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Busch Gardens' Tempesto coaster squeezes a lot of excitement into a tight space

The compact @BuschGardensVA Tempesto coaster packs a sizeable punch

The new triple-launch roller coaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg may be compact, but don’t let its diminutive size fool you: Tempesto packs a sizable punch.

The vertically oriented ride debuted in April on a compact footprint in the Festa Italia section of the Virginia theme park. Squeezed between an ice cream stand and a video arcade, Tempesto sits next to the Apollo’s Chariot hyper coaster on a spot previously occupied by the Splashus Maximus water balloon game.

The ride’s back story involves a fictional Italian daredevil named Tempesto who wowed crowds in the early 1900s with his signature stunt: a gravity-defying loop-the-loop, recreated here in coaster form.

The ride’s circus-themed queue features tributes to acrobats and stuntmen created by Florida-based ThemeWorks, which also worked on Sesame Street Forest of Fun at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Built by Maryland-based Premier Rides, the Tempesto coaster jams a lot of excitement into a relatively short ride that lasts less than a minute over approximately 800 feet of track.

The coaster’s triple-launch experience is a big part of the show — for both riders and those waiting in the station to board. Propelled by electromagnetic linear synchronous motors, Tempesto’s forward-backward-forward launch starts out like the Wicked Twister shuttle coaster at Ohio’s Cedar Point.

Departing from the station, Tempesto propels riders forward into a vertical twist, then careens backward through the station into another twist before racing through the station once again, this time accelerating to more than 60 mph.

Climbing to the top of the first loop, the train navigates a slow barrel roll at 154 feet in the air that ranks as one of the world’s tallest inversions. Known as an inline twist, the sky-high element leaves riders feeling like they’re going to fall out of their seats.

Magnetic brakes slow the train just before a near-vertical twisting descent that leads into a noninverting loop, an element similar to one found on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster at Universal Studios Florida that keeps riders upright throughout the loop.

The diving train again passes through the station, ascends the vertical twist one last time and descends backward to a halt.

During a recent visit to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, I found Tempesto to be a short but thrill-packed experience. I especially liked the triple-launch element and will never forget the towering slow-motion inline twist.

As many coaster enthusiasts predicted, Tempesto suffers from capacity issues that can lead to lengthy wait times. With a single 18-seat train and tight seating rows that add to load times, Tempesto can theoretically handle only a few hundred passengers per hour.

On my weekday visit, crowds were light during a humid summer day, and I walked right on Tempesto when the ride crew called out for a single rider. But Busch Gardens staff said lines can stretch to two hours on busy summer weekends.

Premier Rides has installed the Sky Rocket II vertical coaster at several other parks, including Northern California’s Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Germany's Holiday Park, Mexico's Bosque Magico and the new Great Mall of China.

In many ways, the Premier coaster has the same compact footprint, vertical orientation and capacity issues as the Intamin ZacSpin (Green Lantern: First Flight at Six Flags Magic Mountain) and the Maurer SkyLoop XT 150 (X-Coaster at Magic Springs & Crystal Falls in Arkansas).

While Tempesto may not be the fastest, tallest, longest or greatest coaster in the world, the new ride adds a unique twist to Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s well-respected lineup that includes Apollo’s Chariot, Griffon and Alpengeist.

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