Thursday, May 21, 2009

Scott And Carol Present - Manta Soars Over SeaWorld Orlando!

When the planning process for what was to become Manta was first started, many concepts were discussed in sort of a brain storming session. According to Brian Morrow, in charge of Guest Experience for SeaWorld Florida, "We looked at many things, but a couple of concepts kept rising to the surface. A flying coaster and another idea of an aquarium featuring rays worked well together. You can’t have one without the other. They seemed to mesh even better the farther we developed them. We used story boards and written narratives."

Gary Violetta, Aquarium Curator, offers his thoughts, "Leadership from corporate told us that each part of the attraction must stand along. The aquariums must alone as a positive guest experience, and it needs to be a great roller coaster also. We kept working on the concept from both a roller coaster and a biologist viewpoint. Eventually it sifted down to what our guests enjoy today."

Dan Brown, General Manger of all Worlds of Discovery Orland properties, says "We certainly didn’t foresee the economic conditions accompanying the opening of Manta, but this needs to be a big hit for us this summer. The early guest surveys tell us that this will be successful attraction for SeaWorld."

Brian takes pride in the seamless transition from the animal habitat and the coaster thrill ride. "We wanted to hide most of the coaster from the guests in the grotto. They can’t see how the trains operate up closed until they enter the station. It’s quiet and cool throughout the air conditioned queue. The lights and the music are designed to heighten apprehension before we show them the ride."

The coaster itself is a custom design from Bolliger and Mabillard. Remember the factory tour we presented before, some of those pieces were for Manta, and the blue hand rails shown in the picture now adorn this new jewel in SeaWorld. The coaster rises 140 feet above the lagoon, and riders accelerate to 56 mph during the 113 foot drop. According to Bill L, a member of American Coaster Enthusiasts, “This flying coaster has what other of its genre don’t, lots of close flybys with both water, trees, and supports. This increases the sensation of speed” As someone visits both coasts to ride coasters, this is very high praise. Centrally placed in the park, it won’t be long before peoples directions will include "opposite the water fall" and "just under the high turn". Riders will stare at the sky four times on Manta, and experience some strong G forces, especially at the back of the train in the loop. This pretzel loop is another first, as no other flying coaster actually travels through the loop.

To help these two sides of the same attraction coexist, some special attention to detail was taken during the design process. Gary says, "To reduce vibration everything was isolated. None of the coaster structure is attached to the habitat and we even used thicker acrylic than necessary to prevent the windows from fogging and reduce the stress on the fish. And what magnificent denizens they have in the animal habitat. Feeding and behavior are monitored to make sure they all stay healthy. We will soon move our holding tank upstairs to the second level to allow any of our stressed or ill charges to recover."

Approximately 300 different rays are in the 238,000 gallon tanks, which is totally filtered every 45 minutes. To name just a few of the aquatic citizens: a giant Pacific octopus, starfish, sea dragon, many varieties of other fish, and even some sea horses. The tanks are filtered continuously. Did we mention that we have never seen salt water filters incorporated into a roller coaster before? SeaWorld was asked to capture female freshwater rays from the wild to expand the gene pool for the captive breeding program under the auspices of the American Zoological Association. Even though it was more expensive, they did so for the betterment of all aquariums worldwide.

Whether rays actually swim inverted shall remain a temporary mystery until we get an answer from SeaWorld. We can attest that after being hypnotized by the rays for nearly thirty minutes, we never saw one upside down, though they seem to like sweeping banked turns. Any guests who pause and watch will feel their blood pressure lowering, this seemed to be a very intense experience, because even on the ride side of the tanks the sounds are muted, and there is very little talking.

Brian Morrow explains, "We wanted to have guests have two emotional experiences, one watching the flight of the rays underwater, and another simulating the flights themselves. This is so much bigger than a coaster. All of our guests can experience the first, and those over 54 inches can go on the ride." Gary Violetta concludes, "If each of our guests comes away with just one piece of conservation knowledge that they didn’t have before they came into the park, it will have been worthwhile."

World of Discovery parks all promote conservation and education about what everyone can do to promote a better environment. Setting an example by developing green technologies for use in amusement and theme parks, SeaWorld is developing using recycled materials for construction. LED lighting methods, on-site condensing boilers are just a few of the new techniques as the World of Discovery parks strive to approach a zero environmental impact. This is something for the rest of the amusement industry to watch as the technology progresses.

So there you have it. It has a great story with highs and lows that are both wet and dry and a strong message. Manta has something for everyone, and you don’t even have to ride it to enjoy it. Destined to become quite the entertainment attraction for the passing crowds, Manta has something for every one. So why are you are still reading this? Go to Orlando and jump in line. It’s air conditioned, has some great fish to see, the line moves quickly, and a great ride to end it all. You know where we will be when we go to SeaWorld.

Thanks to the wonderful folks at SeaWorld Orlando!