Iron Gwazi vs Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa: Which is better?
There has been a trend recently in the roller coaster/ theme park world.
We have seen it take place with Steel Vengence at Cedar Point, Goliath at Six Flags Great America, Twisted Timbers at Kings Dominion and currently in the works, Wildcat’s Revenge at Hersheypark, scheduled to open this year.
If you don’t know, the trend involves classic wooden coasters getting what we call, “the RMC treatment.”
RMC or “Rocky Mountain Construction” is a manufacturing and constructions company famous for its I-Box track and topper track design for wooden coasters.
In total, they have revamped 20 coasters, usually gorgeously combining steel and sometimes the original wood frames of the coasters to revive them as brand new thrill coasters.
They have crafted the same treatment for Busch Gardens Tampa’s Gwazi Roller Coaster, reborn as the immensely popular Iron Gwazi, a wooden dueling roller coaster boasting two separate tracks.
But is the new version better?
Today, I will discuss the two versions by comparing the histories, learning about the changes and key differences to determine which is the best version at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
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History of Gwazi and Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Due to the trend of guests preferring antique style attractions instead of steel at that time period, they chose to do a wooden coaster to allow them to stand out against its competitors.
They chose to work with Great Coaster International amongst several candidates to create the roller coaster due to their work on the now defunct Wildcat at Hersheypark, which is currently getting the RMC treatment to become Wildcat’s Revenge.
With assistance from the Washington University in St. Louis, the name chosen for the upcoming coaster was Gwazi.
What is a Gwazi?
Gwazi is a name based on an African myth featuring a lion’s head, a tiger’s body and the creature’s inner struggle of being.
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Construction of the Gwazi Wooden Roller Coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa
The construction for Gwazi began in July 1998 and it was announced that same day.
After that, the tracks were themed to a lion and tiger, based on the fable and was the park’s fifth coaster and was also the first wooden coaster to open at any Busch Entertainment Park.
Gwazi would then go on to be opened in June 1999, almost a year later.
Gwazi: Rough Challenges
Unfortunately, the roller coaster, like its wooden sisters across the country, gained a reputation as being extremely rough and uncomfortable.
Despite the tracks being reworked in 2009, the choice was made in 2014 to shut it down due to low attendance, negative guest feedback and operating costs.
It had its last ride in February 2015 with some of the trains and wooden planks being reused at various Busch Gardens and SeaWorld locations.
Iron Gwazi Comes to Life at Busch Gardens Tampa
Work with RMC started and officials stated the plans would be revealed once the 9th coaster, Tigris, was completed.
March 2019 was when they announced the hybrid steel and wooden coaster in collaboration with RMC that would be promoted as the steepest, fastest, and tallest hybrid roller coaster in North America.
Construction began in August 2019 with the trains revealed at IAAPA that November.
When did Iron Gwazi open?
The original opening date was pushed back due to the pandemic and a lien being filed against the company by RMC for money owed.
It was postponed once again in August 2021 with a new date of March 2022. At long last, it would open to the public on March 11, 2022.
Iron Gwazi vs Gwazi at Busch Gardens: What’s the Difference?
Most of the differences between the two coaster are in the tracks.
Original Gwazi Roller Coaster at Busch Gardens
On the Gwazi Roller Coaster there were two tracks that battled each other: Lion and Tiger tracks.
Here are the key differences of the Lion versus Tiger tracks for the original Gwazi roller coaster.
Lion Track of Gwazi
After leaving the station, the train moved forward before dipping into a right-handed U-turn to pass the other train.
The train slightly climbed to the left then ascended the 105.4 ft lift hill.
Once at the top, the train entered a fake drop and turned right before descending the 91.8 ft drop and reaching its maximum speed of 51 mph near the bottom.
The train banked slightly right before ascending into a left-banked turn through the lift hill of the tiger side, exiting downward, and entering a right-banked turnaround.
Then it banked up into a left turn before traversing downward into the outer region of the layout, making multiple, slight-banked right turns.
Afterward, the train entered a series of hills parallel to the opposite train, passing by the station before banking leftward into a downward spiral.
The train descended before rising into a slight right turn, transitioning into a left turn and into the stop.
Completing the run, the train then turned right and then slightly left before entering the station.
Tiger Track of Gwazi
The train departed the station, moved forward into a slight right turn, then dipped into a U-turn to the left to pass the other train.
It slightly climbed to the left before ascending the 105.4 ft lift hill.
Once at the top, the train entered a pre-drop, turning left before descending the 91.8 ft drop and reaching its maximum speed of 51 mph (miles per hour) near the bottom.
The train slightly banked right before ascending into a banked right turn and a drop.
Continuing the banked angle, it then climbed before dipping and then climbing into a left-banked turn, traversing a series of curves before turning towards the outer region of the layout in multiple, slight-banked left turns.
The train then entered a series of hills, running parallel to the opposite train, passing by the station and entering a right-banked downward spiral.
It slightly descended before rising into a slight-banked left turn, moving into a right turn, and then into the brake run.
Completing the run, the train turned left and then slightly right before entering the station.
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NEW: Iron Gwazi Roller Coaster at Busch Gardens
When it comes to Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens, it starts with a sharp left-hand turn, followed by a similar left turn but on a decline.
It then gains speed before a smaller left turn that leads to the 206 ft lift hill section.
How fast is Iron Gwazi?
As Iron Gwazi makes its way up the hill, the train slows down before dropping down its 91-degree drop, reaching its top speed of 76 mph.
Iron Gwazi then climbs another hill, which at the top, turns the opposite direction making an outer-bank turn.
The coaster then returns towards the drop and begins to curve upwards to perform the 540-degree barrel roll down-drop under the coaster’s truss lift hill.
This is followed up with an over-banked turn.
The coaster climbs above the station and turns outward to perform an extended wave turn that persists until it snaps back once it is under the lift hill’s entrance.
Then Iron Gwazi climbs a small off-axis hill, transitioning the coaster to a smaller wave turn that follows.
This Busch Gardens roller coaster then enters a zero-g stall which extends over the exit of the first drop.
A small outer-banked hill of Iron Gwazi is followed by a turn into 2 successive off axis airtime hills.
Iron Gwazi finishes with a turnaround into an ejector airtime hill, and a sharp left turn slamming into the final break stop.
The train makes a left turn passing the car barn, and a final right turn before entering the station.
Below are the main key differences between Gwazi and Iron Gwazi from a Statistics standpoint.
Iron Gwazi vs Gwazi
|Gwazi Roller Coaster||Iron Gwazi Roller Coaster|
|Track: Wood||Track: Steel/Wood|
|Height: 105 feet (ft)||Height: 206 ft|
|Drop: 91 ft||Drop: 206 ft|
|Length: 3,500 ft||Length: 4,075 ft|
|Speed: 51 MPH||Speed: 76 MPH|
|Time: 2 Minutes and 30 Seconds||Time: 1 Minute and 50 Seconds|
|Inversions: 0||Inversions: 2|
There’s also a maximum vertical angle of 91 degrees with Iron Gwazi that wasn’t on the original Gwazi roller coaster at Busch Gardens.
Awards and Recognition of Gwazi and Iron Gwazi
To compare reception and success, Gwazi got great reviews and was mostly compared with the now defunct Dueling Dragons at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure due to the Dueling aspect.
Before it closed, it received a Golden Ticket Award for Top Wooden Coaster in 2003-2007 and 2010, placing at least in the top 40s and 30s.
However, upon the debut of Iron Gwazi, it got rave reviews from riders and critics for its smoothness and amazing airtime hills, praising the added signature barrel roll.
It placed number 1 for Best New Roller Coaster for the Golden Ticket Awards in 2022.
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Iron Gwazi vs Gwazi: Which is Better?
Here at ThemeParkHipster, while we appreciate and credit wooden coasters for their classic signature style and admire its resurgence in the early 1990s and 2000s, in the present, riders seem to be leaning towards the revamped style that RMC delivers so well.
Although we enjoy nostalgia, we also want to be comfortable, and we can achieve both with the RMC treatment, delivering comfort and thrills.
There is some debate onto the comfort aspect however as the style chosen by RMC can leave tall or bigger riders unable to ride or uncomfortably tight in the vehicle.
Nonetheless, we are looking to the future and have personally decided that Iron Gwazi reigns supreme and we hope so for years to come at Busch Gardens Tampa!
Which version of the wooden dueling coaster do you prefer? Let us know in our Facebook Group!
Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!
About the Author
Victoria is a professional solo traveler here to make your solo trips as stress free AND enjoyable as possible for you.
She has over 5 years of Disney and Non-Disney travel experience and was featured by POPSUGAR as one of the Top 50 Black Disney Creators you should follow.
She is a Proud Native to Baltimore, Md but always will call Disney World home. You can find her at Disney Tea with V.