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Born From the Ashes
By Zachary Posted in News on May 17, 2019 2 Comments 9 min read
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A few weeks ago, Busch Gardens Williamsburg opened Finnegan’s Flyer, the park’s new S&S Screamin’ Swing, to near-universal acclaim.

This weekend, Water Country USA will be allowing membership holders the opportunity to preview their brand new, incredible-looking water coaster, Cutback.

In 2020, as we recently exposed through a collection of leaked internal documents, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is slated to debut a huge, innovative Intamin multi-launch coaster in Festa Field. We are currently calling this attraction BGW Project 2020, and the park has already teased this project as “MMXX.”

Note: Contrary to some reports you may have read elsewhere, as of now, 2020, the project we leaked a couple months ago, is moving forward as planned.

Despite all of this, we have to turn our eyes towards the horizon once again. Why? Because Busch Gardens Williamsburg seems to be plotting something enormous.

Project Madrid is Dead

Before we can deal with what’s next, we must talk, once again, about Project Madrid.

Early on in the attraction’s development, the park filed for a height waiver requesting permission to construct a lattice-like structure with a highest point 315 feet above finished grade somewhere in Festa Field. In addition to this, we saw permits for Rhine River stormwater management improvements on both sides of the Rhine and observed widespread soil testing taking place all the way from Festa Field to Festhaus Park.

All of these bits of information came together to suggest one thing: Busch Gardens Williamsburg was gearing up for an enormous addition—likely an Intamin giga—that would span the Rhine River from Festa Field to Festhaus Park. Many of you may remember us sharing all of this evidence on our Madrid project tracker page over the last two years.

Below is our original map depicting the anticipated possible impact areas of Project Madrid.

Well, on Tuesday, in a meeting with the James City County Board of Supervisors, Busch Gardens Williamsburg let a few details spill that explained what happened to that massive project. BGW Project 2020/MMXX is not Project Madrid, as we had believed up until now. Project Madrid is dead.

BGW Project 2020, the Intamin multi-launch roller coaster we leaked a few months ago, was brought in to fill the hole in the park’s attraction schedule that was left by the cancellation of Project Madrid.

Initially this sounds really disappointing, right? It seems as though Busch Gardens cancelled what was very likely a Rhine River-crossing giga coaster and replaced it with a multi-launch coaster that may not even hit the 200ft mark.

While that may, certainly, be the whole story, allow me to show you why I’m starting to suspect there’s a second part…

Signs of New Life

Last month, Busch Gardens Williamsburg filed for permission to build a structure, dubbed “BGW Project 2021,” up to 355 feet above finished grade in the Oktoberfest area of the park. The initial request gave next to no information about the project—we weren’t even able to confirm that this structure would be an attraction of any kind. That all changed at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

During their presentation, Busch Gardens Williamsburg confirmed that their 355 foot height waiver was, in fact, for a new attraction—one that features screaming guests in a ride vehicle of some kind. Furthermore, Suzy Cheely stated that the structure would be “very slender—more like a spire that has open lattice.

Now, when you hear about a tall, lattice-like structure, you probably think about about tower rides like Funtime’s StarFlyers. This is a perfectly reasonable interpretation, however, we must also note something else:

Busch Gardens Williamsburg has repeatedly used phrases similar to “lattice-like structures” in reference to recent roller coaster projects—Tempesto, InvadR, Project Madrid, and MMXX were all described this way to James City County.

I hear you now, “Isn’t something like a StarFlyer far more likely than another coaster?” Until Tuesday, I thought the same. What changed?

During Suzy’s presentation, she gave us something new to work with: Numbers we could use to estimate the location of Project 2021’s highest point.

I passed the information along to friend of the site, ParkFans member, and actual professional, kingadam. Later that evening he got back to me with a map showing that the highest point of this attraction was most likely somewhere in the woods between Festhaus Park and the Rhine River. The suspected area in question is highlighted in the map below.

For a more detailed look at kingadam’s actual analysis, check out his ParkFans post, here.

Further backing up this estimated area, Suzy stated that 2021’s highest point is located “downhill from the Verbolten bridge.” This is likely a reference to the ravine located towards the top of the area marked in the map above.

Now, working with this information, a tower ride starts to seem a lot less likely since the area directly below the highest point would need to be guest accessible. The amount of guest area expansion required to get guests out to this remote location would be immense. Additionally, it’s hard to imagine that a simple tower ride would ever justify nearly a quarter of a mile walk outside the existing park.

If this highest point represented a tower, it would likely necessitate a large new hamlet in Festhaus Park to fill out at least a portion of the required new guest pathways. So, even if we assume this project is just a tower ride of some kind, that would likely necessitate a huge park expansion accompanying it.

That said, it wasn’t long before kingadam uncovered a new bit of information that has yet to be discussed anywhere else—a new piece of data that immediately turned my working theories upside down.

According to information contained in new utility marking requests, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has tasked Fishburne Drilling to do a new round of soil tests in the Festhaus Park area. We’d expect to see this for any type of new attraction requiring a substantial foundation. That said, it’s the locations of these new soil tests that have really piqued our interest.

From the (limited) information in the utility marking request, we have identified three of the four soil test areas with a fairly high degree of confidence. Those areas are displayed in the map below.

What type of attraction could justify soil tests for deep foundations at three remote corners of Festhaus Park? Possibly a coaster…?

I hear you now: “But what about the area between those soil tests? Wouldn’t they need to evaluate the ground below the rest of the site as well before foundations are designed?”

Yes, yes they would, and that, my friends, is the kicker here: Those soil tests already happened during the development process for the now-cancelled addition that was originally planned to use a fair bit of this land: Project Madrid.

Adding all of these soil boring locations together, as promised at the start of this article, this project starts to look legitimately enormous.

UPDATE (5/22/2019)

We have now confirmed the locations of three of the four new utility marking request areas.

These newly confirmed points are marked with blue pins in the map below. The yellow area depicts our estimation of the possible extent of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Project 2021. It has been created by combining the approximated Project Madrid soil testing areas from 2018 with the new batch of testing areas that we believe are likely related to Project 2021 (those blue points we mentioned a moment ago).

Reality Check

From what we know thus far, it is way too early to say for sure that Busch Gardens Williamsburg is opening anything in 2021. We can see that the park is currently planning something very tall and, seemingly, very large, that, according to BGW’s statements on Tuesday, could open as soon as 2021, but that summary is about all we can accurately present with confidence.

Additionally, as we always caution in articles like these, even the best laid plans can (and probably will!) change—just look at what happened to Project Madrid.

That said, I also believe there is some value in setting a reasonable range of expectations for Project 2021 (working from the assumption that the current plans come to fruition)…

Optimistic Analysis

The height of the attraction strongly suggests either a tower ride or a roller coaster.

The suspected location of the attraction’s highest point is very difficult to access with new guest pathways, lending support to the idea that guests will travel to this highest point from a different area of the park—strongly suggesting a roller coaster is more likely than a tower ride.

The widespread nature of the new soil testing areas suggest deep foundations in three different remote sections of Festhaus Park. Especially when the previous Project Madrid soil tests are taken into account, Busch Gardens Williamsburg appears to be prepping a very large area for deep foundations—the type we would expect for roller coaster footers.

Pessimistic Analysis

The height of the attraction strongly suggests either a tower ride or a roller coaster.

The suspected location of the attraction’s highest point is in the woods between Festhaus Park and the Rhine River to maximize the distance of the attraction from Kingsmill. A very long, new guest pathway will be run out to this location—likely requiring other buildings and/or attractions along it due to its length.

The widespread nature of the new soil testing areas show the scope of the new flat ride package or other new construction that will be used to fill out the path out to this theoretical new tower ride.

To stay up to date on Cutback, BGW Project 2020, BGW Project 2021, and whatever other curveballs Busch Gardens Williamsburg sees fit to throw our way, like us on Facebook and give us a follow on Twitter and Instagram. It’s much appreciated!

BGW Project 2021

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