The roller coasters at this Tampa theme park generally don’t have stories the way rides at Disney and Universal do. They’re straightforward ride ’em and scream coasters with a wide variety of designs, from inverted coaster to dive coaster to launch coaster. But the park’s newest coaster, getting its finishing touches before a summer opening, comes with a story.
Cobra’s Curse is about the legend of the Snake King, a once-benevolent ruler who became obsessed with his power and betrayed his subjects, who then broke his statue into pieces. Thousands of years later, a team of archaeologists unearthed the statue and unleashed a curse that will bring the Snake King back to power and spin the world into a frenzy.
The setting for the ride is an archaeological excavation where the head of the cobra statue has been hoisted upright with a series of pulleys and supports. It stands 80 feet tall. More pieces of the snake are nearby, and down in the park’s first air-conditioned queue — rebuilt from the former walk-through King Tut attraction — is a glassed-in snake habitat housing four species of venomous snakes.
A 400-cubic-foot snake exhibit in the Cobra’s Curse queue will hold four varieties of venomous smakes — Jameson’s mambas, Angolan pythons and rhinoceros and gaboon vipers — but no cobras.
The design of the coaster is inspired by the snake’s S shape, said Mark Rose, Busch Gardens’ vice president for design and engineering. And the spinning curse is built in.
Rose described the ride during a tour of the construction site: The ride car drives onto an open elevator platform and is lifted 70 feet straight up — right at the level of the cobra’s fangs — then moves forward. The track is banked to the outside, tilting the riders a little closer to those 4-foot-long fangs.
The car is facing forward, but suddenly it turns 180 degrees, and now people are riding backwards. A little further along, a locking mechanism releases the car, and it spins like Disney’s teacups, still running forward along the track.
A spin coaster can be more terrifying to someone with a sensitive stomach than the 200-foot, 90-degree plunge on nearby SheiKra. Maximum speed is 40 miles an hour; most of the park’s coasters top out at 60 mph. The car never turns upside down. Busch Gardens calls it a family coaster — minimum height to ride is a relatively small 42 inches, which will let in a lot of 4- and 5-year-olds.
Cobra’s Curse is due to open this summer. A specific date has not been announced.