Finally the day has arrived, media day for one of the most anticipated coasters, by families at least, of 2012.
Following the signs we made our way into the parking lot.
If you look closely there is a rare image of Carol appearing in the mirror.
Gerta and Gunter Schwartzwald, the brother and sister team who virtually run the entire Oktoberfest village at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. We will learn more about them later.
Carl Lum, Park President offers his insights. "When I moved here a year and a half ago I was amazed about how much people talked about Big Bad Wolf. So I knew it was a big deal and whatever we put here to replace we really needed to think carefully through it and do a good job because the Big Bad Wolf was a big deal."
"One of the strengths of this park are the European countries so when we redesigned all the buildings here what’s important is that we stayed with the German theme. We tried to make sure we did a nice job with that and the ultimate compliment was when the ride manufacturer was here about three weeks ago they said “I feel like I am back in Germany. So that was pretty cool!"
Busch Gardens Creative Director, Brian Morrow began telling us Verbolten's back story, "The story starts in Oktoberfest, where that holiday is celebrated every day in Busch Gardens Virginia. Imagine yourself as a tourist in Germany, which is what Busch Gardens is about, immersing yourself in different cultures. One thing you always want to do when traveling abroad is see the countryside and rent a car. So that is where this all started was this car idea. We knew we wanted to do a car themed ride because cars are really sporty and fun. Everyone can relate to them because everyone drives cars."
Brian continued the tale "Gerta the operator of the visitor center where travelers can rent cars and Gunter operates the garage that supplies the cars. Gerta loves the people, loves the village, but she is very afraid of the Black Forest, and gives us lots of warnings to stay out of it."
"Gunter on the other hand, is obsessed with the Black Forest and he wants to protect it from people who think it’s evil and bad. He does a lot of work for the forest like pulling the personal belongings out of the cars reclaimed by the forest."
Two of the five trains that will concurrently operate on Verbolten.
Brian said, "Gunter makes a lot of his own equipment to monitor the forest and to explore the forest so what you see in the queue and in the station is the closed circuit television system that shows six individual story lines along with Gerta and Gunter. In the station are also view ports into Gunter’s greenhouse where his collection of plant specimens are overgrowing his office and the station."
Carl added, "We always want to do things to accommodate our guests with any type of disability but we also wanted to do that because when you design that the right way you get better throughput and more people can get on the ride. You don’t want to build a ride and then have a line that is three hours long to get on it. We can operate five trains concurrently on this ride. "
The train rolls out of the station into some swooping turns with undulating hills.
Here the train is rolling into position for the launch into the "Black Forest." Just inside the building there is a nice pop of air before you encounter a wide sweeping upward spiral where you are stopped for the "show."
Brian gave us some more details, "We are the first people to use the new ultraviolet strobe lights. They are LED black lights and these are directional and focus able, so we can control exactly what we want you to see. We can dim them and strobe them, and while there are other types of lights in there too these are the majority of them."
The second launch takes you out of the "Black Forest" where you encounter a bridge.
Again from Brian, "Of course it is the wrong bridge, ready to collapse, so you encounter the main drop, down to the lake." The Rhine River on the park map is really a lake and Larry offers his ideas. "What we try to do at Busch Gardens is to utilize the terrain when we design our rides to bring the coaster and have it follow the great terrain we have available to us instead of trying to force fit in into the park.
The train slows to a crawl on the bridge, to better heighten the anticipation and also allow the guests to better experience the "Creaking Timbers," before the big drop.
Larry Giles, Vice President of design and engineering said "That is part of what we try to do at Busch Gardens is utilize the terrain when we design our rides is to bring the coaster and have it follow the great terrain we have available to us instead of trying to force fit it.
There was a lot of genius in Big Bad Wolf, there’s no denying it. And one of our discussion points early on was could we really improve that final drop. The answer that came back was probably not. Why would we want to try, if we tried to make it better, might end up making it worse. It was such a great finish to a ride, let’s go ahead and do it. We made it ten feet taller to give you a little more airtime in the back seat which you will feel and it ended up being a nice finish for the ride."
Carl told us, "The footers are in what is called an environmentally protected area, a wetland in this case, and because environmental responsibility is very important to our company, as part of the design were purposely reused those footers. It didn’t save us much money but I thought it was important to minimize the impact in that wetlands area so we reused them."
Larry said, "We want people to ride rides, not wait in line and we know that with two-across seating we can load quickly and get the train out of the station very quickly. We figured with a flat floor we could unload and load much faster. We ended up with a sixteen passenger train, we originally wanted a smaller train but we could get to our capacity expectation that way."
One of the banked turns on Verbolten. The trains all have side mounted lap bars as ride restraints.
Carl said, "The nice thing about the queue is that there is an experience there with the office and we purposely put the line on the other side of the building so people could see the trains coming in and be entertained by that. We knew we wanted to make the queue experience interactive and entertaining. Brian also had an interesting observation, "I am really happy with the way the guests are understanding the story that we have woven here and their appreciation for the fact that all the family members can ride. Lots of kids can ride the attraction with their moms and dads. We feel it is a powerful imagination based attraction that turned out as thrilling as we hoped it would be."
As for our thoughts on Verbolten, join us for a ride!
Thanks to all the kind folks at Busch Gardens Europe for the opportunity to share the Verbolten experience with NPN readers!