Busch Gardens' plan to reopen approved by county, includes mandatory face coverings, temperature checks

Busch Gardens just cleared the first hurdle toward reopening its parks to visitors this summer.

Thursday, Hillsborough County officials approved its plan and sources told FOX 13 that Tampa’s mayor also approved of the plan. Now it needs Governor Ron DeSantis’ final approval to reopen.

Following the lead of the governor who encouraged parks to submit plans for reopening, Busch Gardens and Adventure Island submitted a detailed plan to reopen at a limited capacity.

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A Sarasota County passholder said her family will be first in line.

“We’re just excited to go back. I’ve got two young boys who love it there. They love riding the rides and seeing the animals,” said Amber Crouse. “I think it’s Florida and it’s probably going to be miserable, but we want to go back, so we’ll probably deal with it… It’s not ideal. It’s not something that we want to do. But if it’s what they’re requiring to open up the park, then it is what it is.”

Entering the park:

Face coverings and social distancing appear to be the linchpins of Busch Gardens' COVID-19 prevention and safety measures.

Guests over the age of 2 will be required to wear face coverings inside the park and Busch Gardens will encourage them to bring their own. Employees will also be required to wear masks. 

Temperature checks will also be required for all guests and employees.

Inside the park:

Signage, ground markings, and physical barriers will make sure park guests maintain proper social distancing. 

Busch Gardens says it is making adjustments to ride seating but did not give specifics. The park said requests for additional space "will be accommodated." 

Areas of the park that typically cater to smaller children may see the most changes. Parades and meet-and-greets are being scaled back or stopped completely. Open play areas will be temporarily closed and venue seating will be modified for proper social distancing.

Eating areas:

The park is rearranging dining areas to create more space. Paper menus, pre-packaged utensils, and grab-and-go food items will be available to limit the time spent waiting in line. Guests with refillable cups will be given single-use alternatives, the park said.

Condiment and topping stations, and any buffet-style food service locations will be closed.

Cleaning and sanitization:

Busch Gardens says employees are being trained on the Centers for Disease Control guidelines and are being asked to not report to work if they feel sick.

Hand sanitizer stations will be available throughout the park. 

Enhanced cleaning protocols have been implemented throughout the park, "especially in high-contact areas." 

Waterpark changes:

The plans say CDC guidance shows there is "no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through the water used in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds."

Guests who came to the park together will be seated together on rafts and ride vehicles, but guests will not be grouped with others. 

Pools and rivers will have limited capacity "to ensure physical distancing."

RELATED: State approves Legoland Florida's plans to reopen on June 1

Busch Gardens stated in its plan, "These protocols and guidelines serve as enhancements to our existing standard operating procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The protocols and guidelines described in this document will be modified based on evolving industry standards and methodologies, public health and governmental directives, and advancing scientific knowledge on the transmissibility of COVID-19."

View the plan documents below:

App users click here to see plan documents.