Florida Travel

What’s new at Busch Gardens: Cobra’s Curse spinning coaster

Cobra's Curse to open at Busch Gardens in Tampa

The new spinning roller coaster Cobra's Curse is expected to open at Busch Gardens in Tampa in Summer 2016.
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The new spinning roller coaster Cobra's Curse is expected to open at Busch Gardens in Tampa in Summer 2016.

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.