Busch Gardens Europe antique cars in last year, new attraction uncertain

Posted Thursday, June 29, 2006 9:13 AM | Contributed by supermandl

Busch Gardens confirmed Tuesday that it will close Le Mans Raceway, saying the popular, family-friendly ride's antique racecars will take their last lap a week from today on July 5. Three months ago, the amusement park filed plans with county officials that indicated a new ride could replace Le Mans, which is original to the 31-year-old park. But Busch Gardens officials stayed tight-lipped on the matter at that time, and they still aren't saying much.

Read more from The Daily Press.

Friday, June 30, 2006 10:32 AM
Mmmmm......beer school
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Friday, June 30, 2006 11:29 AM
X Factor said: "People seem to complain that BGW/BGE hasn't added a new coaster in a long time. Looks like we're getting one of some kind and yet they complain about the loss of Le Mans."

I think there's a couple issues here. First, BGE has been in need of something new. it's a super-fantastic park as is, but lately they've been removing more than addiing, and that's a trend that can't continue without SOMETHING big, new, and splashy coming along.

By the same token, there's also a big *hue and cry*, from SF especially but industry-wide, for more "family attractions". Personally, I think it was a mistake for BGW to send their mouse my way, but hey, it's a new ride for BGT and it DOES run a lot better here.

Strikes me as VERY similar to PKI and the *little-noted* removal of the cars for IJ:ST...of course, at PKI the Flying Eagles took alot of the attention away from the cars. I just RARELY see a need to remove an attraction that has decent ridership and a high cost:benefit ratio... ;)

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Friday, June 30, 2006 3:06 PM
I have no idea how they would be fitting a new roller coaster in there...i was just riding it the other day and they dont have that much space to work with it seems like..
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Friday, June 30, 2006 4:33 PM
First... CoasterFan4Life... IIRC, the Brewmasters Club is in the Festhaus, but 'Beer School' still lives in Ireland.

Secondly, I should state that BG:OTC was my local park growing up. My love for it and WCUSA were the first things that sparked my interest in the Theme Park Industry, and paved the way towards my career in it. Also, I moved away from Williamsburg about a year ago, so I've only made one trip to BGE this year (Was in town for a wedding, and we all spent Sunday at the park).

I disagree with Airromeo4Ever statement that Busch is going away from (or ever was) a family park. In fact I think just the opposite. Yes, Le Mans is on its way out to open up space for a big new coaster (my money is on BGE getting its own version of Shekira, but, who knows?). I never liked Le Mans, not when I was a kid, not when I was with families, and not as an adult. I think time I rode it was after riding the Kid's Bumper Cars in Germany. My thoughts where, "Why can't I drive these?" I think that they're closing Le Mans for several reasons. First, Real Estate: Everyone is right, there is no real 'RIDE' draw on that side of the park. Going in the right direction, you hit Ireland, France, and get all the way through New France between Loch Ness and Alpie. Also, with the exception of Apollo's, all of their Coasters spend time in the basin of the Rhine River. I took a great picture from the bridge on my last trip that has a hole right where the new ride will end up (speculatively). Secondly, Line Speeds: Now, I never worked in the Operations Department at Busch, but all of the Busch parks seem to focus on line speeds quite a bit, and Le Mans, based on concept, seems to be one that would have high line speeds (Though, if I'm right, then its ALWAYS been that way, so who cares?). Finally, and I think this is pretty telling, Maint/Upkeep: I have no idea how much it costs to maintain this attraction vs others. Its probably one of the oldest in the park whose "working parts" are outside (though, not the only one), but I can say this... These car operate on Gas... Gas is how much more expensive today than last year? Than the year before? Five years? 30? I'd be curious to see what operational costs percap for that ride are...

As far as pulling those other rides? Wild Maus was supposed to be a One Year attraction. Even after they decieded to keep it longer, it was always temporary, and never more a draw than what DarKastle is/would be. I wouldn't consider the Gauntlet a kids/family ride, anymore than I'd consider DaVinci's Cradle one (and god, do I hate that ride :)) I don't necessarily remember some of the others you mentioned (You say Spider, and I think of the Flying Machine, which was still there last time I was... Same ride, or are you talking about something else). The Sea Dragon ride, and the others, they weren't getting ridden. Maybe its because the Sea Dragon ride was so similar to the Tradewinds. The Teacups are still there, the Tradewinds, Swings (and Kids Swings), Bumper Cars (and Kids Cars), and LOD. Now, I also have to disagree with your assessment of Land of the Dragons. I think its a great attraction, several different small rides, the treehouse (which kids love, or at least every kid I've ever brought (thankfully, don't have my own yet to bring), and its got its own shows. Come HallowScream, its got one of the best shows in the park, WhichyPoo and Pumpkin, Too (yes, its a kids show, but its still damn good).

Its hard to disagree with you about the Beer bit (at least the 'pushing' it... I think all of the Ads in the bathrooms are an arguement for your point). Though, I think going from a Brewery Tour to having Beer School/Brewmasters club is an improvement. As far as drinking around the park goes, yes, Busch has gotten ABC lisenses for most of its countries now. It was an experiment tried when Ireland opened... They wanted to know if it could be done, both from a profit, but also from a safety/guest relations standpoint. It obviously worked, in their eyes (I would agree. I don't think it had become a problem on any of my last several visits).

My biggest problem, from a "less kid-friendly offerings" standpoint, was the downsize of their entertainment offerings this year, ESPECIALLY regarding strolling characters. They'd really built up some nice characters/shows, but to my understanding, there doesn't seem to be as many this year :(

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Saturday, July 1, 2006 9:07 AM
Busch is one of the rarest gems in the industry that gets it right - across the board - great thrills, superb theming (the best outside of Disney in my opinion), a nice entertainment showcase, and a little something for the kids. Both BGT and BGW have consistently offered a very high quality experience for my friends and family on each and every visit.

That being said, I am sure the attendance numbers, focus groups, whatever -showed LeMans to be an underperformer with regard to the other attractions at the park, and at some point became evident that it was not a sustainable attraction for them. Sad as it is to lose an original attraction from the park, there are PENTY (AND I MEAN PLENTY) of family oriented attractions to satisfy everyone at this park. As I said, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is one of the best at offering something for everyone.

As for using undeveloped land at the park - conservation probably has little to do with their decision not to tap into unused sections at this point - if there was a way to make that land profitable, I'm sure the park would have exercised that some time ago. Additionally, I know the management is smart enough not to invest millions in a ride that is in an out-of-the-way or poorly visible space. Drachen Fire was both (never mind that it was wasn't suitable for most riders); you didn't even know it was there unless you were on some of the rides themselves. To open a new section of the park would be difficult (but not impossible), especially considering that the park is configured like a giant circle.

BGW is my favorite amusement park, and I trust whatever they decide to do will be best for their bottom line and for the park. I don't care so much for a B&M dive coaster (haven't been on SheiKra but Oblivion did nothing for me per se), but another coaster, a la Busch Gardens style, is never something I'd turn my nose up at. It's like one of those rare moments in time like a solar eclipse - they happen rarely, but when they do, they're really awesome.

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Thursday, July 6, 2006 10:39 AM
I'm not so sure about the concerns about BG moving away from being a "family park". When I was a kid growing up in VA, Kings Dominion was really my "main" park. They had what I thought at the time to be a pretty great kids' section and as I got older I thought they had some great coasters. BG, on the other hand, was a beautiful park and a nice place to walk around, but if you're looking for rides, that wasn't the place to go. Sure, Nessie and the Wolf were wonderful, but it most definitely had the feel of a quieter "family" park with a lot of smaller rides and nice scenery.

And, really, I think that is mostly still the case, but there was a noticable shift in the mid-90s or so. At the same time that (in my opinion) Paramount was kind of ruining KD, Busch Gardens re-defined itself with Alpengeist and Apollo's Chariot and suddenly it became THE premier park in the state. And, for the most part, I think that is a GOOD thing.

It wasn't a major shift--just adding a few bigger rides--but BG seemed to become a different kind of park. Yes, I know that rides like the LeMans cars do appeal to kids. (heck, I was just at Cedar Point this weekend and my 3 year old daughter couldn't get enough of the antique cars in the back of the park--but only if there was no line to wait in) But I think BGW still has a pretty solid assortment of kid-friendly rides and I don't see them being in danger of losing touch as a "family" park.

I dunno about the beer stuff. I mean, they're owned by A-B, so its always been there. The old Brewery Tours coincidentally stopped running around the same time that my high school senior class took a trip to the park and half the students showed up at the brewery with fake-ids! lol I have a feeling that sort of thing happens a lot.

I don't really see a problem with the beer-schools, tho. I think it would be kind of cool to see, but yeah, I don't see myself sitting down with my family to watch--mostly because my kids would be yelling to go ride RIDES instead of watching some guy show us how to ferment grains. But it is unique--soemthing you're not likely to see other places, so that's kind of cool...*** This post was edited by brunus76 7/6/2006 10:43:51 AM ***
*** This post was edited by brunus76 7/6/2006 10:44:43 AM ***

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Thursday, July 6, 2006 5:34 PM
Hey guys, I've worked with Busch Gardens for a few years and we have to sign a contract saying we won’t talk to press/public about matters with the park....but I’m not giving away too much information that they haven’t already told the public. Yes it is true, Le Man's did close on 7-5-06. I arrive very early to work every morning and have caught a glimpse of what the contractors are doing. They've been marking random spots outside of the entrance which is located in France next to the New France snack store. I’m sure more activity will be going on now that the ride has officially closed, but that a fence will more than likely be put up in order to keep things secret like they did for DarKastle. But since I get there so early in the morning, Ill be able to sneak around and report back what I see. Anyway, cast members have a bi-weekly newsletter made that updates us on news in the park and two weeks ago we received a special newsletter about the closing of Le Mans. It also mentions the "newest attraction" and you can pick out some key words they use which might be helpful in determining what its going to be. For instance they mention the term "stellar" and "out of this world", leading one to believe that themes dealing with space or astronomy are involved. And since the last court date was in April, dealing with height restrictions exceeding that of Alpengeist, it leads us to believe that it will either be a hyper coaster or something dealing with shooting off towards the sky. Here are the key parts to the newsletter we received:

Au Revoir Le Mans Raceway

They have traveled nearly ten-million miles in 31 years, but Busch Gardens Europe will soon bid adieux to the forty-nine recreated antique racing cars of Le Mans to make way for a stellar new attraction. Le Mans’ last day of operation will be Wed., July 5.

“After careful review, we have decided the Le Mans Raceway site is optimal for the park’s newest attraction which will be out of this world,” said Donnie Mills, executive vice president and general manager for Busch Gardens Europe and Water Country USA. “We hope guests will take this opportunity to come out to the park and take a final spin around the track as we continue to keep the park fresh and offer the latest in new attractions,” he added.

Details about the new attraction are not yet available. The park is working closely with corporate and county officials on design plans for an exciting addition to its attraction lineup and will release details soon.

Now from my observations the lines to Le Man's have dwindled the past couple of years, however it still is an original to the park and I personally think it should stay. Busch actually owns a ton of land around the park, however it would cost more to build the access trails which would lead to it, besides whatever the theme may only belong in France. There is plenty of room where DrachenFire used to be, but currently they are using that loading station as the Sleepless Hollow Manor for Howl O' Scream. As a side note I also think people should start checking out the area that use to be the petting zoo, which up until last year was used as Seadog Cemetery, also for Howl O' Scream. I've been back there recently, and noticed that all of the cemetery props which were kept there year round, are all gone, and there is construction equipment being set up. A new trailer looking bathroom has also been set up blocking off the Pompeii entrance into the old petting zoo. Anyway that’s all I have for now, I'll keep yall posted on anything I see.

*** This post was edited by bgwcm 7/6/2006 5:35:07 PM ***

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Thursday, July 6, 2006 11:09 PM
Le Mans might not be dead, was at the park today and there were surveyors out in the DF field, seeing as we allready know the new coaster is going to be in France, my guess would be Le Mans is about to become the "Autobahn" with the bumper cars getting a new game.
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Friday, July 7, 2006 4:33 PM
Today I got to the park early and there is a new sign taking up the entire front entrance of what use to be Le Mans. A big sign that says "Like Nothing Else in the World.... Dropping Spring 2007" behind this text are big blue letters that blend in with the background saying "Flight Menacing". Off to the corner of the sign is a big claw-like hand. At first glance it appears to be a monster/alien hand ripping the corner, but another cast member said he thought it was a chicken's foot, which is very true. Who knows, but i think that busch will tell us in the next month or two.

p.s. We were told today that the park will be using the Le Man's cars for Howl O Scream this season.*** This post was edited by bgwcm 7/7/2006 4:34:37 PM ***

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Saturday, July 8, 2006 12:31 AM
hmm, interesting, sounds like a dive machine or a Flyer. & the dive machine rumor has been going around for some time now
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Saturday, July 8, 2006 1:32 AM
^ Considering the recpetion SheiKra got, I'd bet on the diver...def. bet AGAINST a flyer at an A-B park. Think demographics + alcohol... ;)

I will say here, SheiKra surprised me. I *still* don't think the ride's all that great, but the people have eaten the thing up, and the turnstiles, as always, outrank MY opinion. Another one of my *misses*...I'm into business analysis, not clairvoyance. ;)

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Saturday, July 8, 2006 1:34 AM
Oh, and the park IS still "The Old Country" to me....I got some merchandise around here somewhere with just that moniker. LOL!

But BGW is 3 letters, and BG:TOC is 5, and we know how enthusiasts demand short acronyms... :)

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006 6:39 PM
Was I asleep in Geography class? When did Canada become part of Europe? ;-)
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Wednesday, August 9, 2006 5:45 PM
I've been going to the park since the first season (I was six back then and my dad had A-B stock, and if I recall correctly they used to GIVE AWAY day passes to shareholders those first couple of seasons.) Anyway, just to add my two cents - I was at the park this past weekend for my annual trip, and indeed, LeMans is a big open field of dirt now - very noticeable from Loch Ness as the coaster exits the loading station (and from the top of Alpengeist, if you have a moment to notice.) Regarding the comments about the brewery tour - I asked last year about that when I attended the beer school at Das Festhaus. Two things - 1. I was told a hurricane (I don't recall the year) damaged portions of the monorail line (Eagle One) and because A-B was planning on expanding brewery operations they opted to remove the monorail (as opposed to repairing it) to make room for the expansion. 2. VA ABC laws changed so that free samples of alcoholic beverages could only be offered in a "classroom" environment, so presumeably the hospitality center at the brewery was no longer in compliance (ergo, beer school) - don't know if these are both true, but that is what they told us at beer school! And may I just say that personally I never liked Drachen Fire - that coaster was worse than going to a chiropractor.
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