The weekend brought a surprise for some Busch Gardens visitors when the park quietly allowed riders on the new Falcon's Fury — a good sign the drop ride will officially open soon.
Several hundred visitors — and even the rock band All-American Rejects — on Saturday were the first non-employees to ride the long-awaited 335-foot drop tower ride that was originally scheduled to open in early May at the Tampa theme park.
Because of construction issues, the ride missed the busy summer vacation season, but park officials have promised it will open soon. Meanwhile, the weekend brought opportunities to try it out, sometimes called technical rehearsals in the industry.
The park is unlikely to announce the ride is open but if you check the hashtag #falconsfury on Twitter, people in the park and close watchers of the theme park scene will tweet out alerts of a soft opening, as @BGTfans.com did on Saturday. At about 4:30 p.m. Saturday, several rounds of guests rode it, then it was closed as technicians ran it for a time for tests, according to Twitter, and then it opened again for a short time.
The park later tweeted a picture of the band All-American Rejects, who were there to perform that night in the park's Summer Nights concert series, as they were getting ready to ride Falcon's Fury.
The ride is the tallest free-standing drop tower in North America. Riders are strapped into a row of open-air seats like a typical roller coaster. When riders reach the top, the seats rotate 90 degrees so the rider is face-down. A computer will randomize how long the rider waits, so there's no telling when it will actually drop. A five-second freefall with speeds reaching 60 mph is followed by a gradual braking, putting the rider back into the sitting position.
During employee testing of the ride last week, someone tweeted: "So I rode #FalconsFury at #buschgardens. Let's just say I saw my house from the top and I live 30 minutes away from there." Another tweeted, "Falcon's Fury is by far the scariest ride I've ever been on."
At about 12:30 p.m. Monday, Twitter was again aflutter with news of another soft opening, with no guarantees of how long it would stay open.