Monday, March 6, 2017

BUSCH GARDENS REVIEW: "InvadR" Hard Hat Tour ~ Join the Invasion This Spring

I've never been on a hard hat tour, but I have friends and family who've worked at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and had the privilege of peeking behind the scenes at upcoming rides. Donika and Dan Haddock and I were invited to hang out on site as part of our work with Onezumiverse, so we strapped on hard hats and went for a look.

First thing: hard hats are super tight. Ouch.

But more importantly, we got to go behind the big mysterious wooden fence that's taken up a good chunk of New France recently and see what's in store for this spring.

InvadR is BGW's first wooden (well, wood/steel hybrid) coaster, and it's the first coaster ever built in New France. Once it opens this spring, the park will have eight coasters of varying styles and intensities.

The message and method behind InvadR seems to be largely outreach to the park's fanbase -- and they're doing pretty dang well. The coaster was named by polling the fans online ("InvadR" beat out "Viking Raider" and "Battle Klash"), and tweaks have been made to the coaster's original design after gauging fan reaction. So the final ride won't necessarily match the original CG demo... albeit in a cool way.

My grandmother always spoke very fondly of experiences with wooden coasters, but I've yet to encounter one. Fortunately, the designers were there to help me understand exactly what I was missing: wooden coasters have a different feel to them (described to me as "rickety-rackity"), and while there are no loops, the sound and the feel of the track beneath you means you're still getting a very exciting experience. The difference with InvadR is that the steep supports under the wooden track mean it will age better -- even, likely, better than the park's flagship coaster, The Loch Ness Monster (which is an old favorite but is getting a bit rough in its old age).

Another major difference between InvadR and the park's other coasters is the minimum height requirement: it's lower. The removal of the Big Bad Wolf from Oktoberfest left many families mourning its loss, as it was a good first "big kid coaster" for youngsters (with a minimum height of 42" and a less extreme ride). InvadR's height restriction will be 46" -- making it, with the exception of the park's one junior coaster, the coaster with the lowest restriction in the park. Designers hope that InvadR will become a "family coaster."

Park staff also hope that InvadR will revitalize the park's New France section -- which is primarily devoted to food and shopping, although it does also contain the Le Scoot log flume ride. The coaster will move around and through both Le Scoot and Caribou Station (one of the stops for the inter-park steam train), integrating itself into New France in a way that makes it look like it's always been there.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg has always been great about theming, but in the past that's largely been relegated to theaters, seasonal events, and immersive rides like Curse of DarKastle. In recent years, they've begun attaching "stories" to their coasters -- Verbolten being a notable example, with stories of evil fairy tales attacking unwary drivers unfolding as you wait in line. InvadR nestles itself into New France by making the log buildings of the area into a town of loggers. The wooden fence? Vikings are trying to break through and attack. More theming will almost certainly become evident when the coaster opens, but it's already a brilliant idea.

Thanks so much to BGW to inviting us out. As we speak, I'm putting together a video that I'll put up on my YouTube channel once it's ready. There you'll get to see some up close looks at the track, as well as some interviews with the people who are making it happen!

InvadR opens to the public in April 2017.