Digging up graves is typically more of a Halloween activity, but it looks like Busch Gardens Williamsburg may be getting an early start on the festivities this year.
Two months ago we wrote about a shocking occurrence at Busch Gardens Williamsburg: A pair of height balloons were flown in Festhaus Park. At the time, we were fairly sure of one fact about that height survey: that whatever it was for, it wasn’t for the long-leaked coaster originally intended to follow Pantheon, Project Drachen Spire. Instead, we proposed three potential theories—the height survey could be related to…
Since that piece back in April, all has been pretty quiet on the public record. A few historically well-connected members on ParkFans.net have suggested option number three is most likely, but evidence has been in short supply.
Unfortunately, today’s article won’t bring any additional clarity to how this seemingly-currently-in-development project is slated to fit into the park’s addition timeline. Furthermore, we don’t have anything new to report regarding how or if this mysterious new project will impact the future prognosis for Drachen Spire. That said, despite many looming uncertainties, today’s news still absolutely blew our minds.
New records uncovered by ParkFans.net member and longtime BGWFans background contributor, Jahrules, describe new soil tests that are slated to be conducted at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. If you haven’t followed along in detail with previous park project reporting from us, you may not be familiar with the significance of this development as this kind of information rarely surfaces ahead of projects at other parks. So, why do we care so much about soil testing?
Soil testing—essentially an effort to work out the stability and composition of the ground below an in-development project—is required to both judge the feasibility of and design the specific foundations for any major development. Because of this, soil testing at Busch Gardens Williamsburg has always been a sure-fire indicator of a major new project at the park. Better yet, this type of work is typically a very early indicator for us—almost always predating any public records relating to a project by many, many months.
So what do we know about this specific soil testing? Thanks to a little research by longtime friend of the site, Adam, we have a rough perimeter which should contain all eight of the planned testing sites. That area is outlined in yellow in the map below.
We created the area outlined in red based off of a description of the testing locations—consider this our “best guess” as per the actual likely soil testing perimeter. Thanks to photos from the train taken by ParkFans member Mwe BGW, we’ve also been able to approximately locate what we believe to be four of the eight points. Those are marked by red circles with stars.
As you can see, the possible project area painted by these new soil testing sites is enormous—encompassing not only much of Festhaus Park but also extending well past the railroad loop out into what has long been the park’s boneyard. Considering how infrequently we even mention Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s boneyard, lets take a moment to talk a bit about it.
To the southeast of Festhaus Park (formally home to Drachen Fire) there’s a backstage area of park property known internally as “the boneyard.” There’s backstage road, designated “Boneyard Road,” and a secure gate (Gate 1B) acting as the sole entry and exit for this roughly two acre, fenced-off clearing in the woods.
Throughout much of the park’s history, this plot of land has been used for long-term storage—particularly for large or discarded items. Over the years, the boneyard has played host to everything from retired Big Bad Wolf cars to old IllumiNights props to nearly the entire fleet of Le Mans vehicles.
Over the last couple years though, odd things have been happening back in Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s boneyard. Judging by satellite imagery, the park has been embarking on a mission to cleanup and clear out the area. Below you can see satellite images of the boneyard from May 2018 and November 2021 which illustrate this trend perfectly.
Until today, we had largely disregarded this work. At first we simply thought it to be some fairly routine spring cleaning. Then, as we started to hear rumors that the park intended to launch fireworks from the site, we figured that explained the flurry of activity perfectly and shifted our focus elsewhere.
While the boneyard is now being used as a fireworks launch site, today’s soil evaluation news is really putting this multi-year boneyard cleanup effort in a whole new light. According to the soil boring location descriptions we have, three of the eight total soil testing points are located somewhere within the boneyard. This essentially guarantees that whatever the park is designing right now will encroach into this area—likely pretty significantly.
Armed with the locations of four known soil testing points near the railroad in Festhaus Park (previous map) and the knowledge that three of the other remaining four locations are within the boneyard area (above), that leaves us with only one more truly unknown test site. According to the descriptions we’ve read, this additional point should be somewhere “within the former Drachen Fire area” (read: Festhaus Park).
Where exactly this last point is located within Festhaus Park probably isn’t terribly consequential. If this project is meant to replace Drachen Spire all together, the park already has recent soil test results for much of the remaining Festhaus Park area (work previously completed in preparation for Drachen Spire and Project Madrid). Given that those previous soil test results are almost certainly still viable, not much can be read into the lack of conflict between these new Festhaus Park soil evaluations and the Drachen Spire plans.
Since I know people will be curious though, I did overlay Drachen Spire’s layout onto the Festhaus Park segment of our soil testing map above. That map can be found below.
Basically, what you should take away from the Festhaus Park portion of the potential project area is that all of Festhaus Park from Verbolten’s show building to the Railroad and to the Rhine are now fully in-play for possible development in the next handful of years. We don’t know what project or project(s) all this space will be allocated towards, but it’s now all fair game.
Given the recent height survey and this newly-revealed soil testing, we can say with a pretty high degree of confidence that Busch Gardens Williamsburg is currently planning a large new development for the area behind Verbolten. Furthermore, we can say that this probable development area now extends into the furthest reaches of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Festhaus-adjacent property, the boneyard.
Given the vast area covered by these tests, I struggle to fathom a way that they can be explained by anything other than a downright massive new construction project. In my mind, we’re talking about something roller coaster, hamlet, or even resort-sized here. Maybe there’s some far more underwhelming explanation I’m just not imagining right now, but my current hype levels are high.
The potential timelines involved here and whether or not this new project is joining or replacing Drachen Spire in Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s five year plan are crucial questions for us to answer in the months ahead. That said, what’s clear is that Busch Gardens Williamsburg has big plans in the works leading up to the park’s 50th anniversary in 2025. Whether that takes the form of Drachen Spire plus another, larger development or if this is just one enormous new Drachen Spire replacement, it’s time to get on the hype train if you ask me.
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The park has not had a new hamlet added since Ireland and that as we remember was a repurpose of Hastings. This could be the long rumored Spain addition! Whatever it is, the development is very exciting!
No new hamlet since repurposed Ireland over 20 years ago. This could be the long rumored Spain addition! Whatever it is, it will be exciting!