Billed as the tallest launch roller coaster in Florida, Busch Gardens' new Tigris is a tiger themed triple launch attraction that tosses riders in an upside down twist 150 feet in the air at an astounding 60 m.p.h. And that's not all: the ride pulls that feat again, only backwards. The ride will cover over 1800-feet of steel track.
With an opening planned for 2019, and coinciding with the park's 60th anniversary, Busch Gardens president Stewart Clark describes the ride as being “only for the bravest” family members at the park. “Busch Gardens has the most roller coasters of any theme park in Florida...we like to have a portfolio for every member of the family.”
Andrew Schaffer, the project manager of Tigris, describes the triple launch steel coaster as launching forward out of the station, then stopping and coming backwards through the station, launching riders backward up another tower. Riders will only get partially up the tower before coming back down again and getting launched forward – that's at over 60 miles per hour -- one last time, and taken up again –150 feet – then proceeding through a slow inversion, or a heartline roll. Schaffer predicts that at this point, some riders will “lose their lunch.”
The ride will have a stringent height requirement of 54”, making it off-limits for smaller children. It will feature over-the-shoulder lap bar restraints.
The company describes the tiger theme of the ride as being exemplified in its design, which is said to “mimic the awe-inspiring agility of the world's largest and most powerful cat—the tiger.” Further enhancing the tiger theme, in the ride's queue, park visitors will discover educational information about the plight of tigers in the wild, and what conservations including the Busch Gardens and Sea World Conservation Fund is doing to help them survive. And, merchandise sold at the Tigris gift shop will donate 5% of all sales to these conservation funds as well.
The innovative experience of the ride will give riders an intense skyward surge, and an adrenaline high. As unique as it is stomach churning, the ride will build even more momentum for Busch Gardens' renown as the “roller coaster capital,” featuring more coasters than any other theme park in Florida. Among its roller coaster attractions are Cheetah Hunt, which is the longest in the park; SheiKra, which is a thrilling 200-foot floorless drive coaster; and Montu, an inverted coaster. Additionally, the park is home to the 355-foot freestanding drop tower ride, Falcon's Fury; Kumbra, and the park's most recent addition, Cobra's Curse, which opened in 2016. The latter is a comparatively mild ride, a family-oriented coaster that spins and also goes backward.
Tigris will be located in the Stanleyville area of the park, appropriately positioned next to Jungala, an attraction that holds the park's endangered Bengal tigers. It will be taking the place of an African themed boat ride called Tidal Wave. That ride's thrills included getting riders soaking wet during its chute drop.
Busch Gardens has already begun to promote the new Tigris ride with social media conversations blossoming at #TakeOnTigris on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
SeaWorld Entertainment, the park's parent company, has committed to making its parks oriented more toward thrill rides, while still featuring animal attractions. SeaWorlds interim CEO John T. Reilly says that this focus will help the parks compete with rivals such as Disney and Universal Studios.
SeaWorld is also looking to reposition itself in the wake of animal rights activists questioning of SeaWorld's treatment of orca whales. This, combined with the arrival of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando in 2010, contributed to a downward slide in park attendance and negative word of mouth. However, this year, the company showed positive attendance and earnings, and a strongly positive outlook on attractions.
Analysts credited the company's discount ticket and pricing strategy, but the new ride openings have been an important factor in revitalizing interest in the park. Interim CEO Reilly announced to investors earlier in 2018 that the company plans to offer a new ride, attraction, show or event in every park, every year.
Following the debut of Tigris in 2019, an as-yet-unnamed attraction will be arriving at Busch Gardens in 2020, with a planned location in the Gwazi area of the park. It will in fact take over the space now occupied by the wooden roller coaster Gwazi which is now closed. That coaster had a large footprint, so expectations are high that the 2020 attraction will be a big ticket draw.In the meantime, 2019 will welcome the roar of the Tigris – and the screams of its riders.