Why RMC Gwazi needs to live up to the Rumors

First Drop Magazine out of Europe has recently leaked that the restoration project of Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa will make the ride a record holding attraction, unlike any other built before by RMC. Like many coasters before it, RMC will likely transform the traditional wooden tracks into their steel I-Box track system. While nothing is confirmed yet, several clues have given some weight to the rumors leaked by First Drop, a source that has been regarded as very credible in the industry.

A view of Gwazi while SBNO- Credit
Flashback to September of 2018, when Busch Gardens announced their new for 2019 "Tigris" coaster, a compact Premier SkyRocket II model, which will replace the defunct Tidal Wave attraction. At the press conference, the park shed some light on Gwazi, which had been SBNO for 3 years, stating that in 2020, the coaster would be transformed to something brand new.

In December, construction permits to the city of Tampa were found, citing the Gwazi parcel and RMC as the construction company for the project. These documents did not reveal any information about specific track elements or structural work.

First Drop is now reporting that the dueling coaster will duel no longer, and be turned into a single track coaster, much like the transformation of Twisted Twins to Storm Chaser at Kentucky Kingdom. The two lift hills currently used by the separate tracks will remain structurally, but no longer be used as chain lifts, rather they will be normal hills in the track layout. Replacing the 105 ft. tall lifts will be a single, steel-supported lift hill standing at 212 ft. tall.

This means that a lot of the new coaster will likely be custom built, and the current lifts will remain as mid-ride track elements of some sort. Many times before has RMC built onto existing lift hills to add height to a new hybrid coaster, but never have they built a separate lift structure, and reused the existing lift hills for other elements.

Along with taking the record for tallest hybrid roller coaster if these rumors hold true, the ride would also become the steepest, with a rumored descent angle of 91 degrees. Compare this to the current record holder, Steel Vengeance, with a 205 ft. height and 90 degree angle of descent.

So why do these rumors need to hold true for the park?

Busch Gardens Tampa need a true hyper coaster: This park is a year-round operation that sees almost 4 million visitors per year. For most theme parks, the staple attraction is the hyper coaster, exceeding 200 feet in height. While Sheikra, the park's 200 ft. tall dive coaster, meets the bill as a hyper coaster, it's a gimmick ride. Dive machines tend to always fall short of traditional hyper coasters in the sense that they have shorter track lengths, and are more focused on the main drop and inversions than a sprawling layout focused on airtime elements.

Sheikra is always rated as one of the best dive coasters, and is a ride that I enjoy very much, but it is no substitute for a park that should have a true hyper coaster. With the amount of land that Gwazi takes up, added with a 212 foot tall first hill could make a really special ride. Busch Gardens Tampa has a very respectable coaster lineup currently, with several of their rides being widely talked about around the industry. For years, a true hyper coaster has been the only hole in their lineup.

Steel Vengeance was a winner: Put aside the technical issues, long waits, and other problems the ride faced during its inaugural season. Steel Vengeance was a winner for Cedar Point, RMC, and the amusement industry in general. It ranked at number 3 in its first season at the Golden Ticket Awards, something not many other coasters can crack in their lifetime, let alone first season.

RMC is truly a special company, and their innovation leads us to see rides that 10 years ago, many people wouldn't even be able to imagine. An RMC hybrid of this magnitude would be talked about around the industry, bring in a lot of new interest to the park, and could be regarded as the best roller coaster in Florida. For Busch Gardens, this along with Tigris will expand their park's capacity, and fill in a couple of vacant spots that have sat SBNO for too long.

Credit: Jeremy Thompson

A turnaround for SeaWorld: After the devastating effects of the Blackfish film for the corporation, for a while, the two Busch parks were the only strong assets of their portfolio. Being land animal based parks with a different brand, the backlash and controversy recently seen by wildlife based attractions has not affected the parks in Tampa and Williamsburg much. In fact, the two parks have thrived, seen investment, and were rumored to be up for sale to help SeaWorld's financial situation.

It is clear that if SeaWorld IS NOT planning to sell the Busch parks anytime soon, their revenue and overall business model are important to turning around the corporation's troubles and image. SeaWorld has been focusing on ride investments over animal investments lately. This has helped them regain some of their lost attendance, and has brought more people into the parks as the investments have reflected those of larger chains. Whether the Busch parks are to be sold or not, a new project of this potential prestige will really boost a plethora of the park's critical values.

Credit: Jeremy Thompson- A view of Twisted Colossus missing its dispatch interval

Twisted Colossus has issues: When RMC had picked up Colossus as a project, it had arguably been their most acclaimed and notable attraction to date. Their plans to turn the separate tracked racing coaster into a moebius loop dueling coaster made the project one of their most anticipated rides.

While the ride still places in Golden Ticket's top 25 over the past 2 years, one can say that its ranking may be hurt by the fact that the ride has two sore thumbs. First, the ride's second lift hill in the middle of the layout kills all momentum that the ride has built up. Some say that it's almost like riding two separate rides, or just doing the same thing over again. Second, because of the strict operational dispatch times that need to be met, the coaster rarely makes use of the dueling element, as by the time that the trains are sent, the other train has already cleared the second lift hill.

One may infer that the lack of the dueling element is also what ended up killing off the rankings of Dueling Dragons, as the ride experience had not been able to live up to what it was designed to be. Dueling was not a make or break element for the original Gwazi, as by the time the ride had reached its final operational years, only one side of the track was used anyways (same can be said about the original Colossus). I would rather the park focused on the overall ride experience and track layout, as Kentucky Kingdom's Storm Chaser has proved that the ride works better off as a single tracked attraction, rather than taking away from it to keep two shorter dueling coasters, at a much larger cost.

Overall, any RMC conversion of Gwazi would be huge for the park, and in my opinion, better than just about any ground-up coaster that would take its place. One thing that I love about the RMC coasters is not just their intensity and wow factor, but also the fact that they reuse a lot of material and structure that is already in place. I'm a firm believer that they are the "big thing" right now in the industry, and within the next 5-10 years, if your home park doesn't have one, they are falling behind the rest of the pack. Dare I say that Busch Gardens Tampa has a chance to meet or defeat the level that Cedar Point reached with Steel Vengeance, if the rumors we have seen come true?


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