At long last, Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s much-anticipated, Intamin-made, swing-launch coaster, Pantheon, finally saw its first large batch of riders on February 3rd. During an employee-exclusive event held yesterday, park employees were given the opportunity to ride Pantheon a nearly-unlimited number of times—day and night.
Over the past 24 hours or so, I’ve been in contact with a lot of employees who wanted to chat about their first experiences on Pantheon. The general consensus thus far seems to be that it’s a fantastic, smooth, comfortable, not-overly-forceful, coaster. Many have reported that Pantheon gives its best rides towards the front and back of the train after it has had some time to heat up. The swing launch—particularly the “insane” ejector airtime the mid-launch hill offers—has been consistently identified as the coaster’s unexpected highlight. Many people we’ve spoken to point to the complete lack of theming, storytelling, placemaking, etc. as the attraction’s major, very obvious weakness.
Thanks to incredible contributions by some of the people we’ve been in contact with, we can bring a lot more to the table than just the summary above. A handful of the folks we spoke to were willing to write up their full first impressions for us to share with our readers. Naturally, because these employees aren’t authorized to speak about their experiences, we’ve had to keep their identities private. That said, we can’t possibly thank them enough for being willing to share their assessments! Anyway, that’s enough from me—lets hear from the people who have actually, finally ridden Pantheon!
Anonymous Employee #1
Pantheon is fantastic! The trains are comfortable, it features some excellent hangtime, and it has some impressively forceful launches.
Launch 1 has a ton of punch to it. The zero-G winder provided some nice hangtime, but beyond that, the portion of the layout before the swing launch didn’t do much for me personally. My favorite part of the coaster is the swing launch—especially in the back of the train. The hill in the middle of the launch provides actual ejector airtime while launching. This portion is going to blow people’s minds—it’s absolutely insane. Following the swing launch, the tophat only offered a real pop of airtime in the front row. The view from the front of the train is also incredible—one of the best in the park thanks to the way it overlooks the Rhine River, Verbolten, and Oktoberfest.
The drop out of the top hat only really delivers in the back two cars. Trains sorta crawled through the large outer-banked hill next to the Rhine this morning—that could just be the cold weather though. The inverted airtime hill flowed well, felt lengthy, and offered a nice dose of hangtime. I found the wall stall at the end of the coaster to be best in the backmost left seat. Overall, I wouldn’t say Pantheon features top-tier, RMC-level, ejector airtime or whippiness—in fact Pantheon feels sorta graceful and flowy compared to the likes of Intimidator 305 or Twisted Timbers.
Overall, I think that Busch Gardens Williamsburg has a seriously great coaster here. It’s comfortable and infinitely re-rideable while remaining intense enough that it will entice the real coaster enthusiasts as well. Though it doesn’t have as much airtime as I expected, the hangtime is better than I was anticipating and it has one of the best launches I’ve ever experienced.
Also, again, do keep in mind that it was a fairly chilly day and that the trains were cycling relatively inconsistently. Even while I was there, the forces improved as Pantheon warmed up. When this thing ends up cycling trains consistently all day long this summer, it could turn into something a lot fiercer than I experienced!
Anonymous Employee #2
I got the chance to ride Pantheon a few times, but I would’ve been riding it all day if I had the chance.
The trains are the best, most comfortable and spacious trains I’ve ever ridden in. Not to mention the color scheme is beautiful on it as well. The harness is very comfortable as well. The closest thing I can compare it to that I’ve ridden is Copperhead Strike at Carowinds. Going upside down in those seats is incredibly freeing.
As for the ride experience itself, I was surprised how much of an impact the bit right before the swing launch makes on the ride as a whole. The corkscrew bit and outer bank turns are a perfect combination of floater airtime while upside down, immediately followed by airtime mixed with pretty surprising laterals. I heard some people around me saying they didn’t like that part but, in my opinion, totally awesome introduction to the ride.
The switch track is seamless. Even trying to feel for the transition, you cannot feel it. The launches after the switch track are powerful. You can feel every single one. Going backwards is exhilarating, in my opinion. The large spike, especially in the back, is amazing, forceful, and serene once you reach the top. The bunny hop going backwards and then forwards the second time has ejector airtime. The swing launch track is relentless, it really is pure fun—MUCH better than Tempesto. It barely compares. The top hat is very fun too. There is no airtime up top. Going down is very good sustained strong floater air. It does not feel like a beyond vertical drop to me, at least compared to Maverick—perhaps, because it is drawn out. Very good drop for anyone.
I was expecting floater air on the outer-bank turn. I did not get anything but laterals. It’s a super fun element, gives weird views of the park, and is just weird on a roller coaster in general, but not particularly forceful like I thought it would be. The turn going into the stall is awesome. But that stall… oh my goodness that is probably my favorite part of the ride. It’s perfectly shaped and coming out of it is the best part. It’s disorienting and includes the head-chopper on the drop. It didn’t feel unsafe or super close to the train, but a neat element nonetheless—and definitely noticeable. The trick-track bit and wave turn are a quick finish to the ride. Feels about how it looks. The restraints pop up with a little bit of force, so watch your elbows. I can easily see kids hitting their funny bones when they come up.
It truly is a unique, adequately intense ride! Very, very good addition to the park in my opinion. It is not as insane as Intimidator 305 or other Intamins I’ve ridden and that’s not what it’s supposed to be. What it aims to be, it accomplished perfectly. It’s not the most intense ride in the park. Alpengeist is easily more intense in my opinion. Alpengeist still reigns supreme to me as my favorite, but this is a close second. Took Apollo’s spot for second for me.
The bad thing is this ride has no theming. At all. Apollo’s AT LEAST has tarps and tents in the station to match Festa Italia. This has nothing. It is a metal building, some concrete, a couple plants, and a horrible crammed queue line and plaza. The maintenance (tent) is horribly ugly and obvious. The bridge over the train station is out of place and feels… temporary. Very strange. I want to compare its opposite: Alpengeist’s plaza was added and melded into the park. This feels like you’re walking out into a stinky horse pasture. There is nothing to even reference the five gods Pantheon features—at least not yet. Very disappointing for SEAS in terms of theming. Like I said before, this ride is begging for more guest interaction and additional structures around it.
All in all, a very good addition to the park—unique and good for Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I had a TON of fun and I’m looking forward to next time I get to ride.
Anonymous Employee #3
The first launch is really short, but it has a lot of torque on the backend. The first roll has a ton of hangtime all the way until the end of the element. The little helix out of the roll picks up a surprising amount of momentum, but, unfortunately, the two banked airtime hills before the swing launch don’t provide any negative Gs. Especially if your restraint is loose, you do get thrown to the left and right of the car though making it more of a laterals-focused moment.
The swing launch is the best part by far. The first pass has no airtime over the mid-launch hill, but the second and third passes absolutely throw you out of the train. The backwards launch is one of my favorite elements. Absolutely insane. Also, the launches on the hills are weird because they’re really short and segmented—it’s more like repeated heavy jerks than a constant acceleration.
Especially in the back of the train, the spike feels way higher than I expected and you do get some airtime. The top hat has a nice pop of airtime over the top in the front of the train and then has Apollo’s Chariot-caliber airtime down the drop. In the back of the train you get no airtime over the top of the tophat, but then you enjoy Skyrush-level airtime down the drop. I prefer the back row in the left seat personally.
The outer-banked airtime hill next to the Rhine gives strong floater to light ejector on the left side of the train, but on the right—especially in the front—you do get a great suspended moment of airtime. The stall is crazy and feels like it goes on forever—you are just hanging there for a long time. The turn below the drop and the following s-bend offer some surprising positives and laterals. The final wall stall doesn’t really give ejector, but you’re going so fast that it just feels fun to be thrown to the side—basically hanging in the air.
Overall, insanely awesome—especially later in the day when it was warmed up and hauling. The whole ride feels faster than it is—I’d say it’s like Hersheypark’s Storm Runner on steroids.
Anonymous Employee #4
Well… That was CRAZY.
Back two rows on the unload side is where this ride is AT!
My complaint is the absurdly short queue line it has, as well as the line for the front row. They have a GRAVEL queue path for the front! I didn’t really pay attention to the theming—it wasn’t complete, I can tell you that. They do have quite a bit of shrubbery and such. The coaster was very well paced and very smooth. I am concerned, however, as to how fast operations will be with guests. Today they were running one train because it wasn’t really busy enough to warrant two trains. Dispatches were probably around 2 minutes. Not bad, but not good either.
Night rides are SOMETHING ELSE on this. With the exception of when you board, go through the switch track, and when you’re coming back, it is PITCH black except for the top hat when you can see all the lights of the park.
The ride’s first half is kinda wacky and calm, but then you hit the rollback, and it kicks it into overdrive! The first two launches aren’t too crazy—you can feel them, and that’s that. Then you hit launch three and WOW—the airtime hill in that section is pure ejector during launches three and four. The vertical spike provides some nice sustained floater air. The zero-G winder provides some nice hangtime. The off-axis hills into the swing launch are fun, wacky, and provide some small pops of floater combined with laterals. As for the top hat, you get some floater over it in the back—in the middle it doesn’t do too much. Front you feel the acceleration over the tophat and experience gradually more intense airtime over the top, whereas in the back you get YANKED over that top hat. The outer-bank has nice float-jector. If you’re on load side you can get a small pop of air in the transition into the turn after. The stall is great all over, and the wall stall is great as well, but felt more in the load side of the train.
Overall, the park did a great job with the layout of the ride. Do I wish there was more theming? Of course! Am I complaining? A little.
Anyway, another huge thanks to everyone who has contributed thoughts over the last 24 hours! Whether your report was featured or not, we really appreciate all of your insights and contributions!
Want to chat about Pantheon? Hop on over to the Pantheon discussion on ParkFans.net! That thread is nearly 700 pages long now and it should easily exceed that by the time Pantheon opens to members starting on March 4th and, ultimately, to the public at the end of next month!
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