New wooden roller coaster at Busch Gardens aims to be family friendly

Contact Reporterjoblack@dailypress.com

Busch Gardens' latest roller coaster will be about thrills fit for the family. Scheduled to open in April, InvadR will join a current roster of seven coasters and be the amusement park's first wooden coaster.

It's been a tribute to park's fans since the beginning, according to Busch Gardens officials. In March of 2016, the park asked fans to choose between three names for the ride. In August, another poll was released decide its logo.

"The anticipation with this attraction is really palpable," said park president David Cromwell at a hard hat tour on Wednesday. "This has really been a journey for us and our fans."

Cromwell said the ride is on schedule to open in April.

For ride construction, the park partnered with Great Coasters International, a Pennsylvania-based manufacturing company that works exclusively with wooden coasters. Senior engineer Adam House cited the topography as InvadR's biggest hurdle — and asset.

"There was no place for what we call a lay-down area. We need a big flat site to lay pieces out and put them together," he said Wednesday. "It's custom-built for this area."

InvadR is located in Trappers Village in the New France section of Busch Gardens. It will weave around the Le Scoot log flume and the train tracks.

The ride will have a 46-inch height requirement, shorter than most coasters in Busch Gardens. Cromwell said the ride fills a gap in the park for needing a family friendly thrill ride.

"Family thrill is the category we wanted to focus on. Rides in the past years were more thrill-oriented," he said. "For many kids, this is going to be their first big-kid roller coaster."

Excluding the ride's lift at the beginning, InvadR will be gravity propelled, House said. It will take guests on a 74-foot drop, over nine hills, through two tunnels and include plenty of twists and turns. The speed will top out near 50 miles per hour.

One thing the ride won't have is the sometimes-nauseating shakiness of a wooden coaster. House said the wood tracks are supported by steel frames that will provide more stability and less maintenance.

InvadR's trains were taken from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay's discontinued wooden coaster, Gwazi. Materials were refurbished and new harnesses and seats were installed by the Williamsburg team.

Each train will have eight cars, an intentional effort by the engineers to have a shorter vehicle for the ride.

"It makes turns tighter," Hosue said. "This ride is going to pack a big punch in a small package."

The last coaster to open in the park was Tempesto in 2015. Busch Gardens will host a pass-member preview day March 18 and open to the public March 25.

Black can be reached by phone at 757-247-4607.

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