Behind the Scenes at SeaWorld San Diego’s Emperor Dive Coaster


Yesterday, SeaWorld San Diego afforded us the amazing opportunity to tour the Emperor Dive Coaster construction site and talk to Mike Denninger, SeaWorld’s Vice President of Attractions. Overall, construction is ahead of schedule and the ride is scheduled to open in Spring 2020. Standing at 153 feet tall, Emperor is the tallest, fastest, and longest Dive Coaster on the West Coast, and is the only 6 person-across Dive Coaster in the country.

Entering the Emperor Realm

Emperor will be connected to the rest of SeaWorld through the Journey to Atlantis plaza. In order to get to the coaster, turn right at the park entrance and keep walking until you see Electric Eel and Journey to Atlantis. Once you walk into the Atlantis area, you’ll see a gate to your left, which will turn into the new accessway for Emperor in just a few weeks.

Along the walkway to the Emperor realm, you will see the beautiful landscaping that SeaWorld is known for, as well as educational signage about the Antarctic environment and the various threats facing the animals there. Penguins International, an organization dedicated to preserving penguin species through scientific research, will be partnering with SeaWorld to create informative graphics.

Currently, the pathway is almost fully poured, and as construction on the coaster itself wraps up, work will begin on making the area nice and presentable.

Emperor Ride Plaza

The Emperor realm is mainly comprised of the ride plaza and coaster entrance. After exiting the walkway between Journey to Atlantis and Wild Arctic, park guests will be greeted by a beautiful ride sign, which is yet to be installed. There will also be a locker building, quick queue kiosk, and ride photo area located by the pathway that serves as both the ride entrance and exit.

According to SeaWorld VP Mike Denninger, the Emperor Plaza will be predominated by nice landscaping, along with the nicely themed entrance sign. Graphics containing information about penguins will serve both as theming elements and educational displays.

Queue and Station

Emperor’s queue is going to be relatively short, which means that it might back up into the plaza on busy days. At the moment, the bare bones of the queue and station have been completed. All of the queue’s walkways have been poured, and are now awaiting the installation of shade structures and light fixtures. Riders will be able to walk directly underneath the ride’s lift hill, which will be an intimidating start to the ride experience for many.

SeaWorld opted to go for an open-air queue for Emperor, similar to that of Journey to Atlantis. The structural elements of the queue, including the safety gates and ride control booth, are pretty much finished. A large shade structure will protect riders from the sun during the summer months, and although we’re not exactly sure what it will look like, it will probably look really neat!

After walking up the steps into the station area, riders will split into three different lines for each row of the coaster train. The coaster will run two trains simultaneously, giving the attraction a theoretical capacity of around 800 people per hour.


Although we have been able to see Emperor’s trains from the SeaWorld parking lot for the past few weeks, today was the first day that we are able to see the full train up-close. As you can see, there is a beautiful wrap on the bottom of the coaster cart that was designed to look like the vibrant neck feathers of the Emperor penguin. The bright orange will contrast nicely with the blue track as the trains zoom through the course.

These trains feature the newest generation of the Bolliger and Mabillard vest restraints, which are anecdotally described to be less restrictive and more comfortable than other coasters featuring a similar vest restraint. The vest restraint system also gives the ride a lower height requirement of 52 inches.

Ride Experience

Now that we’ve boarded the coaster and are secured in the restraints, there’s nothing more to do than hold on tight! As the train gets cleared for dispatch, the coaster’s floor lowers, leaving riders’ feet dangling as the train rolls out of the station and begins to ascend the steep, 45-degree lift hill. As riders are slowly elevated to 153 above the park, they will get a stunning view of San Diego and as the ride makes a complete turnaround. Suddenly, riders will be suspended at the precipice of the vertical drop. After being held face-down for a few seconds, riders are released straight down into the 143-foot drop.

The first element that riders experience is the Immelman loop, which features a sweeping turn that will be incredible in the outside seats of the coaster. The coaster then goes low to the ground, building up speed and thrusting riders into unbelievably banked hammerhead turn. Although the turn is definitely not go completely 180 degrees upside-down, the banking seems well over 135 degrees, putting it in inversion territory depending on your definition of an inversion. Riders will then experience two quick inversions back to back – a zero-g roll and barrel roll (or corkscrew). The ride finishes with a few banked turns and then speeds into the final brake run.

Overall, Emperor will have a ride time of around two minutes and will be the perfect roller coaster for almost everyone. It will be incredibly smooth, graceful, and the view from the top will be absolutely stunning.

We can’t wait to experience this attraction, so stay tuned for more updates including the official opening date of the coaster! Emperor opens this spring, so make sure to plan on coming out to experience this truly magnificent addition to the park.

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