Sign up for our Newsletter

65.4 F
Friday, December 9, 2022

Stay Connected

Sign up for our Newsletter

New Thrills Coming to Busch Gardens and Adventure Island: Iron Gwazi and Solar Vortex

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is going big, like really BIG with the announcement of two new rides at its Tampa Bay theme parks.

Unveiled today: Iron Gwazi hybrid coaster at Busch Gardens and the Solar Vortex water slide at Adventure Island.

Both are slated to open in spring 2020.

Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

It’s no secret that Busch Gardens was planning to transform the old Gwazi wooden roller coaster into something new, but it wasn’t until today that we got a look at what that new ride will look like.

It will literally change the skyline, standing at a height of 206 at its highest peek. With high peeks, come steep drops and when it opens in spring of 2020, it will boast being the steepest and fastest hybrid coaster in the world. It will be the tallest in the United States.

We told you…they’re going big.

“When it comes to being Florida’s thrill ride leader and really being one of the world’s thrill ride leaders, it’s a little of an arms race right now. You always want to have the tallest, the fastest and the best,”  Busch Gardens Tampa Bay president Stewart Clark told us. “We found a great opportunity here by taking Gwazi and adding on all of the elements, It’s going to be an absolutely spectacular ride.”

Gwazi opened to the public in 1999 as Florida’s first wooden roller coaster. But you heard Mr. Stewart…it’s an arms race in the theme park world.

It was time for bigger and better.

“It is the evolution of a classic wooden coaster into a modern icon, from the bones of the original Gwazi to faster speeds and more thrills,” said Iron Gwazi project manager, Andrew Schaffer, who also worked on the park’s most recent thrill ride addition, Tigris.

Related: Do you dare to take on Tigirs? We did!

Iron Gwazi sneak peek

We were given a peek of the progress so far, where workers were erecting the ride to new heights with new wood beams and metal, along with the old.

“We’re using about 25% of the wooden structure that was here from the original Gwazi and about 80% of the original foundation,” Schaffer told us.

It wasn’t that the wood from the rest of the 75% wasn’t in good enough shape. In fact, Schaffer says the structure has held up well in the Florida sun.

iron gwazi
The wooden structure to the left is part of the original Gwazi ride. The structure to the right is new.

“It just wasn’t tall enough,” he explained. “Since we’ve changed this ride so much, it’s a completely different ride.”

He went on to explain, “With the height changes that we made, we had to beef up the structures below it, so we just couldn’t use what was there. The areas where you do see the original structure, those are areas the ride profile is very similar to what was there before.”

The new logo incorporates a crocodile–an animal chosen specifically for this ride.

“Very early in this project, we decided we wanted to highlight a crocodilian species. We have several here at the park and we never really talk about them that much,” said Stewart, ” We have one in particular, a slender snouted crocodile that has reproduced successfully here. We’re one of the few places in the world that has done that.”

Just like the crocodile is a powerful and thrilling animal, Iron Gwazi will deliver on that same promise.

Busch Gardens Iron Gwazi

Iron Gwazi by the numbers:

  • 206 feet at highest point
  • 76 miles per hour at top speed
  • 91 degree drop
  • Must be at least 48 inches tall to ride
  • 25% of the original Gwazi structure is being incorporated into the new ride
  • 80% of the original ride’s foundations will be used.
  • It will be the 10th roller coaster at Busch Gardens

Solar Vortex at Adventure Island

Adventure Island is about to celebrate a big milestone…40 years in Tampa Bay and to celebrate, the water park will debut its 10th waterslide in the spring, Solar Vortex.

Just like Iron Gwazi, it will also boast some big firsts.

“This ride will be the first dual tailspin slide,” said project manager Andrew Hatcher.

Not sure what dual tailspin means. Let Hatcher explain.

“When you come down the traditional water slide, the tailspin will allow guests to come in, in the raft in parties of 2 or 4 and go into high baking spins, so playing with the water, playing with the high banks of the ride, you’ll go through the tail spin and it’ll shot you out through the aqualuscents and that’s something that’s super fun, the aqualuscents plays with the Florida sunlight-think of designs in the fiber glass of the slide that allow the lights to come through. Guests will experience different shapes, they go through three different unique sections and then they’ll be pushed with the water into the second tail spin and then out on through the ride.”


The new waterslide will be built where the Key West ride currently stands –it  will remain open through October 1 before closing down for construction of Solar Vortex. The water park will remain open for the season until October 27, 2019.


Adventure Island Solar Vortex Logo

Solar Vortex by the numbers:

  • 2-4 people can ride on the 67 inch wide raft
  • You’ll slide down 707 feet of water slide at speeds up to 20 mph from a height of 55 feet
  • Must be at least 41 inches tall to ride
  • It will be the 10th water slide at Adventure Island

Ice Breaker at Sea World Orlando

SeaWorld Orlando - Ice Breaker - 1

Sea World Orlando also announced the addition of a a new roller coaster slated for opening early next year–a launch coaster called Ice Breaker.

It will feature four launches with the first launch taking you up a 93 foot spike at a tilted 100 degree angle. It will be in the Wild Arctic area of the park. Kids will also have to be at least 48 inches to ride this one too.

SeaWorld Orlando - Ice Breaker - 2

Laura Byrne
Laura Byrne
Laura Byrne is an award-winning former television news journalist who spent 15+ years in newsrooms across the state of Florida including Sarasota, Tallahassee, Fort Myers and right here in Tampa Bay where she still freelances on occasion. She covered the political beat, crime beat and every day breaking news during her time in Florida newsrooms, but is now focused on sharing positive news stories and events with families in Tampa Bay. She is a proud mommy of two little boys who keep her on her toes and laughing every day. Her goal is to inspire families just like yours to get out and play and experience all that Tampa Bay and our great state of Florida have to offer! She encourages you to share your stories and upcoming events so we can spread the good news.

Related Articles