On September 4th, 2017, Busch Gardens Williamsburg closed Curse of DarKastle to facilitate the installation of their new haunted house, Frostbite. Soon after, we learned that DarKastle’s building would be utilized for a new Santa meet-and-greet space this winter.
Transforming what should be one of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s flagship attractions into special event space for both Howl-O-Scream and Christmas Town was concerning. That said, we had no reason to believe these were anything more than temporary seasonal overlays.
Over the last month or two a truly countless number of people have come forward to tell us that Curse of DarKastle will never reopen.
Initially we threw out these comments as baseless rumors from confused low-level employees. The park went through a lot of trouble to avoid removing any of DarKastle’s scenic or ride hardware during their installation of Frostbite. If the plan was for DarKastle to remain closed, why design so carefully around the attraction?
Many of the aforementioned rumors cited the ride’s high operating costs, hefty maintenance budget, and relatively low ridership as reasons for its planned demise. Others went further and pointed to the increasing need for dedicated, year-round special event space as further arguments for the ride’s closure.
Unfortunately, none of these claims clash with what we know about the ride or the event space crunch within the park right now.
Because the reports just kept flowing in, Nicole and I decided that we needed to address the rumors directly with the park. During a recent interview with Dan Dipiazzo, Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Vice President of Marketing, Nicole inquired about DarKastle’s future.
Dan Dipiazzo shared that, while the ride is still currently fully intact, the park has not yet made a final decision regarding the attraction’s return.
Given everything presented above, the outlook for Oktoberfest’s frozen castle is, at best, uncertain. Even if it does end up reopening for another year or so, it’s impossible not to see the metaphorical puddles forming around the ride as its icy walls begin to melt.
Over the last few years, we have seen DarKastle’s curse begin to falter—time is beginning to take its toll on the once timeless castle. After 12 years, it is tough to still call Curse of DarKastle a state of the art attraction. Its projections tend to be on the fuzzier side, its animations no longer stand up to those you’d find in the Florida theme parks, the movements of its cars have been toned down substantially, and some of its effects have been removed entirely.
Ultimately the issues that would be used to justify the attraction’s removal are not going to evaporate either. Staffing requirements for DarKastle are high. Running costs are steep. Maintenance requirements are some of the highest in the park.
The park is at a crossroads with Curse of DarKastle. It is time to either address the issues that face the attraction through a sizeable renovation or call it quits all together. We have seen Busch Gardens do the former before—most recently with Le Scoot. I, for one, hope that path is followed again.