For its next big attraction, “Manta,” SeaWorld Orlando intends to mix 184,000 gallons of water, 3,000 sea animals and a roller coaster that lies people down horizontally then takes them through four inversions, up as high as 140 feet and as fast as 56 mph.

“You say, ‘Hey, you’re putting as much emphasis on the animals as on the ride, absolutely. That’s who we are. This is uniquely SeaWorld. We don’t want to just put in a ride,” said Joseph Couceiro, chief marketing officer for SeaWorld’s parent company, Busch Entertainment Corporation.

SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Entertainment officials today announced details today for the new Manta roller coaster, which they said will seamlessly take guests from the awe of encountering rays in underwater flight into the sensation of actually being one.

Swooping over water and sky, Manta will show riders underwater animal habitats, then soar them face-down aboard a manta-inspired flying coaster, donned in hues of dark purple, ultramarine blue, and cobalt.

SeaWorld also refined its word on the anticipated opening. It is to open in the summer 2009.

This morning’s announcement provided the first details for the ride, SeaWorld Orlando’s second major roller coaster, since officials first confirmed the ride in April. The ride has been conspicuously under construction in the northeast area of SeaWorld, near the park’s main entrance, since January.

Manta is covering four acres and will reach a height of 140 feet. It was designed by the Swiss coaster company, Bollinger & Mabillard. SeaWorld has declined to discuss the ride’s pricetag.

Whether visitors choose to ride the coaster or not, SeaWorld pledges that Manta still will offer an attraction. Floor-to-ceiling windows will provide encounters with 300 rays, as well as thousands of fish and other creatures native to oceans all over the world. Shark rays, spotted eagles rays, leopard rays, cownose rays, and oscillate river rays float past guests with fluidity and grace in a view new to SeaWorld. Elaborate lighting, sound and rushing waterfalls further will submerge guests into the experience. The exhibit will feature an exterior lagoon and 10 aquariums.

The coaster vehicles were designed to give riders the sensation of gliding, swooping and diving up to 56 mph, through four inversions on 3,359 feet of track, moving from sky to water — so close at times that the Manta’s wings skim the waves. The tip of the ride vehicle actually will splash into the water.

Ride designer and manufacturer, Bolliger & Mabillard, of Switzerland, is the same company that designed and built Kraken at SeaWorld and SheiKra at Busch Gardens. Manta will share the smoothness those coasters are known for, Couceiro said.

“It will be extremely smooth,” he said. But then he added, “It’s meant to appeal to a lot of folks, but it is not a tame ride.”

Information & Image courtesy of Orlando Sentinel