As Busch Gardens prepares to unveil its new ride, Europe in the Air, on Friday, it seems the park is already planning for its next new attraction.
Busch Gardens submitted a height waiver application Tuesday to James City County to construct a “thrill attraction of a single tower not to exceed 260 feet above ground level.” The proposed tower ride would be located in the Oktoberfest section of the park and would become the park’s tallest ride, besting the 205-foot Griffon roller coaster.
The park is located in a zone that limits construction of structures higher than 60 feet. The Board of Supervisors have granted waivers to the park before, however; the Loch Ness Monster, Alpengeist, Apollo’s Chariot, Griffon and the Sky Ride that connects England, France and Germany are all taller than 60 feet.
In its application, the Virginia Beach-based LandMark Design Group said, “These earlier park expansions have become exciting and successful additions to the park with many becoming guest favorites.” The application goes on to say the new attraction meets all of the other requirements in the zoning ordinance.
The application does not indicate the exact location of the ride, but Senior Planner Leanne Reidenbach said proposed maps show the ride placed next to the Der Wirbelwind swing ride. In September 2009, the park closed another Germany attraction, the Big Bad Wolf roller coaster, fueling rumors a new ride would be built on that site.
Last Thursday, the planners at Busch Gardens let the county planners know they’d be conducting a preliminary balloon test to see how visible the ride would be at 260 feet. Reidenbach says the planning office will likely conduct a second balloon test that will be advertised to the public. Height waiver applications are not reviewed by the Planning Commission, so the application will likely be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors at a June meeting.
Tower thrill rides simulate the sensation of skydiving by raising riders slowly into the sky, only to release them in a plummet toward the ground. Nearby King’s Dominion boasts the largest drop ride in North America, the 305-foot-high “Drop Zone.” Busch Gardens Tampa features “Wild Surge,” a tower ride that launches guests above a waterfall.
The new ride would be the first major construction since Anheuser-Busch InBev sold the park to Blackstone Group in October. On Friday, the park will unveil Europe in the Air to media members and Gov. Bob McDonnell. The 4-D ride, which simulates traveling through Europe by air, replaces Corkscrew Hill in the Ireland section of the park. The ride will open to the public in early May.