TAMPA — Roller coaster lovers, rejoice. Cheetah Hunt is back in business.
Busch Gardens' long-awaited and much-hyped coaster attraction did not open Friday morning as planned, frustrating hundreds lined up to be the first to ride it. The ride had some technical problems but was fixed and ready to roll by mid-afternoon Friday, said Busch Gardens spokeswoman Jill Revelle.
"This is not uncommon," Revelle said. "It's a brand new ride with new equipment and new sensors, and the sensors are tripping."
The ride was supposed to open at 9:30 a.m. As of noon it was still not running, but Revelle said at the time that they expected to fix the problems in a matter of hours.
Revelle said ride operators wanted to make sure Cheetah Hunt is running consistently before they put people on it. She said the same thing happened when SheiKra opened several years ago.
"We know it's hot out there today, and many of you traveled from near and far to be amongst the first to ride Cheetah Hunt," the park's posting said. "We appreciate the patience and support you've shown us today...now go and enjoy this incredible new ride!"
The ride worked fine during a VIP event Thursday night, said spokeswoman Jill Revelle. But as happens with some new rides, glitches popped up. The ride is lined with safety sensors to detect everything from birds landing on the track to excessive heat, and Revelle said a series of those sensors tripped in error, preventing the ride from starting.
The 4,469-foot-long ride accelerates to more than 60 mph through the push of a series of magnetic launchers, and it hugs the ground, whipping back and forth – hence the theme of a predator cat chasing prey.
Revelle characterized the glitches as not unexpected.
"When you get a new ride, it can take time to calibrate all the sensors," Revelle said. "Sheikra had glitches, too, on its opening … We will wait until the trains are all running perfectly before we put any people on it."
Busch Gardens posted the following statement on its Facebook page:
"High performance coasters and thrill machines rely on sophisticated, finely tuned parts. Sometimes mechanical delays are a fact of opening day. The safety and comfort of our guests is always our primary concern. We thank our guests for understanding as we work to get the ride running as soon as possible. We promise the wait is worth it.''