Busch Gardens Oakland://Let's Get Down To Business (2014)

Oakland, California, 2014

In the bustling tech-savvy Bay Area of Northern California, nestled among the piney hills, there exists the opportunity to experience the wonders of the Far East on the West Coast. As with their Europe-themed property in Virginia or their Africa-themed property in Florida, Busch Gardens owns a third park in California themed to the many cultures of the continent of Asia. Having opened as Busch Gardens The Far East in 1972 with only two coasters to their name, the park has grown over the years to completely surround the man-made lake in the center, turning its Silk Road nature path around said lake into a bustling midway at the foot of several rugged towering hills. It consistently receives awards in the amusement industry and is considered by coaster enthusiasts to be one of the best parks in the country.

Starting as only a small Chinese fortress and a little Himalayan hamlet down the path through the woods each with a coaster, several countries, coasters, and cultures have been added over the years to turn this amusement park into arguably the top theme park in the Bay Area. Japan, India, Southeast Asia, and an expansion to China were all added over the course of a decade to fill the park out shortly after. The 80s also saw the addition of two coasters, one of which still stands today. The 90s brought to the park a transition towards a coaster boom, starting with Bengal in the late 80s and dying off before an incident forced the park to build more coasters, acquiring two just in time for the new millennium. However, the incident in question forced the park into a tumultuous time in the 2000s, adding possibly their most iconic attraction but forcing the phasing out of a key part of the park's product. The start of the 2010s brought with them facelifts for two areas of the park, the death of a coaster classic at the park, and possibly the nicest coaster the park has ever seen.

Let's look around!0

Guests arriving to Busch Gardens Oakland have to head up a small incline, passing under colorful Asian arches as redwood trees and large colorful coasters tower overhead.

Welcome to Busch Gardens!

Shin Fortress, representing China, serves as your welcome to Busch Gardens Oakland. The original area of the park, both its Great Wall and Arrow looper Gate Guardian are among the most iconic sites at the park.

Heading back under the Great Wall to the rest of the China, you first find yourself in Qingdian. A stark contrast to the powerful, militaristic vibe given off by Shin Fortress, Qingdian (literally "celebration" in Chinese) is a fun, festive midway adorned with games, firecrackers, string lanterns, and a dark secret...

When Chen, the park's beloved Arrow suspended, was removed in 2010, people weren't happy at all. However, when the park stated that something was "mysteriously unearthed" on the Chen demolition site when they announced the Qingdian revamp in 2011, that got heads scratching and eyes on that space. Two years later, Busch Gardens Oakland opened LongHuang, their first launched coaster. Themed after an archaeological excavation of Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang's dangerous tomb, LongHuang blasts riders into the hills overlooking the park not once but twice.

A quality product of German engineering from Mack Rides, LongHuang is a major airtime machine with incredible pacing that still isn't too extreme for children just getting into coasters. It also interacts with both Gate Guardian and Yeti.

Aside from coasters, Qingdian is also home to numerous flat rides, a few games, a shop, two restaurants, and the defunct Questor building. Chow Mein Chow exists as a basic Chinese takeout-style food stand, but it has seen much less traffic in recent years due to the addition of Zheng He Harbor, an international food court with food from the lands of Zheng He's voyage from doner kebabs to doro wat.

Branching off of Qingdian is Seux Pass, representing the many cultures of Southeast Asia. This stilt house over a rice paddy acts as your welcome to the watery lowlands.

Seux Pass, while not being based on any culture in particular, was heavily modeled after Thailand. The Park Museum seen here has several artifacts from Busch Gardens's history, including an old Everest Adventure lead car. The Night Market food court can also be found in Seux Pass, overlooking the water while serving up Southeast Asian favorites such as pho and pad Thai.

Hiding deep within the jungles of Seux Pass, parkgoers often hear the menacing roar of Bengal and the terrorized screams of its riders. As one of two prototype B&M standup coasters, it might not be the smoothest, but its impact on the park cannot be understated. It was the first coaster they owned that wasn't an Arrow, it was the first B&M coaster to ever open, and even today this ferocious tiger's roar is the perfect welcome to Busch Gardens as you hike up that hill to Shin Fortress.

Continuing around the loop, Japan is the next country. Represented by the aging Kyoto Bay, which has only seen one investment since the 80s, it's a quaint, quiet little area. However, people run here at open for one reason and one reason only...

Hope you can swim! Unagi, the park's dive coaster, commands all kinds of attention with its terrifying experience: the act of dangling riders face-first over the park's central lake before dropping them straight into the jaws of the fabled eel monster for which it's named. Not enough for you? Try doing it twice! Like Bengal right next to it, Unagi is a prototype coaster for B&M as the first dive coaster to feature two vertical dives in its layout, a design choice that would later be repeated by both Griffon and SheiKra at the sister parks as well as on other dive coasters worldwide. Enthusiasts don't care much for it, finding it gimmicky, but among the vast majority of parkgoers, Unagi is the gold standard in mechanized terror.

Other than Unagi, there isn't much notable to do in Japan. Tenjin, the park's observation tower is there, as well as a few other flat rides. There's also the Kabuki Theater, which currently hosts a Japanese game show. And here we have the Zen Beer Garden, a food court serving up Japanese favorites like sushi and tempura as well as a fine selection of American and Asian beers.

A small area for small people, Sesame Street Festival of Fun is the smallest Sesame Street-themed area in the chain due to the park's proximity to Sesame Place West, but this little corner of the park that's considered part of Japan from a management standpoint actually has a coaster. Grover's Dragon Dance is a little Zierer kiddie coaster guaranteed to have them hooked by the time they're tall enough for Unagi.

Leaving dated Kyoto Bay and entering the most recently updated area of the park, India is next in the loop. Mahala was newly renovated this year for the 2014 season with the addition of a new major thrill ride. Most of the regulars think the new look is too colorful and hideous, but the update was long overdue. Mahala sets the stage for four major rides: Shiva, King Cobra, Ganges River Rampage, and Taj Mafall.

New for 2014, park guests showing up to opening day craned their necks into the sunny California skies to gaze up at the monstrous Taj Mafall, a drop tower capable of going toe to toe with Unagi for the scariest drop in the park.

In a hot state like California, a good way to cool off is a necessity, and while the park only brought one water ride to the table, that one water ride brought the heat! Ganges River Rampage is a soaking wet journey through the jungle past a few cobra icons that spray you with water. There's a very brief downhill portion that regularly leaves water literally pouring into the boats, and guests who come off always look like they've been dunked into a swimming pool. Ride it with the same expectations you would if it were Popeye's at Universal or Gully Washer at Fiesta Texas, this ride will get you SOAKED.

But the main attraction to India is the addition that breathed new life into the park after a tragic incident that changed its history forever.

It was a normal May afternoon in 1996. Saraswati Elephant Reserve had just opened a few weeks prior, and people were all swarming India to see these magnificent creatures. But then, that bratty little 8 year-old twerp Manuel Rodreiguez was getting impatient and did something so stupid that it not only cost him his own life but changed the park's history forever. Getting cranky that he was too short to see the elephants, Manuel snuck away from his parents and three siblings, climbed over the glass wall to see the elephants, and fell fifteen feet into the elephant enclosure. The fall broke Manuel's left ankle, making him even madder, and his scream spooked Francisco, one of the seven Asian elephants living in the animal encounter. Francisco began charging Manuel, frightening the child. Panicked, Manuel picked up a handful of rocks and threw them at the elephant, further agitating him. Francisco went on to brutally stomp little Manuel Rodriguez, forcing the park to act quickly and shoot Francisco, killing him instantly. Manuel later died of his injuries in the emergency room. Needless to say, this incident made major waves. The City of Oakland passed a new law prohibiting the keeping of exotic animals by any institution that is not a zoo, defined as an organization solely dedicated to the display and conservation of exotic species, and ordered Saraswati Elephant Reserve shut down immediately. Busch Gardens filed for classification as a zoo, which was denied on the grounds that they also had coasters and cultural attractions. The park planned to sue the city, but a deal was reached: the park could slowly phase out the animals in Pang Reserve and Zhungah Village over the next ten years and in lieu of the business attraction, have their height restriction raised from 150 to 250 feet.

Rising from the ashes of Saraswati Elephant Reserve, taking advantage of the park's newly raised height restriction, opened Shiva in 1998. Affectionately named "The Destroyer" by coaster enthusiasts, this B&M inverted coaster set the bar really high when the park named it after the Hindu god that destroys the universe, but the coaster more than rose to the occasion. The tallest and fastest inverted coaster when it opened and still the only one to feature both a cutback and an inclined loop, this inverted monster is often considered the best ride in the park by enthusiasts. For the longest time, if you were a roller coaster nerd heading to the Bay Area, it was for a pilgrimage to this steel beauty. Many still consider it the best inverted coaster of the bunch.

And finally, on the border of Qingdian and Mahala, one can find the dead end area of Sagarathma Base Camp. One of the park's original areas called Zhungah Village, Sagarathma Base Camp is based on the Himalayan cultures that call Mount Everest their home.

One of two rides instantly built to take advantage of the new height restriction, Yeti towers menacingly over not only Base Camp, but the entire park. Like Unagi, this Intamin hypercoaster also gets a long wait at open simply because its size is a people magnet.

It's sort of a short ride, but Yeti is an excellent all-around coaster. 203 foot drop into an icy chasm, twisting around the mountains overlooking the park, low turns skimming the water, quite a few airtime moments, and a finale dive under its ice cave-themed station, Yeti is the jack of all trades of Busch Gardens's lineup. While it might have fallen from glory since it first opened in 2000, most any coaster junkie can still enjoy a ride on the legendary Yeti.

And it looks like Base Camp will soon be changing face as this sign was spotted near Super Himalaya! Watch this space, it's about to get really good...
Wow! What a great backstory! A great park too!
Thanks! The backstory is a continuation of the original Busch Gardens The Far East I did in RCT3 way back when.


Something is going on in Sagarmatha Base Camp. A month ago, the park announced the closure of Super Himalaya, one of the original attractions with which the park opened. Now there are construction walls up with teasers, and an announcement is expected any day now.


This is the same sign that was up from the start of the season, now moved the the construction wall.


Aesthetics shared by these teasers are fantastical Asian imagery and soft pink/orange/yellow fog clouds.


Themed text on the teasers alludes to new lands, a “paradise” and something “lost in the clouds.”


This haiku sits front and center on the construction walls and alludes to everything already mentioned, but mentions “flying up to the sky.” It sounds like whatever this paradise hidden in the mountains is, your ride on whatever the 2015 addition is will be somehow sending you there to the sky.


And finally, this look behind the wall was captured from Yeti’s lift hill via GoPro. It’s been noted that Super Himalaya appears to be being carefully trailered as opposed to irreverently ripped down. There’s also s truck on site holding something, but what? Only time will tell...
nice billboards
Thanks! Billboards are my favorite way to theme anything when there isn't an obvious way to do that theme in the game.


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NEW FOR 2015: Busch Gardens Oakland is investing in a legendary addition for the 2015 season, set in the Himalayan-themed Sagarathma Base Camp. This roller coaster, the first of its kind in the Busch Gardens/SeaWorld chain is expected to be the first in a series of sister coasters top pop up all across the different Blackstone properties.

Often thought of as the Atlantis of the skies, the lost city of Shangri La, described as a tropical paradise nestled tightly atop a peak in the Himalayas, has been long accepted to be a myth more-so than a real place that actually exists. Until now. A team at Sagarathma Base Camp has set out an expedition to investigate some strange satellite imaging found not too far from Mount Everest, suggesting the presence of a lost city. And upon arriving, legend became reality. A lost empire of gold, perpetually enshrouded by mountain mist and morning twilight, awaited them with its many towering spires and waterfalls. Intrepid adventurers are invited to explore the hidden treasures of this paradise found, twisting and turning high up in the mountains in this land of legends.

Shangri La is Busch Gardens Oakland’s first volley launch coaster, accelerating riders forward and backwards over a series of passes to achieve maximum speed. Appropriate for a coaster themed to a lost mountain city, Shangri La’s layout is stacked vertically, featuring a slow roll, a twisting dive, and a non-inverting loop floating in midair over the Sagarathma midway. At 153 feet in height, this towering structure will leave riders dangling upside-down at 75% the height of the gargantuan Yeti hypercoaster just down the midway. The ride will be themed with multiple buildings, statues, and water misters to create a colorful, immersive environment for riders in line.

Shangri La is scheduled to open early in the summer of the 2015 season, with vertical construction set to start early next year after the holiday season. The Sagarathma Base Camp midway will need to shut down completely to accommodate construction for a three week period in January, including Yeti, during which its annual teardown will be performed.

IN ADDITON: The video tour of Busch Gardens Oakland's two China-themed areas is now live! Featuring POVs of both Gate Guardian and LongHuang, this series will be a great way for those who don't have PlanCo or a rig powerful enough to run the park to still experience Busch Gardens Oakland!

The video tour is complete! We've got videos for Base Camp, Mahala, Kyoto, and Seux all live online! This concludes Act 1 of the project and we'll get the ball rolling with Act 2 this week with the opening of Shangri La.

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