The Legendary Kraken arrives at SeaWorld: Part 2 of our Floorless Coaster Series

2000 saw four new Floorless coasters debut.  All located in the United States, three were built by Six Flags and one by Busch Entertainment.  We will be talking about the Busch Entertainment (now known as SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment) installation in this article.

In 1989, after SeaWorld’s owner Harcourt Brace Jovanovich suffered from financial issues, their group of parks which was composed of the following parks was put on sale:

  • SeaWorld San Diego (San Diego California)
  • SeaWorld San Antonio (San Antonio, TX)
  • SeaWorld Orlando (Orlando, FL)
  • SeaWorld Ohio (Aurora, OH)
  • Boardwalk & Baseball (Haines City, FL)
  • Cypress Gardens (Winter Haven, FL)

Anheuser-Busch, a large brewery based in St-Louis, MS, opened four Busch Gardens theme parks adjacent to its breweries in the United States.  The locations were in Tampa, FL, Williamsburg, VA, Houston, TX and Van Nuys, CA.  The first two locations are still open with the brewery closed down in 1995 in Tampa.  The two other locations in Texas and California were short-lived, and their valuable land turned into expansions of their breweries.

Busch Entertainment purchased Harcourt park division and soon reorganized things to return them to profitability.  Boardwalk and Baseball, sandwiched between SeaWorld Orlando, Walt Disney World, and Busch Gardens Tampa was a financial drain; with Universal Studios Florida soon opening in Orlando, Busch Entertainment decided in early 1990 to close down the park and sell all remaining attractions.

SeaWorld parks featured very few mechanical attractions at the time.  The San Diego facility operated a set of Von Roll cable cars along with a Von Roll Observation Tower.  SeaWorld San Antonio had no rides, and SeaWorld Orlando featured a Von Roll Observation Tower.  Times were changing, and Busch had successfully transitioned its Tampa theme parks from a pure Animal attraction to one of the nation’s leading theme park in the 1970s-1980s.  The San Diego park had many planning restrictions due to its Oceanside location, so the Texas park was immediately revitalized with new attractions.  A log flume was added in 1991, and a river rapid experience from Intamin debuted in 1993 along with the Lost Lagoon, a water park.  It was successful, so plans were put in motion to perform a similar transformation to the Orlando theme park.

Given the close park proximity to Disney and Universal, a standard flume or river rapids would not cut it out.  Mack Rides from Germany had created a new style of flume where the boat rolls on a special kind of track, allowing twisted turns and drops.  Busch Entertainment ordered the first one, and Journey to Atlantis was born.  Using large eight seater boats and ending with a twisted roller coaster drop, this flume/dark ride/roller coaster hybrid opened in 1998 and was a fantastic success.

Journey to Atlantis SeaWorld Orlando

A rare look at Journey to Atlantis at SeaWorld Orlando with the water drained.  The roller coaster drop is inside the building in the background.

What’s next?  To the right of Journey to Atlantis, a tight piece of land was available, wedged in between Journey to Atlantis and a retention pond.  Bolliger & Mabillard was selected to supply a Floorless roller coaster, the first one in the Southeast region of the United States: Kraken.  The design of the ride took cues from Dragon Khan (Port Aventura in Salou, Spain) and sister ride Montu at Busch Gardens Tampa (Tampa, FL) for the second half; the first half would be related to Medusa, opening in 2000 at Six Flags Marine World (now Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, CA.)

The station and queue were located in a building with a similar style to the Greek village that house Journey to Atlantis facilities next door.  One interesting design change was to the mythical creature the ride is named after: the legendary Kraken is believed to be a giant octopus that hid in the depths of the oceans, waiting to terrorize sailors from Scandinavia, where the legend originated.  It later appeared in fantasy stories, such as the Fiend of Water in Final Fantasy (popular video role-playing game) and Dungeons and Dragons (traditional role-playing game).  The Kraken at SeaWorld is a giant eel or lamprey kept caged by Poseidon.

Kraken SeaWorld Orlando 9

The original entrance plaza of Kraken.

Guests board one of the three 32 passenger trains, where like Medusa, riders sit four across in 8 cars.  Leaving the station to the right, the train dips down in the signature B&M pre-lift curved approach.  The lift is a massive 151 feet tall, and at the top, the train dips down, past a speed adjusting brake before aligning itself to the right with the drop.

Kraken SeaWorld Orlando at night

A train as it appears in 2018.

Kraken SeaWorld Orlando 3

Train leaving the original station building.

The straight drop stands 144 feet tall and provides a brief moment of weightlessness before the train reach the bottom.  Racing at 65 mph at that point, the train rises again in a massive 128 feet tall vertical loop.  The train then heads toward a tall Dive Loop, which sends it back toward the lift hill at an angle.  A Zero-Gravity Roll follows, twisting riders upside down while making them float in their seat.  Two speed adjusting brakes are located at the bottom of the track between the Zero Gravity Roll and the next element, the Cobra Roll.  This tight double inversion starts underground inside a trench and also concludes inside another trench.  Up until the Cobra Roll, the ride is nearly the same as Medusa at Six Flags Marine World/Discovery Kingdom.

A long, rising spiral turn brings the train to the mid-course brakes.  A slight slowdown later, the ride imitates Dragon Khan with a sharp drop into a smaller vertical loop.  Like Montu, an impressive rise and plunge into a dark tunnel leading to a Corkscrew inversion, called Flat Spin by Bolliger & Mabillard.  The ride then rises into the final brakes and ends its 4177 feet long journey.

Kraken SeaWorld Orlando 2

A train plunging into the trench before the second vertical loop.

The ride remained mostly as such from 2000 until 2017.  At IAAPA International Attraction Expo 2016, also held in Orlando, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment announced that Kraken would be transformed into Kraken Unleashed.  Using Virtual Reality goggles, the trapped Sea Serpent back story would be expanded upon with the virtual content.  At the same time, the queue line was refreshed with new colors and queue elements.  The VR element proved to be a challenge, leading to its eventual cancellation.

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