When SeaWorld Orlando unveiled plans last week for Manta, its mega roller coaster, park officials made one thing clear:
Manta won't be an attraction just for thrill seekers.
Yes, the "flying" coaster rises to a height of 140 feet and plummets riders facedown to within 5 inches of the water at nearly 60 mph. Yes, it will have four vertical loops.
But it also is designed with "swooping turns" to enhance the sensation of flight and to make for a smooth ride, says Joe Couceiro, chief marketing officer for SeaWorld's parent company, Busch Entertainment Corp.
"I tend to be a little bit of a wimp on roller coasters, but I think I can handle this one," he says. "I'll scream, but that's fine."
Manta's designer, the Swiss company Bolliger & Mabillard, is the creator of SheiKra and Montu (Busch Gardens) and Kraken (SeaWorld). The company has a reputation for coasters that push the envelope without giving riders a pounding.
"It is designed for you to have that sensation of . . . the rays as they glide and soar through the water," Couceiro says.
But that doesn't mean this Manta is as docile as its namesake.
"By no means is this going to be a tame ride," Couceiro says.
"There's some inversions here that when you're inverted, you'll be lying on your back looking up."
Oh, and if you don't like coasters? You won't have to ride Manta to see the exhibit of more than 300 live rays and 2,700 other fish in the floor-to-ceiling windows of the attraction.
Speaking of rays. Wouldn't Manta be a natural promotional tie-in with the Tampa Bay Rays?
"Now that we have something that makes total sense, we obviously may try to see if we can work together," Couceiro says. "I'm a huge baseball fan. If there's way to do it, we'll find a way of doing it."
Here are a few other notes from Orlando area parks:
• Downtown Disney West Side: La Nouba, the resident Cirque du Soleil show, is offering a discount for Florida residents through June 28. Category 2 tickets are $55 (child) and $69 (adult), which is 20 percent off regular prices. For more information, call (407) 939-7328.
• Disney's Hollywood Studios: The annual Star Wars Weekends begin Friday and run through June 29. The weekends (Fri. to Sun.) include Star Wars characters roaming the park, special activities and appearances by Star Wars celebrities. All are included with regular admission. For more information, go to
Peter Couture can be reached at