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New Busch Gardens coaster promises unique thrills

Date: Wednesday, October 27, 2004, 1:27pm EDT - Last Modified: Wednesday, October 27, 2004, 3:53pm EDT

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Busch Gardens Tampa Bay finally unveiled plans for its newest thrill ride Wednesday, following months of speculation about when and what the park has in store for roller coaster enthusiasts.

In May 2005, SheiKra will join the park as the first 90-degree coaster drop in North America.

It will send riders plummeting from a height of 200 feet and last approximately 230 seconds. In addition to the initial drop, the new dive coaster includes an Immelmann-style loop, a second drop into an underground tunnel and a final plunge through a water break. The loop is related to the style of an aeronautical maneuver and its founder.

Busch Gardens is banking on the ride to boost business at the Tampa attraction and has spent about five years finalizing the project.

Busch Gardens wanted to make the ride so unique people would have to visit, said Dan Brown, executive VP and GM of the park.

Brown declined to reveal how much Busch is spending on the ride.

However, the park has a substantial budget for what is going to "move the needle" and this is the time to go after the thrill, he said.

Switzerland-based Bolliger & Mabillard was hired to manufacture SheiKra and signed an exclusive deal with Busch to guarantee the coaster will not be duplicated for several years.

SheiKra will be accompanied by a new themed habitat within the park's Stanleyville area. The theme is modeled after an abandoned African civilization with jungle foliage and a 500-seat indoor/outdoor restaurant situated on the coaster's perimeter.

About half of the coaster's foundation is completed, and SheiKra is expected to open following months testing in spring of next year.

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