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Universal Studios Florida delays new ride till summer

Universal Studios Florida has stalled the opening of its Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit a few months until the summer for what is shaping up as a coaster war with Manta, Florida's first "flying coaster" that opens May 22 at SeaWorld.

Universal was mum about the exact reasons for the delay, but detailed the first-of-its-kind features in its unusual German-designed thrill ride.

"It's the most sophisticated coaster we've ever created," said spokesman Tom Schroder. "So we want to be sure we get it right."

With attendance slumping through the spring, all Central Florida theme parks are pulling out discounts and counting on new attractions to draw more locals through a summer with fewer out-of-state vacationers.

The ride, with a top speed of 65 miles per hour, has 3,800 feet of track stretching from Universal's New York Street to the front gate and actually barrels through a hole in a building facade beyond it. The new pint-size, two-car, 12-passenger trains — called X-cars — are far more maneuverable than bigger coaster cousins and can flip, twist and turn in much less space.

The signature move is a non-inverted loop. That means the train runs around a 103-foot tall loop, starting on the inside of the curve, then twists 180 degrees on the way up and back down. The train soars over the top of the loop, so riders are never upside down, but are subjected to changes in centrifugal force.

The track also runs through a massive musical treble clef, flies over the ride queue at a 95-degree angle to the ground and does a spiraling negative-gravity roll that is designed to feel like a corkscrew without actually going upside down.

In a bit of one-upmanship with the Aerosmith soundtrack piped into cars at the Hollywood Rock 'n' Rollercoaster at Walt Disney World, Universal will offer riders a choice of 30 rock tunes for the experience. Each rider also will be offered a DVD recording of his or her personal experience on the ride set to music for a price not yet disclosed.

At SeaWorld, Manta is a steel coaster designed to look like a school of manta rays. Riders are suspended facedown in a prone position through multiple loops.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Universal Studios Florida delays new ride till summer 04/22/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 11:13pm]

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