Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

History

Busch Gardens, located at the $37 million home of Anheuser-Busch Inc. in Tampa, has blossomed into one of the nation's most popular tourist meccas, attracting more than 3 million visitors annually. And in the 1960's was Florida's No. 1 attraction, Busch Gardens has undergone several expansion programs and today stands as a singular example of industrial promotion, Also formerly known as “Busch Gardens Africa” and “Busch Gardens: The Dark Continent”, Busch Gardens Tampa is an African-themed park owned / operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. This theme park is one of the many popular parks hosted in central Florida and has 18 rides, featuring 8 roller coasters and 2 water rides amongst other rides and animal attractions. Busch Gardens Tampa is owned and operated by

and is their 2nd largest park in terms of attendance behind

.

 

History

1959

  • March 31st, 1959 - Busch Gardens Tampa opened as a free attraction featuring tours of the Anheuser-Busch brewing facility, lavishly-landscaped tropical garden where more than 1400 rare and colorful birds make their home. Many of the birds — notably macaws and cockatoos — had been taught to perform each day. They were also free to roam in the large enclosure they lived in as well as interact with the guest as they still do. The park attracted visitors from every state in the union and numerous foreign countries, and the “Stairway to the stars” rising 86 feet up escalator that took guests to the roof of the building over a reflecting pool below. Stairway to the Stars was often listed as a separate attraction in early maps and brochures.

1962

  • March 1 – Patsy, a female chimpanzee in Myombe Reserve, is born.

 

I1965

  • the park was expanded to include a vast, 70 acre, enclosure that animals could freely roam in. This enclosure was named the “Serengeti Plain” and became the largest free-roaming enclosed habitat outside of Africa. To allow the guests to see the animals a monorail was added, leading to Busch Gardens adopting the motto, “where people are caged and animals run free.” People enjoyed this new concept of a zoo and Busch Gardens became the number one tourist attraction in Florida by 1968, attracting three million visitors a year.

 

1967  

  • the company had 278 acres under development in Tampa including a Wild Animal Kingdom, a $1.3 million Swiss restaurant and a 7000-foot-long monorail second in length only to the one operated at Disneyland. So successful have the Tampa Gardens been that Anheuser-Busch has created a similar attraction at its Los Angeles Brewery and a third tourist center is on the drawing boards for the company's new plant at Houston. The Tampa Gardens, which have drawn as many as 42,000 visitors in a single day, is divided into two sections, east and west of the brewery. The western section is landscaped with 100,000 flowers and 150,000 trees and shrubs which provide a lush green backdrop for the brilliantly plumed birds and flocks of flamingos that freely roam the Gardens. Also located in this section are the Adolphus Busch Space Frame, a golden geodesic dome housing storks, cranes and other large birds, and the Dwarf Village's enchanting storybook lanes amid a forest background where charming figurines imported from Germany make their homes. and the park would stay open from 9am to dusk monday to friday. Focal point of the Gardens is the Hospitality House which overlooks one of three connecting lagoons that wind through the Gardens and is constructed with heptagonal roof. The newest section of the Gardens is the Wild Animal Kingdom, part of the $4 million expansion program. This section consists of the Old Swiss House Restaurant, monorail and 230 landscaped acres of plains, rivers and hills. On these grounds, sizeable herds of wild animals roam free. Many of the animals that lived there were brought from Africa where encroachment of civilization threatens their continued existence. There are numerous gazelle, sheep, goats and antelope. Wildebeest, Eland, Gemsbok, Springbok, Cape Hartebeest, Nyala, Sitatunga, Beisa, Oryx, Uganda Kob and Lady Gray's Waterbuck, plus numerous related species also are present. The more commonly known animals such as giraffe, Arabian camels, zebras, rhinocerous, elephants, hippopotamus, cheetahs, lions, gorillas and chimpanzees, plus flocks of African birds also make their homes in the Kingdom. The Wild Animal Kingdom is viewed from the monorail tour, another unusual feature of the Busch Gardens Zoological Park since the animals are at large and the visitors "caged" in the comfort and safety of their skyrail cars. The $1.3 million monorail is a suspended system similar to that operated by the New York World's Fair and includes 12 air conditioned cars with on-board sound system. The monorail transports visitors from the Skyrail Station located between the Old Swiss House Restaurant and the brewery, to Gorilla Island, over the "Congo River," past the lion moat to Goat Mountain, "Lake Victoria," the rhino display and the elephant compound. It climbs to a maximum height of three stories. There also is a trackless train which operates continuously between the Old Swiss House and the Gardens exit.

 

1970

  • Spring 1970 - the start of Parking / Admission fees were formed parking was listed $1 and $1.50 for trailers and $2 for buses and Admission fees started at 50 cents for kids and $1.25 for adults . Busch gardens would go on to shift prices and park hours as time went on. In Summer, A new area (Boma) that housed 13 species of nocturnal animals opened for guests to view.

1973

  • Opened the first attraction Stanley Falls Flume the arrow development flume was believed to have the first Spillway Drop. December that year attendance for the month reported at 128,000. Lower than the previous December, it is blamed on three days of rain following Christmas.

1974

  • A skyride was added to the park giving the passengers get a bird's-eye view of several attractions at the park Manufactured by Von Roll the ride lasts around 6mins.

1975

  • May 24-26th, 1975 - Busch Gardens celebrates Memorial Day Weekend with two daily concerts at Stanleyville Theater featuring The Southern Gentleman, Sonny James, and the Hee Haw Twins, the Hagers.

1976

  • July 1st, 1976 - Busch Gardens opens its first roller coaster, “Python”; A steel coaster built by Arrow Development with a height of 70 ft (21 m), a speed of 50 mph (80 km/h), and 2 inversionswhich was a clone of Knott's Berry Farms defunct Corkscrew roller coaster (which now operates at Silverwood amusement park in Athol, Idaho). The ride began when the train exited the station into a short 180-degree turn and up the 70-foot-tall (21 m) lift hill. Once at the top, the train dipped into a banked turn and down the first drop, which gave a sensation of airtime. Following the drop, the train then ascended a small hill and into a turn, followed by its double corkscrew element. Following the signature double corkscrew element, the train then went through another 180-degree turn, entered the final brake run and returned to the station.

1977

  • July 26th, 1977 - Congo area officially opens, including new Claw Island (Tiger exhibit), African Queen Boat Ride a boat ride (similar to Disney's Jungle Cruise attraction) located in what is Tanganyika Tidal Wave today, and Swinging Vines a wave swinger flat ride that swings its riders around in a circle attraction, along with Python that opened in previous year.

1979

  • February, 1979 - Admission listed at $7.80. Annual attendance estimated at 2.5 million guests. Busch Gardens Tampa announces “Timbuktu” expansion and the grand opening of sister park Adventure Island (Water park)

1980

  • January 25th, 1980 - Busch expanded again in 1980, spending $18 million to build Timbuktu

 

  • April 1980 - Busch Gardens is listed as “Busch Gardens: The Dark Continent”

 

  • May 16th, 1980 - “Scorpion”, A steel looping coaster the ride was designed by Anton Schwarzkopf as one of his Silverarrow model looping coasters. Only three of these exist,it stands at a height of 60.7 ft (18.5 m),  a speed of 41 mph (66 km/h), and 1 inversion, and it's much longer than Python. This ride is also one of relative few coasters that are looping but only have lap bars at that time. Daily admission cost $9.35 per person towards the start of the year, with children under 3 free. By the end of the year, admission was listed at $10.50, per person, with children under 3 free. Annual passes available for $25

1981

  • June 15th, 1981 - “Zoo Camp”, a one-week sessions for children ages 5 to 15 from 8 a.m. to noon starts. Fee is $70.

 

  • August, 1981 - A total of 44 animal births are reported.

 

  • On September 22, 1981, the Tampa City Council granted a Development Order (Ordinance No. 7771-A) to Busch Entertainment Corporation for an expansion to the existing entertainment park consisting of a 400-room hotel, an administrative center and additional attractions

1982

  • January 17th - February 1st,  1982 - Well known Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales visit park with appearances from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

 

  • February, 1982 - Annual passes are listed for $35.

 

  • May 26th, 1982 -  “Congo River Rapids”, A river rapids ride by Intamin opens.

1983

  • April, 1983 - Births at the park during the month include 15 mammals and 82 birds, bringing the year to date totals to 76 mammals and 159 birds 1986

  • September, 1986 - Busch Gardens ranked the third most popular tourist attraction in Florida, behind Walt Disney World and SeaWorld Orlando.

1984

  • A swinging boat ride called Phoenix that goes completely upside down. The Looping Starship is an amusement ride manufactured by Intamin of Switzerland. The ride is a swinging ship that can spin a complete 360-degree revolution. It is themed like an Egyptian cargo vessel.

1986

  • January 25 – SimSim, a male gorilla, is born at Yerkes Primate Center. He was moved to Busch Gardens’ Myombe Reserve in 1992.

  • September – Busch Gardens ranked the third most popular tourist attraction in Florida, behind Walt Disney World and SeaWorld

1988

  • Monorail trains upgraded to new “futuristic” look with air conditioning

1989

  • 1989 - “Tanganyika Tidal Wave” opens. (replaced African Queen Boat Ride)

1992

  • June 17th, 1992 - Myombe Reserve officially opens to guests.

1993

  • April 21st, 1993 - “Kumba”, A record-breaking Steel congo themed coaster by Bolliger & Mabillard that has a height of 143 ft (44m), a speed of 60 mph (97 km/h) making it the Tallest, Fastest, and longest roller coaster in Florida and 7 inversions including its famous interlocking corkscrews and the World’s tallest vertical loop officially opens, Kumba Corkscrews has to be one of the most famous elements on any coaster featuring in many travel books and tv adsThe block sections in the track only allow for three trains to be on the track at any one time, meaning the ride can still operate at full capacity when one train is receiving maintenance. Under three train operation, the ride caters for 1,700 riders per hour. The name Kumba was derived from the translation of "Roar" in the African Kongo Language. This is a nod to the loud roaring sound of the trains running on the track, which does not have sand to dampen the noise. The opening of Kumba had a significant impact on park attendance figures. In its debut year, park attendance increased approximately 15% to an estimated 3.8 million visitors.

      (Note: Records were broken in its time, most likely will not hold these records today)

1995

  • December 21st, 1995 - Anheuser-Busch Brewery closes.

1996

  • May 16th, 1996 - After the success of Kumba, Busch Gardens opens its second coaster “Montu”; A steel-inverted Egyptian themed coaster by Bolliger & Mabillard that has a height of 150 ft (46 m), a speed of 65 mph (105 km/h), and 7 inversions opens When the ride opened it was the world's tallest and fastest inverted roller coaster and was a game changer for Busch Gardens with nearby Seaworld also opening roller coasters. 

1997

1998​

  •  Busch Gardens Tampa was nominated for best landscaping in 1998 in the Amusement Today awards, finishing joint second with Walt Disney World.

1999

  • June 18th, 1999 - “Gwazi”, A wooden Due to the Philadelphia Toboggan Company designed trains and other aspects, which have been known to deliver considerably rough rides on Great Coasters International designed wooden coasters, Gwazi was well known for giving rough ride experiences to park visitors which was a constant problem plaguing the ride since the park first opened Gwazi.At the beginning of the 2010 season, Gwazi was spotted with what appeared to be Millennium Flyer trains on the track, with water dummies on board. In 2011, the ride's original "old" Philadelphia Toboggan Company's trains were subsequently removed and replaced with Great Coasters International's Millennium Flyer trains in efforts to try and improve what little smoothness Gwazi had, and to try and fix the ride from its notorious roughness dueling coaster constructed by Great Coasters International and operated by Philadelphia Toboggan Company with a height of 105.4 ft (32.1 m), a speed of 51 mph (82.1 km/h) on both sides. The sides were commonly notated as “Blue Tiger” and “Yellow Lion”.

2001

  • BGT add a fun card in 2001 and 2002 which entitled Florida residents to unlimited admission until the end of 2000/2001 for the price of a single day admission around $46. This only included park entrance has a result visitors numbers topped 5 million 28% up from 1999.

2002

  • June 12th, 2002 - Busch Gardens introduces a “rain guarantee” where guests may receive second day’s admission if rain interrupts their visit.

2005

  • May 21st, 2005 - “SheiKra”, A Steel dive coaster by Bolliger & Mabillard with a height of 200 ft (61 m), a speed of 70 mph (110 km/h), and 1 inversion officially opens.

[ Records Broken] (Note: Records broken in its time, most likely will not hold these records today)

  • First dive coaster in North America

  • Longest, Tallest, and Fastest dive coaster

2006

  • October 21st, 2006 - “Python” closes permanently as part of the project to create a new section of the park named “Jungala”.

 

  • November 2006 - Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Busch Gardens Tampa are voted Best Overall Theme Parks in the country. (Also won Best Roller Coaster, Best Midway games, and Best Hang-Out categories)

2007

  • June 16th, 2007 - SheiKra reopens from a short refurbishment to install new floorless trains and station modifications to accommodate them.

2008

  • April 5th 2008 - “Jungala” section officially opens.

2010

  • March 27th, 2010 - Sesame Street Safari of Fun (Formerly Land of the Dragons), which now includes “Air Grover”, A steel kiddie coaster by Zierer with a height of 24 ft (7.3 m) and a speed of 26.5 mph (42.6 km/h) officially opens.

 

  • June 14th, 2010 - “Walkabout Way”, A Kangaroo petting zoo, opens

 

  • October 13th, 2010 - “Cheetah Hunt” and the cheetah exhibit alongside it “Cheetah Run” is announced.

2011

  • March 31st, 2011 - Busch Gardens received accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA)

 

  • May 27th, 2011 - “Cheetah Hunt”, A steel launched roller coaster by Intamin with a height of 102 ft (31m), a speed of 60 mph (97 km/h), and 1 inversion is officially opened.

2012

  • January 23rd, 2012 - Animal Care Center, where guests and watch live surgeries on animals and more officially opens.

2013

  • October 5th, 2013 - “The Wildlife Docs”, a television series filmed mainly at the park including many scenes from the Animal Care Center, debuts on most ABC stations around the country.

2014

  • May 2nd, 2014 - Heavy rains cause flooding and force the park to remain closed for the day. Several attractions including Cheetah Hunt and Scorpion are affected. Most damage was cleaned up and repaired before opening the next day, although Scorpion and portions of parking lots C and D remained closed through the weekend.

 

  • August 16th, 2014 - “Falcon’s Fury” “soft opens” to guests for the very first time, following several days of successful employee previews.

[ Records Broken] (Note: Records broken in its time, most likely will not hold these records today)

  • North America’s tallest freestanding drop tower

  • World’s first tower whose seats tilt 90 degrees.

 

  • September 2nd, 2014 - “Falcon’s Fury:”, A drop tower by Intamin with a height of 355 ft (102 m) and a speed of 60 mph (97 km/h), officially opens after a successful soft opening.

2015

  • February 1st, 2015 - “Gwazi” is closed permanently.

2016

  • January 4th, 2016 - The entire Egypt section of the park is temporarily closed as part of the Cobra’s Curse project. Montu was also repainted on its tracks at this time.

 

  • April 10th, 2016 - “Tanganyika Tidal Wave” is closed permanently.

 

  • June 17th, 2016 - “Cobra’s Curse”, A steel roller coaster by Mack rides with a height of 70 ft (21 m) and a speed of 40 mph (64 km/h) officially opens.

2017

  • January 16th, 2017 - Stewart Clark becomes President of Busch Gardens & Adventure Island, replacing Jim Dean who held the position since 2010. Clark was previously the Vice President of Discovery Cove. Dean moves to President of SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, and Aquatica in Orlando.

 

History blog helped by @kumbasroar

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