I have now attended my first media day event, and I have to say, it was really awesome! Unlimited rides on a completely new attraction, free food, and the opportunity to talk to some of the people that brought about this new attraction. It is an amazing experience that I would suggest to anyone who has the chance. Busch Gardens Williamsburg definitely knows how to treat their coaster enthusiasts and to give them a terrific experience on a ride that they paid millions of dollars to design, construct, and open.
My mom and I got to the park about an hour beforehand; as we wanted to make sure we had time to get to our ride time on time. A few other people got to the tram waiting area before it came, and we chatted a little bit. There were two guys from a group called Coaster Zombies, and a married couple from Indiana who were going to take photos of Verbolten.
So we entered through the back of the park into the Oktoberfest section, which looks incredibly different from the last time I was at Busch Gardens. Previously, I was bidding the old Big Bad Wolf farewell. First thing I noticed was that Mach Tower completely dwarfs everything in the area, and it’s not too hard to find, as it was right next to Verbolten. So my mom and I got on our first ride, and we were held up short because they wanted to send out the red train without us. So we got on the green train instead and rode the ride near the back. We both loved the ride, but we wanted to wait for a while for our next go. So we hung around the entrance plaza to the ride and waited to interview park staff. Nobody was available at the time, so we took some pictures of the ride. We went down to the bridge area and took some pictures of the final element of the ride, the Big Bad Wolf-esque drop down to the river. My mom wanted to stay back to take more pictures while I went for another ride. This time, I happened to meet Devin Olsen while in line. So I got on the ride, with Devin videoing my departure. This time I sat near the middle, and I really didn’t detect a difference between the two seats. I got off the ride, and met my mom at the exit.
Now it was time to interview those responsible for Verbolten. First I talked to the park president, Carl Lum. The interview is as follows.
Sam Weaver: What was your inspiration for the theme of Verbolten?
Carl Lum: Verbolten was part of a two year expansion for Oktoberfest with Mach Tower coming last year and Verbolten this year. We wanted to keep with the German theming, and since Germany is famous for cars, we chose that aspect. Also, since we took out Big Bad Wolf, we thought up the Black Forest theme, which sort of ties into the theme of the Big Bad Wolf. We also knew that we could accomplish the theme of the Black Forest with an indoor event building, and that it would lead into the major drop at the end.
SW: Why did you side with Zierer as a manufacturer?
CL: Zierer has a history of offering safe attractions and knows how to come up with good engineering, as can be seen with the drop in the building.
SW: Were there any complications in the design or construction process for Verbolten?
CL: There weren’t that many complications, except for maybe reusing the Wolf’s old footers for the last drop. The last drop is in a protected area, and we had to get clearance to build there. Once we did that, we had to redesign the ride using the old footers.
SW: Do you think this ride is a worthy replacement of Big Bad Wolf?
CL: Oh yes, I actually think it’s better than Big Bad Wolf. The theming is better especially in the indoor section.
SW: Did you always know that you were going to include the iconic Big Bad Wolf drop by the river at the end of the layout?
CL: It was never a question.
SW: Where do you see the park’s next expansion being?
CL: We are going to start focusing on making other countries better, similar to the Oktoberfest revamp.
After talking to him, we took more pictures, and then our ride time came up. We got to ride in the front, with camera’s pointing at us. They booted up the camera, telling us to announce who we are and who we represented. Then we dispatched and rode into the Black Forest.
During the ride, I tried to give commentary, but I utterly failed. Not only do I sound like an idiot, but no one can hear me. The show building is so loud that it’s a surprise I could hear myself. And my mom makes some weird comments, but it’s okay because I made some weird comments too. But I do love it when the drop comes, with our shoulders just coming up like we jumped or something; it’s really fun to watch!
I really love this ride, but I have to say, it has nothing on the Wolf. This ride is very thrilling, but the Wolf gives such a classic feel that can’t really be compared to any other ride, whether it’s old or not. It’s still hard to compare the two rides anyway.
After this ride, we got our pictures for free with our ticket we received upon entering. After this, we talked to Larry Giles, who was the lead designer for Verbolten. I asked some of the same questions, as I wanted to see what he would say from a designer’s point of view.
Before we started, though, he asked me what I felt about the ride. I said that I enjoyed the ride, and I especially loved the indoor section and the final drop. He asked me if I had been on all three storylines, which I did not know about and had failed to notice during the ride. For those that don’t know, there are three storylines that the ride follows; the Black Forest, the Spirit, and the Wolf. Apparently, for my first three rides, we went through the Wolf storyline. The last time I rode it, however, I did get the spirit storyline, so I didn’t feel totally left out.
Sam Weaver: Were there any hindrances in the design of construction process for Verbolten?
Larry Giles: Yes, we had to get special permission to build over 60’ high and to build the show building at the proposed size.
SW: What are your plans for Loch Ness Monster, seeing as it’s the oldest coaster in the park?
LG: Our goal is to keep Loch Ness Monster running and to maintain it when it needs it.
SW: What are your plans for Drachen Fire’s old lot?
LG: We don’t have that many plans for it at the moment except to continue using the space as a haunted house during the Howl-O-Screams event as well as for special events like concerts, etc.
SW: What was the inspiration for the design?
LG: We wanted to tie it into Oktoberfest as part of the two year expansion. We took the vintage car idea, and used that as a storyline. We also wanted to keep the ride family-friendly. Big Bad Wolf’s height restriction was only 42 inches, so we wanted this ride to be a kid’s first roller coaster ride. We also wanted it to appeal to teenagers as well, so we went with the Black Forest theme. You’ve probably noticed that the ride features lap bars and a 48-inch height requirement, so kids will get a good experience on the ride. In addition, we wanted the ride to use new technology that would extend the ride experience, which is why we used the drop, and the multiple launches.
After this interview, my mom and I rode it one more time for good measure, this time encountering the spirit of the forest, which appeared right before the drop and made my mom scream. After this we grabbed a quick bite to eat, and we left the park with a new experience under our belts.