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Cheetah Hunt Opens Today (May 27, 2011) at Busch Gardens Tampa

Cheetah Hunt Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is an innovative new coaster ride that celebrates the spirit of the cheetah. It opened May 27 and InPark Magazine was there. Martin Palicki, IPM editor and publisher, reports:
ONE barometer I frequently use to gauge an attraction’s success is by asking myself if I want to immediately ride again. Too simple of a ride and it’s not worth the effort, too complex and it may be more than my aging body can handle. In the case of Busch Gardens’ newest roller coaster – Cheetah Hunt – the answer is a resounding “Yes, may I please ride again?”


The park seems to have taken a page from Sea World’s Manta installation in creating a successful link between educational animal habitat and thrilling high-speed ride. The heart of the attraction takes over the old Clydesdale’s stomping grounds, and in fact the area is so well re-designed it was hard to figure out where I was at in the park, until I finally saw the edge of the old Sky Ride and Monorail building, which has now been repurposed as the loading station for Cheetah Hunt. (review continues below)
More Cheetah Hunt coverage from IPM Digital Edition:
The large station allows two trains to be loaded at once – five trains can be operated at once, each holding 16 guests, for an hourly throughput of 1,730. Trains slowly glide out of the station until they almost immediately hit the first LSM launch, a (relatively) slow shot out and around, which takes the train to the second and main launch. Rocketing to speeds as high as 60 mph (“zero to Cheetah”, as the park’s marketing describes it) the trains ascend a near vertical climb up the ride’s main tree-like tower (a bit of a misnomer, as cheetahs are not able to climb trees) for a short figure eight spin before dropping down into the main ride course.


At this point the coaster turns into a sort of out-n-back ride, cresting hills, twisting and turning. After a quick heartline inversion, the trains dive down into a canyon (formerly used for the back half of the technically-unreliable Rhino Rally attraction), darting quickly at ground level to avoid waterfalls and canyon walls. It’s surprisingly quick, and the low, tight quarters made it my favorite part of the ride.


One more launch awaits to send the train back over the final hill and through the last twists and turns into the station. And that’s when you start to realize you want to ride again.


ATTRACTION VERDICT:It is remarkably smooth and well-paced. The more extreme elements are buffered by just enough recovery time and open up the ride to a wide variety of park guests. Additionally, the restraints feel secure, and are comfortable too.

The ride sells itself. The main tower is visible as soon as you pull up to the park and the amount of terrain the ride covers guarantees you see the ride zooming by anytime you are remotely near the North side of the park. 

It’s more than a coaster. The designers cleverly created a ride that (at least on a rough, symbolic level) makes riders feel like they are a cheetah, teasing the track through tunnels, leaping over the park’s SkyRide and twisting quickly as one imagines the animal might chase its prey. The animal habitat also rounds out the whole experience, providing a light educational element, and giving guests an opportunity to get up close to the namesake creatures.


Cheetah Hunt opens today (May 27, 2011) at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida (www.buschgardens.com)
Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki owns and publishes InPark Magazine. Started in 2004, InPark Magazine provides owners and operators the perspective from "in"side the "park." Martin has also written for publications like Sound & Communications, Lighting & Sound America, Attractions Management and others. Martin has been featured in Time Magazine, CNN.com and Folio. Martin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

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