Thursday, September 29, 2022

Project Madrid at Busch Gardens? It’s not what you thought

Attractions at the European-themed park range from world-class coasters to scenic river cruises. (Courtesy Busch Gardens Williamsburg)
Busch Gardens is one of the attractions that will serve on the Tourism Council of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance if the bill is signed into law. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Busch Gardens Williamsburg)

On Tuesday night, Busch Gardens officials appeared in front of the James City County Board of Supervisors to discuss a new project with a request for a 355-foot height waiver for a “spire” style attraction.

But Busch Gardens also covered some new details about an existing project and height waiver: Project Madrid.

Turns out, Madrid will not come to fruition, said Suzy Cheely, senior leader of design and engineering at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Instead, another project has been approved to replace it by James City County Planning. The project will use the same 315-foot height waiver approved for Madrid, but won’t be nearly that tall.

The height of the replacement ride, called Project 2020 and unveiled as MMXX during Busch Gardens’ passholder day, will top out at about 180 feet.

The height waiver originally approved for Madrid was for up to 315 feet.

At the meeting’s public hearing on the project, several Kingsmill residents voiced concern about the new ride’s potential noise and sight impacts on parts of their neighborhood. The “spire” will be constructed with open lattice and will be built near Verbolter’s broken bridge.

One resident, Andrew Lloyd-Wright, suggested a 315-foot-tall ride — referencing Madrid — coupled with another ride up to 355 feet tall, could produce mechanical sounds and human screams greater than those of current rides.

Supervisor John McGlennon then asked park officials about the status of Madrid.

Other details of that ride, called Project 2021, are still unknown.

McGlennon’s question prompted Cheely to confirm the original plans for Madrid were scrapped.

Cheely confirmed there will be no Madrid, and no ride of that height besides the now-proposed “spire” by Verbolten.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Fans, a group of roller coaster enthusiasts, have been monitoring the Project 2020 ride as plans have taken shape in the Planning Department.

The possible speed of the coaster have not yet been officially released by the park, but at 180 feet, it falls far below the threshold for a “giga coaster,” which is more than 300 feet tall.

On Tuesday, Busch Gardens officials said part of their business model and competitive edge involves keeping details of new rides under wraps as long as possible.

“Our business model demands that we provide new and exciting attractions,” park President Kevin Lembke said.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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