Friday, December 19, 2014

The End of Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa?

© Google
There have been rumors swirling for some time now that Gwazi's days at Busch Gardens Tampa are numbered.  It seems the recently announced cost-cutting measures at the SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment properties may have accelerated the plan to take the pair of wooden roller coasters into retirement.

The news was broken today by Screamscape, which reported in the morning that they had received word that Gwazi would be closing February 1st, and later in the day confirmed that news with Busch Gardens Tampa.  The final date of operation may change, according to Screamscape, with an official announcement from the park forthcoming.

Gwazi, consisting of a Lion and Tiger side, opened in 1999 as one of Great Coasters International's largest projects to date.  The pair of wood coasters dueled throughout the ride, including first drops that pass one another and other moments of interaction between the trains.  The ride was never known for being smooth, and seemed to deteriorate over the seasons.

© Great Coasters International
Millennium Flyer trains replaced the coasters' original PTC trains in 2011, which made some improvement - but apparently not enough for the park.  Some time in 2012 the Tiger track was closed (in hindsight for good) with the loading station covered for access to the Lion track boarding area.  The ride operated only one side since, limping along until what was predicted to be an eventual permanent closure.  And that turned out to be right on the spot.  The ride's maintenance, size, Florida's weather - there were a lot of contributing factors to Gwazi's demise it seems.

Screamscape's story points out that it may be some time until the rides are demolished, and as you can see in the aerial above they cover a lot of real estate at the theme park.  Hopefully when the storm clouds eventually leave SeaWorlds Parks something amazing can take the ride's place.