June 21, 2024

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SeaWorld Orlando’s Penguin Trek coaster on track for spring opening | Travel

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ORLANDO, Fla. — SeaWorld Orlando is making visible progress on its next attraction, Penguin Trek, an indoor-outdoor roller coaster set to open at the theme park this spring.

The ride’s rail – white on the outside stretches, black on the interior – is completely in place. The decor is in the works, including faux rockwork and expedition-inspired touches. Penguin Trek will operate in the building for the former Empire of the Penguin attraction, and there was demolition required in the plaza as well as some construction for a gift shop/exit. The iceberg look remains.

“You may remember from the previous ride, we were on a journey with Puck, who was a character that we created to symbolize that birth and growth of a penguin in the wild,” Clint Brinker, vice president of design and engineering, said during a hard-hat tour behind the construction walls.

“But here, the theming is very natural, and it’s about us explorers going out to see penguins in their natural habitat,” he said. “So the look and the feel and the textures … Everything we’re doing here is to create that feeling of an expedition with real penguins in their real environment.”

As with the previous attraction, parkgoers will encounter the real birds in their habitat at the end of the experience, right before the gift shop. But first, Penguin Trek passengers will ride snowmobile-inspired coaster vehicles through a darkened area with a couple of surprises and a big-screen view of a virtual vista.

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“We really wanted that indoor section to still be fun and not just kind of be a drive-around show,” Conner Carr, ride engineer, said. “They go, and they see the vista, and then all of a sudden, the ice breaks away, and you’re dropping.”

This will lead dramatically to a hill and the bright outdoors above SeaWorld.

“So, you launch into the outside at 31 miles per hour — lots of twists and turns, you can see,” Brinker said. “It is what we call a mid-tier thrill. It is for the whole family, not too scary. But we have a second launch that brings you up to 43 miles per hour, just a couple moments where you add a little drama into the ride experience.”

“When you bank around that turn, you get a very cool, very unique view,” Carr said. “Both on the brake run and through that soaring curve, you actually get to look back and look down on the whole Antarctica area and kind of feel like you are soaring above everybody.”

Penguin Trek is situated near SeaWorld’s blue-railed Manta coaster and within eyeshot of its bright green Kraken ride. Visitors will be able to walk underneath the new rails, much like they can beneath parts of Manta and Pipeline, which opened at the park last year.

“I think it’s going to be a great experience for guests both on the ride and off the ride. It really adds a lot of life to this area,” Brinker said.

Penguin Trek will be the fifth coaster at SeaWorld Orlando manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard, following Kraken, Manta, Mako and Pipeline. It will have a height requirement of 42 inches.

Completion of the ride will lead to the reopening of the pathway to Sea Lion & Otter Stadium. Construction has been surrounded by regular SeaWorld activities. And planners were challenged by reusing the interior space of Empire of the Penguin, a trackless dark ride that operated from 2013 to 2020.

There are snug fits inside that structure with rails, the big screen, the first launch, loading areas and a snowy research facility theming near each other.

“That spacing works to your advantage for placemaking and gives you that that feeling of, you know, ‘Are we going to make it out?’” Brinker said.

An opening date for Penguin Trek has not been announced, but Brinker said the project is on schedule for its debut sometime in spring.

“We’re doing all the torquing and all the checks that we have to do for inspections and so forth before we start up the ride,” he said.

“Very soon, we’re going to do all the ride startup and testing, so it won’t be too long before you start seeing trains moving on track.”

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