It has essentially been open for the past week, but on Tuesday Busch Gardens made it official: The much-delayed Falcon's Fury drop ride is open.
"We know guests from around the world have been waiting to experience this one-of-a-kind thrill ride, and we are excited to officially invite those guests to ride Falcon's Fury," said Jim Dean, president of the Tampa theme park.
Originally set to open in early May, the ride and its surrounding themed area called Pantopia is estimated by industry analysts to cost $5 million to $6 million. But construction delays cost Busch Gardens the summer tourist season for the tallest drop ride in North America, one of the most anticipated new rides of the summer.
Busch Gardens' attendance was down 6 percent last year to 4.1 million, its largest annual decline since the recession in 2009. It was also the steepest decrease of any of the top 20 amusement parks in North America, according to the Themed Entertainment Association's annual report, considered the best independent tracker of theme park attendance.
Since Busch Gardens started allowing visitors on Falcon's Fury for unannounced hours the last two weeks, Twitter reviews have been hailing it as a scary thrill.
It's a ride that slowly lifts riders to a lofty 335 feet, then plops them face-down before a free-fall drop that takes 6 seconds.
Busch Gardens has said Falcon's Fury will be among the rides that will be open during Howl-O-Scream, its Halloween-themed separate ticket on select nights from Sept. 26-Nov. 1. General admission for Howl-O-Scream is $89 but deals can be found online at HowlOScream.com,
Busch Gardens single-day adult ticket is $95; children 3-9 is $90. For Florida residents that price gets you unlimited park admission through Dec. 31 at BuschGardensTampaBay.com.