Busch Gardens gave its first hints about its next roller coaster last week when the park filed two requests with the James City County Planning Department.
On Nov. 24, the park filed requests for a special use permit and a height waiver for a launch coaster that will take the place of the Big Bad Wolf in the Germany section of Busch Gardens. The Big Bad Wolf closed in Sept. 2009 after 25 years in service.
Busch Gardens’ special use permit application seeks to construct a new attraction that will include a 26,000-square-foot “event building” extending 80 feet above the existing grade and a themed bridge extending 95 feet above the existing grade. The new ride will also use the Big Bad Wolf’s former station building, and will feature “exciting interaction” between the three elements. Leanne Reidenbach, a planner with the county planning department, said the application does not indicate how the event building would be used.
The county requires approval from the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for special use permits, and both will also review the request for the height waiver. The county’s zoning ordinance requires height waivers for anything above 68 feet. Reidenbach says that the current landscaping of the Big Bad Wolf ride, which includes a ravine, will be flattened; that is considered the “existing grade.” Planners and park officials will conduct a balloon test on the morning of Dec. 8 (or Dec. 9 in case of rain) to see how the proposed event building and bridge would look from afar.
Currently, several attractions in the park exceed 68 feet, including the Loch Ness Monster, Alpengeist, Apollo’s Chariot, Griffon and the Sky Ride.
This September, park officials promised the addition of three rides, including plans to construct the “multi-launching, electromagnetic” roller coaster in the Big Bad Wolf’s location. Electromagnetic rides use large amounts of electricity to propel coaster trains along the track; they can build speed in seconds and come to a stop within 75 feet. When Busch Gardens announced its intent to build its own electromagnetic coaster, Vice President of Engineering Larry Giles promised the ride will contain many “firsts.”
Busch Gardens enthusiasts at the blog, BGW Fans, have been posting their own guesses about the future ride in a forum that had 13 pages of comments by Monday. Many fans believe much of the ride will take place indoors in the dark, with the coaster traveling in and out of the building.
The Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to review the requests at its Jan. 5 meeting.