Last week I was invited to Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida to get a behind-the-scenes look at the progress that’s being made on the highly-anticipated attraction, Cheetah Hunt. After spending an hour touring the site and listening to Busch Gardens’ Vice President for Design and Engineering Mark Rose describe the coaster experience, I’m marking my calendar for May 27, 2011 – and recommending all coaster lovers do the same!
On May 27 at 9 am, coaster enthusiasts will have their first opportunity to experience an attraction that will combine animals and thrill rides in a truly unique way. Most notably, riders will literally be racing beside cheetahs.
It doesn’t look like much now, but in a few months this is the spot where 14 cheetahs will take turns racing the Cheetah Hunt riders. Many of the animals are already being trained to follow a lure on command, with zoologists making note of how each cat responds to the stimulation. The animals are also getting acclimated to the sights and sounds of a theme park, in part by having the noise from nearby coasters piped into their current homes.
The above photo shows the progress on what will be the first big surprise of the ride – a 38 mph launch through an enclosed building. Upon completion, the coaster will feature three separate launch points with some propelling riders to speeds of 60 mph. Of course, we don’t ruin all of the anticipation by telling you where all of the launch points our. Suffice it to say, you’ll never know exactly what to expect next.
The Cheetah Hunt will also take riders through several trenches as it races across more than 7 acres of land. Much of the ride’s thrills will take place very close to the ground, a design element meant to imitate the running cheetah.
Of course, not all of the ride will take place near or beneath the ground. The most visible portion of the track is the uniquely designed tower from which riders will plummet 120 feet. Rose told reporters and photographers that the Cheetah Hunt was specifically designed with today’s social media in mind, creating a photogenic coaster that would have friends and followers asking “where is that? What is that?” We anticipate many photos of this tower to pop up on the Internet this summer!
Of course, we hope to see fewer bull dozers in those pictures.
See more photos from the tour here.
Photos by Britt Reints