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|Busch Gardens Tampa|
335 Acres (136 Hectares)
Busch Gardens Tampa is an African-themed animal theme park located in Tampa, Florida. It opened on March 31, 1959 as an admission-free hospitality facility for the Anheuser-Busch brewery on the grounds of the manufacturing plant.
Name one theme park that has become a showcase of revolutionary thrills, world-class entertainment, a giant animal habitat, and has nearly everything Africa has to offer without the hefty price-tag of an African adventure. If you said Busch Gardens Africa, you are correct. Busch Gardens Africa was the first park in Anheiser-Busch’s theme park spin-off, Busch Entertainment Corporation. But the park did not start off with the high speed thrills and African themed lands we have come to know the park as today. The story starts back on March 31, 1959, when Busch opened up a free admission garden with its brewery simply known as Busch Gardens.
The gardens had everything you would expect from a garden, exotic plants, but it also came with exotic animals from far away. One of the park’s earliest sections, Boma, became a zoo of sorts with most of the attractions still residing there today (as the park’s Nairobi section). Also, the park opened up its Serengeti Plain section in 1965, which contains a virtual habitat where animals can roam free. In order to get a close up look of the animals, Busch built the park’s first amusement attraction in September 1966, the Trans-Veldt Monorail. Built by Arrow Dynamics, the monorail car is suspended below the track and navigates a half-mile long trek along the Serengeti Plain.
By the time 1970 came around, a new threat (or aid) was looming for Busch Gardens, Orlando’s world-famous Walt Disney World theme park complex. In order to compete with the highly anticipated parks, Busch decided to fight fire with fire and throw its hand into the theme park industry. The first step in Busch’s plan was charging admission into Busch Gardens. Along with this plan, Busch added another transport ride in May, 1971, the Trans-Veldt Railway. The railroad spans two-miles of the park’s property and still roams the park today, transporting guests from one area to another.
tBut 1973 would be the year Busch installed its first major thrill ride. Arrow Dynamics once again came in and designed the park’s log flume, Stanley Falls. With the new ride came the new themed section, Stanleyville. In 1975, the park opened up a new main entrance which is still used today, the Moroccan Village area (or just simply Morocco). As nearby Disney World began to take shape with thrilling dark rides and the rise of the world famous Space Mountain roller coaster, Busch fought fire with fire yet again. In 1976, Busch joined the trend of what many parks were adding throughout the 70’s and 80’s, an inverting roller coaster that turns people upside down. Arrow Dynamics designed the first big thrill the park would be famous for in its early years, the Python. Even though Python was a stock-model Arrow Corkscrew roller coaster, it was known as the south’s first inverting roller coaster and that it inverted twice.
Marketing was a success for Python back when it was the big ride for Busch Gardens. With the new coaster, Busch also gave the park its second name, Busch Gardens: The Dark Continent. As the Africa theme began to develop, the very next year Python had two thrill rides in its area. The first new thrill ride was the Swinging Vines, a wave swinger type ride. The second new ride was the Monstrous Mamba, an Eyerly Aircraft “Monster” flat ride. Stanleyville also saw expansion as well, with the African Queen Boat Ride, Busch’s version of Disney’s popular Jungle Cruise river adventure ride. Also, the Vivi Storehouse restaurant opens up and completes the Congo area of the growing park.
By the end of the decade, Busch was already at work with their next themed section, Timbuktu. This section would complete the park’s circuit and add even more attractions to the park. Timbuktu opened in January 1980 with Sandstorm, the park’s third flat ride being a Tivoli Orbiter. Also, with the opening of Timbuktu would be the park’s Dolphin Theater to challenge nearby Sea World Orlando and various stores and midway games. Timbuktu’s signature ride wouldn’t open up until 1981.
Thrill seekers eventually had a second reason to visit Busch Gardens in 1981 when Scorpion, a classic Schwarzkopf Silverarrow looping coaster, opened up. One full 360 degree vertical loop and a mass of twisted track intimidated riders when it first opened up. As with any Schwarzkopf looping coaster, it packed high G-forces and the ride became an instant hit. Although the ride pales in comparison to the bigger thrills nearby that reside at the park today, it still remains popular by enthusiasts and younger thrill seekers alike.
Busch added yet another big adventure in 1982 when another expansion of the park’s Congo section was completed. Congo River Rapids opened up in 1982 as Florida’s first rapids ride and practically the only place in Florida for intense whitewater rafting. Manufactured by Intamin AG as one of their first rapids rides after installations at Six Flags Magic Mountain and Six Flags Great Adventure, Congo River Rapids became the summertime hit for the park. Even now, lines for this experience can go up to two hours on a hot Florida day in order to cool off.
In 1983, Busch added a new themed area strictly for children. Despite the Congo and Timbuktu sections having some pint-sized thrill rides (Congo’s Pygmy Village and Timbuktu’s unnamed kids area), this section was the first just for children with no major thrill rides. Dwarf Village opened up in 1983 as a kids play area filled up with slides, pint sized rides, and gnomes. Additions slowed down throughout the 1980’s as Busch was focusing on its sister park in Williamsburg, however more rides did come. In 1984, the Timbuktu section was about to get even loopier. The Phoenix opened up in 1984 as Timbuktu’s third major flat ride and the first major addition to the section since its opening. The Phoenix is a crazy ship ride manufactured by Intamin AG as a custom model of their Looping Starship flat ride. The ride isn’t themed to a spaceship lost in orbit, but instead, to an Egyptian cargo vessel stuck in some pretty rough seas.
In 1986, the park added its first major theatre exclusively for shows. The Marrakesh Theatre opened up, which housed many musicals and ice shows. Today the theatre has been performing Katonga, Busch’s multi-million dollar Broadway style musical that opened in 2004. Other shows the theatre has performed was World Rhythms on Ice (1998-2003) and Hollywood: Live on Ice (1994-1998).
The late 1980’s brought more small improvements towards the parks rides. In 1988, Busch decided to improve the monorail with new air-conditioned trains from Intamin AG to replace the aging Arrow Dynamics trains the ride has operated with for more than twenty years. But the park’s thirtieth anniversary came next year and the park wanted to celebrate it not with a big bang, but a big splash instead. The park’s aging Jungle Tour type ride, the African Queen Boat Ride, wasn’t a hit with guests anymore. The solution? Busch and Intamin AG went to the drawing board again and Busch decided to convert the Boat Ride into Tanganyika Tidal Wave. The only major changes for the ride were new boats and the last segment of the old ride turned into a drop segment where riders and guests on the bridge nearby are bound to get drenched by a huge wave. Tanganyika Tidal Wave became yet another summertime hit with guests.
A new decade rolled around and in 1990, the park decided to add a new themed area over by the Old Swiss House. In the early nineties, Busch decided to transform the area where the Old Swiss House stood and make the area into the Crown Colony. Additions brought along by this transformation included the Clydesdale Hamlet, where guests can get up close to Budweiser’s famous Clydesdales (and that donkey that wanted to be a Clydesdale too). And a new family-friendly thrill ride was added in this new area. A motion simulator ride named Questor opened up in 1992. Also during the early 1990’s, the park was renamed Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and two rides in the Congo area were removed, the Monstrous Mamba and the Swinging Vines flat ride. Next year though, Busch was ready to unveil a white knuckle thrill ride that has become a revolution in roller coaster design and engineering and also a favorite among enthusiasts.
It has been twelve years since Busch has added a roller coaster to their first theme park. At that time, competition began to grow stiff around Busch Gardens. Disney announced “the Disney Decade,” in which Disney’s theme parks began to rapidly add new things to their parks. And then, Universal Studios opened their doors. It seemed like Busch needed a new thrill to attract thrill seekers to take the hour long drive from Orlando to Tampa. Busch needed something revolutionary and that was answered with the addition of Kumba. Shattering record books with being the first roller coaster to ever have seven inversions and the world’s largest vertical loop. Kumba was designed by Bollinger and Mabillard, a Swiss roller coaster company that was new at the time Kumba opened. This was the company’s first sit-down looping roller coaster ever built, containing new inversions (Dive Loop, Barrell Roll, and Interlocking Corkscrews), and it set one of the standards in roller coaster design today. No looping roller coasters made on such a large scale rode as smooth as Kumba when it opened, especially compared to Arrow Dynamics’ designs. Kumba opened up with praise from the general public and enthusiasts on April 20, 1993 and the ride started a relationship between Busch and Bollinger and Mabillard.
After the smash hit that was Kumba, Busch began to improve the park even more. In 1995, Busch’s aging and unpopular Dwarf Village was in need of a facelift. The answer? Land of the Dragons, adding more pint sized attractions and a multi-story playground and cargo net playground that immerses children and parents in a wonderland. A brand new stage was also built for children's shows as well. But 1995 also triggered the start for another big addition for the growing Florida park. Cranes and bulldozers began to dig trenches as a god begins to rise and dominate the skyline.
Busch Gardens Tampa stuns the industry again in 1996 with the addition of Montu, another record breaking roller coaster designed by Bollinger and Mabillard. The ride was the first addition in the park’s new Egypt section, which also has midway games, a sand pit for children, and a replica of King Tut’s Tomb. But Montu remains king in this new section, as guests walk under a fifty-five foot high pylon into Montu’s domain. Montu, meaning the Egyptian god of war, lives up to its name. Opening as the world’s tallest and fastest inverted roller coaster and still holding the record for most inversions on an inverted roller coaster with seven inversions. The ride became yet another smash hit, however two of its records were short lived when Alpengeist opened up at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
Another addition was on the way for the new Egypt section in 1998, with a tour that can sum up Egypt in a comedic manner. Questor was removed and replaced with a comic film starring Martin Short called Akbar’s Adventure Tours. This motion simulator takes riders through a tour of Egypt bound to make riders laugh and scream. But 1998 also signaled the end for two classic attractions at the park. The first attraction to go would be the park’s brewery, a staple of the park since its opening. The second attraction would be the Monorail, an attraction that began to be a hassle for Busch. Today the monorail now sits Lake Compounce, rotting away since plans for a parking lot monorail fell through. With the removal of the brewery however, a new thrill was brewing in the spot where it once stood.
Lumber began to roll in and rise in the park. A mythical legend of two cats ready to duke it out. Busch’s first wooden roller coaster ever built began to rise. For the park’s fortieth anniversary in 1999, Busch opened up Gwazi, a dueling wooden roller coaster designed by Great Coasters International. Two different styled tracks full of twists and turns with six sections where the trains duel each other. However, not much can be said record wise for this roller coaster as it opened up after Dueling Dragons at Islands of Adventure. However, the ride was a nightmare for capacity and eventually the concept of dueling was scrapped in 2000.
The new millennium brought a major new project happening in the park’s Nairobi section. A section of the park’s Serengeti Plain was being built on for a thrilling family ride. In 2001, the race was on for Rhino Rally, the first and only Vekoma River Adventure ride ever built. Guests board custom made Land Rovers as they ride through a thrilling drive through the animal habitats as a Land Rover race is on through the savannas of Africa. However, something awry happens during this race and eventually your vehicle is floating down a raging river, but in the end your vehicle ends up winning the race and surviving the rapids. The addition had a safety flaw though, just weeks after the ride opened, a vehicle overturned and the ride had to be toned down.
In 2002, two attractions were closed down. Akbar’s Adventure Tours began to only run during peak days during the holidays due to a lack of parts for the ride. Later that year, the Dolphin Theatre was closed down and was being remodeled into a 4-D theatre. In 2003, the entire section of Timbuktu went under a renovation, which included the opening of R.L. Stine’s Haunted Lighthouse 4-D, a family friendly horror comedy film about two children spending the night inside a haunted lighthouse filled with special effects. In November 2003 though, Crazy Camel was removed for a new family thrill ride. Also, in early 2003, the park received its current logo style.
What was to replace Crazy Camel? A family roller coaster coming from sister park Busch Gardens Williamsburg. On Februrary 28th, 2004, Cheetah Chase opened up as the park’s first family roller coaster. Designed by Mack Rides, Cheetah Chase is your typical Wild Mouse roller coaster filled with hairpin turns and drops. Later that year, on April 1, Katonga opened up as Busch’s new multi-million dollar Broadway show. But another new thrilling roller coaster began to take shape for 2005. What would soar in the skies and skim the waters?
The answer? None other than SheiKra, America’s first Dive Machine from Bollinger and Mabillard. Before the announcement, enthusiasts thought the Dive Machine concept was a one trick pony that did not do much more than a drop and a turn, such as Alton Towers’ Oblivion roller coaster. However, SheiKra is all that and a bag of chips. Not only does the ride hold people up in the air two hundred feet high facing straight down towards the ground. The ride also has an Immelman inversion and a second “vertical” drop that is actually 83.5 degrees. After the second drop, a banked turn, a unique water splash element, and a helix complete the SheiKra experience, making the ride a revolution and proving to parks and enthusiasts that the Dive Machine could do more. On May 21, 2005, SheiKra opened to rave reviews and praise from the public and enthusiasts, making it another hit for Busch Gardens Tampa.
The next year, 2006, was a year of change for the park. First, the park replaced Haunted Lighthouse 4-D with a show that’s new to the park, Pirates! 4-D. But, not only that, the park received yet another name change, Busch Gardens Africa, reflecting on its overall theme of being a slice of Africa in the middle of Florida. But that was not the biggest news for 2006, the biggest news was the removal of the park’s first roller coaster, Python. After thirty years of thrills, chills, and classic Arrow head banging, Busch decided to say farewell to the park’s first major roller coaster. On October 31, 2006, Python slithered one last time through its simple layout. Soon after, Python and half of the Congo section was demolished for a new expansion coming soon.
In early 2007, the park announced an improvement for SheiKra. With the addition of Griffon at Busch Gardens Europe in Williamsburg, Busch decided to modify SheiKra with Griffon’s revolutionary new floorless trains. In June 2007, SheiKra opened up with brand new floorless roller coaster trains, guaranteed to double the thrill of being held up in the air two hundred feet up.
For nearly fifty years, Busch Gardens Tampa have brought the experience of an African safari with the extreme world-class rides of major theme parks. Whether you are at the park just for sipping a sample from the taps at the Hospitality House to riding the world class roller coasters, Busch Gardens Tampa has something wild for every guest. If you are looking for a thrilling African adventure without actually going to Africa, Busch Gardens Tampa is your ticket for fun and thrills.
Present Roller Coasters (8)Edit
|Cheetah Hunt||Intamin AG||Launched||2011||Operating|
|Cobra's Curse||Mack Rides||Spinning||2016||Operating|
|Kumba||Bolliger & Mabillard||Sit-Down||1993||Operating|
|Montu||Bolliger & Mabillard||Inverted||1996||Operating|
|Sand Serpent||Mack Rides||Wild Mouse||2004||Operating|
|SheiKra||Bolliger & Mabillard||Dive Machine||2005||Operating|
Past Roller Coasters (2)Edit