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Biggest Dive Coaster in California Comes to Sea World
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Taking the plunge, Sea World San Diego is adding a brand new Mako dive coaster to its attractions in 2020. Crafted by Bolliger & Mabillard, the coaster is a floorless dive coaster. That makes it unique at Sea World: its sister namesake attraction at Orlando’s Sea World, is a hyper coaster, and focuses its thrills on speed. 

The new dive coaster marks the third for the San Diego park in three years, along with 2018’s Electric Eel, and the Tidal Twister a Skylines Attraction’s Skywarp Horizon planned for this year. The Mako is taller than the Eel by 3 feet. Add them all up, and by next year, Sea World will have more roller coasters than Disneyland as Sea World continues to focus on ride-base experiences.

But back to Bolliger & Mabillard’s Mako. This dive coaster itself is 153-foot tall, and is reported by the park to be “the longest, tallest and fastest dive coaster in California.” In fact, there’s only one other dive coaster in California at present, and that’s Knott’s Berry Farm’s Hang Time. 

Dive coasters build their thrills on dangling drops, and feature a brief stop at the top of the lift hill; a floorless attraction like Mako lets riders dangle their feet from the car with nothing between them and the ground but air. They’re dangling over a 90-degree vertical drop for a few seconds before the brakes are released. Along with the thrill, they get a fantastic view from this perch. The Mako dive coaster iteration will have a 143-foot-tall vertical first drop, a top speed of 60 miles per hour, and offer 2,500 feet of track. Planned to last two minutes, the ride should be a true scream fest, with a barrel roll and a sweeping Immelmann loop a part of the experience. Riders will also enjoy a hammerhead turn and a flat spin, and that’s a lot of excitement for riders. 

The defining feature of a dive coaster is its vertical drop. The first, built in 1998, was Oblivion at Alton Towers in Staffordshire, England. With dive coasters, the trains are wider than most coaster trains; and they are available according to Bolliger & Mabillard, in 6, 8, or 10 passenger wide vehicles. That width means the track is also larger to accommodate them. Today, most dive coaster trains are floorless, making the sensation on the downward drop that of flying. The straight vertical drop of a dive coaster creates a uniquely thrilling experience for riders, particularly including the floorless factor.

The new Mako will be built on what is now a parking lot at Sea World San Diego, located near the Journey to Atlantis attraction in the southeast corner of the park. The coaster will be coupled with a renovation of the existing Shark Encounter exhibit focused on shark research and conservation. The park is pairing animal attractions of an educational bent with its new thrill rides.

This new attraction will be the first Bolliger & Mabillard coaster installed in California since Six Flags Magic Mountain's Tatsu was constructed in 2006. The company has created a wide range of popular coasters worldwide, including Griffon and SheiKra at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Busch Gardens Tampa. Both of those are also dive coasters.

Bolliger and Mabillard are known for creating custom rides created to fit individual buyers’ environments. The company was founded by two Swiss engineers in 1988, Walter Bolliger and Claude Mabillard. Since that time, the company has created over 85 rides worldwide, and in the past 20 years, it has become the major force in designed roller coaster projects. The company’s innovative outlook led to the invention of the inverted coaster in 1992, the dive coaster itself in 1998, and the floorless coaster in 1999. In the 2000s, the company made stylistic innovations to flying and wing coasters. A large number of award winning rides were made by the company, which considers itself the “Rolls Royce” of ride manufacturers within the amusement industry. 

One of the hallmarks of the company is their reputation for innovation, and for continually striving to bring new features to existing popular models. Recently, they created new trains for its hyper coaster design. These trains have four rows of seats that are V-shaped with two in front and two seats positioned to the left and right in the rear.

Walter Bolliger says that one of the main goals of the company is to “reinforce the feeling of freedom in our trains…this goes for the comfort of the seat and safety harness, the seat height relative to the rail, but also by the position on the train” to allow a clearer view for riders. “It’s also nice not to be pressed against each other when riding a roller coaster,” he asserts.

As far as creating new concepts, Bolliger believes that older products will likely come back into fashion, such as the stand-up coaster, and classic seated coaster. But that said, he feels that creating new products is vital to his and any amusement attraction purveyor’s growth. “I think the strength of a company is to continue to innovate and to always offer something new. The variety of attractions that are found today is very different from what we had 20 years ago. There will always be professionals to come up with new ideas, it is the strength of our industry!” 

Clermont Steel Fabricators, located in Batavia, manufactures the Bolliger and Mabillard coasters, with the exception of the cars and electronic controls. Roller coasters make up 80% of Clermont Steel’s business.

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