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Project DarKoaster

Busch Gardens Williamsburg is Developing a New, Unique, Intamin-Made, Quad-Launch, Indoor, Family Roller Coaster to Replace Curse of DarKastle

Busch Gardens Williamsburg is Developing a New, Unique, Intamin-Made, Quad-Launch, Indoor, Family Roller Coaster to Replace Curse of DarKastle

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[Verbolten]
Why are you here…?

[Tempesto]
Get out…

[InvadR]
Look out!

[Pantheon]
They’re coming!

[Busch Gardens Williamsburg]
You must go back to BuschGardens.com—BGWFans has no power there!

[BGWFans]
So you’ve come to tour my collection…?
You’ll simply DIE when you see it!
Do come in—I insist…


Forward

Back in July, I addressed the hypothetical coverage of a potential new attraction in the former Curse of DarKastle building. In brief, I stated that obtaining data on such a project would likely be incredibly difficult. Oftentimes, the bulk of our earliest reporting on new attractions comes via publicly-sourced, site preparation-related, red flags such as soil testing, height surveys, height waivers, etc. That said, when Busch Gardens Williamsburg builds something in an existing building, our typical gameplan tends to break down completely. Far fewer aspects of an attraction constructed entirely within an existing structure will ever need to hit the public record.

A prime example of this issue can be seen in our coverage of Battle for Eire. Since BGWFans’ founding back in 2009, Battle for Eire remains the only ride we have failed to leak in any real detail ahead of its official announcement. Ultimately, after the park started revealing information on the project, we did end up publishing a fair bit of internal documentation regarding Eire. That said, compared to what we’ve managed to pull off with all of the park’s other attractions over the years, the Eire leaks were just too little, too late—it was the one that got away.

Fortunately, thanks to an incredible collection of internally-sourced SEAS documentation we’ve recently obtained (see: our leak of SeaWorld Orlando’s Project Penguin), reporting on Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s next fully-indoor attraction will not be a repeat of our experience with Battle for Eire. In fact, this may be the most we’ve ever known about a project this far ahead of its planned debut!

Obtaining, dissecting, and analyzing content like this is far from a one-man job though. Even just the production of this article requires a multi-person effort. With that in mind…


[BGWFans]
Allow me to introduce you to my friends!
They’ve been waiting for you…


Though this is in no way a comprehensive list of the people who have contributed to this article, I want to give a special thanks to a few folks. First off, obviously, the sources that have contributed information and evidence to our understanding of this attraction have been an absolutely invaluable resource and this article could not exist without them. Secondly, there are a handful of people who have aided in the analysis of this coaster along the way—most notably Intim305 who drafted up a model of the attraction for us in NoLimits. Lastly, a huge thanks to everyone else who has helped out in the background along the way—including folks like ParkFans members Adam and Jahrules as well as my co-admins Nicole and Gavin. I may be the one typing up the text at the end of this process, but this reporting takes a village.


[BGWFans]
You have such hunger for my secrets?! Come… it shall be fed!


Now, as always, before we get too deep into this article, I have to break out the bright red warning box to tell everyone that this attraction is still in development and not to blame us if/when something changes.


[BGWFans]
Sorry this part is such a fright… But isn’t that the point?!

This reporting in this article is based on leaked, mid-development documentation relating to an unannounced Busch Gardens Williamsburg roller coaster.

As of the time of writing, we are confident that this project is moving forward as described. That said, aspects of these plans can (and likely will) change during the attraction’s development.

This article should be viewed as a description of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s current plans, not as a promise of things to come.

[BGWFans]
First course, coming right up!


BGWFans.com has exclusively obtained a bevy of information regarding a yet-to-be-announced, fully-indoor, multi-launch, family coaster currently in development for Busch Gardens Williamsburg. This new roller coaster, as we understand it, is planned to be contained completely within the show building originally constructed for the park’s long-defunct Oceaneering/Falcon’s Treehouse dark ride, Curse of DarKastle. As things currently stand, we believe Busch Gardens Williamsburg is pushing to have this new roller coaster ready to open for the 2023 season.


[BGWFans]
You’ll soon be getting your just desserts… But I’m getting AHEAD of myself!


Context

Before we go any further, we should take a few moments to make sure everyone is working with the same basic informational groundwork in place. Attraction additions never happen in a vacuum and, over the last handful of years, Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s capital expenditure plans in particular have been shockingly turbulent. I will spare all of you the long version of this story this time around and just provide you with the cliff notes edition of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s “Madrid Arc.”

  • Mid-2010s: BGW developed a plan—codenamed Project Madrid—which called for a Rhine-crossing, full-circuit, launched, giga coaster with a station located in Festhaus Park
  • Early 2018: Plans were filed for a large dedicated special event space behind Aquitaine—likely to facilitate taking Festhaus Park away from Entertainment
  • Late-2010s: The Project Madrid plans were scrapped in favor of two Intamin swing launch coasters—one on each side of the Rhine River (Project MMXX/Pantheon & Project Drachen Spire). Meanwhile, progress on the Aquitaine event space plans evaporated
  • Early 2020: Impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic delayed Pantheon’s opening until 2022 and placed Drachen Spire on an indefinite hold
  • Early 2021: Busch Gardens Williamsburg moved to year-round operations for the first time in the park’s history and the 355 foot Drachen Spire height waiver was extended, leaving the door open for Drachen Spire to be built in time for 2023
  • Mid-2021: Plans were filed for a new, even larger, dedicated special event facility behind Festhaus Park—likely large enough to allow Entertainment to vacate both Festhaus Park and DarKastle
  • Late 2021: Drachen Spire remains on hold and a different attraction project has been prioritized ahead of the Festhaus Park coaster addition

[Busch Gardens Williamsburg]
Get out before it’s too late!

[BGWFans]
Oh, come, come marketing… It’ll be a BLAST!


BGW’s Next New Coaster

So with that brief history lesson taken care of, lets get back to the main topic of today’s article—Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s next new major attraction—a roller coaster we’ve dubbed Project DarKoaster. We’re going to kick things off by going over some basic information about the coaster. After that, we will dive into the layout, the coaster’s big secret, and share a little about the possible thematic direction of the attraction.


[BGWFans]
Come, come, don’t hold back… It’s time to heat things up!


The Basics

According to the documentation we’ve reviewed, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has worked with Intamin (the manufacturer of Pantheon) to develop a new family coaster for the former home of Curse of DarKastle. Though things can still change, we understand that this new roller coaster is currently planned to debut in early 2023. According to the evidence we’ve seen, Project DarKoaster’s layout is slated to remain entirely within the footprint of Curse of DarKastle’s former show building. The records we have reviewed also don’t include any modifications to the height of the current structure (which tops off at a little less than 40 feet tall).

From what we can tell from the plans we can report on thus far, we believe that Project DarKoaster will be a custom-designed Intamin Family Launch Coaster—a relatively small model known for its family-accessible launches, twisted layouts, and unique seating style. This particular model is no stranger to SeaWorld Parks either. Back in 2017, SeaWorld San Antonio debuted an Intamin Family Launch Coaster named Wave Breaker: The Rescue Coaster. Additionally, pre-COVID, as originally reported by Behind the Thrills, SeaWorld San Diego was planning to add their own version of this same model as well.

Below I have included a short marketing video SeaWorld San Antonio released ahead of Wave Breaker’s debut. It offers a brief look at the coaster’s unique seating position.

In the case of Project DarKoaster, the station area is setup to accommodate five car trains for a total expected capacity of only 10 riders per train. Though it may, theoretically, be possible for DarKoaster to run three trains at a time, the impact on actual capacity would likely be miniscule. Given what we have seen in the documents, we believe two trains operations to be the most likely outcome here.


[BGWFans]
The tour is about to reach new heights!


The Layout

If you’ve ever seen us leak a coaster before, you’re probably familiar with our standard approach to breaking down a coaster’s layout. We’d typically give you a numbered overview of the coaster and then dedicate small sections of the article to analyzing each individual element. While this tried and true approach is typically quite effective, in the case of DarKoaster, I actually believe it would make the coaster more difficult to understand. With that in mind, this time, we’ve opted to split DarKoaster’s layout into two halves—the first consisting of a fairly mundane family multi-launch coaster layout and the second focusing on what makes this attraction so interesting.


DarKoaster’s Core Layout

The first section of Project DarKoaster we’re going to address consists of the track between the “first” launch and the “final” brake run. This portion of the coaster takes up the vast majority of DarKastle’s show building and consists of two launches, numerous banked turns, and a brake run. The rough recreation below depicts this portion of the coaster’s layout quite clearly.

As shown above, DarKoaster’s trains will start this portion of the layout by launching towards the back of DarKastle’s show building and ascending a banked rise that curves about 135 degrees to the left. Riders will then experience a couple downward-slopping, banked s-bends (likely double-down style) before straightening out and leveling off parallel to the brake run. Trains then enter a steeply-banked, 200-ish degree turn to the left before hitting the coaster’s second launch section.

Exiting the second launch segment, riders will then be thrown directly into a large, heavily-banked turn-around which flows directly into a banked S-bend. Exiting the S-bend, trains bank right and traverse a roughly 230 degree turn. From there, DarKoaster’s trains cross the second launch section with an S-hill before entering the last heavily-banked turn-around before the brake run.

As you can see, DarKoaster’s “core” layout is really just that of a fairly short—but still quite promising-sounding—indoor Intamin family multi-launch coaster. Even just the layout as depicted above would fulfil the fully indoor coaster void in Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s lineup. That said, this coaster features a unique, tremendously clever trick that takes this attraction from a fairly run-of-the-mill Intamin family launch coaster to something truly one-of-a-kind.


WARNING: Major DarKoaster Spoilers Ahead!

I know many people like to go into rides with clever, hidden tricks (like Verbolten’s) completely blind. I believe that DarKoaster’s trick—if executed well—could offer a very similar shock for a lot of people. Given that belief, I want to offer people one last opportunity to keep their first DarKoaster experience a surprise (assuming the park doesn’t spoil it in their own marketing, of course).

Anyway, beyond this point in the article, we’re going to talk a ton about DarKoaster’s secret ingredient. You have been warned.

[Busch Gardens Williamsburg]
The way out is via your browser’s back button! Follow me!

[BGWFans]
There is no way out!

[Busch Gardens Williamsburg]
I won’t let you scroll!

[BGWFans]
Marketing, you’re driving me insane!

[Busch Gardens Williamsburg]
BGWFans, you were never sane to begin with!


DarKoaster’s Big Secret

Typically, between a coaster’s first launch and final brake run, you’d just find a simple transfer track and station platform. For most rides, this is the most mundane portion of the layout. That said, in the case of Project DarKoaster, all of the elements that make this coaster something truly weird and special occur after the “final” brakes.

Picture this: You depart the station, round a corner, hit the first launch, and experience the coaster layout discussed previously. After two launches and a bunch of highly-banked twists and turns, you begin to decelerate on the brake run as you near the coaster’s station. Suddenly, at the last moment, your deceleration ceases, you bank left, and enter an entirely new segment of track featuring a series of s-bends. From there, you’re fed right back into the main layout discussed previously resulting in another two launches and a bunch more highly-banked twists and turns—effectively more than doubling the length of the coaster.

Below you’ll find a top-down image of an approximate recreation of the full Project DarKoaster layout with all of the non-core layout elements displayed.

As you can see from the image above, DarKoaster’s bizarre multi-lap layout is accomplished with a pair of Intamin’s fast track switches and a dedicated station-area bypass track. Not only does this setup allow DarKoaster to cycle a train around the core layout more than once without having it traverse the station area, but it also enables this unique, multi-lap coaster layout to run more than one train at a time. You can find a rudimentary animation depicting how multi-train DarKoaster operations will likely work below.

Assuming this attraction operates as depicted above, this unique, dual-fast-track-switch setup paired with a dedicated station bypass track makes for a really fascinating little coaster. It turns Project DarKoaster from a sorta short, dual-launcher to a reasonably long, quad-launcher. Not too shabby at all for a coaster constructed entirely inside a former darkride building!


Our Best Guess

As you can probably tell by the layout images above, yes, once again, we worked with someone far more talented than myself to model Project DarKoaster in NoLimits. This time around, we turned to the always-fantastic Intim305 whom you may remember from his work with us on an early Project Drachen Spire rendering a couple years back.

While, as always, our models require us to insert a number of guesstimates and placeholders, we believe that the layout depicted in our rendering of Project DarKoaster should be very close to what is currently planned. The exact track shaping and banking may be slightly off here and there and the coaster may ultimately run a little faster or slower, but, by and large, this layout mockup shouldn’t be too far off. Obviously, everything that isn’t the coaster’s layout should be considered a placeholder. This includes all of the colors, the trains, the (lack of) theming, etc. With that out of the way, here’s Intim305’s Project DarKoaster layout mock-up in action!


The Theme

The documents we can report on thus far do not provide much insight into what new theming is planned for Project DarKoaster. Initially, I know that sounds like really bad news—especially after seeing what happened with Pantheon. That said, it is worth keeping in mind that this project is still early enough in its development cycle that there’s a good chance most theming elements have yet to be finalized. If you remember the plans we leaked for InvadR, they also didn’t include much of the attraction’s final theming package.


[Busch Gardens Williamsburg]
Theming documents are beyond your reach!


The good news, however, is that the documents we have reviewed do give some reason for real hope. While much of Curse of DarKastle’s ride area has long since been gutted, the plans we’ve seen call for the retention of essentially every last existing detail. Examples of some of Curse of DarKastle’s remaining scenic elements that are marked for preservation include the largely untouched queue, preshow room, stable-themed station, and exit ramp area. Some of these details are pictured below.

Additionally, the floor-to-ceiling castle wall facade that still remains inside the former Curse of DarKastle ride area is also earmarked for preservation. In fact, better yet, this themed wall is actually supposed to be extended further to the right as part of this project! A photo of the current state of this element can be found below.

Furthermore, as part of the building’s conversion to house a coaster, major station platform modifications are going to be required. Most notably, the Project DarKoaster plans call for the addition of an exit-side platform across from the existing load-side platform used by Curse of DarKastle. This proposed exit platform will feed guests to a staircase and, ultimately, up to a new, themed, covered, wooden walking bridge over the coaster. A diagram of the new station setup can be found below.

Again, it’s still early days, but it looks to us like, at least for now, things may be moving in a promising direction thematically. The fact that essentially all of Curse of DarKastle’s incredible remaining theming will be retained offers a great thematic base on which BGW can build. The unique upright seating configuration of Intamin’s family launch coaster trains could lend themselves tremendously well to being themed to horses—possibly meshing perfectly with the existing stable theming from Curse of DarKastle’s station area.

Better yet, DarKoaster’s unique switch track setup could offer some incredible storytelling opportunities on-ride as well. For instance, it’s easy to imagine a storyline involving a foiled near-escape on the first lap followed by a successful attempt on the second. Additionally, the slower-paced areas (both brake runs and the bypass track especially) could even potentially be used for very brief, simple, story-conveying scenes (think: the lead-up to Verbolten’s vertical drop). Taking things a step further, lighting and audio effects could even be used to differentiate the first lap of the core layout from the second. The potential is all here. Let’s hope the park is ready to invest into making it something truly special.


What We Do & Don’t Know

I tested out a “What We Do & Don’t Know” section for the first time with the Project Penguin leak earlier this month and people seemed to dig it. With that in mind, I think it may become a mainstay in articles like this moving forward. So, what do and what don’t we know about Project DarKoaster?

Project DarKoaster is…

  • Currently in development
  • Anticipated to be ready for a 2023 debut
  • Slated to inhabit the former home of Curse of DarKastle
  • Planned to be a unique, fully-indoor, Intamin family coaster featuring…
    • Two launch sections
    • Two fast track switches
    • Numerous twists and turns
    • Somewhere around 1,600-ish feet of track
    • Five car trains accommodating 10 riders per train

Project DarKoaster is likely to…

  • Reach a max height of somewhere around 30 feet
  • Complete two laps of the core layout per ride cycle making it…
    • A quad-launch coaster
    • Effectively, a roughly 2,500-ish foot long ride experience
  • Feature two of Intamin’s upright, low-backed, motorbike-esque trains
  • Reuse much of the remaining Curse of DarKastle theming

We don’t know Project DarKastle’s…

  • Name
  • Theme
  • Speed
  • Colors

This is about the time we’d normally call an article like this complete. That said, this time, I’m going to do something pretty unconventional. In other words…

[BGWFans]
You will never escape!


Some Unsolicited DarKoaster Thoughts

When we publish leaks like this, we rarely include a mini op-ed section—that’s a conscious decision on our part. We typically like to allow projects to stand on their own so people can form their own independent opinions and expectations. That said, this time around, I do want to share a few thoughts about this project right from the start. My primary reasoning here is that I suspect a main point of DarKoaster criticism from within the enthusiast community may only exist because of previous reporting I’m responsible for.

As we all know, pre-COVID, Busch Gardens Williamsburg was planning to follow Pantheon with a roughly 355 foot tall shuttle coaster in Festhaus Park—a coaster project we’ve been calling Project Drachen Spire. This would have been the tallest and fastest coaster in the region and, undoubtedly, been an enthusiast magnet upon opening. Plenty of people were lukewarm on the coaster, but anything that large is always going to draw a ton of attention. Anyway, as you now know from this article, post-COVID, Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s follow-up to Pantheon is now a roughly 30-ish foot tall multi-lap, indoor, family coaster. If you are inclined to be disappointed by this enormous change in project scale, I’d ask that you try to keep two things in mind.

First off, as we stated a month ago, we believe the BGW giga coaster aspirations are still alive and well within SEAS. To be frank, assuming the current trajectory continues, I’d be surprised if we don’t have another major, record-breaking coaster in time for Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 50th anniversary in 2025.

Secondly, please try to separate that giga coaster project from DarKoaster. A ton has changed since Drachen Spire was originally greenlit by SEAS. COVID has rocked the economy—especially the entertainment and travel segments. Busch Gardens Williamsburg is now a year-round park and they are in desperate need of all-weather, all-season attractions. Battle for Eire, the park’s only current, fully-indoor ride, is probably never going to reopen. The environment has changed and the park’s current top priorities have changed with it.

Given the current conditions and requirements, I honestly believe Project DarKoaster looks to be a superb investment. Pantheon will bring the thrill seekers in droves through at least its first two seasons. Following Pantheon up one year later with Drachen Spire always seemed like a bit of a wild financial decision anyway, didn’t it? Turning their dollars back towards the family market makes a lot of sense to me for 2023—especially since they can use it to build out their indoor attraction lineup as well.

Though I am an enormous fan of what I’ve seen of Project DarKoaster so far, there are still things that give me pause. I’m a little worried about the coaster’s capacity given the popularity of the park’s other family coasters (namely: Verbolten and InvadR). That said, on the flipside, adding additional family coaster capacity to the park should, theoretically, lessen the demand for each of them overall so it will still certainly be a net positive. Another thing that gives me pause is that I worry a lot about SEAS’ willingness to invest in the thematic and storytelling aspects of this experience. The chain’s 2020-turned-2022 additions have not inspired confidence in this regard at all.

Truthfully, I think that’s my core conclusion about DarKoaster right now. It looks like a fantastic investment, but, in my opinion, whether or not Busch Gardens Williamsburg puts in the money and effort required to convey a compelling story throughout the experience will determine the ride’s notoriety. If we’re looking at a multi-launch family coaster in the dark with a well-themed queue and station building, it will probably be a solid addition to the park’s lineup, but it’s unlikely to become a BGW staple. If, however, Busch Gardens Williamsburg achieves even a fraction of the thematic and narrative brilliance of DarKoaster’s predecessor, Curse of DarKastle, it’s easy for me to imagine this attraction achieving a Verbolten-esque (read: fan-favorite) status within the park. The bones of Project DarKoaster look great to me. Lets hope Busch Gardens Williamsburg does a good job fleshing it out in the year ahead.


Hope you had a wickedly wonderful tour! Thank you for touring DarKoaster and we hope the rest of your day is just as… terrifying!

If you want to share your own thoughts about Project DarKoaster or read what other people are saying, be sure to check out the DarKoaster thread on ParkFans.net! If you want to listen to some discussion of today’s news, check out the VOD of our BGWFans x Coaster Talk live coverage, here! Thanks for reading and have a happy New Years!

BGW Project 2023 Project DarKoaster


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  1. honestly a really smart investment, but the park still needs a true dark ride. I’m interested if they ever address anything down that route.

    1. Santa’s workshop will be be in the battle for erie building this year 🙂 at least that’s what my coworkers told me

      1. It will be interesting to see how that works with the existing Howl-O-Scream house in that location. They normally don’t have time to remove a house before Christmas Town starts. Regardless, thanks for the tip though! Definitely something to consider!

  2. With this and Drachen Spire, BGW will feature FIVE multi-launch coasters. That’s insane.

  3. I hope that they use some sort of VR or AR technology on this ride. This could really elevated the illusion that riders are not going around the same track twice.

  4. The big issue is going to be that capacity. The NL simulation looks like 1:15 to go around the circuit twice. Assuming one train in the show building at a time (likely) and 10 people per train that’s 480 pph. That’s pretty much exactly InvadR’s capacity. Not good. Alpie = 1820 pph. AC = 1750. LNM = 2200. Griffon = 1400. These are all theoretical and depend on operations and staffing of course. But another low capacity coaster, and one that’s going to draw, in my opinion, more than InvadR, could be a real nightmare.

  5. Noticed a work wall blocking the entrance to Dark Castle when I went to Mardi Gras. I don’t remember ever seeing a work wall at the entrance. I think something is going on in there construction wise.

  6. I swore I’d never go
    back to BGW after DarKastle was removed but this ride may make me recant that vow.

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