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Florida says Busch Gardens can begin reopening June 10

The Tampa theme parks have been closed for more than two months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Credit: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

TAMPA, Fla. — Get ready, roller coaster fans. Busch Gardens can officially reopen.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, part of SeaWorld Entertainment, presented and got approved for its reopening plans on Thursday by Hillsborough County. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor also approved the plans.

The plans then went to the state for final approval, which was given Saturday.

Busch Gardens will reopen Wednesday, June 10, according to the state, although that date is likely just for employees. Busch Gardens had previously advised city leaders that it planned to open for employee appreciation day on June 10 and then to the public on June 11.

Earlier this week, SeaWorld got the green light from Orange County to reopen its Orlando parks, which include SeaWorld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove. 

"Based on the Department’s review of the proposed safety guidelines, and in consideration of the careful review and endorsement of the plan by Mayor Jane Castor of the City of Tampa and County Administrator Michael Merrill of Hillsborough County, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has established the necessary plans for the safe operation of its theme park properties upon reopening," reads a letter by secretary Halsey Beshears of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

"Accordingly, I approve the plan for reopening Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s theme parks on June 10, 2020."

When guests return to the parks in Tampa, there will be some big changes, including mandatory face masks and some rides having fewer seats. Guests and employees will also be required to pass temperature checks before entering the parks.

Here's a summary of changes coming to Busch Gardens:

  • Employees will be required to wear face coverings.
  • Guests age two and up will be required to wear face coverings. They're encouraged to bring their own.
  • Social distancing will be promoted throughout the parks with markings on the ground and signage
  • Contactless payments will be encouraged via Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay
  • Plexi-glass will be installed in high-traffic and close-contact areas
  • Cleaning and sanitization will be increased significantly, especially in high-contact areas
  • The number of hand sanitizing stations will be increased
  • CDC guidance will be followed on temperature checks
  • All guests and employees must undergo and pass temperature screenings before entering the parks
  • There will be a single-direction flow of guests walking in some areas
  • There will be no more single-rider lines
  • Queue lines for all rides will promote physical distancing
  • Some rides will get modified seating to create distancing
  • Hand sanitizer will be available at the entrances and exits to rides
  • Rides will be sanitized more frequently
  • Open play areas will be closed unless they meet distancing protocols
  • New protocols will be implemented on water rides
  • Some components of parades and meet-and-greets will be limited or removed
  • Character interactions will be modified to allow for physical distancing, as will photo opportunities
  • Spacing will be increased for touchless turnstiles at entrances
  • Seating layouts in restaurants will be changed to create more distancing
  • Tables and chairs will be sanitized more frequently
  • In restaurants, condiment stations will be closed, utensils will be pre-packaged and more single-use products will be used
  • Paper menus will replace traditional menus
  • Buffet-style services will be altered or closed
  • More grab-and-go and pre-packaged food items will be added
  • Lines and shops will have markings to encourage physical distancing
  • Shops will have signs pointing guests to defined entry and exit points
  • All open animal viewing spots will have markings to promote physical distancing
  • Some tours and interactions will be limited to one-party at a time
  • Only tours that allow for social distancing can operate
  • Some animal interactions will be modified
  • Employees with flu-like symptoms cannot come to work
  • Employees are required to follow CDC guidelines for self-isolation and symptom-free periods before returning to work
  • Employees will get coronavirus-specific training

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