American Coaster Enthusiasts Day at Busch Gardens

The Florida Region of American Coaster Enthusiasts hosted an event Saturday at Busch Gardens Tampa. Dozens of ACE members were in Central Florida last week for the big IAAPA amusement park trade show. (ACE is a member of IAAPA.)

Above is the ticketing for the event. Included with registration was a snack coupon, meal ticket, raffle coupon, and a Quick Queue pass to bypass the lines at the major attractions. Participants also got an special coupon later for an additional bump into the Cheetah Hunt queue.

ACE arranges regional and national events like this throughout the U..S all year long. Here’s a look at what the events are like.

109 ACE members from across the U.S. and three countries gathered before Busch Gardens opened to regular guests.

The Florida Region ACE Representative welcomed us, and motioned us inside to ride the new Cheetah Hunt roller coaster, seen towering in the background.

ACE members entered with either their own annual pass, or with a single-day group ticket included in the registration packet.

Group registration is a very affordable way to enjoy the parks. For an event next year at Dollywood in Tennessee, the group price on season passes is so good that ACE members will receive a Dollywood season pass with their event registration.

The first event of the day was an Extended Ride Time, or ERT, on Cheetah Hunt.

ERT allows event participants the opportunity to ride roller coasters repeatedly before or after a park opens. Sometimes the events are over multiple days, and the total hours of ERT add up to 15 or more hours of ride time before or after park open.

A train fully-loaded with ACE members is ready for launch. This was the first ride for many of the participants. And for the Florida region members, a chance to enjoy the coaster with friends.

Here we go! Out of the station into the fan turn.

Up into the elevated figure-8, and then immediately back down the big drop.

And over the cables of the skyway ride! In the background is the unique, elevated figure-8, and a train returning to the station.

Cheetah Hunt is a low-profile, ground-hugging coaster. It literally is over the river and through the woods.

Return to the station, while in the background, another train speeds out.

After exiting the train, and requeueing, ACE members could reboard and ride again and again before the regular guests flooded the queue to join the fun.

After the park opened, the group had a couple of hours of free time in the park to ride the other great coasters at Busch Gardens. At 11 a.m., ACE members gathered for a group photo near the Gwazi wooden roller coaster.

The ACE members then entered the Gwazi pavilion, a special events and group facility.

Busch Gardens offered a delicious all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet lunch.

During this time, a raffle was held, with about 15 door prizes donated by Busch Gardens. Among the items given away were small sections of the floor to Sheikra — the coaster changed to floorless awhile back. Busch Gardens also donated surprise bags to the raffle, with five different surprise items in each bag.

Mark Rose, Busch Garden vice president of Design and Engineering joined the group after lunch, on his day off. He is often seen on the Travel Channel talking about Busch Gardens roller coasters. He was a great speaker, a terrific story teller, and told us how Cheetah Hunt was designed over six years. What we see today is about the 50th iteration of the concept. Mark also answered questions about how Busch Gardens develops its roller coasters.

Among the facts he shared about Cheetah Hunt are:

– The second floor, or loading platform floor, is 18 inches taller than the original floor when the building was a monorail station. To do this, they layered in 15 inches of styrofoam, then added three inches of concrete on top.

– Large amounts of heat are generated with each launch. The stators for the launch need to be cooled. Each stator is cooled with glycol refrigerant. There are three launches in Cheetah Hunt. The third launch is near Rhino Rally and has a 70-ton refrigeration plant dedicated to keep it cool.

– When Kumba opened in the 1990s, it took only 114 days for it to pay off. The coaster was such an immediate success that work on Montu started just 30 days after Kumba opened.

Mark Rose did not say what it would be – no official announcement has been made yet – but an attraction is in the works to open at 9 a.m. on May 23, 2013.

Stay tuned … Orlando Attractions Magazine will be there to cover the opening day.


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  1. It was also my very first Roller Coaster way back when I was 4, in 1984. From then until recently, I haven’t been back since. This August, I vieitsd my sister in Norfolk and got season passes. Durring the trip I went two days. The lines were very long for this coaster. The first day I got one ride. A week later I went again, and was able to get two more rides, including a front seat night ride. My first ride was its first year, my last ride was its last year.