After the closure of cult classic coaster Dragon Challenge in late 2017, Universal’s Islands of Adventure was hit with a major gap in their lineup. Now down two major, state of the art, thrilling coasters, Universal teased of better things to come.
Less than two years later, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure opened to the public on the land where Dragon Challenge once stood. The story-driven coaster, now infamous for it long lines and technical setbacks, filled part of the gap that its predecessor left. Though Hagrid’s is a modern-day marvel of storytelling, practical effects, and theming, it is a far milder ride than the retired B&M Invert. But still, the general consensus was that Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure was the first of a stellar one-two punch. Universal wasn’t done; something more was coming.
Universal officially began vertical construction on its newest coaster in Spring of 2020, but the foundations for VelociCoaster were laid even earlier, in mysterious markings and a moved Raptor Encounter and sprawling work walls. Even the windows at the iconic Discovery Center were blacked out in attempts to keep the secret from unsuspecting guests. The necessary clearing prior to construction could be seen from the smoking area straight across the lagoon, however, between Marvel’s Super Hero Island and Seuss Landing. Universal team members, either sworn to secrecy or just as much in the dark as guests, were tight-lipped when asked about the construction, Universal having an impressive track record of keeping their cards close to their chest.
The coaster underwent an impressive amount of construction in a short span of time, the park apparently taking advantage of its brief closure and smaller crowds in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the park reopened in early June, VelociCoaster was taking shape.
Coaster enthusiasts were thrilled to hear that Intamin would be returning to manufacture Universal’s latest coaster. With two other impressive additions in Escape from Gringotts and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, the park has developed a strong relationship with the Swiss manufacturer.
Intamin is known in the coaster and theme park community for pushing boundaries and blazing trails. This is the manufacturer of the world’s first Giga-Coaster Millennium Force we’re talking about. This is the manufacturer of Kingda-Ka and Top Thrill Dragster, the manufacturer of Maverick and El Toro. It’s a manufacturer that creates icons and modern classics, working alongside parks to constantly better themselves and the amusement industry.
As foundations were laid and Intamin was declared the manufacturer of this mystery-shrouded ride, fans began theorizing just what this coaster could look like. Update after update, the layout, elements, and ride experience began to take shape, and it became absolutely clear that this would be a ride like no other.
The Ride Experience
VelociCoaster is an Intamin multi-launch coaster that will be focused on forceful launches, airtime, and fast-paced, tight elements. The closest comp for Florida park-goers would be Busch Gardens Tampa’s Cheetah Hunt, an older and milder Intamin multi-launch. Since Cheetah Hunt’s 2011 opening, Intamin has developed a brand new track style and gleaned from other major manufacturers like Rocky Mountain Construction and S&S to incorporate new and mind-boggling elements into their coasters.
Just a year after Tigris opening under the same title, VelociCoaster will be besting its record as Florida’s tallest launch coaster (and the fastest too, dethroning the aforementioned Cheetah Hunt in quite the slam on Busch Gardens). The new coaster will feature two launches, one of which absolutely catapulting riders to 70 mph in 2.4 seconds.
With four inversions and an array of forceful airtime moments throughout its 4,700 feet of track , this ride is a far stretch from the family nature of Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, and that’s important. Dragon Challenge, though quite misplaced in the Wizarding World, was a forceful, thrilling, wholly unique dueling B&M Invert. Hagrid’s, though a worthy replacement for the Wizarding World, is still, at its core, a family coaster. It’s a 300 million dollar family coaster, but nevertheless. Universal was lacking a thrill ride. Something pulse-pounding and heart-dropping. Something like Dragon Challenge. And VelociCoaster was the answer.
As mentioned, the impacts of the ever-changing coaster landscape are evident in this coaster. Fans of Coaster Godfather Alan Schilke and Rocky Mountain Construction will be hard-pressed to ignore his influence on this new venture. Certain elements, like a wildly twisted bunny hill that may just offer some of that sought-after sideways airtime, scream RMC. And that’s not a critique of Intamin—they aren’t ripping off the competition, but learning from them and putting their own spin on it. Not unlike the predators from which this coaster gets its name, they’re adapting.
It’s impossible not to mention the ride’s most visible element, a 155-foot top-hat with an 80 degree descent, which will follow the ride’s second and fastest launch.