by Danny Miller
It was August of 2009, and I had less than a month to get to Busch Gardens Europe in Williamsburg, Virginia until Big Bad Wolf closed forever. I had never been to the park, and had been trying to plan a trip since the announcement that the Arrow Suspended coaster would close forever in early September. I finally convinced my father to head down on a Saturday where hurricanes and thunderstorms threatened the Williamsburg area all weekend long. We left at 5am, getting to the park shortly after 11am, and left the park around 5:30pm, getting us home just before midnight. I rode BBW twice, once in the front and once in the back, and loved every minute of both rides.
Fast-forward to September 2011, over two years after BBW has closed, and rumors of a replacement ride have finally become official, and the multi-launched Verbolten will become a reality. Busch Gardens Williamsburg continues the trend of trying to “one up” their sister park in Tampa, Florida by adding a similar ride just over a season after Busch Gardens Tampa received Intamin’s Cheetah Hunt, which out of over 200 coasters I put in my personal top twenty. In 1997, the park received Alpengeist on the heels of the success of Montu in Tampa, and the instant accolades from SheiKra brought Griffon to Williamsburg just two seasons later in 2007. This time however, it is neither B&M nor Intamin who will be providing the thrills, but rather Zierer, of Germany, who is best known for their small coasters including multiple coasters at the Busch/Sea World parks.
Verbolten has some big shoes to fill replacing a ride as legendary and loved as BBW, but it can certainly be done. As one who absolutely loved the drop down to the river on BBW, I am tickled pink to see that the park has decided to pay tribute by duplicating the maneuver with the new ride, but also making the drop slightly higher. Hopefully this may mean that it could be more thrilling. The themed bridge that the trains pass through just prior to descending the rides largest drop has come along nicely too, typical of Busch Gardens theming.
The drop is not what has everyone talking however. The “hook” if you will for Verbolten will be the challenge of “braving the black forest” inside the ride’s show building, where the ride will feature numerous special effects, including expected lights, sounds, fog, and plenty of other things you could imagine in your head. After meandering around for a bit, the trains will be launched into the show building for what we hope will be an experience unlike any other that the coaster world currently offers. Only time will tell before we find out for ourselves.
By the way, did I mention that Verbolten’s show building will feature the first-ever vertical free-fall track section in the U.S.? That’s right. After racing through the darkness, the trains will come to a full stop, and the entire thing, train and track included will free-fall in the dark to a lower level of track which will immediately launch the train out of the building as it approaches that aforementioned drop.
I have to admit, while I am extremely excited about Verbolten, I can’t help but think that it may end up being under appreciated. 2012 will offer the best set of new rides we have seen open in some time, and with this ride being made by a lesser-used manufacturer, it is obvious that some may have their doubts. It is unfortunate that there will be some who won’t like the ride simply because nothing could ever replace BBW, but that isn’t what this ride is meant to do. It is supposed to be a brand new experience that just happens to sit where an old ride used to be.
Some also question the Car/Autobahn theme for the ride, which I find slightly comical. Why doesn’t a sports car theme fit for a multi-launched ride? I think that the mix of the “Black Forest” is the perfect twist to turn this from a typical “car ride” into a very memorable experience with a bit of pizzazz that is just crazy enough to work.
The ride began testing recently and it was reported by a few that the ride had an incident with its yellow train. It should be noted that the yellow train is in a maintenance bay and the ride has continued to test its other trains and has successfully completed multiple circuits without issues.
There is no doubt in my mind that the theming of this ride is what will make or break it. It is about the same length as BBW at just under 3,000 feet long, so it is not a long ride length wise, but it will last over three minutes. In order for it to be successful, the theming must be top notch and it must consistently be working rather than effects being removed gradually to the point where ten years down the line they are all gone. If Busch Gardens can accomplish these things, I have no doubt that they will have another hit on their hands.