Busch Gardens Williamsburg
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
General Park News - (12/2/13) This project started last winter, but workers at Busch Gardens are busy taking down another section of the park’s Le Scoot flume ride in order to rebuild it by the start of the 2014 season. You can see pictures of the work in progress over at BGWFans.
(11/28/13) An excellent photo trip report from Busch Gardens Williamsburg was posted to TPR this week, showing off Christmastown before and after dark. Most surprising was the spotting of a returning ‘Corkscrew Hill’ sign in Ireland… only to find it covered up after dark by Christmas Town sign instead after dark. Very interesting…
(11/7/13) A Busch Gardens Williamsburg employee was charged with a felony after giving away 126 parking passes for free over the month of September while working in one of the toll booths.
(9/10/13) BGWFans has confirmed that at the Passholder event last weekend the park announced a few new things.
London Rocks, a new show will open in the Globe Theater in May 2014.
Christmas Town will return this winter with very few changes from last year. However, a new ChristmasTown pass will be made available for $25 if you buy it before the end of October, and $30 afterwards, for all Season Passholders.
The new Food & Wine Festival will return again in 2014.
(9/5/13) Most of this was posted to the Screamscape Twitter and Facebook page last Friday, but if you missed it then, time to catch up. Lots of problems have been taking place over the last 10 days or so in the BGW Entertainment department. The bottom line is that between the sudden firings, and the rest who walked out in frustration, the park is said to be down to just one live show at the moment. You can read all the details about what has been taking place over at BGWFans who has been trying to document it all.
(8/19/13) Interesting developments going on behind the scenes at Busch Gardens Williamsburg as the budget cutting axe made it’s way to the Entertainment department. While I can’t verify exactly what has taken place, the same story has come in from different people. Currently the park employs a number of contracted performers to work in the park’s various shows venues as well as select street performers.
In the past most of the contracted performers would stay on to the end of the year through contract extensions, performing in different functions for the Howl-O-Scream shows as well as any ChristmasTown productions. What has happened this year however will likely put a more sour taste on future deals with contract performers in the years to come. It seems the VP of Entertainment has informed all the contract performers that their contracts will end at the pre-determined dates when their current shows end and that no one will be held over to work Howl-O-Scream or ChristmasTown.
They are welcome to attend the open auditions for Howl-O-Scream along with everyone else, but if hired, they will be only be employed as needed at the lower non-contract pay rate offered to all Howl-O-Scream cast. The same thing will happen down the line as the park auditions for talent for ChristmasTown as well.
I must note that there is nothing illegal or wrong with any of this. As professional entertainers, they are all aware of their particular contract terms as well as when their jobs will officially come to and end, as extensions into Halloween or Christmas are not promised. Unfortunately, it seems it did happen enough historically that many performers assumed they would likely stay on longer. For many of these contracted performers, getting a gig at Busch Gardens Williamsburg was preferred over taking job options at other seasonal parks because of the past history of the work season being extended through to the end of the year.
With everyone getting cut at the end of the season, I’d count on this having a possible negative side effect when it comes to hiring new talent to on for the 2014 season and beyond.
(7/2/13) In an extremely strange and disappointing move Busch Gardens Williamsburg has now closed down their Europe In The Air simulator ride that just opened in 2010. According to the report posted to BGWFans, the park has already confirmed on their website that the attraction will remain closed for the rest of the 2013 season.
This is extremely odd to see a move like this take place just days away from the extremely busy long July 4th holiday weekend. But unfortunately we've seen a lot of very odd moves from the SeaWorld Parks as of late. Frequent BGW guests already know about the cutbacks to the park's evening entertainment package. We've seen BGT cut back their late Friday and Saturday night hours just 3 weeks after announcing them in the first place, on top of leaving half of Gwazi closed for almost a year now. Then SeaWorld Orlando opted to cancel their big firework/water fountain/projection night spectacular show on the lake entirely this summer, replacing it with a very brief fireworks finale at the end of Shamu Rocks.
Mix this in with other reports and some complaints and it seems clear that the SeaWorld parks chain appears to have kicked off a possible chain-wide series of budget cuts that will affect each park in different ways. It isn't clear if this is an early reaction to possible lower than projected park attendance figures. Of course, this could also be an "I told you so" moment when I warned everyone that SeaWorld Parks going through with an IPO and being forced to respond to shareholder whims would only bring bad news to the chain. Previously the SeaWorld parks were protected somewhat from the chaotic nature of the stock market by being just one segment of a larger company... both as being fully owned by Blackstone and before that as part of the Anheuser-Busch Company who's primary income generator was beer sales. Back then an off year at the theme parks was barely noticed compared to the Budwesier sales report figures. Now they've got nowhere to hide... and if budget cuts are coming right as we begin peak summer season, this doesn't bode well for the rest of the year, or for any capital projects yet to be finalized.
Back to the Wiliamsburg park, it is unknown if we will see Europe In The Air return in 2014, or if the park may opt to simply close it down entirely for the next several years as a cost saving measure, much like they did when King Arthur's Challenge was closed only a few years after it opened in 1996 due to being very unpopular with the guests. The park then let the simulator ride sit empty and closed for several years until reinventing it as Corkscrew Hill in 2001.
2013 - Howl-O-Scream ‘13 - (9/16/13) A fun video showing off the opening Media night fun at BGW’s Howl-O-Scream was shot by CoasterCrew and embedded below.
(8/26/13) BGWFans has posted a large Howl-O-Scream construction update this week.
(8/16/13) Howl-O-Scream returns to Busch Gardens Williamsburg this year with new Terror-iffic tricks. It will all kick off on Friday the 13th in September, as the park’s European style villages are transformed into four different “Terror-Tories” (France, Germany, England and Italy)... transformed lands where spirits and fiends can walk amongst the living.
England will become Ripper Row, Germany will become Vampire Point, France will become Demon Street and Italy will become Ports of Skull, with a pirate theme. Speaking of which the park’s new haunt for the year will be here and named, Cut Throat Cove. Heed the warning: Abandon hope all ye who enter. Cut Throat Cove is the haven for bloodthirsty, dangerous rogues – where the scurvy dogs, buccaneers and scoundrels go for shelter. Proceed with caution. Alas, something has gone terribly wrong. Within this macabre market, the pirates have been slaughtered and mutiny is afoot. The way out lies with the buried treasure and the blood-curdling screams you hear just might be your own. Returning favorites will include Catacombs, Bitten, 13: Your Number is Up, Root of All Evil and Dead Line.
There will be special dinning opportunties as well including Blood Banquet (meet special paranormal characters during this interactive dining experience with an eclectic menu), Fright Feast (dine in the lab with the surgeon and Freakenstonia Castle), and Buccaneer Galley (A pirate style buffet served by the lovely hostess and her cutthroat crew). Returning shows this year will be Dig It Up!, Friends and Night Beats. Click here to visit the official site for all the details, prices and dates.
(8/7/13) The latest Howl-O-Scream rumors say that a Pirate themed maze may go into Festa Italia area, replacing the former Fear Fair maze. At least three mazes from last year are being set up again this year: Bitten, Dead Line and Root of All Evil.
For those wondering, I’m told that while Europe In The Air closed and had a “Howl-O-Scream” sign placed outside the entrance last month, no real work has taken place inside the attraction at all since then. Sources tell us it was really closed early due to poor attendance and guest satisfaction numbers.
2014 - New Entertainment - Rumor - (9/10/13) BGWFans has confirmed that at the Passholder event last weekend the park announced London Rocks, a new show will open in the Globe Theater in May 2014.
(9/6/13) I’m told that this Saturday is the BGW Pass Member Appreciation day presentation where the park is expected to show off all kinds of details about Howl-O-Scream and this year’s ChristmasTown events. This is also the place where the park would often announced new additions on the way for the next season.
As I’ve heard nothing in terms of a new thrill ride being added to the park in 2014, I wouldn’t get my hopes up for anything major, beyond maybe some new shows, which is somewhat ironic given the troubles the park has reportedly had with their Entertainment division this year. BGWFans takes a look at their own collection of rumors and thoughts to reflect on what they think we might see, including details about the rumored London Rocks live show in the former 4D Theater. It would be nice to see something done with the Simulator attraction, or at least a confirmation about the fate of Europe in the Air, or perhaps the return of Corkscrew Hill, but I’m not holding my breath.
2014 - Colossal Curl at Water Country - Confirmed - (11/13/13) Water Country has confirmed their plans to add a ProSlide WorldAlley slide this week to be named Colossal Curl. Check out the video announcement below, where they confirm the new slide is already under construction.
(11/10/13) The plans for the new 2014 Water Country waterslide have been reveled over at BGWFans.com this weekend, which appears to be a large combo-element slide featuring a mini-funnel element followed by a large half-pipe in the second half. ProSlide calls this a WorldAlley and you can see a few pictures showing off similar installations at their site as well featuring the same back-to-back Tantrum & TornadoWave elements.
2015 - New Ride / Coaster - Rumor - (10/10/13) According to this local news report the new attraction permit BGW filed refers to the ride as a 2015 attraction, so that rules out a mad rush to have it installed for 2014. This begs the question… will the park install any new major attraction for 2014 or opt to let things sit stagnant for another year?
(10/9/13) BGWFans reports that Busch Gardens Williamsburg is preparing some kind of expansion and renovation to the park’s Festa Italia area. The project will include a new 156 foot tall attraction according to permits filed by the park. BGWFans takes a look at where markings have been found on the park, where soil testing is said to have been taking place and more to try and come up with an idea of what may be in the works for 2014 or 2015.
???? - New Land / New Coaster - Rumor - (4/8/13) With BGW adding nothing new in 2013, this begs the question about just what they may be planning for 2014 then. Historically, whenever BGW seemed to skip adding a new attraction in any given year, they usually had something quite good in the works for the following year.
For example, the park added nothing in 2004, but added Curse of DarKastle in 2005. They followed this up with nothing in 2006, but added Griffon in 2007, then taking 2008 off, but adding the new Sesame Street land in 2009.
Whatever they have planned, the former Drachen Fire site is very likely to be the location of choice. There has been a lot of speculation for what may come to this site as well over the years, including rumors of an expansion to the Oktoberfest area, or possibly used for a new themed country… with Spain being heavily rumored in past years. A new train depot here along the existing tracks is almost a given at this point, as well as a new roller coaster. One old the older rumors, going along with the Spain rumor, indicated that a wooden coaster, the park’s first, could be chosen for the site as well.
While these older rumors have faded while the park spent the last two years transforming the old Big Bad Wolf site into Verbolten, I do have to wonder if they are ready for a new coaster…. Especially a wooden one given the problems the Tampa park seems to have been having over the past few years with their single wooden coaster, Gwazi. This is one reason I bring all this up again… because half of Gwazi sits closed, and the rumors coming from people in Florida indicate that Gwazi’s unused trains could be sent to Williamsburg for an unknown future ride. There is also a very hot new trend in the industry right now… a lot of parks are wanting to try out a wooden coaster with an inversion.
There are 3 opening in 2013 alone… two from Rocky Mountain Coasters (Outlaw Run & Iron Rattler) and the conversion of Hades into Hades 360 from Gravity Group. At IAAPA 2012 in a few interviews with Great Coasters (who built Gwazi and it’s fairly new Millenium Flyer trains) they also claimed that they have been ready to build an inversion on one of their wooden coasters as well for years. Could BGW be the first ones to take GCI up on that claim? Time will tell… there are no new rumors from Williamsburg indicating anything just yet… so for now consider this my own bit of speculation on what we could see in 2014. (If I were calling the shots, I know I’d do it…)
(8/12/11) AmusementPics managed to grab an interesting picture showing off a survey stake set up out of the old Drachen Fire field labeled “Train Station”. For years, this large area has been rumored to not only be put to use for a future new land expansion, but also would see a new train station added to the line here as well.
(4/16/09) Our spies tell us that the park still has big expansion plans on deck to add a new land to the park, taking over the former site of Drachen Fire. The unfortunate side of things, is that many of Busch’s big plans were put on hold when InBev took over the company, so there is no telling if this plan is still moving forward or just on hold for the moment. Either way, it seems that the multi-year plan to build an entirely new country (Spain is the most likley) in still very solid. It’s all a matter of “when” and not “if” at this point from what I’m told.
(10/30/07) The latest whisper on the wind in Williamsburg indicates that there may be a possible multi-year plans to add a new country at Busch Gardens Europe. Over the years different counties have been mentions as possible future projects, but some say that they’ve heard Spain mentioned specifically as a primary choice in the past.
(10/24/07) We’ve heard an interesting rumor for Busch Gardens Europe today that gives us a good location to watch for the park’s next big expansion in 2009 and possibly beyond. In short, we’ve been told to keep our eyes open for a possible fourth train station to be added to the line, this time in the German area of the park. Things get interesting when you realize that the best place to put down a new train depot in Germany would be back along the existing tracks near the old Drachen Fire spot, which is a fairly large and undeveloped area currently being used for the three back-to-back Never After haunt experiences. Given the massive size of this area alone, it could be used for anything from a massive new coaster to a large new themed land. Of course the bigger the size of the development, the bigger the chance that this could become a project that will take more than one year to build out, so 2009 may just be the beginning.
???? - Water Country USA Expansion - Planning - (11/22/11) The expansion plan proposed by Water Country USA was given unanimous approval from the local Board of Supervisors. No timeline was given as to how the expansion will take place, other than it will be done over five phases.
(10/14/11) BGWFans has posted a nice map showing off the new proposed master plan for Water Country USA over the next decade.
(10/12/11) The local news reports that Water Country USA has filed paperwork seeking to expand the waterpark’s size by 43 acres, in addition to the park’s current 41 acres of attractions. Keep in mind, this is for a new overall master plan for the entire park site that will shape everything that is to come over the next decade or two and not a plan for one giant expansion that will happen over the next year or two.
???? - Resort Hotel - Planning - (2/27/12) BGWFans has posted a new report on the possible addition of a resort hotel to the Busch Gardens Williamsburg property.
(12/19/11) BGWFans has posted some interesting information this past week about a possible future project for the Williamsburg park. They believe that Blackstone and Xanterra (the company who bought the Kingsmill resort from Busch) have been in talks for some time now about building a joint resort project somewhere on Busch Gardens property that could open between 2013-2015. They believe that the resort could possibly be built in the undeveloped land behind Festhaus park, in the location of the park’s “Boneyard”. Reports claim the Boneyard has begun to be emptied out to make way for the resort project. The site is located on the opposite side of the train tracks, across from where Drachen Fire used to be, which was long reported as a possible site location for a new train station as well, which could serve the new resort quite nicely.
(8/12/11) In an article focused mostly on the planned renovations to the old Kingsmill Resort area (now no longer owned by the park or Anheuser-Busch at all) it also mentioned that Blackstone also has plans to add their own resort hotel for Busch Gardens Williamsburg near the backside of the park somewhere.
(4/8/11) Screamscape sources claim that SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment may be doing studies and making early plans to enter the resort biz in select markets. This is something that was looked at in the past under Anheuser-Busch leadership, where they even went so far as to announce their intentions to build a heavily themed African animal safari themed hotel on backside of the Savannah at Busch Gardens Tampa. (Only to fail to be willing to fund the effort on their own without an experience hotel operator... which allowed Disney to swoop in the copy their idea a couple of years later with the Animal Kingdom Lodge hotel.)
From what I'm told, Tampa is not being considered this time around... since the new owners will admit that the area around the park itself is not exactly the kind of place where you would put down a high-dollar resort experience. While Orlando would seem to be a good fit, Busch sold off the perfect site for such a resort next to Aquatica to an outside developer under their leadership. In addition... the Orlando market already has an over abundance of empty hotel rooms on any given night. Across the nation, San Diego is also likely be crossed off the list as the park is land locked and the park also passed up several opportunities in the past to buy up nearby property where a resort would possible succeed, in addition to a general hesitation by AB to build and operate their own resort hotel without an experienced hotel partner.
So what's left? Williamsburg, VA and San Antonio, TX. In a strange bit of Irony, Williamsburg was the once place where AB had their own resort for a number of years in the form of the Kingsmill property. However this resort project was not sold off to Blackstone with the parks, and I believe it remains under ownership of AB, but the Williamsburg area does seem to be a good possibility for a future resort project, especially with the expansion of the park's operating season into the Christmas season. Texas is also a possibiliy, as there are no other theme park resort in the area, the park has lot of excess land that could be put to use in a number of ways... such as the rumored Aquatica project in Texas, which would certainly give guests a reason to spend the night at SeaWorld.