Busch Gardens Williamsburg announced the closure of the Curse of DarKastle dark ride yesterday via social media. While this is something that has been speculated for a few months now, it is still a shock that the park is deciding to close the unique ride after only 12 years of operation.
Based off of speculation around the industry, the ride's low popularity could not justify the ride's maintenance costs and the budget given to the park by SeaWorld. Even on the busiest days, the ride did not generate much of a line compared to larger attractions.
The ride's technology was not of the most modern in the industry, and was likely in need of a renovation, much like the similar Spider-Man ride at Universal. While it was not of the best quality, many fans of the ride cite its one of a kind story and impact on regional parks as their reason for disdain over the closure.
Unlike many dark rides installed by theme park chains not named Disney or Universal, the ride was not a "clone" or copy of another ride. It was the first and only of its type, and generated a cult following among BG fans. With the park hosting Halloween and Christmas events, it is an odd move to close one of the only indoor and climate controlled rides, that was almost guaranteed to be running.
Busch Gardens will be opening Battle for Eire this season, a brand new dark ride featuring a VR system. This ride is slated to use some of the latest technology in the industry, but it would also be able to coincide with DarKastle in the same park. Not everybody likes to strap on VR goggles, and some people who have motion sickness simply cannot. DarKastle is different enough where guests would not see the two dark rides "as the same thing".
Personally, I am not TOO upset with this decision, as you always have to look at things from a business perspective. If the ride was not generating the appropriate foot traffic, it doesn't make sense to spend a good chunk of the budget to upkeep the costly special effects. At least another dark ride is coming in this year, rather than just losing one altogether.
In my mind, it makes sense, but I am 50-50 about the whole ordeal. It is becoming more of a common trend in the industry to quietly close rides, rather than announce it far in advance, mainly because they want to try and avoid the bad PR.