In the summer of 2020, Busch Gardens announced the delay of their newest--and perhaps most anticipated--coaster, Iron Gwazi. This delay came as no surprise, as the COVID-19 pandemic had already delayed a wealth of attraction openings across the world, and Busch Gardens Tampa slapped a new label on the Rocky Mountain Construction coaster: Opening in 2021.
2021. Doable, right?
But then, Busch Gardens quietly shifted their Iron Gwazi marketing with one detrimental word: Anticipated Opening in 2021.
What was happening? The coaster itself was finished, and had been finished since the fall of 2020. Busch Gardens Tampa’s last coaster addition, Tigris opened just seven months after its announcement, and Iron Gwazi is not far from two years in production since its fall 2019 announcement. Of course, there are various reasons for this: Iron Gwazi is a good bit more complex a project than Tigris, which is a model found in various parks around the world. A Rocky Mountain Construction hybrid project takes a good bit of TLC, but two years is doubtlessly excessive, especially as the coaster has been complete for months.
Park fans and coaster enthusiasts grew even more restless when VelociCoaster opened down the highway at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando--wouldn’t Busch Gardens want to rush the opening of Iron Gwazi to compete with the premier launch coaster?
One complication setting Iron Gwazi back came in the summer of 2020, when manufacturer Rocky Mountain Construction filed a lien stating that Sea World Park and Entertainment owed $3.5 million in labor and materials. This lack of funding for the project caused a temporary halt on the project.
But now that the ride is complete, why is it in a state of standing but not operating?
It would be an understatement to say that the amusement park industry took a major hit in the COVID-19 pandemic. Parks were closed for months, and only opened with reduced capacity, inevitably meaning less revenue. The hope of Busch Gardens Tampa is that Iron Gwazi will bring in not only local visitors, but visitors from around the country, to get a ride on Rocky Mountain Construction’s latest and greatest. It may do the park a disservice to open Iron Gwazi prior while national travel has still not fully ramped up.
Though the coaster is complete, one must take operating costs into account when pushing for the opening of a new attraction. Iron Gwazi will need to be fully staffed and maintained to ensure smooth operations, and at the current state of travel and park attendance, the juice may not be worth the squeeze.
Hope for the Future
Still, Iron Gwazi has been completing test runs on a near-weekly basis, as if brushing dust off a bookshelf. With every daytime test run caught by guests, hype and hope is restored in this beast of a coaster. This may be an obvious claim, but we’re closer than ever to getting a ride on Iron Gwazi. Perhaps Labor Day weekend will be the day, maybe Thanksgiving, maybe much later, or maybe the ride will start soft opening this summer. The coaster may be a late bloomer, but if we know anything about Busch Gardens and Rocky Mountain Construction’s stellar creations, Iron Gwazi will be well worth the wait.
NEWS UPDATE - Screamscape posted a clip from Midway Mayhem's Instagram page showing a park rep speaking at the ACE Thrill Seekers Event. The rep said that while they still don’t have an official opening date for Iron Gwazi, it was confirmed that they did bring in a couple of workers on Friday June 11, to perform some needed work on the track.