🎵 I think that, any leaks are good leaks, so I took what I could get
🎵 Source looked at me with big brown eyes and said
🎵 You ain’t seen nothin’ yet
🎵 Baby, you just ain’t seen n-n-n-nothin’ yet
🎵 Here’s something, here’s something, here’s a leak you’ll never forget
🎵 Baby, you just ain’t seen n-n-n-nothin’ yet
- The attempt will be horrifically cringe-worthy. (It was.)
- The content below must be really amazing. (It is.)
Thanks to a treasure trove of newly-leaked documents provided exclusively to BGWFans, we can finally reveal Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 2020 roller coaster addition to the world before the park has even begun to tease the project.
As you can likely tell by the length of this article, the sheer volume of content in this post is immense. There are two reasons for this.
For one, we intend for this post to be the definitive Busch Gardens Williamsburg Project 2020 exposé. It assumes no prior knowledge of any of the subject matter addressed.
The second reason for this article’s length is that it contains well over 30 high-quality, never-before-seen, leaked schematics depicting the park’s new coaster—each of which is broken down and analyzed in what is hopefully a relatively accessible way.
Additionally, I must start start this article with a few disclaimers.
With that said, here is what Busch Gardens Williamsburg is planning to build for 2020…
Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s
2020 Roller Coaster
BGWFans can now confirm that Busch Gardens Williamsburg plans to add an Intamin-made multi-launch roller coaster adjacent to its Festa Italia hamlet for the 2020 season.
This planned coaster features multiple launches, two inversions, a large drop down towards the park’s Rhine River, and an innovative switch-track system midway through its course.
The documents suggest that this attraction will run two trains, each featuring five cars. Each car seats four guests in two rows of two.
Park guests will access this ride via a new bridge behind the park’s teacup ride, Turkish Delight. This new pathway will cross over the Festa Italia Railroad Station and take guests down into Festa Field, an area of the park that has never been accessible to guests previously.
A map depicting the rough project area for the public-facing portions of Project 2020 (read: guest pathways, amenities, and the new attraction itself) can be found below.
Festa Field is currently home to pastures used for Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s livestock collection. A sizable portion of these grazing areas will be replaced with this new attraction. Thankfully, a non-guest-facing part of Project 2020, will mitigate the zoological department impacts to some extent by adding new livestock fields to the east of the new attraction’s site.
Now that you know the gist of Project 2020, before we move onto the evidence, it’s worth looking back to bring everyone up to speed on the history of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 2020 plans.
A Brief History of
On the morning of May 3rd, 2017, we broke the news that Busch Gardens Williamsburg was conducting a height survey. Thanks to eyewitness reports and even a photo of the balloon in the air (below), we were able to conclude that the balloon was flown near the park’s Festa Italia hamlet.
By the end of June 2017, Busch Gardens Williamsburg had filed a height waiver with James City County for a structure up to 315 feet above finished grade in the area between Festa Italia and the Rhine River. This section of the park has long been known by enthusiasts as “Festa Field” and has been the focus of decades of expansion speculation.
The height waiver identified the addition as “Madrid”—a detail that immediately caused many to assume that this new construction involved the addition of a Spanish-themed hamlet to the park. As we warned early last year, however, such assumptions were unwise as there was a credible, alternate justification for the addition’s internal codename. Throughout the attraction’s development, we continued to refer to the project by its internal SEAS codename as it was recognizable to many thanks to its usage in the height waiver.
In the second half of 2017, we saw soil testing occurring all the way from Festa Field across the river to the long-dormant plot of land previously occupied by Drachen Fire, Festhaus Park. This time period also saw the filing of a 315 foot height waiver with the Federal Aviation Administration.
At this point, the flow of information stagnated severely. Nearly a year past before we had any new concrete evidence of an attraction addition in Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Festa Field.
In August 2018, the park filed a portion of the attraction’s site plan (above) with James City County. Despite the meager details this document provided, it was enough for us to conclude that Project Madrid was, in fact, a roller coaster.
By late September of last year, other outlets began to report on a leaked internal slideshow listing the planned additions to various SeaWorld Parks properties across the country. Among those slides was one for Busch Gardens Williamsburg depicting a “multi-launch shuttle coaster” which was slated to open in May 2020. Soon after those initial stories broke, an infamous Twitter account named @AmusementLeaks published the photos of the slides that were cited in those news stories. The relevant tweet is included below.
— Amusement Leaks (@AmusementLeaks) September 24, 2018
In an incredible turn of events, SeaWorld Parks, in comments made to the Orlando Sentinel, confirmed that the leaked slides did, in fact, come from a real internal company presentation but warned that 2020 plans across the chain had yet to be finalized.
Following soon after the slides leaked, Busch Gardens Williamsburg filed a revised RPA impacts plan with James City County. Though this updated partial site plan did not reveal any additional information about the ride itself, the filing did give an interesting insight into the attraction’s development process. Namely, it confirmed that the layout of the park’s next attraction was not actually finalized until at least late last year.
After another multi-month period of silence, last month the park rocked the enthusiast community by submitting a full Project 2020 site plan (below). This was the first document to expressly confirm a geographic scope and opening year for the park’s next roller coaster. That said, by far the most important thing about these new public records were that they gave us the positions of all of the attraction’s buildings, pathways, footers, etc.
Though no actual track layout was depicted in this filing, many enthusiasts tried their hand at reverse engineering the coaster’s layout and elements from the ride’s footers (myself included). How accurate were these attempts? Let’s find out together, shall we?
A Deep Dive into
There’s no reason to be modest. We all know you didn’t come here for a recap of the history of Project
Madrid 2020—you’re here for the breaking news. You’re here for the juicy leaks. You’re here for the documents Busch Gardens Williamsburg isn’t filing with James City County. Well, I have good news for you. We have exactly what you’re here for.
Below is a composite map showing the current plan for Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 2020 attraction. This is not another “best guess” layout based on analysis. The map below was created using the actual schematics for the park’s next roller coaster.
Though the map above is likely relatively self-explanatory, a key for the color-coding is worthwhile for clarity’s sake.
- Along the coaster’s layout….
- Blue sections are your normal, everyday coaster track
- Green track segments are launches
- Orange areas are brakes
- Black dots are coaster footers
- Gray lines are the attraction’s supports
- In the entry area for the ride…
- Black rectangles are buildings
- Khaki areas are guest pathways
- Brown sections are ramps/bridges
- Tan represents the attraction’s queue
I know what you’re thinking, “All this build-up and he’s just confirming the general layout that he hypothesized a few weeks ago?” Don’t worry, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet…
Each of the numbers in the map above corresponds to an element or track segment in Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 2020 roller coaster. Below, you’ll find schematics and some analysis of each of those 20 track sections. Most of the top down views feature a red arrow to signify the direction the roller coaster is traveling and a blue arrow pointing north.
1: The Station
The documents depict a pretty straight-forward station layout featuring ten row-specific queues—with longer line areas for the front and back rows of the coaster. The operator booth (top left corner in the top-down view) appears to be slightly elevated over the exit-side of the platform. This is fairly reminiscent of the control booth setups on Alpengeist and Apollo’s Chariot.
Another notable element in this station is the large area dedicated to handicap (and likely child-swap) queuing on the exit platform. This is a huge improvement over the station designs of rides like InvadR where ride assistance program members and child-swap users are forced to dodge guests trying to exit the coaster.
Upon exiting the station, the coaster travels through a series of gentle curves. Judging by the near complete lack of any track banking and minimal opportunity for the coaster to gain much momentum in this section, we can be pretty confident that this will be a very tame introduction to the coaster.
3: First Launch
Following the previously mentioned slow introduction, the ride picks up pace quickly (literally) as it enters its first launch segment. There seems to be some possibility that this could be an inclined launch (angled upward like Verbolten’s first launch) but it’s really difficult to tell from what we have to work with here.
4: Zero-G Winder
Straight out of the first launch, we get to something really exciting—our first inversion. Entering this element, the coaster rolls left while seeming to simultaneously gain some altitude to cross over another segment of track below. The first half of this inversion appears to be that of a fairly run-of-the-mill zero-g roll. That said, instead of continuing on a straight path as a standard zero-g roll would, the roll-out of this inversion sends riders diving down and to the right more akin to the second half of a corkscrew.
Put these two half-elements together, and you get an inversion you’ve likely never heard of before: a zero-g winder. According to Roller Coaster DataBase, there are only two other roller coasters in the world that feature this element and both are slated to open later this year (namely, Yukon Striker at Canada’s Wonderland and Taiga at Finland’s Linnanmäki). Below I’ve included a clip of a fan-made concept NoLimits POV by CoasterMac305 featuring Taiga’s zero-g winder.
5: Ravine Turn
As the coaster exits its first inversion, it appears to send riders careening down a steep slope and into a terrain-following, heavily-banked right turn. The notable change in ground elevation throughout this section of the coaster combined with the clear altitude change reflected by the footers and supports hints that this segment of the attraction should be at least relatively intense.
6: Outward-Banked Turn (Left)
As riders exit the ravine turn, the train remains banked to the right as it enters its next element: an outward-banked airtime hill that crosses below the entrance to the previously mentioned zero-g winder. Outward-banked turns of any kind are an entirely new element for Busch Gardens Williamsburg. That said, if you happened to experience Twisted Timbers at Kings Dominion last year, you may be familiar with the bizarre forces associated with outward-banked elements like this.
7: Outward-Banked Turn (Right)
One outward-banked airtime hill rolls right into the next! This time, it’s a relatively mild left bank with a slight turn to the right. This pairing of an outward-banked left curve followed immediately by an outward-banked right curve is very reminiscent of the same combination of elements shown in the official POV of Parc Astérix’s new-for-2021 Intamin multi-launch coaster. A clip of the relevant segment of that ride can be found below courtesy of CoasterStudios.
8: Track Switch
Now we get to the first element that not only makes Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 2020 roller coaster stand out in the park’s existing lineup, but also on a national level: the coaster’s mid-course switch-track.
BGW’s new coaster won’t be the first or only coaster in the country to feature a mid-course switch track, but the vast majority of the time this is an element that is found on heavily-themed attractions at Universal or Disney parks, not large, outdoor, high-intensity rides like this.
Making Project 2020’s track switch even more interesting, there’s a reasonable likelihood that the train will never come to a stop to allow the track to switch. On rides like Mummy at both domestic Universal properties and Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, track switches are done by stopping the coaster train on a block section and allowing the track to switch in front of or behind the coaster train.
While we can’t confirm it for sure, it seems very probable that BGW’s implementation of this technology will mirror the version going in at Parc Astérix in 2021. With that system, the train crosses over the banked, curved side of the track switch and onto the launch segment immediately after it. As the train launches forward, stalls out on the element after the launch, and ultimately rolls backwards onto the launch segment again, the track switch swaps to the straight piece of track connecting the launch segment to the coaster track in-line with it. An animation of this fast track switching mechanism in action can be found in an off-ride clip of Parc Astérix’s 2021 project below.
9: Second Launch
As alluded to previously, after crossing the switch track for the first time, the coaster hits its second launch. This launch section is nearly three times the length of the first and it seems reasonable to expect to pick up a lot of speed in this area of the coaster—especially since we anticipate that riders will actually launch three separate times on this segment of track—the initial launch forward, a launch backward after the train rolls back, and then a final launch forward after the train stalls out on the next element we have to discuss, the spike.
Before we get there though, I do want to mention the possibility that this launch could have a airtime hill in the middle of it a la Copperhead Strike at Carowinds or Parc Astérix’s previously mentioned 2021 addition. We have been unable to tell for sure from this overhead look at the track; however, there is peculiar change in footer type near the middle of the launch segment that suggests something may set that section of the launch apart from the rest (like a change in elevation).
So, getting back to this complex second launch sequence—we’ve covered the train crossing the curved part of the switch track onto the launch, launching forward, stalling out on the element after the launch, rolling backward onto the second launch again, and then launching backwards. As you have likely surmised, there has to be another element behind the switch track for the train to stall out on before rolling back forward again, hitting the second launch for a third time, and continuing the layout.
The element behind the track switch is a 90 degree vertical spike. Though we don’t know an exact height for this element, we do know that in the recent filing with James City County, this section of the coaster was one of two that was identified as “upwards of 315′ above grade.” We have yet to see any concrete data to say that this coaster will not, in fact, reach “upwards of 315′ above grade” as the park reported to James City County.
For an idea of how the entire second launch sequence works, check out this clip of Soaring with Dragon at China’s Hefei Wanda Theme Park which shows both a forward and reverse POV of the three-part launch.
11: Top Hat
So, what’s all of this elaborate, multi-part launch building up to? A large top hat with a near-vertical 90 degree turn to the right during its accent. As with the vertical spike on the other end of the second launch, we don’t know the actual height for this element; however, it was also labeled as “upwards of 315′ above grade” in the site plan filing with JCC. As with the spike, we have no current evidence to refute the park’s claim to James City County.
12: Rhine River Drop
After cresting the top hat, we come to what is almost certainly bound to be the most iconic feature of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 2020 roller coaster: a huge dive down towards the park’s Rhine River that should be clearly visible from the Rhine River Railroad Trestle and the Oktoberfest-San Marco bridge. Sitting on the opposite side of the lake from Verbolten’s final drop, the two should complement each other (and the surrounding valley) beautifully.
Though we unfortunately don’t know the height of the top hat leading into this element or the elevation of the track at the bottom of this drop, we can hypothesize that this drop will be huge. Given the height waiver, there is the potential for this drop to be over 300 feet tall making Project 2020 Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s first giga coaster and one of the ten tallest roller coasters in the world.
While we must continue to entertain the possibility that the coaster will be considerably shorter than the height allowed by the waiver the park requested, it seems odd that the park would file intentionally misleading information with the James City County Planning Commission.
13: High-Speed Turn
Project 2020’s Rhine River drop isn’t the only thing that will be mirroring Verbolten. Like its 8 year-old sibling across the lake, the tallest drop on Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s next coaster will also be immediately followed by a heavily-banked, terrain-hugging turn.
14: Outward-Banked Airtime Hill
Which element on this coster am I most excited about? This massive outward-banked airtime hill right here. Assuming this element is taken with any deal of speed, the forces should be incredible.
There are few coasters in the world with an outward-banked airtime hill on the scale of the one seemingly depicted above. The best comparison, once again, seems to come from another upcoming Intamin project: Walabi Belgium’s 2021 addition. A clip of its large, outward banked airtime hill can be found below.
15: Terrain-Hugging Turn
Exiting the massive outward-banked airtime hill, riders will enter another high-speed, terrain-hugging turn.
16: Inverted Airtime Hill
The banking from the previous turn rolls right into Project 2020’s second and final inversion: a long inverted airtime hill.
While the park may identify this element differently after the coaster is finally announced (as a zero-g stall perhaps?), I’m calling it an inverted airtime hill since that’s the designation Intamin used for a very similar element on Parc Astérix’s 2021 project. A clip of that element can be found below.
17: Ground-Hugging Turn
Rolling out of its inverted airtime hill, the coaster then dives down under the Rhine River drop segment of the ride and into another ground-hugging, high-speed turn.
That roughly 90 degree turn is then followed by a loose s-bend of sorts. There is likely some change in elevation during this element as the area that bends slightly to the right crosses over a planned service road. Don’t be the least bit surprised if there’s a little airtime hill in the middle of this segment.
19: Wall Stall
Finishing off Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 2020 attraction with a bang, riders will encounter a large wall stall.
What’s a wall stall? Picture an airtime hill with the track banked 90 degrees at the element’s peak. A clip of a wall stall in action on Parc Astérix’s 2021 project is included below.
20: Final Brake Run
And finally the coaster comes to a stop on its final brake run before rolling into the station.
Similarly to the various sections of the roller coaster itself, we’ve labeled important, non-coaster sections of our site plan with letters corresponding to sections below. If you’re lost at any point, go back up to the original composite site plan and look at the locations of the corresponding letters on that map.
A: Bridge Over Festa Station
Guests will approach Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s next coaster by crossing a new bridge that will be constructed above the existing Festa Italia railroad station. It will connect to the pathway behind Turkish Delight (the park’s teacups ride) roughly where the Caricatures/Face Painting booth is today.
A Google StreetView perspective of the area in which this new bridge will connect to the current guest pathways is embedded below.
Below I’ve included a color-coded site plan which highlights some notable parts of this new railroad crossing. The green sections are handicap-accessible ramps, the purple sections are short staircases, and the blue section is the bridge over the Festa Italia railroad station.
Additionally, below we have a side-view of this new bridge which helpfully also depicts a human for scale.
B: Ride Lockers
The small outcropping in the right side of the path leading to project 2020 is for the attraction’s lockers. There’s absolutely nothing even remotely elaborate about the plans for these lockers—it’s just a few banks of lockers with a small covering over them. Side and front views of the locker shelter are included below.
C: New Guest Pathway
The colorized site plan above shows the new guest pathway (in green) leading from the bridge over Festa Station to the new roller coaster’s entrance and exit pathways. You can even spot the entry archway for Project 2020 near the bottom of this site plan!
So what do those orange lines represent? Well, that’s where this gets weird. Our current understanding of the site plan suggests that those orange lines are the edges of an asphalt service road that will cross the guest pathway at grade. In other words, there’s no bridge, no tunnel, nothing—the service road will just intersect with the path leading to Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s new coaster.
At first glance, this seems like an either exceedingly cheap or lazy choice. That said, something important to note is that in a lot of ways, the park’s hands are tied here. The shaded area that intersects both the guest pathway and the service road depicts the Colonial Pipeline easement area (of clear-cutting sections of BGW fame). Because this oil pipeline requires regular aerial surveillance, few (if any) structures can be constructed in the easement area. This instantly voids out any possibility of a bridge or the like over the service road.
D: Attraction Queue
Below is a color-coded site plan depicting Project 2020’s queue area. The pathway shaded in green is the queue, the purple squares are umbrella-like shade structures, the blue rectangle is where the attraction’s entry archway will be located, and the red rectangle is a small roofed portion of the queue that passes below the coaster’s final brake run.
Particularly astute readers will notice that there are pretty huge discrepancies in this part of the site plan when compared to the one filed with James City County previously. In last month’s iteration of this plan, the queue curved back and forth adding some interest to its design.
Additionally, and far more importantly, last month’s layout featured an extended queue building for the attraction. Said building has been entirely struck from this, more recent version of the Project 2020 plans. This could be due to budget cuts or it could be because the coaster’s electrical controls building needed to be moved closer to its switch track (note the location of that building in last month’s documents to see what I mean).
E: Maintenance Switch Track
Here’s the site plan for the switch track. There’s really nothing notable here at all. If you’ve seen Intimidator 305’s maintenance switch track, this is the same exact principle.
F: Train Storage Track
This is about as barebones as a storage track segment can be. It has track, catwalks, and a small roof. Nothing else to report here.
G: Ride Electrical/Controls Building
This very simple rectangular building next to the mid-course track switch will house the coaster’s electrical components and the like.
Odds & Ends
There are also a handful of noteworthy items we’ve found in our new trove of documents that don’t have a place on our big composite map way up there 👆 somewhere. We’ve included those details below.
We’ve long surmised from Project 2020’s layout and expected elements (read: mid-course track switch paired with a spike) that it was going to be an Intamin project. This new set of documents we’ve obtained seems to confirm that assessment 100% with one very telling element: the coaster trains. Below is a reverse cross section of a train for BGW’s next coaster. It appears to match the design of other recent Intamin multi-launch coaster trains to a tee.
We also have a top-down schematic below which shows that each train will feature zero (lead) car, followed by five passenger cars. Each car carries four guests in two rows of two.
Though this diagram does not seem to include any theming on the front or sides of the train, this is likely because these documents simply use the default, unthemed version of the trains as a placeholder.
Recent Intamin multi-launch trains on other projects have included some very elaborate train theming. Check out Steel Dolphin, Taron, and Soaring with Dragon for an idea of what is possible with these trains thematically.
As mentioned briefly near the start of this article, the bulk of this new coaster is being built in what is currently pastures for Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s livestock collection. To mitigate some of the inevitable impacts on the park’s zoological department, a new area will be cleared on the opposite side of the railroad tracks to partially compensate.
A rough outline of this new pasture can be found in the custom Google map below in purple. The small purple rectangle next to it is a new barn that we believe will be built to replace the current barn area slated for demotion (part of the red area). The green areas are existing pastures that are planned to remain after Project 2020 is completed.
Between Now & 2020
Though we’ve done a fairly complete job of leaking and dissecting this new addition in the article above, we still don’t know everything. We are missing a handful of the coaster’s actual stats (exact drop height, max speed, etc), its name, and its theme. Ultimately, since we fully anticipate that Busch Gardens Williamsburg will at least tease their 2020 plans this Saturday at the Membership Preview Day presentation, there’s a good chance we will learn at least a few of those things this weekend.
Anything that Busch Gardens Williamsburg doesn’t see fit to announce on Saturday, we will, of course, continue to chase until it’s revealed to the public.
Reporting on Project Madrid/2020 has been a long and wild ride thus far and, as construction begins this spring, we don’t expect that chaos to end anytime soon. We also shouldn’t lose sight of the various ongoing construction projects in Williamsburg slated to open later this year (Finnigan’s Flyer, Cutback, and various smaller improvements around the parks). Though we have a lot of balls to keep in the air right now, we will continue to do our best to juggle them all.
If you made it to the end of this enormous article, I hope you enjoyed it and I thank you for your continued interest and support. If you want to join us on our journey towards spring 2020, I encourage you to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram. There will be plenty to see in the months ahead!