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Busch Gardens' Pantopia Opens Without Falcon's Fury Taking Flight

Busch Gardens' Falcon's Fury is the tallest free-standing drop tower in North America. Soon enough, people will get the chance to fall face-down towards the ground at 60 miles per hour. Falcon's Fury is the coming attraction of Pantopia--the new area of the theme park that opens Thursday.

 “Pantopia is all about doors and keys and you’ll never know where the next door is going to lead,” Busch Garden's spokesman Travis Claytor said.

He took me on a tour of Pantopia. We started at the entrance called Key Gate which leads to new specialty shops and restaurants and old rides and games left over from the Timbuktu area Pantopia is replacing. One new store, Painted Camel Bazaar, has a recycle and upcycle theme. It sells bowls made out of old telephone wires and hand-made Moroccan lamps. Claytor says even the building is recycled.

"Even the wood, some of the wood inside was used in the building that was here prior to that and help create what is now Painted Camel Bazaar,” he said.

Pantopia also hosts a new specialty pretzel shop. Pretzel shops aren't new but their signature item is.

“Bacon makes everything better," he said, "so what our chefs at Busch Gardens have done is they’ve added bacon to a pretzel and they’ve sort of weaved it, braided it together to create the Bacon Pretzel Fury.”

Back outside, the theater is enclosed around a construction fence as the transformation from old to new is still in the works. Pantopia Theater will be welcoming a new show in late June that will star some of the park's animals.

But it's what's smack dab in the middle of Pantopia that really gets your attention: a three hundred and thirty five foot-tower. It's Falcon's Fury, a ride that holds 32 people until it drops them to the ground in about six seconds.

When asked, most people would probably think a cheetah is the fastest animal out there, but in fact, falcons are faster.  A falcon's tapered wings allow it to fly at speeds in excess of 180 miles per hour when they're diving to catch their prey. That falcon's fury is what the new ride at Busch Gardens in Tampa tries to capture.

Sure, it's a drop-down tower, that's not new, "but none of them will take you up and turn you 90 degrees to a face-down dive position and then drop you 60 miles per hour," Claytor said.

The ride has you face-down as you plummet back to the ground.

“This drop tower is designed to where you feel like you’re sort of suspended in space," Claytor explains, "where you’re sitting is actually about nine or 10 feet away from the tower itself. So you’re not hugged up on the tower, you’ll feel like you're suspended in space so when you get up nearly 300 feet and it turns you to that face down position, there’s not much to grab onto.”

People can't get a grip on this ride just yet. The ride was set to open Thursday but Falcon's Fury is still under safety testing. No new open date has been mentioned but Claytor assures it will be 'soon.'

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