The following reporting is based upon actively in-development plans. Subsequent revisions could change many of the details described below. The following should be viewed as a description of what Busch Gardens Williamsburg is likely, currently planning on constructing in 2025—not as an infallible depiction of what Busch Gardens Williamsburg will construct.
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A lot of folks have pitched in to make this article possible. I won’t attempt a comprehensive list (especially since there are some I specifically cannot name), but I do want to mention ParkFans members Adam, CoasterMac, intim305, Jahrules, and Nicole. All five of them made very notable contributions to this article in particular and I am incredibly grateful for their time and effort.
Back in 2009, one of the first major stories a young, fledgling BGWFans covered was the demise of the beloved, legendary, Arrow Suspended roller coaster, Big Bad Wolf. In fact, one of the oldest videos on our YouTube channel is a recording of bits of The Wolf’s final day (September 7th, 2009) and some of the earliest photos I remember taking for the website were of Big Bad Wolf’s removal during the inaugural Christmas Town of the same year. By 2010 and 2011, BGWFans’ bread and butter had shifted to covering the Big Bad Wolf replacement project—culminating in an enormous leak exposing all of Verbolten’s many oddities and secrets.
So thoroughly dissecting such an intriguing, unannounced attraction was fairly novel back in 2011 and it drew a lot of eyes to our little corner of the internet—giving BGWFans its first big break. We found ourselves in industry magazines, local newspapers, and even a national news story or two. The death of The Wolf and the mystery and intrigue surrounding its eventual replacement birthed BGWFans as you all know it today. Since that point, we have worked to solve every new attraction slated for Busch Gardens Williamsburg—to a great deal of success if I do say so myself.
Tempesto, InvadR, Finnigan’s Flyer, Cutback, Pantheon, DarKoaster, and others have all fallen to BGWFans’ pen. That said, despite this track record, if you are an avid BGWFans reader, you likely know that we have a bit of a white whale. Back in November of 2017 we first reported on a shocking, new project in the Busch Gardens Williamsburg pipeline—a major new roller coaster with a proposed maximum height above grade of 315 feet—a project codenamed “Madrid.”
Madrid Arc Part 1: Project Madrid Takes Off
After years of reporting on smaller attractions like Tempesto, InvadR, and Battle for Eire, “Project Madrid” was finally shaping up to be The Big One—easily a larger undertaking than even the immensely complex Verbolten. Despite the project’s unprecedented size and scope, what actually followed would read to someone back in 2017 like a work of demented, unfathomable fiction.
Today, thanks to years of leaked internal documentation and public records requests, we know that Project Madrid, as originally proposed, was slated to be an Intamin-made, full-circuit, Rhine-crossing, launched, giga coaster with a massive, roughly 315 foot tall, figure 8 top hat followed by a plunge down to the Rhine River. Project Madrid would have utilized both a portion of the pastures behind Festa Italia, known by fans as “Festa Field,” and much of the former site of Drachen Fire, “Festhaus Park.”
Madrid Arc Part 2: The Great Divide
Likely due to environmental or cost issues during development relating to crossing the Rhine River, we know that by 2018, the original Project Madrid had been sawed in two. To avoid crossing the Rhine, Busch Gardens Williamsburg planned to construct a pair of Intamin-made, multi-launch coasters. The first, slated to open in 2020 on the Festa Italia side of the river, was intended to be a full-circuit, sub-200 foot tall, prototype, swing-launch coaster focused on airtime, inversions, and transitions. The second was slated to open just one year later in 2021 on the Oktoberfest side of the Rhine as a 355 foot tall, multi-launch, shuttle behemoth focused on sheer height and speed.
In early 2019, we leaked BGW’s 2020 project in-depth—breaking down the coaster element-by-element. Later that year, Busch Gardens Williamsburg made it official with the announcement of Pantheon. While Pantheon was being installed, we were already hot on the trail of her sister coaster, the 355 foot giant on the Oktoberfest-side of the Rhine. By January 2020, we had successfully leaked the park’s planned-for-2021 coaster, a project we codenamed “Drachen Spire,” in detail. Then, in March of 2020, the funniest little thing happened…
Madrid Arc Part 3: The Coaster Pandemic
When COVID-19 hit the United States in early 2020, work was immediately halted on both of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s roller coasters mid-development. By that time, the first of the pair, Pantheon, had long-since been announced and was nearly complete. Meanwhile, the second, Drachen Spire, was mere weeks from breaking ground. In fact, visible preparation work for its planned construction had already begun to take place in the months leading up to March 2020.
Despite being so close to the finish line, Busch Gardens Williamsburg did not resume work on Pantheon until early 2022—eventually, finally opening the attraction to the public in the spring of ’22. Unlike its sister over in Festa Italia though, Drachen Spire never recovered from the coronavirus and this is (largely, at least) where her story ends.
The news was not all grim though. Drachen Spire’s death brought yet another weird, new, one-of-a-kind Intamin multi-launch creation—this time of the family variety. Instead of building the 355 foot tall shuttle giga, Busch Gardens opted to shift their attention to a quad-launching, indoor, multi-lap, Intamin-made straddle coaster for the now-vacant, former home of DarKastle. We codenamed this bizarre, new coaster “DarKoaster” and leaked it in-depth in December of 2021. Heading into 2022 though, attention quickly drifted back to the site of the long-anticipated, always-seemingly-right-around-the-corner, Festhaus Park-bound headliner we have all spent years pining over.
Madrid Arc Part 4: Really More Coming
In the spring of 2022, there were a lot of murmurs regarding the potential resurrection of Drachen Spire. Old, pre-COVID permits were renewed and it began to look as though the coaster’s 355-foot specter may actually be about to finally materialize—this time for a 2024 debut. Just as quickly as those ghosts from the past appeared though, their whispers subsequently fell silent—supplanted by a new rumor with new evidence on the public record.
In September 2022, Busch Gardens Williamsburg filed an all-new Federal Aviation Administration height waiver for the Festhaus Park site. Instead of the 355-foot permit requested previously for Drachen Spire, this was a more conservative, 220 foot tall waiver. Given the height surveys and utility marking requests taking place in parallel with the new FAA waiver, it became clear that this new coaster, likely planned for 2024, was an all-new, completely different beast.
Unfortunately, after a flurry of activity on this new iteration of the project, activity once again evaporated. Ultimately, the project stalled right before a site plan would have been submitted to James City County, meaning we have never actually had eyes on a layout for this chapter in the Madrid saga. That said, consistent, corroborated rumors from trustworthy sources abound and the circumstantial evidence paints a pretty convincing picture of what was likely planned.
Per an overwhelming majority of the rumors we have heard, we believe this planned, roughtly 220-foot-tall coaster was a ground-up, Rocky Mountain Construction-designed, hyper, hybrid. Especially on the heels of Iron Gwazi’s incredibly buzzy debut at Busch Gardens Tampa, this direction seems as if it would have made a ton of sense for Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Unfortunately, much like its layout, the reason for its cancellation remains a mystery for now.
Madrid Arc Part 5: Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)
In what has become a nearly annual occurrence, this fall attention, once again, turned to the former home of Drachen Fire—to the site of the long since dead, original Project Madrid—to the long-empty plot of land behind the Big Bad Wolf’s previous stomping grounds. As has happened so many times before, activity on the public record began heating up once again—most notably with new soil testing taking place in Festhaus Park—giving way to renewed speculation that yet another new coaster was being designed for this fabled ground.
On December 4th we finally got confirmation of our suspicions when Busch Gardens Williamsburg notified James City County that they would be submitting information for a new attraction in Festhaus Park. Just one day later, Busch Gardens Williamsburg followed through, delivering the first new site plan for the former Drachen Fire plot since before COVID.
The Drachen Fire site has long been a uniquely difficult one for Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Even when the land was occupied by a large, 150 foot tall, electric blue and white Arrow looping coaster, rumors and speculation abounded that the remoteness of its home contributed to the coaster’s notoriously low ridership. In reality, it is likely that the discomfort riders experienced played a larger role in its often-non-existant queues, but the long hike required to access the attraction alongside the unclear route required to get there couldn’t have helped.
Speaking of that walk, it really is a glaring issue with this plot of land. An attraction entrance located where Drachen Fire’s was requires a 500-foot walk down an unintuitive path beside Das Festhaus and then around the back of Verbolten’s show building. Potentially even worse, all but the tallest attractions will likely be quite hard to see from current guest areas due to the heavily forested Verbolten ride area paired with Verbolten’s large show building.
While the logistics of making an addition work in Festhaus Park are complicated, the ceiling for a potential Festhaus Park attraction’s size or scope is enormous. In fact, if the land is used well (offloading the majority of coasters’ layouts to the surrounding hillsides and land outside the railroad loop, and reserving most of the flat terrain inside the railroad loop for guest areas, park facilities, flat rides, coaster stations, etc.), you could add attractions to this area year after year for a long while.
This is something the Drachen Spire layout (above) accomplished beautifully. It utilized Drachen Fire’s old station building and featured a straight launch along the side of Festhaus Park with most of its track (including its massive spiral spike) located on the forested, severely sloped terrain closer to the Rhine River. This plan would have left room for guest pathways to enter the coaster’s infield to allow for additional facilities or attractions to be constructed there. Additionally, the coaster’s layout wouldn’t have “walled off” any of the expansion area to the south or west of the site.
Anyway, land use discussions aside, given Festhaus Park’s remote location, paired with the potential for multiple absolutely enormous attraction additions on the site, it has long been understood that Busch Gardens Williamsburg has been saving the space for the park’s next headlining attraction—think the park’s next Loch Ness Monster—something so earth-shattering, so marketable, and so huge at the time of its debut that it would be inconceivable for guests to manage to overlook it.
Before immediately discounting this as a thoosie pipedream, remember this: Busch Gardens Williamsburg has added a ton of coasters since the demise of Drachen Fire vacated this area in 1999. Each time, the park has opted to pick other, often far less intuitive locations (e.g. InvadR, Tempesto, DarKoaster, etc.). It appears that none of those coasters justified the numerous downsides of Festhaus Park. Meanwhile, every truly monstrous coaster design that has leaked out of Busch Gardens Williamsburg has been planned for one location and one location only: Festhaus Park.
Think about all of the coasters that have nearly become a reality for the area. The original Project Madrid was a 315 foot giant with an enormous figure-eight-shaped top hat and a drop to the river. Then, Drachen Spire featured that absolutely demented-looking, sure-to-be-iconic, spiral spike towering over the shores of the Rhine. Finally, though we haven’t seen layout plans first-hand, we understand that the Rocky Mountain Construction hyper hybrid would have likely featured a roughly 220 foot tall lift arch—reminiscent of Iron Gwazi’s or Zadra’s—that would have loomed tall over the entire back of Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
With all of these massive coasters in production for Festhaus Park over the last decade, imagine our surprise when we opened up that new, long-awaited Project 2025 site plan and saw something entirely unlike anything else that had previously been leaked for the site—something dramatically smaller—something dwarfed by Drachen Fire—something likely to be even smaller than Verbolten or her predecessor, Big Bad Wolf.
… Meet Reality
According to a Project 2025 site plan filed by Busch Gardens Williamsburg with the James City County Planning Department on December 5th, the park is currently requesting permission to construct a new roller coaster utilizing Drachen Fire’s former station building, the majority of the cleared, flat area of Festhaus Park, and a portion of the Busch Gardens Williamsburg boneyard (a large, partially-cleared, backstage storage area located behind Festhaus Park outside of the railroad loop). A map depicting the full Project 2025 ride area is included below.
This new filing utilizes the existing, 355-feet-above-grade, long-since approved, height variance permit from Drachen Spire. At first glance, that sounds tremendously exciting. Unfortunately, unlike Project 2025’s Festhaus Park predecessors, this roller coaster, as we understand it, is very much not a giant. Forget the hypers or gigas that have long been slated for this plot of land—the coaster depicted in these plans almost certainly falls well into the “family coaster” classification. Busch Gardens Williamsburg may be utilizing the county’s permission to build a coaster up to 355 feet tall here, but it looks as though they will use only a small fraction of that available altitude.
A high-resolution copy of the site plan we discovered earlier this week is included below.
This plan may not look like much right off the bat, but I assure you there’s a lot to work with here. Throughout the plan there are a ton of black rectangles and squares. These shapes mark areas where new impervious surfaces are to be installed as part of this project. Given how numerous they are and the patterns and paths established by their placement, we can easily conclude that, at a minimum, the vast majority of these boxes represent planned footer locations for a roller coaster.
(Quick aside: There are also slightly lighter gray squares, rectangles, and circles throughout much of the northern portion of the site plan above. Those are the leftover footers from Drachen Fire which were buried after the coaster was removed. For the purposes of this article, ignore those.)
Following the path of those likely footer locations, we can generate what is likely to be a pretty accurate footer map for this proposed roller coaster. Below you’ll find my estimated footer positions.
Now for what is normally the fun part: Connecting the dots.
I say “normally” for good reason, because, right off the bat, something looks mighty off here. Typically, you would expect coaster track that is located close to ground-level to be supported by a single footer directly below the track. Looking through the footers depicted above though, there are very, very few that don’t have an immediately obvious pair. That alone is bizarre, but it gets weirder.
Looking at the front of the coaster’s station in the plans (left side of the building) you can see an obvious path for a coaster to depart the building with a U-turn to the right. This turn is evidenced by the rounded ride restrictive fencing proposed alongside the many footers directly north of the station building. That said, the only two proposed footers that exist for this turn are offset inward when compared to where the coaster track would be to accomplish this turn.
Immediately after that turn, things stay weird. There is a grouping of two pairs of footers immediately after the turn with a notable spread between them. As a very rough, general, rule of thumb, the wider the spread between footer pairs perpendicular to the direction of the coaster’s travel, the higher that coaster track is likely to be. That said, in this case, since the coaster is using an existing station, we know the track here is right near ground/station level.
There are other oddities too. If we begin to imagine a rough track layout that could connect these footers (above), there are multiple, obvious, 180 degree-or-longer turns throughout the layout which look like they should be impossibly tight for a traditional roller coaster to complete at anything but the lowest of speeds (especially that last one at the top right of the layout). There also don’t appear to be any obvious straight drops—instead, the track seems to only ever really change elevation through swooping turns.
Our Best Guess
Armed with all of the information presented above alongside a great deal of help from the NoLimits creators intim305, Jake Anderson, and ML Designs (CoasterMac on ParkFans), we believe what we’re looking at here is a family inverted coaster—likely from legendary Swiss coaster manufactured Bolliger & Mabillard. Per our analysis, the coaster appears to consist primarily of the station area, two lift hills, and a long series of banked hills and turns.
Switching our conception of this attraction from a traditional sit-down-style roller coaster (like Pantheon or Apollo’s Chariot, where coaster track is typically constructed directly above footers) to an inverted coaster (like Alpengeist, where footer locations are, more often than not, offset from the positioning of the ride track) notably alters our top-down layout estimation. A (hopefully!) far more accurate layout graphic for Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 2025 roller coaster can be found below.
There’s a ton to unpack in this graphic and I swear I’ll try to get to everything. Lets take it point by point.
As we have done for previously-proposed Busch Gardens Williamsburg roller coaster layouts (most recently DarKoaster & Drachen Spire), we are giving our conceptual understanding of this newly-proposed roller coaster a codename: “Holzfäller” (or “Der Holzfäller” if you’d prefer). Translating to “Woodsman” or “The Woodsman” in German, this name references one of the core contributions to Big Bad Wolf lore made by German writers—the Big Bad Wolf’s mortal enemy, the axe-wielding woodsman.
Why would we reference the long-removed Big Bad Wolf roller coaster for our codename for a new coaster on Drachen Fire’s old site? Because we’re guessing Busch Gardens Williamsburg is plotting to do exactly that with this attraction.
Despite being located on a good chunk of Drachen Fire’s previous land, a family coaster located in Oktoberfest that places riders beneath the coaster’s track has a pretty obvious historical parallel: The Big Bad Wolf. To this day, The Wolf enjoys a glowing reputation—not just in enthusiast circles, but amongst the general public too. Just take a look through the Facebook comment section of any mainstream news article about the currently ongoing Loch Ness Monster renovation project; it likely won’t take you long to find a post akin to “Busch Gardens should have done this for the Big Bad Wolf!”
We know Busch Gardens Williamsburg loves their historical plays—just look at the planned dragon theme for the coaster we dubbed Drachen Spire or the DarKastle theme for the newly-opened DarKoaster. Even the 2024 Loch Ness Monster overhaul is heavily fueled by and marketed on nostalgia. All of this focus on “The Old Country” will almost certainly come to a head in 2025, which will be Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 50th anniversary, in addition to the anticipated debut year for the coaster we’re calling “Holzfäller.”
There’s another very juicy hint in these new plans that points us towards a Big Bad Wolf theme as well. I believe that when people think about what made The Wolf so special and unique, two things immediately come to mind. First, obviously, is the swinging trains. Second though, I suspect, is that the first half of the coaster swung riders around and through a life-sized Bavarian village as candles flickered in the windows and a wolf howled in the distance.
Though you’ll be unsurprised to learn that SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is not willing to pony up the cash required to rebuild The Wolf’s village, there is a very strong suggestion in these documents that it may be referenced. Around part of the southern-most turn in the coaster’s layout, there are a series of what look to be facades labeled “2-dimensional structures.” A photo of the plan showing the 2D structures is included above. Frankly, I would be shocked if these weren’t building facades placed around the coaster’s southern-most turn to pay homage to The Wolf’s village.
The Make & Model
As stated previously, we believe Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s planned 2025 attraction is likely to be a Bolliger & Mabillard-made Family Invert. Our manufacturer assessment is based entirely on the design and spacing of the footers present. Much like previous B&M coasters I have leaked through ParkFans, Holzfäller, appears to feature large track spans between foundation points—especially for a family coaster and even through low-to-the-ground, likely higher-force areas. Family coasters from other manufacturers are almost always far more footer-dense than we see here.
Furthermore, the foundation plans for the large turnarounds are the northernmost and southernmost points in the layout are very reminiscent of recent Bolliger & Mabillard coaster installations at other parks. This formation of one large, connected, central footer in the middle of a turn surrounded on its perimeter by additional footers designed to carry vertical columns to support the turn it all over recent B&Ms.
So, the footers, broadly suggest the manufacturer, but what about the model? Well, as covered previously, we are feeling quite confident that this is an invert. Bolliger & Mabillard have only ever built two types of inverted coasters—the large-scale, traditional, intense, inversion-focused, inverted roller coasters like Alpengeist and a pair of small-scale, far less intense, inversion-free, family invert coasters for in China. Considering that Alpengeist already exists at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and that the scale of BGW’s 2025 coaster seems to be fairly small, a B&M family invert seems like the obvious answer.
We can go further than that though. Going back to a bit of footer analysis for a moment, the grid of four foundations at the base of lift one followed by the offset footer positioning supporting lift one appears to be an exact match to the lift hills for the two existing B&M family inverts in China, 大洋历险 at Happy Valley in Shanghai and 家庭过山车 at Happy Valley in Beijing. This is a notably departure from the family inverts designed by other manufacturers recently. All of the recent Vekoma family inverts I looked through used the same lift format with the track running between the lift footer pairs. The cantilevered design used in both of Holzfäller’s lifts is likely a huge tell pointing squarely in the Bolliger & Mabillard family inverted coaster direction.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg has a long, illustrious history with Bolliger & Mabillard—with B&M having previously supplied the park with Alpengeist, Apollo’s Chariot, and Griffon. Known for their high capacity and stellar reliability, B&M has long been one of the industry’s top tier coaster designers.
While Bolliger & Mabillard is most well-known for their laundry list of large, high-thrill attractions, family-scale roller coasters are a relatively recent addition to their repertoire. While the only two currently operating B&M family coasters are located in China, Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s parent company, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, is confirmed to be currently constructing two of them domestically—a traditional, above-track, launched version for SeaWorld Orlando and an inverted version for Busch Gardens Tampa featuring a lift hill—both of which are slated for a 2024 debut.
Above you’ll see the concept art for Busch Gardens Tampa’s 2024 B&M family invert, Phoenix Rising. Assuming we are correct about Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 2025 plans, it would be a poetic return to tradition for the Busch parks and Bolliger & Mabillard—reigniting the old Busch Entertainment Corporation trope of building a coaster model at Busch Gardens Tampa first and then following it up with a larger, sister coaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg the following year.
Another somewhat exciting item to note: Phoenix Rising is slated to open with on-board audio. If our conceptualization of Holzfäller is correct and it is, in fact, themed to the Big Bad Wolf, on-ride audio could be an incredible way to communicate that theme and bring back that haunting, howling wolf audio that always played on The Wolf’s second lift.
To offer you all a better look at the types of trains we anticipate for this project, I’ve included a photo from Bolliger & Mabillard’s website of one of the existing Chinese B&M family inverts above.
Lastly, I will also note that, unlike some of the other B&M family coasters thus far, it appears as though Holzfäller would run two trains, as it has a dedicated maintenance bay added behind the station with what is likely a transfer switch after the final brake run.
The Suspended Question
Now, before I end this ride model discussion, I have to open one last, potentially very potent, can of worms. When our sister site, ParkFans, leaked SeaWorld Orlando’s 2024 B&M family coaster, we happened upon evidence showing that project was actually a never-before-seen prototype from Bolliger & Mabillard. Even more interestingly, SeaWorld Orlando opened another, prototype B&M product earlier this year as well with Pipeline. All of these weird B&M products popping up at SEAS parks right now strongly suggest that there’s a very strong working relationship between the two companies right now. Furthermore, it’s evidence that the chain isn’t opposed to buying B&M’s potentially riskier prototypes.
So, we have to ask, could this be another all-new, prototype product from Bolliger & Mabillard? Short answer: yes, it could be. I don’t think we have any reason right now to believe that is the likely outcome here, but it is a possibility we must field. The highlight of Big Bad Wolf was its swinging, suspended coaster trains. One would hope that any coaster hoping to play off of the nostalgia of The Wolf would also feature that signature aspect of the original ride experience.
As far as we know, there has not been any indication that Bolliger & Mabillard is currently developing a suspended coaster train; however, on the flip side, we have also not noticed anything in the documents we’ve obtained regarding this project that would conclusively rule out the potential for true, swinging, suspended trains to run on this layout. That could be an absolute game-changer for this project; we will have to remain on the lookout for any signs one way or the other moving forward.
Analyzing a coaster’s layout and identifying each of the likely elements throughout its course is typically the bread and butter of an article like this. That said, this time around, there really isn’t much to say. We see a station platform, a U-turn to the right to meet the base of the first lift, a fairly short first lift hill (probably in the ballpark of 70 feet tall?), and then a series of swooping turns and dives over the old Drachen Fire maintenance building and railroad, through the woods, and eventually down to that southernmost turn with the previously-discussed facades.
From there, the coaster circles back on itself to meet up with some brakes that take the layout into the second lift hill which carries riders back across the railroad tracks before dropping them back down towards Drachen Fire’s maintenance structure. From there, the coaster seems to navigate a (possibly overbanked?) hammerhead turn before hitting the final brakes. To provide a bit more visual context for how all of these elements fit into the landscape of the park, I’ve included a composite layout map of Holzfäller above.
The various turns and partial helixes throughout this coaster will almost certainly be its strong point, but, in my opinion, the most interesting inclusion is actually the coaster’s second lift.
As far as I know, this would be the first B&M ever built with more than one lift hill. Given the terrain in the area and what seems to be a desire to keep the coaster’s highest point relatively low though, a second lift could be a compelling solution to extend the layout beyond the smaller, more bare-bones Bolliger & Mabillard family inverts we’ve seen so far.
We’d also be remiss if we didn’t highlight that the inclusion of a second lift—especially one well past the midpoint of the layout—likely leading to a particularly intense finishing dash back to the station—certainly echos strongly of a Big Bad Wolf influence.
The Big Problem
While much of this proposed coaster’s layout seems pretty clear to us, throughout this process there has been one issue that has been a continual thorn in our collective sides. In the previously included Holzfäller layout images, you’ll note that there’s a rather lengthy segment of track after the first drop that is depicted in a lighter blue than the rest of the layout. Our confidence level in the shaping of the coaster track through this area is far lower than the rest of the course.
The core of the problem lies in the two pairs of footer circled in red in the image above. We are confident that coaster track has to connect between these two foundation locations traveling south. Given both the narrow spacing between the footer pairs through here and the fact that the coaster will just be coming off of a peak as trains pass over Drachen Fire’s maintenance building, we are pretty confident that this is a low point (height-wise) in the layout. Additionally, given that coaster track on inverts typically travels roughly perpendicular to the direction of the track’s footer pairs, we can reasonably assume that the track between these two foundations is likely turning (since the footer pairs are not parallel with one another).
Even if we were to just string a piece of straight track between these two foundation locations, it would be one of, if not the longest, track span in the entire layout. Any turns or elevation changes (which likely do exist to at least some degree) would further inflate the length of this span, as well. Regardless, no matter how you slice it, the track span required ranges somewhere between unlikely and physically impossible.
Our earliest solutions involved possible trenches or tunnels that may be included in supplemental filings further down the line. That said, friend of the site and ParkFans member, Adam, provided a pretty compelling case outlining why that was very unlikely to occur. I won’t dive into the reasoning too deeply here, but, basically, it appears as though the stormwater routing through the site relies on there not being a large, impervious structure embedded in the ground there.
From there, intim305 and CoasterMac both tried numerous different ways to bridge supports from the other nearby foundations or even to route the coaster’s path below the second lift in an attempt to utilize its support structure. None of these experiments really proved super convincing, but a few of them may, possibly be viable.
Ultimately, the answer could honestly just turn out to be that someone accidentally deleted or omitted a pair of boxes meant to show the location of an additional bit of impervious groundcover and evidence of more footers through this segment will reappear in a subsequent iteration of this plan. I already see at least one other error that is likely to result in a requirement to resubmit the packet, so this outcome really wouldn’t be all that surprising.
With all of that said, the cloud of uncertainty surrounding this portion of the layout is the cause for that light blue track segment in our Holzfäller layout graphics. We just don’t have enough information to work with to be confident in any of the track shaping depicted through there.
Typically we wouldn’t even speculate about the colors of a coaster, but in this case, we aren’t actually flying anywhere near as blindly as usual. Because Busch Gardens Williamsburg is using that old, already-approved 355-foot Drachen Spire height waiver to construct this probably, roughly 70-foot-tall coaster, as of now, the color stipulations applied to that waiver are still in place. As discussed years ago, Drachen Spire’s color pallet included the following:
That said, given that this new coaster is dramatically smaller than the one designed to utilize the full height of that previous variance waiver paired with the fact that, at least from what I understand, James City County planners have latitude to grant exceptions to the approved pallet without a new waiver being approved, I don’t believe we should treat the Spire colors as gospel for this new roller coaster.
Whenever Busch Gardens Williamsburg builds notably above the tree line, they typically have to keep colors fairly neutral or natural-looking. A coaster the size of Holzfäller likely wouldn’t be bound by that precedent though and could, conceivably, get to use a much broader, bolder color set. Assuming our strong suspicions about the intent to capitalize on Big Bad Wolf nostalgia are correct, it seems most-obvious to give this new attraction The Wolf’s color scheme—a palette including these hues:
As mentioned previously, a lot of the analysis required to get us to this point would have been impossible without NoLimits creators and ParkFans members CoasterMac and intim305. They have both dedicated many hours of their time over the last week to working with me to better understand this proposed 2025 Busch Gardens Williamsburg roller coaster. Incredibly, in that short window of time, both intim305 and CoasterMac have managed to create their own “pre-creations” of our current conception of what this new coaster will look like.
There are notable differences between these two mockups which will, hopefully, give you a better idea of the range of uncertainty involved in our analysis. That said, it should also be kept in mind that intim305’s version was completed first with an incredible turnaround time from plan reception to completion of just over 24 hours (!!!). That does also mean, however, that intim305’s version did not benefit from some of the later analysis (like Adam’s likely disproving of the trench theory for the that long, problematic layout segment after the first drop that we discussed previously).
Anyway, with that context provided, I am going to start off with CoasterMac’s design as it matches best with our absolute most-recent understanding of the project. CoasterMac’s mockup features a 72 foot tall lift hill, a max speed of 39 miles per hour, a full coaster-wide elevation change of 77 feet, and a track length of 2,523 feet. He opted to use the Big Bad Wolf color scheme matching our previous assumptions that the height variance colors from Spire can be amended and that this coaster is likely to capitalize on Wolf nostalgia.
A handful of gorgeous photos showing CoasterMac’s pre-creation are included below.
As for the uncertainty around the problematic, questionable area after the first drop, CoasterMac used a cantilevered support solution off of the second lift. This idea looks possible and it does successfully bypass the need for additional impervious groundcover in the area. If something like this turns out to be the actual outcome, it would be fascinating to know why it the coaster was designed this way rather than just installing another few footers for a dedicated support. A photo showing Mac’s cantilever support is included below.
A full video of CoasterMac’s conceptualization of Holzfäller is included below.
Moving on to intim305’s pre-creation, he designed the layout with a 75 foot tall first lift, a 40 mile per hour top speed, and a full track length of about 2,400 feet. Unlike CoasterMac, intim305 used the already-approved color scheme for the site that was previously intended for Drachen Spire.
As for the big problem area that has been the topic of so much discussion throughout this process, intim305 designed this layout and produced this video before our opinion had soured on the potential for a yet-to-be-filed-for trench or tunnel. Because of that, it is still included in his conceptualization of the project. It is probably best to disregard that detail as I think we’re all in agreement at this point that it’s far from the most likely solution. Hopefully people will still be happy to see this potential, fringe answer to the missing footer(s) question in action though!
Above I’ve included a series of glamor shots of intim305’s pre-creation and below you’ll find a video of his layout in action!
The End of the Madrid Arc?
Since Drachen Fire closed all the way back in 1999, the Busch Gardens Williamsburg enthusiast community has spent an incalculable number of hours dreaming and conceptualizing what Busch Gardens Williamsburg would eventually build on that hallowed, fabled land. Since first learning about Project Madrid back in November 2017, we’ve had real justification with solid, incontrovertible evidence showing that those decades spent dreaming weren’t all for nought, as Busch Gardens Williamsburg clearly agreed that Festhaus Park deserved nothing less than their largest, most exciting capital expenditure ever.
In all of those years of dreaming by so many different theme park and roller coaster fans spread across dozens of websites, hundreds of videos, thousands of social media posts, and tens of thousands of conversations, I don’t think anyone has ever dreamt of Holzfäller. In fact, I think many would say that using the vast majority of Drachen Fire’s former home for a Bolliger & Mabillard-made, inverted family coaster themed to Big Bad Wolf is downright sacrilegious—and you know, I would probably count myself amongst that group.
Perhaps even more disappointing, Busch Gardens Williamsburg won two hard-fought battles to be granted permission to build enormous coasters in Festhaus Park—first the 315 foot tall Project Madrid and then, later, the 355-foot-tall Drachen Spire. Some of you may even remember when BGWFans encouraged (and successfully executed on!) a letter writing campaign to the James City County Board of Supervisors in hopes of helping to break the logjam of local opposition to the 355 foot waiver.
To see all of that time, effort, and money essentially squandered on what will likely just be a roughly 70 foot tall family coaster does, admittedly, sting a bit. That said, I am sure the frustration is far worse for all of the countless SEAS employees, contractors, and vendors who had a hand in so many of these dead-end projects over the years.
Over in the dedicated ParkFans thread for this project, disinterest and even anger abounded as BGW fans began to realize that Busch Gardens Williamsburg was planning a relatively small, family coaster for Festhaus Park—as part of the Oktoberfest village with its two other, existing family coasters no less.
Was holding this land in reserve for all of those years since Drachen Fire’s demise really worth this outcome? Could something akin to Holzfäller not have been built anywhere else in the park—perhaps somewhere that families will actually be able to see and find it? Could Holzfäller not have been designed to utilize (significantly) less of Drachen Fire’s former home to preserve more land for a true Drachen Fire successor?
I think bafflement with the choice to use Drachen Fire’s station and not only Festhaus Park but also a sizable chunk of the Busch Gardens Williamsburg Boneyard is thoroughly justified. Viewed with a land use lens, this project looks to me like a short-sighted blunder of the highest order—designed to quickly cash in on some 50th anniversary nostalgia before they miss the boat.
Perhaps the most tragic thing about all of this though is that Holzfäller, as we understand it at least, looks like a great family coaster addition to a park that can seemingly always use additional family coaster capacity. Adding a B&M family invert themed to the Big Bad Wolf for the park’s 50th, in a vacuum, is a stroke of genius. The likely inclusion of some village sets, two lift hills, and potentially even on-ride audio, all come together to make this feel like it could be a tremendously solid concept on paper.
That said, there are many, many more sensible places to install a coaster like this. The now-vacant Mach Tower site borders a large, completely unused valley. Access to that valley is also available from Rhinefeld if the park saw fit. A coaster like this could potentially work on either side of Das Festhaus too—either replacing the storage parking lot to the right of the building or parts of the picnic area to the left.
And those are only the easy Oktoberfest options. Most European countries have some lore related to the Big Bad Wolf or similar characters and there are many, many location options for a coaster this size elsewhere in the park. They could still play up the legacy of The Wolf without using one of the park’s best expansion plots ever, Festhaus Park.
In summary, I like Holzfäller and I want to see a coaster like Holzfäller installed at Busch Gardens Williamsburg for the park’s 50th anniversary. I just desperately do not want this to be the coaster that takes over Festhaus Park, Drachen Fire’s station building, and part of the Boneyard. The location makes less than zero sense for a relatively short-statured family coaster: The long hike from current guest areas ensures that this thing will never see crowds post-opening; and it doesn’t even make sense with the thematic legacy of the Drachen Fire site.
Realistically, we are very likely well past the point of no return on the positioning of this coaster. If, somehow, we’re not, I would love to see Holzfäller relocated or even just redesigned to use less of Festhaus Park’s prime, flat real estate. Even just moving the Festhaus Park portion of the layout to the south of the station would make an enormous difference as a guest pathway could easily run past this coaster and up into the rest of Festhaus Park in the future.
Assuming Holzfäller, as designed, does come to fruition (unlike so many of its Madrid Arc predecessors), I just hope that someone over at Busch Gardens Williamsburg has some clever solutions for how to access the rest of the Boneyard and the hillside between Festhaus Park and the Rhine. Holzfäller certainly kills any dreams of a new hamlet back in Festhaus Park, but I hope it doesn’t also smother the chances of other, large attractions in the future as well. Seeing all of that prime coaster real estate go to waste due to what looks to me to be the reckless, lazy placement of BGW’s 2025 project would be a real, honest shame.
In summary, I just sincerely hope this project isn’t even a fraction as shortsighted as it appears to my, admittedly amateur, outsider eyes.
Searching for The Big One
Since the death of The Wolf and the conception and construction of its follow-up, Verbolten, BGWFans has done our best to publish as much information about the development process of new Busch Gardens Williamsburg attractions as possible. Assuming Holzfäller is built as currently proposed (utilizing Drachen Fire’s station building and the majority of Festhaus Park), this truly will be the end of an era around here. We will have finally caught our white whale. It look nothin’ like we thought it would when we started, but I suppose the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is rarely as shiny as it appears in our dreams.
Ultimately, Busch Gardens Williamsburg will, inevitably, find land to build plenty of enormous rides and attractions on in the years ahead. With any luck, BGWFans will continue to be around to make sure everyone knows about them too. One day, we will eventually catch the realBig One.
If you are one of the few who made it to the end of this nearly-7,500-word, likely-capstone to the Project Madrid saga, I honestly, sincerely, thank you for reading—not only this monster of a story, but all of its predecessors over the years as well. I, alongside many others, have dedicated huge amounts of our time to reporting on Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Festhaus Park plans since 2017. I hope everyone has enjoyed reading about what we’ve found over the years.
Anyway, now I’m going to Disney World.
December 8th, Evening: Refined language, fixed typos
December 9th, Morning: Replaced CoasterMac’s precreation placeholders with the final video of his conceptualization of Holzfäller
December 10th, Morning: Fixed typos, updated language at the end of the “End of the Madrid Arc?” section, and significantly updated the “Make & Model” portion with an improved description of our analytical process