When Busch Gardens Tampa opened in 1959, it was used primarily as a hospitality center for the massive Anheuser-Busch brewery that was once on site. It was such a success, and draw that when Busch went to open another brewery in VA, it was pretty much insisted that another Busch Gardens be built to draw tourists into the area. While the two parks share completely different themes, over the years, they have shared very similar rides. Over the next few weeks I’ll be taking a look at the different coasters through the years that have been very similar, most of the time with very different results.
The next in our series are actually made by the same company, and are in fact “clones” (sisters if you’re against cloning) of each other. Once again, these two coasters were opened just a year apart from each other, and while they are the same style of coaster made by the same company Alpengeist and Montu couldn’t be more different from each other.
With the success of the last Bolliger and Mabillard (B&M) coaster, Kumba, at Busch Gardens Tampa the company was quickly hired to make the centerpiece of the park’s largest expansion to date. It wasn’t enough to have just a coaster as many other parks would do, it had to be a complete and unique experience. In 1996 BGT became the home of Egypt, a seven acre themed area that replicated a dig around the Egyptian pyramids. The area featured tents and booths inspired by the Bedouin bazaars of Egypt. There is also a Tut’s Tomb exhibit featuring relics from the times of the ancient Pharoahs.
Even the coaster, who’s name was taken from the Egyptian God of War, has a distinctly Egyptian theme. In the story of the coaster, the excavation nearby has enraged the God and he unleashes his rage on the visitors by going on a rampage through air and underground excavation sites. Aside from the themeing the coaster was (and is) one of the fiercest unrelenting coasters in operation. It was the tallest, and longest inverted coaster and featured all new moves never before seen on an inverted coaster. The coaster featured the first ever “Immelman” diving loop on an inverted coaster, and the largest Batwing at the time. To make the feel more authentic, the coaster even had Nile Crocodiles as you exited the station. Some say that they grew to large and because of their sensitive ears became very agitated as the riders rolled overhead. There were some reports (our tour guide on the Roller Coaster Insider Tour) that says there was one instance where the crocs, who are known for their jumping abilities, were lunging at riders and almost got the foot of someone on the coaster. Seems unlikely, but what is likely is that the extreme noise levels were proving too stressing for the animals, and seeing that BGT keeps the animals safety and well being first, moved them to a more comfortable area.
After seeing the success first of Kumba then of Alpengeist, Busch Gardens Virginia decided to part from long time coaster partner Arrow Dynamics and go instead with B&M for their new project “Alpengeist” which would be the centerpiece of the Rhineland Germany area of the park. Unlike Montu, “Alpie” (as it’s affectionately called) shared proximity with another coaster, the now legendary Loch Ness Monster. While not right on top of it, they are in closer proximity than any two coasters in Busch Tampa.
The area is themed to a mountain ski resort in which everything is going crazy. The reason why it’s going crazy? Alpengeist, which translates to “Ghost of the Alps” is wreaking havoc all over the ski resort. When it opened Alpengeist broke the record for height and speed on an inverted coaster, previously held by Montu. But many people point out that it’s not your typical B&M as it doesn’t have the signature roar, and it’s a bit shakier than most. This is perhaps because of the controversy around the coaster as it was built.
Just outside of the park is the residential area of Kings Mill. It’s a very high end neighborhood that was built when the park was built, as part of the brewery. However, when the park was built it didn’t have all the coasters it does now. To squash complaints of noise that the park was already getting from Big Bad Wolf, and Drachen Fire, engineers decided to squash that signature B&M roar by putting sound dampening agents in the supports and rails of the coaster. To get around height restrictions the coaster was built in a sunken area of the park. To further keep the noise contained it was surrounded by trees and shrubs. While it gives it several great natural leg choppers, it takes away from the openness and soaring feeling you get from a coaster like Montu. Still you rampage away through chasms, over a bridge and through a ski lift giving the coaster several near miss chances.
While Alpie did break the record for height and speed, it did not grab the record for most inversions on an inverted coaster. That record is still held by Montu. Overall consensus is that while Alpie gives you the most fun with all the props and leg choppers, Montu is still the better ride as it is smoother and gives you that signature B&M ride. But Montu was never in a Pepsi Commercial.
For more information about Montu at Busch Gardens Tampa, visit their official site.
For more information about Alpengeist at Busch Gardens Virginia, visit their official site.
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