Busch Gardens to build park's first wooden roller coaster

On Saturday, Busch Gardens unveiled plans to construct the park's first wooden roller coaster.

The coaster will be Viking-themed and will reach speeds of 48 mph, according to the park's website. From its highest point, the coaster will drop 74 feet and travel over nine hills.

The idea for the roller coaster was finalized in late-2015, according to Dan Dipiazzo, vice president of marketing for Busch Gardens and Water Country USA.

Officials stuck with a wooden design to change up the park's steel line-up, he said. With a mid-range speed and height, the ride falls between an ultra-thriller and a kiddie coaster.

“(Fans) are looking for the great family ride that parents and children can ride together,” he said.

The goal is have it ready by early spring 2017, but that's subject to change, Dipiazzo said. Officials announced this new ride much earlier than usual, in part to allow Busch Garden fans to have a say over certain aspects of the coaster, Dipiazzo said.

That started Saturday with the park's announcement, which included a link to let fans choose from three names: Viking Raider, Invadr or Battle Klash. The one that gets the most votes by April 1 will be the ride's new name, Dipiazzo said.

Fans will also get a chance over some design elements, like the coaster's cars, Dipiazzo said. They'll get a chance to weigh in on the marketing campaign and possible a TV commercial promoting the new ride, he said.

“When we give fans a chance to vote ... they really love that,” Dipiazzo said. “So we said, ‘Let's take that to the next level.'”

The park dropped hints about the new coaster through an ad campaign using YouTube videos of the park's director of marketing interrogating park engineers and searching through offices to find out what they were working on.

The park began posting the videos to the website in January and every few weeks posted an update.

There were mixed opinions about the new coaster on the Daily Press' Facebook page. One commenter, Leah Kivett Brummett, said she “cannot wait,” while Sam Bradshaw said it would be a “nice buffet for termites.”

McKinnon can be reached by phone at 804-885-0031; Amin at 757-247-4607.

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