Busch Gardens Tampa has confirmed that the water section of its popular Rhino Rally attraction has been closed for good, as the park prepares to install a new rollercoaster for the 2011 season.
The closure was confirmed to the BGTGuide website, which had inquired after the ride's river section was drained over the weekend. Leaked plans show that part of the new coaster will occupy the area vacated by Rhino Rally, which will remain open in a shortened format.
Rhino Rally, which opened in 2001, sees guests boarding trucks before heading out on a "safari" which takes in some of the park's many exotic animals. The water section formed the climax to the ride, with the trucks stopping on a bridge which broke away and floated downriver with riders still on-board. Following its removal, trucks will now simply turn in the opposite direction and head directly back to the ride's entrance - though there are rumors that the land-based portion will be extended at some stage to compensate for this.
The loss of the river section will be greeted with dismay by some fans, with it being the only Vekoma Raging River Safari attraction ever built. It also offered a unique feature to distinguish Rhino Rally from the similar Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom, which opened 3 years earlier. However, the closure should enable Busch Gardens Tampa to reduce its maintenance costs, both from the frequent breakdowns of the water section and from the wear and tear it caused to Rhino Rally's fleet of safari trucks.
Busch Gardens Tampa's coaster is expected to cover a sprawling area, covering most of the existing Edge of Africa land. In preparation for its construction, the park has already begun re-routing the Serengeti Express train and will close the Skyride cable cars on June 1 for the remainder of 2010.
The new coaster is expected to focus on high speed and acceleration, and could feature as many as 3 launched sections. For full details, see TPT's round-up of rumors following the recent leak of construction plans relating to the ride.
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