SeaWorld San Diego officially launched its long-awaited Emperor roller coaster to the public Saturday after a 10-day preview period for pass park members.
For 27 -year -old Ryan Stall of Del Cerro, a self -described coaster enthusiast, it was an opportunity that warranted sprinting past a crowd of several hundred people – and Mayor Todd Gloria – to get to the front of the line.
“I’m the first driver today,” Stall said, adding that he climbed the thrill several times in the member preview window but felt the awful need again for the day-to-day celebrations. “It was such a beaut ride. It was smooth. There was not a second of dead time.”
Set to open in 2020 but delayed by a pandemic, the Emperor is an $ 11 million dive coaster with a floorless ride car that holds 18 riders in rows of three, six people. The rides have a roll barrel, inversions, Immelmann loop (roll-off-the-top), hammerhead turn (cartwheel style spin) and flat rotation.
The Emperor’s debut was heralded by new SeaWorld San Diego Park President Jim Lake and Gloria during the day’s opening ceremony as an important moment for the city of San Diego and the theme park company on the rebound.
“These new rides bring national attention to our great city,” said Gloria, who also went for the ride. “I know, as a San Diegan native and now a proud uncle to some childhood, that this attraction is not only for tourists, but also for locals.”
Named after the emperor penguin, which can dive to a depth of 1,800 feet, the coaster reaches speeds greater than 60 mph along a nearly 2,500-foot track. Standing 153 feet tall, the high-flying attraction also offers some of the best views of Mission Bay, which riders can take at the top of the track before they are suspended at a 45-degree angle on the crown and then down 14 stories, face- first.
Riders had a dive on the opening Emperor roller coaster at SeaWorld San Diego Saturday. The ride is the tallest, fastest and longest dive coaster in California, as well as the only floorless dive coaster in the country.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)
“This attraction has been a long time coming,” Lake said during the media event. “We know our fans are excited and ready to ride the highest, longest, fastest floorless dive coaster in California.”
A dive coaster is a special type of steel roller coaster, invented by Swiss -based coaster design firm Bolliger & amp; Mabillard, and is defined by a straight vertical drop.
The lake also touted the marine park, which first opened in 1964, as the only place in North America where people could see imperial penguins.
“It’s a really unique experience to be able to come here, ride a roller coaster and then actually go over and see the animals that this represents,” Lake told the Uni-Tribune. “You can’t do that anywhere else.”
SeaWorld works with the nonprofit conservation group Penguin International. The theme park has promised to donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of penguin merchandise to Penguin International to support its educational and research efforts.
“There is only one species of penguin that is only found in Antarctica, and that, of course, is the imperial penguin. Scientists estimate there are about 238,000 breeding pairs that form more than 55 colonies of imperial penguins in Antarctica,” said Katie Propp, director of education Penguins conservation International. “I hope you get excited to see such an imperial penguin you will be scary on this coaster.”
The Emperor coaster is included in the park admission price. The current cost for a day ticket is $ 59.99.