Thursday, May 23, 2024

ProSlide and Europa-Park: The serpent rises

ProSlide and Europa-Park partner on highly themed water play structure

by Joe Kleiman

To get from the main highway to the Europa-Park theme park, guests drive along a circular bypass that skirts the German town of Rust. Since early 2021, on this drive guests can spy Svalgur, a giant sea serpent looming high above Roland Mack Ring (named for Europa-Park’s founder). The serpent Svalgur is the icon of Svalgurok, a customized ProSlide RideHOUSE® 600 waterplay structure that is the newest attraction at Rulantica, the waterpark Europa-Park opened as a second gate in late 2019.

Consistent with Europa-Park, Rulantica is intricately themed, and the themes have back stories. It is connected to the Scandinavian-inspired Hotel Krønasår. One of several hotels on the property, it is done up as a natural history museum, showcasing artifacts from the mythical land of Rulantica. The hotel connects via an enclosed walkway to the indoor/outdoor waterpark as if it were a giant exhibition hall of the museum, where the larger artifacts have been restored for guests to enjoy. PGAV Destinations master-planned the park. Mack Solutions provided the detailed thematic storyline and design elements for this blend of fantasy and reality, and ProSlide and Aquarena fabricated slides and other water-based attractions that seamlessly integrated into the park’s theming and architecture.

The elements of Svalgurok

The story behind Svalgurok is one of a massive aquatic battle. The towering sea serpent Svalgur is perched high above, overlooking the entire play structure, while locked in battle with a giant octopus (actually, a highly themed ProSlide Continuous BodyBOWL), whose massive tentacles encircle the structure.

Svalgur was selected to be the star of the new attraction because of his familiarity among park guests. He shows up in other attractions throughout Rulantica and his skeleton is displayed above the lobby of the Hotel Krønasår. “For us,” says Michael Kreft von Byern, General Manager of Rulantica, “it was important we carry the indoor theming outside. So Svalgur now lives outside as well.”

Precise animatronic engineering and programming enable Svalgur’s head to move and spray up to 200 gallons of water per minute from four nozzles inside its mouth.

More subtle details include hand-painted designs on the water slides and a large, fiberglass tipping bucket made to look as though constructed from fish bones. Likewise, a tunnel that bridges sections of the RideHOUSE appears to be built from whale bones, while its guard rails feature hand-carved Viking shields.

The use of water slide components as theming elements is innovative. In addition to the themed, often translucent water slide pieces designed to look like Svalgur’s body, additional lengths of slide tubing are woven in and out around the structure, adding to the serpent’s size and presence.

The park advertises that the structure offers “over 100 different playing opportunities,” and these include water cannons, small buckets that can be tipped, and other interactive features. Ten water slides can be found snaking in and around Svalgurok:

  • A ProRACER, where riders race each other down a pair of adjacent slides
  • Three TWISTERS, traditional open-flume body slides
  • Four KIDZ TWISTERS, smaller versions of the TWISTER for younger guests
  • A custom Continuous BodyBOWL, where people slide into a giant bowl, circling around the structure until they exit through the center.

RideHOUSE has often been customized to primarily target younger guests. But in the form of Svalgurok at Europa-Park, it invites participation by guests of all ages, with varying levels of thrill factors for the slides.

Bringing fiberglass to Germany

Svalgurok marks a continuing partnership between ProSlide and Europa-Park. When Rulantica opened in 2019 the park featured a combined 17 waterslides from both ProSlide and German waterpark supplier Aquarena.

“When we were developing Rulantica, we traveled to about 30 different parks around the world to see the best design and operations,” says Kreft von Byern. “Our senior consultant, Chip Cleary, recommended we meet with ProSlide. We quickly established a relationship with them and Aquarena. All the waterslides in the park come from those two companies.”

Svalgurok, although an extension of the park, was already in the development stage during Rulantica’s construction. “We started talking about it in 2016 and the project was greenlit in Spring 2018,” says Jeff Janovich, ProSlide’s Senior Vice President of Global Strategic Partnerships.

Many waterslides in Germany are metal, because custom fiberglass pieces require detailed inspection, resulting in extensive government scrutiny and frequent delays. But the medium of fiberglass lends itself to theming and decorative options that metal simply does not. For Svalgurok, ProSlide fabricated the slides in-house in Canada, with the steel structure contracted to a Canadian partner. According to Kreft von Byern, it took two years to gain final government approval. Construction took another year.

Preparing the land

While ProSlide was preparing the RideHOUSE in Canada and land preparation began in Rust, Rulantica was already expanding with new attractions. In 2020, the park opened an upscale relaxation and sauna facility and, in 2021, began offering VR experiences underwater. The outdoor section of the waterpark was vastly increased with added greenery, a children’s water play area themed to the park’s six-armed Octopus mascot Snorri, and a land-locked yacht that guests could rent as a private cabana, complete with concierge service.

For Rulantica, the theme is an integral part of the landscape and helps differentiate it from the competition. “Many of the waterparks in Germany are thermal baths,” says Kreft von Byern. “We didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of other typical waterpark themes. For us, that means we have two rules: no pirates and no palm trees.”

The landscape design features mature pines, deciduous trees and large shrubs to naturally blend into the forestland behind the park, creating the feeling that the guest is completely surrounded by nature. The landscaping also provides a visual and sound barrier to Roland Mack Ring – the entrance road to Europa-Park.

Another major piece of infrastructure is hidden within Svalgurok itself. The structure sits on a massive block of faux ice, which conceals various maintenance support systems. “We made the important decision to put a big cellar under the structure to house the mechanics for the serpent’s head and the water systems for Svalgurok,” says Kreft von Byern. “Even though this was a more expensive alternative than a separate building, it saved land for future expansion of the park, or even a new hotel.”

ProSlide’s Janovich is proud of Svalgurok. “We wanted to do something iconic and are so happy to have worked with the creative team at Mack to develop it. This RideHOUSE is a showcase of the best that ProSlide and our industry can offer and we can’t wait for guests from around the world to enjoy it for years to come.” • • •

Joe Kleiman
Joe Kleiman
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, InPark's Senior Correspondent Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe previously served as News Editor and has remained a contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, The Planetarian, Behind the Thrills, and MiceChat His blog, takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @ThemesRenewed Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his wife, dog, and a ghost.

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