and up a spike, and then forward again through the launch very fast this time, over the hill and into a couple of turns before shooting up a very tall spike before rolling backwards through the whole layout and back into the station. Based on the documents, they say that it looks as if the coaster may even re-use the old Drachen Fire coaster station.
Sounds like an interesting coaster, but as a follow-up to Pathenon, which also features a multi-launch section, the design choice here is a little odd to me, as it seems a bit too similar to what the park is opening in 2020. More on this as it develops.
(10/11/19) According to a local news report Busch Gardens Williamsburg has begin filing stormwater plans for a “Project 2021”. While we don’t know what it is yet, they say that the location of these initial plans show mark a site “near the Rhine River”, likely taking over some of the empty site leftover from the former Drachen Fire coaster.
I missed it last week, but usually our goto source for all things BGW related woudl be BGWFans, who is already on the ball with this story, reporting that this seems as if it could be another large roller coaster planned for the park, which is impressive as Pantheon will open in 2020, so to add another large coaster a year later epic news indeed.
Before this, the only thing we knew about Project 2021 is that the park applied for a height wavier for something that would have a structure up to 355 feet above grade, with the tallest portion said to be in the Oktoberfest section of the park.
(4/4/19) BGWFans has posted the first update about a possible 2021 attraction project in the works for Busch Gardens Williamsburg. According to the update the park has applied for a new height waiver to build a structure up to 355 feet above grade for a project labeled as “Busch Gardens Project 2021”. The location of the tallest point of the structure is said to be in the Oktoberfest section of the park.
With a coaster in the works for 2020, I’ve got to think that the park could be looking to add something entirely different in 2021, which would likely involve a large tower. With a drop tower already in place at the park, and since no one seems to build observation towers anymore, I’ve got to wonder if they are planning on adding something like a Star Flyer or Giant Wheel to the park.