Monday, February 19, 2018
Travel

Busch Gardens' Falcon's Fury delayed until later this summer

TAMPA — Thrill seekers eager to ride Falcon's Fury at Busch Gardens will have to wait a bit longer.

Park officials said Wednesday that the opening of the drop tower ride will be delayed until "later this summer." No specific date was given.

"Due to a delay in the fabrication of key component parts, neither the manufacturer nor Busch Gardens are able to complete the lengthy testing processes needed to open the ride to the public," Busch Gardens spokesman Travis Claytor said in a statement.

The highly anticipated 335-foot drop tower ride was supposed to open May 1 but was postponed because of construction issues.

Officials haven't elaborated on the reasons, and on Wednesday didn't specify which parts were involved. The ride has operated safely during initial stages of testing, Claytor said.

"The safety of our guests and team members remains Busch Gardens' top priority, and none of these delays involve safety systems," he said.

The extended delay of Falcon's Fury comes about a week after Busch Gardens bumped up a full-price adult ticket by $3 to $95. Admission for children is $90.

It also puts Busch Gardens at a disadvantage over other area theme parks gearing up for the busy summer season with new attractions. On Wednesday, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train officially opened at Disney's Magic Kingdom. Harry Potter's Diagon Alley is expected to open in the next month at Universal Studios.

Falcon's Fury has been in the works for years and involves design elements that have never been used in a theme park. As riders reach the top of the tower, the seats tilt 90 degrees forward, sending guests face down at speeds of up to 60 mph, much like its bird of prey namesake.

Construction on Falcon's Fury, the tallest freestanding drop tower in North America, started about a year ago. The actual tower is made up of 12-foot-diameter pieces made in Spain. Other parts came from Germany, Slovakia and Switzerland.

Falcon's Fury is the park's most significant thrill ride addition since the Cheetah Hunt opened in May 2011 and the centerpiece of Busch Gardens' newly imagined land called Pantopia, formerly Timbuktu. The section opened on schedule May 1 and includes new restaurants and shops.

Dennis Speigel, a theme park analyst and head of International Theme Park Services Inc., estimated the ride cost $5 million to $6 million.

Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne contributed to this report.

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