A phoenix from the ashes might be quite a dramatic way to describe one of Europe’s most popular destinations. But after a year which literally saw sections of Europa Park reduced to cinders, the analogy is quite apt.
It was 29 May 2018 when a fire broke out, destroying a historic ride and consuming a large chunk of the park’s Scandinavia and Norway-themed areas. Fast forward to the end of 2019 and, like the aforementioned phoenix rising from the ashes, Europa Park is rapidly rebuilding what was lost, while also adding brand new attractions, primarily in the shape of its second gate – Rulantica.
A €180m (US$197.8m) investment, the waterpark marks a significant milestone for the park, representing both its largest-ever single investment and its first gate outside of the main complex.
Complete with its own themed hotel, Rulantica takes visitors into a Nordic-themed fantasy world, with nine themed areas inside the 450,000sq m (4.8 million sq ft) resort extension based on the mysticism and beauty of Scandinavia.
“We’ve tried not to make it feel like a second Europa Park,” says Michael Mack, managing partner at Europa Park. “We created our own fantasy history with Rulantica, which is the first time we’ve done a park under a different banner. It was quite a hard fight within the family but Rulantica will really separate our brands and give them two distinct identities.”
One of Europe’s largest waterparks, Rulantica will feature a total of 25 attractions, including 17 slides inside the 32,600sq m (351,000sq ft) space. At the park’s forefront will be its mascot Snorri – an octopus who takes two orphans on a journey to the Nordic island of Rulantica.
“The Macks made a commitment to doing something different and everything you see in this project is different,” says Chip Cleary, a former IAAPA president and chief executive who has a long-held association with Europa Park as a senior consultant on a number of projects.
“The big difference is from the second you walk in, you’re totally immersed in a different world. You’re in an old fish factory that one of our characters, Bubba Sven, used to store his magical things in.
“Once you leave the lobby, you’re going to go into locker rooms that don’t exactly look like normal locker rooms. They’re not hospital white, tiled, beautiful things. They’re old factory locker rooms with the old lockers from the workers. You’re going to be in an immersive area. From the moment you walk in, whatever language you say ‘wow’ in, it’s going to be a ‘wow’ moment.
“It’s a very story-driven project, this being the first step of many chapters. What you’re going to see when we open in November is just phase one.”
Vinterhal is the first of the nine areas, with a glacial mountain which is home to a number of slides that are protected by the frozen sea snake Syalgur. Next is Trølldal, a larger water playground for younger visitors. In Rangnakor – a city on stilts – are a number of slides, as well as a restaurant and bar. In the outdoor area of Rulantica is Vildstrøm, a wild river travelling through Nordic landscapes. Also outside is the Frig Tempel – a pool featuring a swim-up bar. Back inside, Snorri’s Saga is a lazy river flowing around all the areas of Rulantica.
Themed area, Skip Strand, is an adventure playground with a sailing ship, steamer, slides and climbing opportunities, while offering almost the complete opposite, Skog Lagune is a relaxation oasis equipped with bubble loungers and a swim-up bar. Finally, Lumåfals is a colourful grotto, waterfall and wave pool, complete with the Lumålunda restaurant.
This Rulantica story starts with Europa Park’s new hotel – Krønasår. Themed as a natural history museum, the 304-bedroom four-star hotel forms a major part of the new development, with Snorri taking visitors from the hotel to the waterpark on his magical adventure.
“There’s a need in Germany, and also in France and Switzerland, for a staycation destination,” says Mack. “It gives us a chance to have a second gate and to keep people in the area. Our aim is to keep our visitors in Rust for longer, which we plan to achieve by investing more and more in our hotels and destinations. Our average length of stay per visitor is 1.4 nights, which we expect to increase with our sixth hotel.”
The hotel opened ahead of the waterpark earlier this year and has so far been a big success, with high occupancies.
“Krønasår connects directly to the story of Rulantica,” says Mack. “It’s a museum hotel, where artefacts connected from the journey to Rulantica have been placed on display. It also features Bubba Sven, which is so far our biggest restaurant in the entire hotel complex.
“We had concerns that occupancy at our other five hotels would drop with the new opening, but we’ve actually had very high occupancy rates. Through the summer months, we achieved 100 per cent occupancy in all of our hotels. It’s been a huge hit for families.”
Creating a new IP
Rulantica’s influence extends beyond its walls. As part of repair works following last year’s fire, a new Snorri dark ride by Jora Vision has been installed in the Scandinavian area of Europa Park.
The rebuilt area now offers an ice cream parlour, play area, restaurant and photo opportunity with a great white shark model. The key attraction, however, lies underground, with the new dark ride, Snorri Touren. Currently in pre-opening phase, it’s set for a full launch in December.
“My grandfather always had the idea to put something underneath the Scandinavian area of the park,” says Mack. “We always had the space available but over the years it was filled with things like merchandising, so it was full and we never could actually do a ride down there. We took inspiration from Rulantica, which means guests, if they choose, can experience the Rulantica story without getting wet.”
The ride takes guests on an adventure through the magical world of Rulantica, with riders meeting trolls and sea people before coming face to face with the sea serpent Svalgur.
Dark ride experts and themed attraction designers Jora Vision collaborated with Mack Solutions, Mack Rides and Mack Animations on the ride, working from concept through to completion.
“The story is very cute,” says Jan Maarten de Raad, Jora Vision CEO.
“Snorri collects objects to put in the museum hotel. He starts this tour operation, with the idea of sending visitors to Rulantica. It’s a perfect integration of special effect, media and ride system.”
Europa Park’s ambitions for Snorri and Rulantica go beyond the park, however. A series of children’s novels are now available in German bookstores, with plans to roll out the series across Europe in 2020. The operator has also created a musical to promote the Rulantica story, while there are plans from Europe Park partner MackMedia for a full-length animated feature film to be released in 2021.
“When the Mack family decided to build a waterpark, they really wanted to build their own integrated story world,” says Tobias Mundiger, head of animation, brands and licensing at MackMedia.
“This fantasy world will become our brand. We’re not only planning to invest in the Europa Park waterpark but also in the story world and the brand, of which we can do a lot of other things.
“Creating a story gives us new opportunities, which we’ve already used to promote the waterpark. We created Rulantica the musical to really bring the story and the characters to the people. It’s a big thing we’re doing to really bring the story into their homes and to make the brand as well known as possible.”
Rulantica is set to open on 28 November and anticipation is through the roof, with Europa Park currently applying the finishing touches to its new addition.
“We’ve already sold more than 25,000 hotel and park tickets ahead of launch,” says Mack. “Day tickets have just gone on sale. We have some theming details to finish but everything is moving along nice and smoothly. The team is there and we’re ready to start welcoming customers to Rulantica.”