Suddenly, big things are happening in Poland in the themed entertainment business. As a new generation of theme parks starts to appear across the country, we look at Park of Poland, the ambitious new destination resort outside Warsaw.
Blooloop speaks to Peter Dudolenski, the man leading the development of Park of Poland to hear more about his plans for an all-weather waterpark. We also ask him why he believes he can pull off a such a project where others have failed.
After years of “me too” dinosaur parks, miniature lands and science centres, a new generation of theme parks and amusement parks is steadily beginning to
appear across Poland.
Stealing a march in 2014 was Energylandia in Zator. Built by energy drink and nightclub entrepreneur Marek Goczal, it already boasts an annual attendance of around 1 million. A slew of big new attractions is planned over the coming years, including several rollercoasters and a water ride. Elsewhere in Poland, as part of the Holiday Park Kownaty project, a Majaland indoor/outdoor park should be open by the end of the year in collaboration with the Plopsa Group. More parks are believed to be on the way.
Park of Poland breaks ground
Sixty kilometres south of the capital, in Mszczonów, construction started this May on the first phase of the Park of Poland resort. Spearheading the project is Peter Dudolenski, CEO of Global City Holdings. The Dutch-based company is working together with a strategic partner from Germany, Unternehmensgruppe WUND, operator of five waterparks including Therme Erding, Therme Bad Wörishofen and Badesparadies Schwarzwald. Together they will develop Suntago Water World.
The 70,000 square metre glass-roofed facility will be the largest indoor waterpark in Europe, eclipsing Tropical Islands near Berlin. A hotel and conference facility is also planned. Future phases will include a large theme park, shopping centre and further hotels.
“Our waterpark will have over 3.2km of water slides not to mention an exclusive sauna and spa area,” reveals Dudolenski. “There are very nice projects in Poland but none of them is comparable to Suntago Water World by size.”
A plot of 20 hectares (49.5 acres) has been earmarked for phase one of Park of Poland. Although no opening date has yet been set, construction is expected to take around 20 months. In total, Global City Holdings has a land bank of 400 hectares (988 acres) in Mszczonów to develop as the resort expands. The annual attendance target for the waterpark is at least 1 million guests.
Sun to go, 365 days a year!
The name Suntago is intended to sound like “sun-to-go”. Waterpark guests are promised a tropical waterpark experience 365 days a year, even when it is freezing cold outside. Over 700 real palm trees, hand-picked in Florida, Malesia and Thailand, will immerse bathers in an exotic atmosphere as they splash and play in the thermal heated waters. When it is sunny outside, then the two cabrio roofs (each is 1,600 sq m in size and over 120 tonnes in weight) can slide open in just five minutes.
“Suntago Water World will stand up to the highest standard of waterparks that exist today in the world,” says Dudolenski. “We did a lot of studies of local and international projects. Analysing our catchment area and how we can increase tourism to Poland and to the Warsaw area in particular. We naturally expect the majority of our customers to be from Poland but for sure we will have visitors from all over Europe. I think our guests would love to stay for more than a day or two to really get into the magic Suntago Water World will offer.”
Wait a minute. A resort style development close to the Polish capital that also includes hotels, a shopping mall and is capable of pulling guests from neighbouring countries such as Germany? That sounds eerily similar to a previous would-be developer’s dreams for the ill-fated Adventure World Warsaw project. So what makes Park of Poland different?
“There are two main reasons in my opinion,” says Dudolenski. “The first is that it is very hard to buy a large piece of land in Poland. We have bought parcels from dozens of people since 2008 and we are still buying,” he adds, demonstrating a similar kind of acumen as that displayed by Walt Disney when he landed in Orlando all those years ago.
“The second reason is the support we are getting from the local municipality headed by Mayor Kurek, which is amazing. I’m sure the immediate surrounding economy will greatly benefit from our project.”
Dudolenski says he met his German partner by accident, but that after their first meeting they instantly clicked. Having someone on board with a track record in waterparks, and indoor ones at that, will surely be an advantage. Yet the CEO of Global City Holdings is no stranger to out-of-home entertainment himself.
“Our company has been in the entertainment business since opening our first cinema in 1930. Today our holding group holds the second largest cinema chain in Europe (Cineworld), which operates in nine countries including the UK and Poland. After the success of these facilities and our IMAX and 4DX movie halls we see entering the attraction industry as the natural next step for us.”
An investment of over €150 million has been committed to Suntago. Starting with the waterpark, rather than a theme park, might be a sensible move. Not that its huge glass-roofed building will be an easy undertaking.
To get inspiration for the project, Dudolenski visited countless theme parks and waterparks in Europe and beyond. These included Europa-Park, Tropical Islands, PortAventura World, Yas Waterworld and Walt Disney World. To kit out his undercover water paradise, Polin Waterparks was selected, after a long tender process involving three of the top slide manufacturers in the world.
“Polin made a good impression during the process. They convinced us that the attractions we are getting from them offer the best combination of experience, safety and price.”
Suntago Water World will be split into three zones. It will comprise a giant swimming pool, a geothermal spa and then the splash and slide zone. Polin’s contribution includes over a dozen slides and attractions. Signature pieces will be a Windigo racing slide, Space Hole speed slide/bowl combo and a Multisurf mat racer. There will also be a Looping Rocket with launch capsule.
Dudolenski concedes that local market conditions dictate guest spending will be lower inside Suntago than comparable projects in Western Europe. But make no mistake over his ambitions for the wider resort it will be part of. “We are focused on making Park of Poland the best attraction in Central Europe.”
Blooloop, and the European attractions industry in general, will be watching with interest.