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Confirmed: Full details of SeaWorld San Diego's Manta rollercoaster

SeaWorld San Diego Manta rollercoaster concept art

SeaWorld San Diego has confirmed details of its upcoming Manta attraction, which will combine a traditional rollercoaster with elements of a water ride when it opens in 2012.

The new ride will feature a similar theme to the Manta coaster at SeaWorld Orlando, but will offer an entirely different ride experience. Whereas the Florida park's version uses a "flying" coaster system to simulate the gliding action of manta rays, the SeaWorld San Diego version will utilise a launch system and incorporate giant screens showing images of the rays.

SeaWorld San Diego has confirmed that the new ride will be a Mack Launch Coaster, similar in design to the dark ride-coaster hybrid Blue Fire at Germany's Europa Park.

The park describes Manta as its first "pure" rollercoaster, although it says it will also be similar to a water ride. To overcome a stringent height 30-feet limit set by the California Coastal Commission, its tallest drop will be just 54-feet-tall and it will instead use the launch system to generate speed. The park will excavate 24-feet downwards in order to enable the drop to exceed the height limit.

SeaWorld San Diego Manta rollercoaster concept art
Manta will feature splash effects, but riders will stay dry.
Image © SeaWorld San Diego

As on SeaWorld Orlando's Manta, the ride's trains will be themed to resemble manta rays. Each will hold 20 people, seated two across. The ride's circuit is believed to include two launch sections, along with more than a dozen twists and turns,

Manta's first launch will be combined with a 270-degree screen which will use a cutting-edge projection system to immerse riders in the underwater world of the rays. Although riders will not actually get wet, the coaster will also pass over a water feature with effects being used to simulate "spraying" water.

The video below provides an early look at the ride experience for Manta, albeit without the Manta theming that will be present when it opens:

Alongside the new rollercoaster, a revamped marine exhibit will enable guests to view the creatures that inspired the ride up-close. This will be an overhaul of the existing Forbidden Reef exhibit, and will include more than 65 bat rays, 10 guitar fish and more than 400 other sea-dwellers.

The existing underwater viewing area will be upgraded with brighter lighting and acrylic windows, offering an underwater viewpoint of the bat rays. Themed to appear as though underneath a pier, the area will also incorporate interactive educational elements including touch-screen information booths, video monitors and life-size models of rays.

Construction on the new rollercoaster is expected to get underway within a month, and it will be located in the northwest corner of the park. SeaWorld San Diego has not confirmed the full cost of installing Manta, but did say that it will run into tens of millions of dollars. This will help the park meet its lease requirement that 75 percent of its attractions include a convervational or educational message.

The project will be reviewed by the California Coastal Commission on Friday, with staff having already recommended conditional approval of the plans. The conditions include the 30-feet height limit, as well as a requirement to use earth tone colors on any sections visible from outside of the park.

SeaWorld San Diego had previously planned to open a new rollercoaster in 2010, but the project was subsequently put on hold while the park was sold to new owners. The cancelled attraction was set to be similar in design to the Revenge of the Mummy rollercoasters at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Florida.

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