Drachen Fire at Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Building on the success of Arrow's numerous Mega-Looper roller coasters, the ride was supposed to be an incredible addition to an amusement part that had great success with Arrow coasters beforehand, such as 1978's Loch Ness Monster, featuring the only interlocking vertical loops remaining in the world, and Big Bad Wolf, a now-defunct, but fondly remembered, suspended coaster, running from 1984-2009.
|Aerial of Drachen Fire. Image: Corey Green via Theme Park Tourist|
At 150’ tall, with a diving inversion for a first drop, as well as other unique inversions, and an airtime hill immediately after the first drop, Drachen Fire was an ambitious project, and was meant to be the signature ride in the park. The ride was stylistically different from previous Arrow projects in a few ways. For one, it did not feature a vertical loop, and it the first time the company had attempted an inverting first drop, a cobra roll, a cutback, and diving corkscrew loop.
Much of this had to do with the fact that Arrow did not design the ride, rather upstart company Bolliger & Mabillard had designed the ride but did not believe they would have the capacity to construct it, as they were building another major roller coaster, Kumba, for Busch Garden's other theme park in Tampa.
According to BGWFans, "Early talks took place between B&M and Busch, the talks included concepts of the coasters to be built. By 1992 the company had completed a total of four roller coasters and besides working on their first sit-down design for Busch, they were also developing a brand new concept, the inverted coaster. The company was set to deliver two inverted coasters in 1993, their standard annual output in terms of numbers at that point. Their ability to deliver two rides to Busch Gardens was strained to the point that it was not possible. They agreed to deliver one ride, that ride was to be located in the Tampa park.
With the coaster already in the concept phase in the Williamsburg park, Busch approached the company that had created the other two coasters in the park. The concept was presented to Arrow, who agreed to complete the project."
And the POV of the ride early in its life looks incredible. However, like many problematic roller coasters, the ride experience would quickly deteriorate, and negative publicity would force numerous changes to the ride.
Here's the POV of the ride from the early 1990's:
Almost immediately however, the ride experienced mechanical issues. It was also considered to be extremely rough by most of the general public, in particular the “diving corkscrew” that came after the mid course brake run. This element would be removed for the 1995 season.
|Diving Corkscrew immediately following the brake run. You can clearly tell, despite the aesthetically pleasing design that this would be a huge headbanging moment for riders. Image: Jim Westland via RCDB.|
Despite the unique design, or most-likely because of it, its reputation as a rough ride led to a quick decline in ridership, and the ride would shut down in 1998.
Amusement park enthusiasts are left to wonder how the ride would have fared had B&M constructed the ride as originally intended, especially since Kumba at the Tampa park would eventually rank among the world's best roller coasters, although it is interesting that its inversions are much more common among coaster projects, whereas a lot of the inversions on Drachen Fire were quite unique, even by today's standards.
Laying dormant for a few years, it was tested once in 2001 in the hopes of a buyer moving it, but no buyer was found. The ride was finally demolished in 2002.
A YouTube Video explains the history of the ride and its downfall pretty well, presented below. Thanks as always for reading!