Already delayed once by the COVID-19 pandemic, two completed roller coasters in SeaWorld’s Central Florida parks will now wait until 2022 to welcome their first guests.
The first affected coaster is SeaWorld Orlando’s Ice Breaker, a multi-launch Premier Rides coaster that includes a 93-foot-tall vertical spoil, an 80-foot top hat and a top speed of 52 miles per hour. Even though members of the press were given a tour of its construction back in January 2020, the coaster won’t open until February 2022.
“We recognize there was a lot of anticipation and excitement for this new ride, and then due to the unprecedented challenges of the last two years, the opening was delayed.” SeaWorld Orlando park president Kyle Miller said in a press release. “We apologize for this delay and thank our fans for their patience. We know that they are going to love this one-of-a-kind thrill ride which complements our existing exhilarating ride portfolio perfectly. We are excited to finally be able to confirm Ice Breaker opening in February 2022.”
Down I-4 at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, the park’s own 2020 addition, Iron Gwazi, will now open in March 2022. The Rocky Mountain Construction hybrid coaster has been tantalizing visitors with views of its 206-foot-tall, 91-degree first drop, but has sat empty throughout the park’s pandemic-era operations.
In a similar statement, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay park president Neal Thurman chalked up the delay to the pandemic, stating that “we recognize the delay has disappointed our fans. We appreciate the patience our guests have shown.”
The lack of transparency on opening dates for these coasters has fueled speculation about SeaWorld’s true motives behind keeping them closed. Busch Gardens did, at one point, owe $3.5 million in unpaid construction costs on Iron Gwazi. SeaWorld San Diego was sued for allegedly refusing to pay $3.3 million for work already completed on Emperor — a dive coaster which was also yet to debut — while the theme park was closed due to the pandemic.
Parks open new attractions in hopes of boosting attendance. However, SeaWorld’s attendance has been relatively steady without the additional operational costs that come with new rides, providing an incentive for the chain to delay any additions.
In its last quarterly report, SeaWorld saw 5.8 million guests between April and June 2021, which was down 700,000 from the same period in 2019, but mainly due to capacity restrictions and limited operations due to the pandemic.