As many of you know, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has spent the last three years renovating the park’s 41 year-old Arrow log flume, Le Scoot. From the beginning of this project, BGWFans has expressed time and time again how impressed we are that the park is making the investments required to restore this 1975 park original.
A few days ago BGWFans met with Larry Giles, Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Vice President of Engineering, specifically to discuss the Le Scoot project. What we learned through that informal interview conveyed to us, without the slightest doubt, that the sentiment referenced in the paragraph above was not only well deserved, but possibly even selling the park short.
In this post, we will start by running through Le Scoot’s recent history and explain what lead to this massive undertaking. The next section will be dedicated to explaining what the park has done for the ride over the last four years. Finally, we will close with some major new exclusive information about what to expect from this classic log flume when it opens in 2016.
Before I move on to all of that though, I need to take a moment to thank Larry Giles for making this post possible. The eye-opening insight he gave us into the project is truly astounding and we can’t possibly thank him enough for it.
A Matter of Life or Death
We start our story in the mid-2000s. Busch Gardens Williamsburg is planning to add a huge new Bolliger & Mabillard Dive Machine to the park’s New France hamlet. The park’s Canadian-themed area has never featured a roller coaster, but BGW has decided that it is time to change that. Better yet? The timing is perfect—BGW’s aging Arrow log flume, Le Scoot, is on its last legs. After its removal, the beautiful ravine between New France and Rhinefeld will have plenty of extra room for a new roller coaster.
We are all a bit sad to see Le Scoot go, but it truly has reached the end of its life. The fiberglass flumes, the steel supports, and even some of the foundations are all quickly deteriorating. Furthermore, the ride’s location has long been a problem. The pool below the attraction is set at the base of a U-shaped ravine and whenever the park experiences a large rain storm, dirt and debris runs down the sides of the valley and into the pool below. As a result of clogged drainage pipes, overflows aren’t uncommon either. Because Le Scoot recirculates the water that splashes down into its ground-level basin, whenever contaminants run into the pool, it must be completely drained, cleaned, and then refilled.
If all of this weren’t enough, Le Scoot has another serious problem as well: The basin below the attraction has a number of leaks. For a park as concerned about the environment as Busch Gardens Williamsburg, you can see why this is a problem. So yes, while it is a shame to see Le Scoot go, the sad reality is that it cannot continue to operate unless the park rebuilds the attraction from the ground up. Unfortunately, that’s an unrealistic proposition with next to no return on investment.
If you hadn’t gathered this yet, most of what you just read never ended up occurring. That said, according to Larry Giles, the three paragraphs above accurately represent the original plans for Williamsburg’s 2007 roller coaster addition. More importantly to this article, the previous paragraphs correctly characterize the struggles Busch Gardens Williamsburg has endured to keep Le Scoot running, as well as the state of the attraction before its renovation.
Sometime during Project 2007’s planning process, it was decided that Busch Gardens Williamsburg would be better off removing Le Mans and building their new coaster, Griffon, in Aquitaine. As a result, Le Scoot was allowed to continue limping along. The park concluded that they would keep their old log flume running until the Grim Reaper inevitably came knocking.
Saving an Icon
We pick up our story roughly five or six years after Le Scoot was originally slated for removal. Thanks to Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s incredible maintenance team and the marvels of Arrow engineering, the classic flume ride is still running. Its fiberglass troughs may be worn and its lift belt has clearly seen better days, but logs are still cycling and guests are still loving their visits to the Le Scoot Lumber Company.
Not all is smooth sailing though. The park has concluded that it is finally time to make a choice about the attraction’s future. If Le Scoot is going to continue to thrill families for the foreseeable future, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has to tackle the attraction’s lengthy list of long-standing problems.
The park is aware that this is going to be a hard proposal to swallow. What is the forecasted return on investment for rebuilding a family ride that is almost 40 years old? Sadly, that line probably doesn’t even exist on the balance sheet. This isn’t any small project either—Le Scoot essentially needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. Everything from the pool below the attraction, to the flumes themselves, to the original Arrow logs are all at their expiration point.
In a massive vote of confidence, corporate approved Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s six year plan to overhaul Le Scoot. Over the 2012/2013 off-season, the park began to rebuild the attraction’s lift hill. The off-season spanning 2013 and 2014 brought the complete replacement of the attraction’s first turn-around all the way down to the former location of the spillway. And 2014/2015? Flume replacement from the bottom of the first drop all the way through the station, a full fleet of new boats, and even more flume replacement before the drop.
So now lets take a look at what the park has done for 2016.
A New Lease on Life
It is now 2015 and Busch Gardens Williamsburg has just been granted approval to fast-track the remainder of the Le Scoot renovation project. 2016 was meant to be the second to last year of renovations but it was decided that the park was better served getting everything done by early 2016. There are whispers claiming that the park’s focus could be shifted to a new project in 2017 and maybe that is the reason for this change in plans; but, I wouldn’t put too much stock into that—after all, Busch Gardens Williamsburg just opened Tempesto this year—I can’t imagine we would be looking at another major attraction so soon.
Anyway, this means that over the 2015/2016 off-season, the park will be tackling the remainder of the flume reconstruction, the complete replacement of the pool below the ride, and the challenging redesign and substantial expansion of a drainage system meant to route storm runoff around and under the new Le Scoot basin.
This is all coming together to create a huge off-season project for the park, but Busch Gardens Williamsburg wants to add a little something extra as well: A Carl Lum-backed proposal for brand new thematic elements has been sent off for approval. If it is green-lit, Le Scoot will open to the public in 2016 with new thematic details both inside and outside the sawmill building. Better yet? The plan includes funding for a brand new spinning saw blade as well. Oh, and one last thing: Carl Lum handpicked the blue the park plans to use in the bottom of the new pool!
That theming proposal? Approved.
As you can see in the picture below, the outside theming work has already started. While the outside work is nice, what I am really looking forward to is the new decor inside the building. The return of the spinning saw blade alone is a game-changer. I haven’t actually seen the current one working in probably a decade or more. Seeing a new blade above riders as they drop out of the building is going to be an incredible, nostalgic treat.
The work required by that accelerated schedule? Nearly completed.
Below you’ll find a few pictures showing off the new basin (featuring Carl Lum Blue!) and the newly redesigned and rebuilt drainage system which will hopefully route water around the attraction for years to come.
The Next Chapter
As is true for any ride that’s required to constantly cycle a huge sum of water, while being hit and bumped by floating boats, Le Scoot will continue to take a beating. That said, Larry Giles is confident that the newly renovated Le Scoot will continue to withstand that abuse for decades to come.
This project truly was a monumental undertaking—the park took on everything from updated theming to massive structural changes. Because of erosion and water damage, large segments of the attraction needed to be reconstructed and the entire drainage system and pool had to be redesigned from scratch.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg truly deserves immense amounts of praise and respect for not only choosing to take on the task in the first place, but also for making all of the tough, expensive decisions along the way to get the renovation done right. Presented with only one or two of the problems Le Scoot has encountered, many parks would have simply shut her down and replaced her with a shiny new attraction. We are truly incredibly fortunate to follow a park with the reverence for history that they have displayed through this project.
It’s now Spring of 2017. It has been exactly 10 years since Busch Gardens Williamsburg was originally slated to open a B&M Dive Machine in New France. A couple weeks ago the park officially opened a new roller coaster—the first ever in their Canadian-themed hamlet. Needless to say, it has been a huge hit—especially with the families visiting the park.
Where does that leave our beloved Arrow log flume you ask?
Unlike Project 2007, Project 2017 has not been designed to replace Le Scoot, but instead to complement and integrate with it. Better yet? With so much new foot traffic heading back to the park’s newest coaster, Le Scoot is seeing a huge surge in ridership! Entire families are walking to the back corner of New France in droves to ride both attractions—the 42 year-old Arrow flume and the brand new roller coaster behind it. The attractions themselves and the audiences to which they cater truly do represent a perfect juxtaposition of young and old—both standing proudly side-by-side—as they are predicted to for decades to come.
This is the third post in a series of three articles made possible by a recent behind-the-scenes tour of Busch Gardens Williamsburg. To check out the other two, click here. Also, a huge thanks to Luke (our photographer) and Matthew (of Busch Dominion) for a couple of the pictures presented above.
Lastly, and most importantly, a huge “Thank you!” goes out to Larry Giles (Vice President of Engineering), Emily Phillips (Associate Manager of Communications) and Dan Dipiazzo (Vice President of Marketing) for enabling us to bring this incredible content to all of you, our readers.