Busch Gardens Tampa Bay just unveiled its ninth and newest roller coaster, Tigris, coming in 2019. The coaster will be a Sky Rocket II model manufactured by Premier Rides. It will stand at 150 feet tall, and will feature three launches, an inversion, a non-inverting loop and a station fly-by with a top speed of 62 mph. Tigris marks Premier’s ninth installment of the Sky Rocket II design, and the third within the SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment (SEAS) chain. The first opened as Tempesto at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in 2015, and the latest debuted this summer at SeaWorld San Diego as Electric Eel.
While touring around California this summer, I was lucky enough to take a ride on Electric Eel, just weeks after it opened. This coaster packs an impressive series of elements into a relatively small footprint. As a result, it operates with just one train in the circuit at a time.
First up on the itinerary is a forward launch out of the station, which sends you just about a third of the way up the first hill. I found this launch to be fairly forceful and leaves no delay in getting right into the action. The train loses its forward momentum and begins to roll back downhill towards the station and into the second, backwards launch. This time accelerating you slightly faster and offering some unusual hangtime for riders towards the back as the train stalls once more.
Next, the train starts to roll forward into the final and fastest launch through the station, granting riders an unusual experience as they fly through the station at 62 mph. This brings the train to the crest of the first hill, almost stalling out entirely. Front row riders may feel some airtime here, a rarity in the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay lineup. The train slowly banks to the right as it crawls into the only inversion, an inline twist. This dangles riders at the coasters peek, 150 feet up, making this easily my favorite element of the ride.
The train then starts its dive into a non-inverting loop, similar to that of Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios Florida. I found this element to work really well on this coaster in part thanks to how quickly the train navigates it. Finally, the train makes its final descent into the station for one more fly-by, rolling back once more and centering itself in the station.
When planning my visit to SeaWorld San Diego, I decided to head straight to Electric Eel after park opening to avoid the long lines I knew it would yield. I ended up queueing for about 15 minutes until I reached the station. Here, guests were entertained by the roar of the train and it’s passengers as it launched back and forth through the station. Because this coaster can only accommodate one train, guests must wait in the station longer than most other coasters which only helps build anticipation.
When the airgates open, guests navigate perhaps the most confined coaster trains out there, until they reach their seats where they are greeted by what SEAS calls the “comfort collar”. This is a padded rubber restraint that goes over the rider’s shoulders, and buckles into the lap bar. This all compounds into a quite difficult loading process, even for the smallest of riders. Once seated however, the trains are comfortable and the comfort collar takes away little from the ride experience.
I figured the already-low theoretical capacity in combination with the slow loading process would spell long wait times, which turned out being far from the reality. Luckily, it seems that SEAS has realized these could be issues and has put processes in place to ensure wait times stay as low as possible. Ride operators collected loose articles in baskets from riders already on board the train, and trains were dispatched as quickly as possible. This kept wait times for Electric Eel around 30 minutes throughout the day, quite impressive for a brand new coaster. Hopefully Busch Gardens Tampa operations will do the same for Tigris.
When rumors started to circulate that Busch Gardens Tampa would be receiving a Skyrocket II, I was somewhat disappointed to hear my home park wouldn’t be receiving another unique coaster that the Busch parks are known for. However, after experiencing the surprising punch and unique ride experience that Electric Eel delivers, I’m excited for the announcement of Tigris. While I don’t think Tigris will be dethroning Busch Gardens fan-favorites Montu, Kumba or Cheetah Hunt, it certainly will be a nice addition to the park’s collection of coasters and fills out the lineup nicely.
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