June 12, 2007
Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa will reopen roller coaster SheiKra — one of the country’s most well-known “dive” roller coasters — on Saturday with “floorless” cars allowing passengers to look straight down.
SheiKra — which travels at a maximum speed of 70 miles per hour — has been closed since May 29 for the changes. It brings riders 200 feet up and then 90 degrees straight down.
The floorless aspect gives riders an unobstructed view.
A “dive” coaster typically is built around a large drop, and cars there are multiple seats across.
In the case of SheiKra, the ride seats eight passengers across and three rows deep, but riders no longer will be able to brace themselves against the floor of the car.
SheiKra’s track will remain unchanged, with a combination of drops, inversions and a water feature finale.
With the front rail gone, passengers — particularly those in the first row — will be completely exposed as they come over the crest of the signature SheiKra plunge.
“The thrill level, in a sense, has been raised by the removal of certain elements,” said Gerard Hoeppner, senior director of communications for Busch Entertainment Corp.’s Florida operations, which oversees Busch Gardens in Tampa, as well as SeaWorld and Discovery Cove in Orlando.
Hoeppner said SheiKra — which first opened in May 2005 — now is in the testing mode, in preparation for Saturday’s reopening.
He declined to disclose the cost of the modifications.
Busch Gardens had 4.36 million visitors in 2006, up 1.5 percent from 2005 figures, according to estimates from TEA.