February 9, 2007
Tampa, FL -- Busch Gardens Africa will raise the bar on thrills this summer as the bottom drops out on America's first dive roller coaster. The Tampa theme park last week announced plans to replace the trains for SheiKra with a new floorless variety from Swiss roller coaster designer Bolliger & Mabillard.
On June 16, Busch Gardens will reintroduce SheiKra with its new "floorless" cars that allow riders are unobstructed view of the 70 mph, 200-foot vertical drop.
According to Busch Gardens, SheiKra's track will remain unchanged. Psychologically, though, the effect of the floorless cars will be intense: SheiKra's cars will continue to seat eight passengers across, three rows deep, but riders will no longer be able to brace themselves for Florida's No. 1 thrill ride against the floor of the car. With the front rail gone, passengers in the first row, especially, will be completely exposed as they come over the crest of SheiKra's signature 200-foot, 90-degree plunge.
SheiKra originally opened in May 2005 and was the first roller coaster of its kind in America and only the third in the world.
Upon its debut SheiKra featured first-of-a-kind elements like a true 90-degree drop, an Immelmann loop and a second vertical dive into an underground tunnel. The park expects that bar to be raised even higher with the introduction of the new floorless trains.
The last day to experience SheiKra in its current form will be Memorial Day, May 28.
After Memorial Day, SheiKra will close for approximately three weeks to make the conversion to the new, floorless trains.
Busch Gardens said the roller coaster's existing seats and shoulder restraints will be fitted into a new chassis from Bolliger and Mabillard that support only the chairs above and the wheels below.
Between each row there will be nothing but open air.
The bulk of the changes during the three-week closure will occur at the loading platform, where retractable floors and handrails will be installed. As each floorless car comes into the station, the floors will raise into position, filling the gaps between the rows so that passengers may board. A pivoting handrail will swing into place in front of the car to assist those boarding the first row.
Busch Gardens' second floorless roller coaster Griffon, currently under construction at their Williamsburg, Virginia theme park will also feature the new floorless trains when it opens this spring.
"Through the years, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has set the standard for thrill rides, and I'm confident guests will agree that the park has raised the bar yet again with floorless SheiKra," said Dan Brown, executive vice president and general manager, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. "SheiKra's enhancement, along with its unprecedented ride features, really reinforce Busch Gardens' standing as Florida's foremost adventure destination."
Busch Gardens Building World's Tallest Dive Coaster August 23, 2006
Busch Gardens Tampa Tops Off New Dive Coaster January 28, 2005
Dive Coaster Coming To Busch Gardens Tampa Spring '05 October 27, 2004
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