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SeaWorld’s tallest coaster is a go, San Diego City Council says

Mako dive coaster
Rendering shows a first look at the Mako roller coaster that SeaWorld is saying will be the tallest, fastest and longest dive coaster in California. It is expected to debut in 2020.

The proposed 153-foot tall coaster is allowed a waiver from San Diego’s 30-foot height limit, per the park’s approved master plan

SeaWorld’s next roller coaster — its tallest yet — got a unanimous OK Tuesday from the San Diego City Council, which confirmed the attraction is allowed to exceed San Diego’s height limitation in the coastal zone.

The planned 153-foot-tall Mako dive coaster, planned to open next year, will easily surpass the 30-foot coastal height restriction, but SeaWorld’s master plan allows for a limited number of exemptions. In all, the plan permits an exception of up to 160 feet on four designated sites, with the Mako coaster location being one of those.

The allowed variations from the height limit stem from a 1998 approval by San Diego voters of Proposition D, which amended the city’s municipal code to permit development up to a maximum of 160 feet on the SeaWorld leasehold in Mission Bay Park.

The first waiver was for the Electric Eel coaster, which debuted in 2018. Mako will top Electric Eel by just three feet. SeaWorld describes Mako as the longest, tallest and fastest dive coaster in California, although there is only one other such type of coaster in California — the 150-foot-tall HangTime ride at Knott’s Berry Farm.

Mako is planned for a location near the Journey to Atlantis attraction in the southeastern portion of the marine park, where there currently is an asphalt parking lot and ornamental trees. SeaWorld is planning to use sky-colored paint to blunt the visual impact of the coaster’s height.

The floorless dive coaster, to be built by Switzerland-based Bolliger & Mabillard, will have a 143-foot-tall vertical drop, a top speed of 60 mph and nearly 2,500 feet of track. The two-minute-long ride will feature a barrel roll and a sweeping Immelmann loop named after a German pilot who used the flying maneuver in World War II. Each of the floorless ride cars will hold 18 riders in three, six-person rows.

Tuesday’s action by the City Council was required before the coaster project could move on to the California Coastal Commission, which will also need to weight in.

While SeaWorld still heavily promotes its collection of marine mammals, the San Diego park in recent years has focused more heavily on rides, a move that in part seems to have helped drive attendance following a years-long decline. Yet another roller coaster, Tidal Twister, will open next month.