The opening of Rulantica finished off a busy 2019 for the popular German theme park. Europa-Park kicked off last summer by welcoming to visitors back to its Scandinavia themed street, painstakingly rebuilt after a devastating fire last May. Then, in October 2019, guests were invited beneath the area to see the new Snorri Touren dark ride. And just one month later the eagerly-awaited indoor waterpark opened its doors.
And, in addition to this, next season Pirates of Batavia returns. The classic dark ride was also destroyed by fire in 2018 but gets a reboot for 2020 with over 125 new figures and technological effects.
But first, we take a look at the newly opened mystical Nordic island of Rulantica. This is the largest single investment in Europa-Park’s history.
An-all weather world of water
After eight days of soft opening, Rulantica was officially launched on November 28. A ceremony attended by over 750 media representatives and VIPs featured presentations from members of the Mack family, senior Europa-Park staff, local and national politicians, plus the clergy.
“Media interest has been high, pre-bookings are solid, and the first reactions from guests are very positive,” Rulantica Director Michael Kreft von Byern told us on the day.
The second gate water park is linked directly to the new Krønasår museum hotel. The 4-star superior property opened in June. A shuttle bus ferries guests to/from the main park (about 2km away) via its five other resort hotels. Eventually, a monorail will link the two parks.
A large LED-lit sign on the nearby autobahn acts as a prominent signpost for Rulantica. Drivers get a glimpse of the mainly indoor park after they pull off the highway. Yet it’s only once guests enter the 32,600 square metre venue for themselves that they can fully appreciate the scope of its offering. Featured in this highly themed landscape are 25 water attractions, including 17 slides.
Rulantica – OMG!
Tweeting just a couple of weeks before the project’s official opening, Europa-Park CEO Michael Mack was clearly proud of what has been created on-site over the past 26 months by a team including senior consultant Chip Cleary.
— Michael Mack (@MichaelMack) November 11, 2019
Cleary, a water park veteran and former chairman and president/CEO of IAAPA (where he struck up a good friendship with Europa-Park founder Roland Mack), famously moved to a Germany for “four months” in 2013 and is still there.
This is an ambitious project in terms of content, the way in which it transforms the already broad Europa-Park offering, and also the storyline that brings it all together. Rulantica is more than just a selection of themed rides. Europa-Park chiefs prefer to use the term water world, rather than water park.
A huge leap in storytelling
According to Jeff Havlik, vice-president at masterplanner PGAV Destinations, Rulantica represents “a huge leap in European indoor waterpark architectural design, guest experience, thematic storytelling, operations and functionality. Focusing on the guest experience at every turn has resulted in an immersive, thematic guest experience from the parking lot, hotel and water attractions, to even the support spaces like the locker rooms.”
“We’ve done a lot of indoor water parks,” says Jeff Janovich, vice-president of business development for ProSlide. The Canadian company supplied most of Rulantica’s key rides and attractions.
“In terms of the level of detail, the storytelling and environment that they’ve created, this is on a par with Disney and Universal. Those guys have done it for outdoor water parks, but no one’s done it on this level for indoor parks.”
The Rulantica storyline is based around a mystical Scandinavian island and features loveable characters such as the octopus Snorri. It was developed in-house by Mack Solutions. The story also exists outside the park in what will become a series of fantasy books from the publisher Coppenrath. An animated feature film is on the way too.
“The clever use of a rediscovered ancient world on display in a Scandinavian natural history museum allows the wonders of Rulantica to seamlessly co-exist with the waterpark building and its functions, as well as the Krønasår museum hotel,” adds Havlik.
It all began with a dark ride (and a musical)
Earlier this season, Europa-Park staged a Rulantica musical, and since October families have been invited beneath the streets of Scandinavia to experience a new attraction called Snorri Touren.
The dark ride was created by Jora Vision, which also provided some of the signage at Rulantica, and features a transport system by Mack Rides. Mack Animation was responsible for all the media production on Snorri Touren.
Its seven Nordic scenes, which mirror themed areas inside the water park, feature a mix of animatronics and projections. After a five minute long ‘expedition’, riders disembark to see the utopian world of Rulantica before them on a screen. Why wouldn’t they want to visit?
The attraction’s playful star accompanies passengers on the ride, which is taken in 6-seater vehicles themed as rubber dinghies. As they delve deeper and deeper into the heart of the island, they see a shipwreck, a happy mermaid, singing trolls, colourful corals and the menacing sea serpent Svalgur. The queue line, set in a Scandinavian fishing village, is a lot of fun too.
The overall effect is of a classic storytelling dark ride. However guests do encounter a media-based segment towards the end of their journey. This occurs as two dinghies are transferred off the main track and positioned in front of domed screens. Guests then experience a mini flying theatre effect. Mack is now marketing this feature to other park operators via its Tacumeon Rides division.
Rulantica – a journey of discovery
The spirit in which Snorri Touren is ‘hidden’ from Europa-Park guests, is continued inside Rulantica. Although you can’t hide an entire waterpark, visitors discover the Scandinavian-themed offering in several stages.
First, they enter via a period-style entrance hall. Here they collect their wristbands for use as cashless payment and locker access inside the park. The main hall has a funnel-shaped footprint so that when guests enter via the changing rooms, suddenly the nine-themed areas open up before them.
The roof of the 20m-high building is striking. It features wooden-clad beams manufactured locally by Holzbau Amman. These hide all the air-conditioning. Floor to ceiling windows at the far end of the park let in natural light, but after dark, Rulantica looks “beyond magical,” says Cleary.
In designing the space with PGAV and the Europa-Park team, the consultant says he was keen to incorporate elevation changes; not something you typically see inside an indoor water park. There’s something to discover across every level and around every corner.
Slides and attractions
The focal point of the park is the Surf Fjørd wave pool at the heart of Lumåfals, with impressive stalactites hanging from above. Close-by, hungry visitors will find the self-service restaurant Lumålunda and Snorri’s Grotta souvenir shop.
Themed as an ice palace, Vinterhal is home to most of Rulantica’s most spectacular attractions, all by ProSlide. These include the Vinter Rytt (Tornado Wave), Stormvind bowl slide, Två Fall tube slide, Svalgur Rytt rafting slide and Isbrekker, two ‘shotgun fall’ slides that climax with a 1.5m drop into the water.
Further slides and attractions in Rangnakor include two Aquarena AquaRocket freefall slides with trap doors starts and a Dueling Pipeline from ProSlide with parallel tunnels called Hugin’ and ‘Munin’.
Vildstrøm is a wild river that takes guests outside the building. After about 40 metres, they must choose between the left or more intense right course of the river. API Waterfun completed the installation.
Snorri’s Saga is the name of Rulatica’s 250m long lazy river. Complete with tunnel sections, theming and content featuring Snorri the octopus, it’s almost a dark ride on water.
The Skip Strand adventure pool features a sunken ship feature, water obstacle course and a short slide.
Trølldal is a water playground and shallow pool inhabited by trolls. Supplied by Aquarena, the main structure was themed in-house by Europa-Park.
Sun loungers and swim-up bars
Two further areas are Skog Lagoon and Frigg Tempel, an 8,000-square-metre outdoor area, complete with pool and swim-up bar. Skog Lagoon, meanwhile, is an indoor oasis with waterfalls, pine trees, cliffs, and 1,700 sun loungers. Here, at the swim-up Skogbar, guests can enjoy a cocktail without leaving the water!
Most of the big slides and attractions at Rulantica are built into the side of the building, hidden or partially hidden behind extensive theming.
“I think word of mouth [about the attractions] will start to spread,” says Janovich. “People will say ‘Hey, there’s a bowl ride in there, there’s this ride and there’s that ride’. But they might not know which is which until they go on it. I think that little bit of mystery is part of the experience.”
One attraction that catches the eye in the far right-hand corner of the building is Vinter Rytt, featuring the head of sea serpent Svalgur. Spectators can see riders only for a brief moment when their raft surges into the attraction’s near-vertical wave element.
Also proving popular is the Dueling Pipeline from ProSlide. “Others have done something similar,” says Janovich. “But with the speeds and gradients that we have we’ve got, we’ve been able to make it more exciting. The variable rally point – you’re together, you’re apart, you’re together again – builds up anticipation and repeat ridership.”
Slide certification and water technology
Some of the ProSlide attractions are the first of their kind in Germany. That presented challenges when it came to gaining regulatory approval from TÜV Süd.
“They had to do testing to find out the inherent strength of the fibreglass, and understand its engineering properties,” says Janovich. “That added time, a year-and-a-half to two years, to the project. But now those particular rides are certified. If we were to do another project in Germany, it will be easier next time.”
Aquarena’s Rainer Braun proved invaluable when it came to ride installation and securing permits, says Kreft von Byern. The German company supplied some of the smaller slides and also installed all the ProSlide attractions.
Other suppliers included Murphy’s Waves, the theming firms Atelier Artistiquke du Beton (AAB) and Universal Rocks, and animatronic specialist Lifeformations. In total over 120 companies worked on the project, including many local firms from Baden-Württemberg. Media production for Rulantica (including a giant Mermaid LED screen and all media in the Lazy River) was done by Mack Animation.
Behind the scenes of Rulantica is a complex network of technology. This manages heat, ventilation, cooling and everything from monitoring of the showers to light management and media visualisation. At the heart of the park are 10 loops that circulate 4,386 cubic metres of water. A further loop features a pressurised sand filter.
Electricity is provided by two natural gas power stations on-site. Emissions from these stations help to heat the building to between 32 and 34°C.
Europa-Park resort now a 12-month operation
Launching the new water world in November only served to highlight Europa-Park’s status as a year-round resort. Already it enjoys a successful winter season. The park’s recent ‘Winter Magic’ event began on 23 November 2019 and ran until 6 January 2020.
As well as being able to enjoy a large number of the park’s regular attractions, guests could experience additional offerings. This included a Batavia ice sculpture exhibition, an ice bar, seasonal market stalls and the giant Belle Vue Ferris Wheel.
Rulantica now extends the resort’s operating calendar both on a daily and annual basis. Guests can visit the water park for a small discount after 5 pm. Furthermore, they can also enjoy the indoor facility in those winter months (January to March) when the main theme park does not open.
Future plans for Rulantica
Thanks to the footbridge that links Rulantica to Krønasår, guests staying at Europa-Park’s sixth resort hotel don’t even have to step outside to enter the climate-controlled water wonderland.
“The hotels are becoming a more and more important part of the business,” says Kreft von Byern. “We have already had good occupancy at Krønasår. The market will tell us where we go next, but I think we have room for two more hotels as well as an expansion of the outdoor area [at Rulantica].”
It took many years for the Mack family to secure the land required for Rulantica. But with a total of 45 hectares available for expansion, this is just the start of a new chapter in the Europa-Park story.