Important Note

This article assumes a fair bit of knowledge regarding Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 2020 addition. If you are not yet familiar with what Busch Gardens Williamsburg plans to build, please read this article before proceeding.

We have been on top of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 2020 roller coaster for years now and, despite successfully leaking nearly every detail about the coaster’s layout, there has been one massive piece of the puzzle we haven’t yet nailed down publicly: the coaster’s height.

If you have followed the project for a while now, you almost certainly know about the 315 foot height waiver filed and approved for this attraction.

If you have followed BGWFans for a while now, you almost certainly know that we have been very timid about even suggesting that we have any insight into the actual height of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 2020 coaster.

Why the silence? Busch Gardens Williamsburg seems to have done everything in their power to keep Project 2020’s height a secret. We have had credible sources reporting heights to us, but discrepancies in their numbers led us to believe that the park has been feeding different individuals different numbers in an attempt to hunt down leaks (note: this is not unprecedented).

In light of this suspicion, we resolved to hold our tongues until Busch Gardens Williamsburg was forced to file documents with James City County detailing the attraction’s height.

We anticipated that this would happen when the original site plans for Project 2020 were submitted to the county back at the start of February. To our surprise, however, that filing did not specify a height—instead listing the two highest points of the attraction (the spike and the top hat) as “upwards of 315′ above grade.”

Needless to say, James City County was not at all satisfied with this intentionally vague structure height and cited the lack of an actual final height as one of numerous reasons for rejecting the park’s initial permit filing.

Now, nearly two months later, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has filed a new site plan package with James City County which aims to address the previous issues highlighted by the JCC Planning Department. The majority of those adjustments are exceedingly minor (landscaping plans, fire hydrant placement, etc.) and most have already been revealed through our post leaking internal documents about this project. That said, there’s one very juicy detail in this new filing that we have been waiting on for months now: actual structure heights.

In this newly filed site plan, the spike is notated as follows:

Portion of structure to entend upwards of 315′ above grade.
Highest point elevation = 260′ +/-
See plans by manufacturer.

Similarly, the top hat is listed as:

Portion of structure to entend upwards of 315′ above grade.
Highest point elevation = 232′ +/-
See plans by manufacturer.

Now, before anyone grabs those numbers and runs with them, we have to discuss the word “elevation.”

Elevation” is typically used to refer to a structure’s height above sea level, not above grade. Assuming for a moment that “elevation” as it’s used above means height above sea level, we have to do some math to figure out the actual heights for these two elements above grade.

According to the internal blueprints we leaked previously, finished grade below Project 2020’s spike is roughly 81 feet above sea level. Subtracting 81′ from the 260′ elevation listed in this new filing gives us a rough spike height of 179′ above finished grade.

Paralleling that process, using a 73′ height for the finished grade below the highest point of MMXX’s top hat, we end up with a top hat height of roughly 159′ above finished grade.

So what do these numbers mean for the coaster’s tallest drop? The ground height below the lowest point of Project 2020’s drop is roughly 37′ above sea level. Subtracting that from the 73′ height of the grade below the highest point of the coaster’s top hat gives us a change in ground elevation of roughly 36′.

Because it is clear from the blueprints that the coaster’s track will not actually sit at grade at the bottom of its Rhine River drop, lets knock 6 feet off of that height difference to roughly account for the footers and supports.

Adding that rough estimate of 30′ gained by the difference in ground elevation to the height of the top hat, the max potential drop height for Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 2020 coaster seems to be somewhere around 190′.

Now, all of the math above assumes that the “elevation” numbers listed in the new site plan are, in fact, above sea level numbers. Unfortunately, because of the vague wording used and even more confusing context of these numbers, we have to field the possibility that “elevation,” as used in this document could, in fact, mean “height above grade.”

Assuming that is true for a moment, we’d have a spike of 260′ above grade and a top hat of 232′ above grade. Using that same rough estimate of 30′ in drop height potential gained from the difference in terrain elevation, we can figure that the max potential drop height for Project 2020 is somewhere around 260′.

So, with all of that said, where do we fall in this debate? We believe that the “highest point elevation” referenced in this new filing translates to “height above sea level,” notheight above finished grade.” This assessment is based on a few factors.

  1. Elevation” is almost always used to refer to height above sea level in filings like this one.
  2. The coaster most similar to Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 2020 attraction is Parc Asterix’s 2021 coaster. It features a roughly 167′ spike and a top hat with a height of roughly 148′. Our estimates based off the assumption that the numbers in today’s filing refer to “height above sea level” place BGW Project 2020’s spike and top hat roughly 10′ taller than the same elements on Parc Asterix’s 2021 addition.
  3. Lastly, though we have continuously been reluctant to rely too heavily on the leaked internal SEAS slide from last year, we can’t ignore the fact that a Rhine River drop height somewhere around 190′ matches very well with the top speed of 76 miles per hour listed on the BGW 2020 slide.

Anyway, for now, that is where we’re going to leave things. If additional public records become available, we plan to be the first to have eyes on them. If we receive an internal leak from a source whose safety and information we can guarantee, we’ll share that. Until then, consider following us on Twitter and Instagram, liking us on Facebook.

Lastly, but certainly not least, huge thanks to three different ParkFans members for making this possible: Thomas, kingadam, and halfabee. All of their continued contributions are greatly appreciated!

We really appreciate the continued support!