SAN DIEGO — It’s been a fixture on San Diego’s skyline for a while now, but “when is SeaWorld’s new roller coaster actually opening?” has become a common refrain.

Consider that question answered: “Emperor” gets its long-awaited debut on March 12. Touted by the park as California’s “tallest and fastest floorless dive coaster,” the thrill ride features a vertical drop of 14 stories, speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, loops, a hammerhead turn and other such roller coaster buzz words. It also offers panoramic views of Point Loma, Coronado and the greater San Diego area before the plunge.

A towering blue structure above SeaWorld and Mission Bay, it’s been tempting prospective riders since initial word of Emperor — originally called “Mako” — came out in 2019. Constructing coasters takes time, but the opening was further delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted park operations even after it partially reopened last year. In March, the wait will finally conclude.

The ride is named for emperor penguins, the tallest and heaviest members of their species. Wednesday was National Penguin Day, and FOX 5 visited the park to check out the celebration and learn more about the new ride.

Jim Potter, a project manager at the park, shared a fun fact: “Emperors can dive to 1,800 feet, which is over 12 times the height of this ride,” he explained, standing beside the dive coaster. “When you think about that, it’s pretty impressive.”

Thrill-seekers who want to check out the ride can buy SeaWorld tickets and season passes on the park’s website. There will be some opportunities for season pass holders to try the ride before March 12, but if you’re buying a single-day ticket for the coaster, just make sure to book it for that date or later.

SeaWorld is hoping to drum up excitement surrounding the new ride and boost attendance. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, the park suffered heavy losses like many other entertainment venues due to public health shutdowns.

March is looking like a boon for San Diego residents and visitors looking for entertainment options in the county: The new Sesame Place theme park, also owned by SeaWorld’s parent company, will open in Chula Vista that month.