Busch Gardens looks to build tallest ride in park’s history

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — Busch Gardens wants to move forward in building by far the tallest ride in the park’s history, and on Tuesday, they got the green light.

The James City County Board of Supervisors initially approved a height waiver for the project back in 2019, but the pandemic delayed any action.

On Tuesday night, the board met and its four present members unanimously voted to approve a 36-month extension for the height waiver.

The 355-foot height waiver was originally approved in June 2019 and set to expire in June 2022 if construction on the ride hadn’t started. Now, with the approval of the extension, they must start construction on the ride by June 11, 2025.

How the ride will look next to other coasters at the park. (Courtesy of Busch Gardens)

The new ride is still a mystery, but it’ll be 355 feet above the existing grade. In comparison, Griffon is 205 feet tall and Apollo’s Chariot is 170 feet at its highest point.

Suzy Cheely, a representative with Busch Gardens’ design and engineering team, declined Tuesday night to disclose details about what the new ride would be.

It’s expected to go up around the site of the former Drachen Fire coaster, near Verbolten and the Mach Tower, the latter of which is 240 feet tall.

Many in the Kingsmill community opposed the height waiver three years ago, saying the extreme height would cause noise issues as trees wouldn’t be able to block sound. Drachen Fire, which closed in 1998 after just six years of use, had a max height of 150 feet.

How the ride would look from Kingsmill (Courtesy of Busch Gardens)

Busch Gardens just recently opened its newest coaster Pantheon to the public last month. It’s the world’s fastest multi-launch roller coaster, with a top speed of 73 mph and a max height of 178 feet.

Cheely said Pantheon was originally supposed to be a 2020 attraction, but it only opened this year because the pandemic postponed some of the new attraction projects.