Busch Gardens Europe (formerly Busch Gardens Williamsburg) located in Williamsburg, VA, has finally released details about its newest coaster. The coaster enthusiast community has been eagerly waiting for the details on the park’s first coaster in eight years. Busch Gardens Europe has a reputation of installing world-class coasters and some of the best-themed attractions for a seasonal park. It is also a perennial winner for Best Landscaping and Most Beautiful Park in Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards.
Griffon will be located in the New France section of the park. The Le Mans Raceway has been removed to make room for the new attraction. Construction photos have already been posted by fervent enthusiast hoping to get a glimpse of the layout of the new coaster. Griffon is named after a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. This fits with the park’s tradition of naming their coasters after Old World myths and mythical creatures.
Thanks to the Internet, it’s been fun watching the coaster enthusiast community pick up the clues along the way. First, there were pictures on the web of spray paint utility markings on side walks. Next, there were references to James City County documents where Busch applied for a height waiver to build a new attraction. Then, there was the patent for the name found on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s web site. The details of the new coaster are what coaster fans are bound to geek-out over. This will be only the second dive coaster in the U.S. Griffon will boast an ultra steep, 90 degree, 200 foot drop. If that’s not intimidating enough, there are brakes at the crest of the drop that hold riders for a few seconds as they stare down at the ground far below. Griffon will be similar to SheiKra, a coaster at a sister park in Tampa, FL.
I wasn’t blown away by SheiKra last year. Right away my reviews caught a backlash from coaster fans that probably aren’t as well-traveled as I am and probably hadn’t even ridden the coaster. It had two 90 degree drops, but the overall course was pretty short. However, I am comforted in the fact that Busch is not the type of park chain to install an exact clone of another coaster. Griffon’s layout is similar to SheiKra’s, but it will offer two inversions (loops) and floorless trains. It’s not as long as the park’s other coasters, but I’ll give Busch the benefit of the doubt. Loch Ness Monster, Big Bad Wolf, Alpengeist, and Apollo’s Chariot are all excellently-themed, world-class coasters. I’m excited to see what Busch will do with this long-awaited addition. Griffon is scheduled to open late Spring 2007.