The Parkz Update: Vortex nears completion, Leviathan towers as The New Atlantis nears opening at Sea World

Despite a year of setbacks and delays, Vortex, the first component of Sea World's $50 million expansion is opening soon. Meanwhile the theme park's skyline is evolving dramatically as construction of the neighbouring Leviathan wooden roller coaster continues.

Image: Parkz. Vortex undergoing final testing and fine-tuning ahead of its opening this summer.
Leviathan has changed the skyline of Sea World quite dramatically.
From within the park The New Atlantis makes for quite an impressive sight. If only it weren't for the rather meaningless 'Thunder Lake' set in the middle of it all.
Obfuscating this forthcoming $50 million collection of rides with obtrusive and unsightly sets that aren't even utilised during the ski show isn't exactly the best decision Sea World ever made.
But getting past the island, The New Atlantis does offer some very impressive visuals.
Leviathan has quickly become the undeniable icon of Sea World. A sight that will be synonymous with Gold Coast theme parks for years to come.
The area's signage looks great... and even caters to those fluent in Wingdings.
Even in its current closed state, Sea World have put in enough effort to make the entrance look bold, clean and inviting.
The signage covers the adjacent dolphin pool filtration system... sort of. Hopefully those trees will grow to shelter it better from all angles.
So far the "theme" for the area consists of this lone statue, presumably of Poseidon.
More like Poo-seidon... birds have gone to town on poor old Poseidon. This'll no doubt be a challenge to keep clean in years to come, and might be one area where this modern interpretation of Greek mythology wasn't entirely thought through and an aged marble or oxidised copper effect might weather a little better.
The statue is certainly bold. But does one lone statue constitute a cohesive theme?
It's also quite different from original concept art that depicted more muted colours and lush, dense landscaping, but it definitely stands out.
The entry visuals are quite pleasant.
It's certainly different from the simple tropical gardens that were once the backdrop to these dolphin pools, but the area has an overall nice, bright vibe to it.
Once these vines take hold there should be some welcome greenery and shade.
Perhaps the most glaring omission so far is the lack of effort to theme the plant building alongside Vortex. It's a blight on the otherwise tranquil dolphin pools and pleasant view from Dockside Tavern, and will be seen by every single guest as they make their way around and out of the theme park each day.
Other sight lines however are great. The backdrop of Leviathan's wooden structure certainly helps Vortex stand out.
Testing is ongoing on Vortex ahead of its opening in coming weeks. Here technicians fine-tune the attraction while it slowly performs rotations.
The ride is capable of some very impressive maneuvers. While not as complicated and twisted as Dreamworld's former Wipeout – which it will forever be compared to – it holds its own with speed and sheer forcefulness that Wipeout never had.
The ride is significantly quieter than Wipeout as well, which is a welcome sound for anyone that was worried how it would affect the area's ambience.
The signage is sharp. Let's hope this fibreglass and plastic can hold up in years to come with the combined effects of chlorinated cascades, salty sea air and sunlight.
The 3D ripple effects in the logo means that it catches the sunlight whichever angle you look at it. And the bold light blue LED strips are bright even during daylight. At night this area will no doubt look very schmick.
The Vortex theming where the bold, modern colours means that yet again bird poop will be an ongoing challenge to clean.
The New Atlantis definitely has really impressive visuals. If it weren't for that abrupt plant building in the middle of it all...
Piles of imported lumber sits in the Sea World car park as construction on Leviathan continues. The roller coaster is being built from Southern Yellow Pine imported from the USA, as most wooden roller coasters in the world are. Here we see packs of wood with nominal dimensions of 2-inches deep, 14-inches wide and 16ft long.
The treated pine comes from Georgia. Highway... and roller coaster... construction only.
Here's one we prepared earlier.
Leviathan has quickly towered over Sea World in the few short months since construction commenced.
There's many months of construction to go with almost a kilometre of twisted track to assemble.
Unlike steel roller coasters which are built entirely from prefabricated components, traditional wooden roller coasters are built on-site from raw wood, which makes the process complicated in some ways, but easier in other ways.
Leviathan ike most roller coasters isn't being built in order from start to finish of the ride but rather in such a way that construction crews can easily access the site for the entire process.
The impressive first drop is a sight to behold. What's most impressive is that it's actually one of the few traditional, straight first drops on any roller coaster in Australia. No twists, no gimmicks like beyond-vertical. Just sheer, plummeting goodness.
The steel-reinforced ledgers that will support the track have been planed to accommodate the angle of the track that will sit on them.
Here you can get a really good idea of how wooden coaster track is made on site. Each 'rail' is a stack of wooden boards, with the top two boards overhanging by a few inches to facilitate the upstop wheels that keep the trains secured to the track. On the top and inner edge of this stack is a steel strip that the train's steel wheels ride on to minimise wear to the wood.
Leviathan towers over Nickelodeon Land, with the first drop aimed straight at Bikini Bottom.
Leviathan also towers over Seaworld Drive from outside the theme park.
Everywhere you look is already a twisted mess of track with airtime, heavily banked turns and near-misses.
These orange wooden beams are locally sourced unlike the rest of the ride's muted pine look. Most wooden coasters feature steel cable ballustrades along the side railings. If these are to remain after construction is completed then it's a bold accent that's unique to Leviathan.
One of the many "head-chopper" moments where the track darts through the surrounding support structure. In total there will be ten crossovers like this on the finished ride.
There is a gentle dip at the start of the ride into the lift hill.
The lift hill chain will pass around this sprocket at the base of the lift.
The sheer expanse of the concrete slab that forms the ride's foundation gives a good idea of the ride's completed size.
Lumber galore as construction continues.
The ride's structure takes up a lot of horizontal space in order to brace the side-to-side force as the train picks up speed through the quick turn at the top of the lift hill before the first drop.
The traditional wooden coaster look of Leviathan fit Sea World's vibe perfectly.
The pace of construction to date is nothing short of impressive.
From across the Gold Coast Broadwater, Leviathan is starting to stand out.
Storm Coaster and Leviathan take over from a skyline that was once dominated by Bermuda Triangle and Corkscrew.
Jet Rescue is set to reopen after extensive maintenance that has seen the ride get a lick of paint and some of its footings re-grouted.
The thousands of bolts that hold the ride together have been torqued and marked with paint to allow easy visual inspection.
It's been a significant period of downtime for Jet Rescue but everything is looking good for its reopening in coming days.
The Flume Ride is looking as sad and dilapidated as ever, some four years on from its closure.
The monorail – currently closed for The New Atlantis construction – has been out of action for so long that nature is starting to take over in places.
It's hard to capture just how much Leviathan changes the landscape at Sea World. Entirely for the better.
And the overall feel of The New Atlantis feels "fresh", if nothing else. Once open and completed it should create a sense of kinetic energy that Sea World's been sorely lacking for many years.

With Vortex set to open this summer and Leviathan quickly coming to shape, Sea World's The New Atlantis is becoming a reality. While doubt surrounds the lush landscaping, themed installations and intricate rockwork and waterfalls of the earliest concept art, the area is nonetheless a bright, fresh change at a theme park that's long stagnated with little love and few new attractions in recent years.