Parking was a typical $4.00, while admission...with a $5 off coupon snagged at the fair a couple of days earlier...was $30.80. Ouch! That's $36 for one person and I haven't even gotten through the gate!
It was raining lightly when I arrived (figures...weather was beautiful all week...), and the downpour hit about the time the park opened. Yech! After lunch, it cleared up and I had a couple of hours to videotape the park once the rain quit.
Busch Gardens Tampa is a very different park from Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It is sort of half-way between Busch Gardens in Saint Louis, which is gardens and animal exhibits; and Busch Gardens Williamsburg, which is mostly an amusement park. BGT is mostly a zoo, with a few good amusement rides sprinkled in, particularly in the back of the park. As I stood looking at the elephants, all standing with their backs to me, it occurred to me that this was the big difference between the way Busch does things and the way Disney does things. Disney would have an animatronic elephant facing the path and ready to have its picture taken. Busch brings in the real thing 8-).
|Sky Ride||Von Roll||Skyride transportation system|
|Steam Train||??||Propane-fired steam-powered passenger train|
|Congo River Rapids||Intamin||Rapid River Ride 12|
|Kumba||Bolliger & Mabillard||Looping roller coaster|
|Scorpion||Anton Schwarzkopf||Silber Pfiel Looping roller coaster|
|Python||Arrow Development||Corkscrew looping coaster|
|Tanganyika Tidal Wave||Arrow?||Shoot-The-Chute|
Of those rides, the Monorail was down due to mechanical problems, and the Python and Congo River Rapids were down for their annual rehabilitation.
Kumba was my first ride of the day...in fact, my first ride of the season. Kumba was running one train; one train was in the storage shed partially disassembled, and the third appeared to be ready to go, but one was enough. I think there were six of us on board.
Kumba is an awesome ride. I think everyone probably knows that by now. More specifically, it has lots of strong downward forces, lots of speed, a very smooth track, and some great front-seat visuals. Unfortunately, it also has the lethal combination of a few sharp transitions (the turn into the mid-course brake comes to mind) and other elements that produce strong lateral accelerations, and B&M's oversized over-the-shoulder restraint system. By the end of my first (front-seat) ride, my ears were pretty sore. I took advantage of BGT's re-ride policy (I guess guest satisfaction is more important to them than precise turnstile counts...) and moved to the back of the train. Kumba is nicely consistent throughout the train, unlike, say, Raptor or Magnum XL-200, which are better in the back or front respectively. On Kumba, it doesn't seem to make much difference where one sits. This may have been affected by the light load on the train. How light? When I opted for a middle row, the train went out with the front row vacant! For visual reasons, this is most definately a front-seat ride. The ride is essentially the same anywhere in the train, but from the front you can see. The back of the train has very little extra to offer, and you can't see much. I didn't try any "aisle" seat...and after a lousy experience on Raptor last season, I may never sit in the center seats of a B&M coaster again.
After a half a dozen rides or so, I was starting to get pretty sore. The old Arrow trick of hanging your head out the front of the restraint helps a bit, but the design of the bar makes that difficult. Possibly more than any other looping coaster I've ever ridden, this coaster really needs LAP BARS. The only features Kumba lacks are air-time and re-rideability. Getting rid of the over-the-shoulder bars would take care of the re-rideability; as for air-time, B&M apparently don't know the meaning of the term.
I left Kumba, and headed for Scorpion, stopping for a ride on the Sandstorm on my way. The Sandstorm is actually an Orbiter, which is a really neat ride that I recently learned quite a bit about. More about that in the near future...I'd rather not get into it right now. If you don't know what an Orbiter is, it is basically a Scrambler on steroids, with six overhead hinged, elevating sweeps and three tubs on the end of each sweep. It's a really fun ride, and the rain even let up a bit while I was riding.
The Scorpion platform was incompletely desserted when I arrived, so I climbed aboard the waiting train just as the rabbit hit, which nearly caused me to fall flat. Ooops! For those of you who don't know, Scorpion is a Schwarzkopf looper which uses the same lift mechanism as the Doppel Looping portable. The lift chain runs in a slot below the track, from just behind the station all the way to the top of the lift hill. Attached to the chain, and running on the top edge of the lift slot, is a steel rabbit, which pushes against the back of the train. After the train is unloaded, the chain is slowly advanced until the rabbit meets the back of the train and pushes it forward about a foot. Then the train is loaded and shoved up the hill.
Scorpion is a fun ride, very short 8-(, bumpier than Kumba, with much stronger lateral forces and comparable vertical forces. In spite of this, it is a fairly painless ride with the ratcheting lap bar (B&M! Arrow! Vekoma! Togo! Look at this thing and get a clue!). The seat is comparable to a Wildcat, with individual seat cushions with about a 2" gap between, no seat divider (except for the lap bar) and a high seat back. Coming off the lift hill, there is a little squeal from the wheel assemblies just before the first drop, then a quick, smooth ride through the loop, around a loop-threading figure-8, and a snappy triple-helix finale. Sort of what a Zyklon wants to be when it grows up, with a vertical loop 8-). I wonder if the ride might have been designed as a portable, since parts of the structure are held together with pins and R-keys. This ride provides some really strong forces in every which way but up [Anton doesn't do air-time either 8-(], and I could ride this thing all day. In fact, I almost did. And the rain finally stopped. When I left the ride, I had an unbelievable conversation with a platform attendant, which gave me yet another reason to like Scorpion:
ME: I have a question. I'll ask it anyway, even though I think I know
what the answer is going to be...
NOTE: I had asked when I rode Kumba as well...
ME: If I were to come back over here carrying a video camera... (This was as far as I got at Kumba)
ME: Would I be able to shoot on-board?
OPER: Sure, just so long as you hold on to it so you don't lose it!
ME: REALLY?! (stunned. Insert Bullwinkle exclamation...) Wowee! Thanks! I'll be back!
Needless to say, I returned shortly with the video camera, and did a couple of camera runs. I then stuffed the camera into my waist-mounted case, and rode a couple more times before heading off to the other rides. Then I returned to Kumba for a few more rides, which turned out to be a hassle with the camera since I can't fit into the seat while wearing the camera bag, and they won't let me pull the camera out and shoot on-board 8-(. But even so, it is a small price to pay for a good coaster.
Python was down for its annual rehab and inspection. Even getting photos was difficult thanks to the screening walls the park put up, but somehow I managed.
I took a ride on the park's Skyride to get a better view of Montu. The ride appears to be nearly complete. In fact, I think the track may be complete, with finish electrical, hydraulic, and pneumatic work still to be completed. Although the ride towers over the Serengeti Plain, it is tough to really tell what the track is doing, even with a long lens. But it looks like it will be a good ride, anyway. Sort of a Kumba turned upside-down. I don't get down to Florida much...someone down there is gonna have to promise to give a full report. Any volunteers? Hey, hey, now...one at a time...!
In the "This must be Florida" department...with an air temperature in the upper-50's to the lower to mid 60's, I thought it interesting that portable propane heaters were set up in a food-service pavilion. I guess we Ohioans feel the temperature a little differently. ... Merchandise at BGT seems to fall into three categories: Kumba stuff, "white tiger" stuff, and fancy craft-like stuff. Not a Scorpion shirt in the place 8-(. ... There are two things that BGT really needs. Actually, both Busch Gardens amusement parks need these, but BGT in particular seems to suffer. First, both parks could use really nice carousels. The ones they have are sort of okay, but the one at BGT in particular has a really cheezy carnival feel to it. It was only slightly nicer than the one at the Florida Fair. Second, both parks really *need* some kind of non-looping mega-airtime coaster. A wood coaster would be especially nice, and would give a nice organic feel among all that gunite. But of particular importance is the element of air-time. There isn't a single ride at BGT that can provide it, and it is possibly the single element most closely associated with roller coasters. I got more air-time during rough weather on my flight to Washington than I did on any of BGT's coasters, and that is a shame. To me, it is a serious omission, and a mid-size out-and-back wood coaster would be a perfect solution. Not at the expense of any of the existing rides, mind you...there are few enough of those as it is. Someone suggested that an endangered wood coaster would be a good addition to BGT, and when I see the emphasis placed on the preservation of endangered animals at BGT, I can't help but think that "Extinction is Forever" applies to wooden coasters as well.
I had to leave the park at about 3:pm to board an aircraft to come home, so I can't speak for the night lighting of the park. Of the two coasters I was able to ride, both are good. But I have to give the edge to Scorpion because it is so re-rideable and so interesting. Kumba is a good ride, but it suffers from the same problems as Raptor. The acceleration envelope for the ride is too tightly constrained, taking interest away from the ride experience; the combination of wide train and blinders on the restraint severely limit the visual impact for all but the front-seat passengers, and like all of the non-Schwarzkopf loopers I have ridden, extended re-rides soon become unpleasant. The more rides I took, the less I enjoyed it, and that's not what I look for in a coaster. Scorpion may be half the ride of Kumba, but I think I enjoyed it a bit more.
(donning Nomex coverall...)
Next trip: I-X Indoor Amusement Park
1996 Trip Report index
Back to Dave's page
--Dave Althoff, Jr.