Busch Gardens, Water Country USA offer peek at new thrill rides

Staff writer

Finnegan’s Flyer and Cutback Water Coaster, the two newest attractions coming to Busch Gardens and Water Country USA, should appeal to thrill-seekers when they open this May.

During a hard-hat preview tour of the rides Thursday at the Williamsburg-area theme parks, officials detailed what riders can expect from the new attractions.

“It’s not too often that we have two new attractions at both of our parks in the same year, so come on 2019, we’re excited,” said Busch Gardens spokeswoman Cindy Sarko.

Cutback Water Coaster will be Virginia’s first hybrid water coaster and the only one of its kind on the East Coast, said Busch Gardens engineering senior leader Suzy Cheely.

Riders will enter a specially-designed four-person raft, and the entire ride will last about a minute, she said.

Construction on Cutback started last fall, Cheely said. The ride is located next to Vanish Point and takes the place of the former Meltdown water ride, which was closed and demolished at the end of Water Country’s 2018 season.

“The last piece was the start tub, which went in a couple of weeks ago, and we’re just finishing up the piping and the electrical, and we’re going to be testing it probably in early April,” Cheely said.

But what is a water coaster?

As Cheely explained, the 856-foot slide features three water jet propulsion areas, where nozzles along the underside of the track will shoot water into pockets at the side of the raft carrying riders to force the raft uphill and then back downhill. The ride reaches its maximum speed of 35 feet per second at three circular “flying saucer” areas, she said, where centrifugal forces will push rafts along the outside lip of the open-air saucer.

“It’s really fun when you’re at the back of the raft, because as you go up the propulsion area, there’s a surprise wave of water that comes back and drenches you,” she said. “Anybody that’s a coaster fan, this is going to feel like a coaster, except you get wet, so it’s the best of both worlds.”

Finnegan’s Flyer

Over in Busch Garden’s Ireland area, a new “screamin’ swing” will take riders up to 81 feet at a maximum speed of 45 mph.

During Thursday’s tour, the first of two support towers already was in place while construction crews worked to erect the second leg. The swing is manufactured by Utah-based S&S Worldwide, Cheely said, and will feature two arms seating a total of 32 riders that takes them progressively higher with each swing.

Cheely said air tanks located underneath the ride will push compressed air through compressors, which will then thrust the air into pistons inside the two support legs to propel the swings back and forth.

“They’re right in the midst of constructing this,” park spokesman Nathan Warters said. “The support leg just went in earlier this week, and they’re working on another one of the support legs right now to get that in place. Work’s going on, and we’re excited about the progress.”

Busch Gardens will host a preview day for members Saturday, and opens to the public March 23. Water Country USA opens for the season May 18.

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

Updated to attribute quote to park spokesman Nathan Warters. Previous versions of the story incorrectly attributed it to Ron Vample.
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