Taking the Plunge at Busch Gardens

Hampton Roads: Look out below!

After a nearly three-month delay, Busch Gardens in Williamsburg finally opened the gates Friday on its newest attraction - a nearly 240-foot-high, free-fall ride called Mach Tower.

The early reports?

"The overwhelming comments have been, 'It's been worth the wait,' " said Carl Lum, president of the theme park. The ride, which is in the park's Oktoberfest village, rotates 30 riders atop a spire, then drops them at "breathtaking" speed.

Busch Gardens had planned to launch Mach Tower in the spring and set a date of May 27 for reporters to test it out. But mechanical problems delayed the opening.

"During the manufacturer's initial testing, some mechanical issues were discovered that caused the delay," Lum said in a news release. "We're pleased our guests will be able to ride Mach Tower before the summer comes to a close."

The company announced the ride in September. Earlier this summer, several roller-coaster-fan blogs and online forums, including, and, posted reports of problems during testing of Mach Tower. The posts cited employees who spoke of a malfunctioning brake system, improper installation of shock absorbers, and defective parts.

Busch Gardens acknowledged that the mechanical issues took longer than expected to resolve, but emphasized that the safety of its patrons was paramount.

"When Mach Tower opens, it will be as safe as every other ride in our park," Lum said in a July email.


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