Happy times at Hansa!
Germany’s only theme park by the sea, Hansa-Park, is in the midst of a major investment programme, as Andrew Mellor discovers.
Situated on the north German coast at Sierksdorf, near Neustadt, to the north west of Hamburg, the facility now known as Hansa-Park began life in 1973 as a licensee of Legoland, a situation which continued until 1976.
In 1977, however, the park became Hansa-Land, but was to undergo another name change 10 years later to become Hansa-Park which today attracts an annual attendance of 1.2 million visitors. The venue’s main target market is northern Germany and northern Europe and visitors come to enjoy a wide range of rides, attractions and facilities available on the 48 hectare site.
Owned by Andreas Leicht and his two sisters, Hansa-Park comprises 11 different sections, all with a particular theme, including a western area, Spanish and Mexican areas, a pirate themed area, an adventure section, a children’s section, an Indian area, a maritime area and a garden area. Additionally, 2008 saw the introduction of an area themed on the history of the local Hanse (Hanseatic League), while 2009 has seen the beginning of a Russian area.
Employing a full time staff of approximately 220, staffing levels rise to around 800 during the peak season. The park is primarily aimed at the family market, so from the “age of two to grandparents” according to Leicht, a scenario which has always been the case, and the average length of stay is seven hours.
Over the years, numerous rides and attractions have been added which have provided guests with a wide choice of entertainment. Among these has been the first flume ride in Germany, supplied by US company Arrow, along with the Nessie roller coaster from German manufacturer Schwarzkopf, in 1979. Northern Germany’s largest variety theatre opened at the park in 1984, while the Super Splash water ride debuted in 1986. The following year, a tower ride from Huss was introduced, while more recently, the Rio Dorado flume raft ride from Whitewater West Industries and the Montezuma tower ride from Maurer Sohne were added, in 2000. The Bell, from Funtime in Austria, debuted in 2008.
Indeed last year saw a number of new attractions introduced as part of a major investment programme at Hansa-Park, of which the Bell is just one. As the name implies, this takes the form of a single, giant bell weighing over 80 tonnes which swings back and forth up to a maximum angle of 120 degrees at a speed of up to 43.5mph. Riders are seated at the end of the “clapper,” which also rotates around its own axis. Six seats are incorporated into the ride, with passengers’ legs dangling below them and a water fountain adds even more to the fun during the summer months.
Also introduced was the 59ft (18m) high Holstentor, the landmark of the Hanseatic city of Lubeck, which is the world’s largest and most exact replica of the symbol of the queen of the Hanse, and now forms the entrance gate to the park. Planned down to the last detail, the construction of the gate is the first phase of the Hansa-Park project called Hanse in Europe, which when completed will take guests on a fascinating excursion into European history – from Bergen in Norway to Paris, from La Rochelle to Lisbon, from Bruges to Visby and from Novgorod to Venice. And all against a backdrop of imposing architectonical pieces of art and authentic-looking buildings.
Hansa-Park is known for both its numerous maritime exhibits and the historic ship models which children can walk and play on and it is the only theme park in the whole of Germany where such cultural attractions and activities are available for all age groups.
The new themed area, which is to be completed over the next few years, will be a unique combination of the architectural history of the Hanse, offering a family friendly cultural mix of exhibition, history and gastronomic offerings.
Additionally, following the success of the Navajo Trail high ropes course when it was introduced to the park in 2007, Hansa-Park has now doubled the overall course length and the number of obstacles within it, making it the highest high-rope garden of its kind in Europe. Included as part of the entrance fee (as are all attractions with the exception of the gold washing and retail machines), the attraction is different from other such courses in that it features a new, patented, fixed safety rail system, which ensures guests do not “sag,” and also traverses a small lake. According to the park, the fully roofed course is Europe’s only themed high rope garden and features a lighting system that makes it an unusual venue for evening events.
For 2009, one of the park’s most significant projects to date will open in the shape of a major new roller coaster from German manufacturer Gerstlauer, created around an idea provided by the park itself. The new attraction will incorporate a number of new elements and by all accounts will be a unique ride – indeed it is being touted as creating a new coaster class called Cataplector. At the time of writing full details were yet to be released, but it will be a combination of a state-of-the-art launch coaster, themed dark ride and “open air” coaster featuring a vertical lift in the dark and a steeper-than-vertical drop in the dark.
To be called Fluch von Novgorod (Curse of Novgorod), it will be “the first coaster in Germany to tell a complete story” and will take riders from 0 to around 62 mph (100 kph) in 1.4 seconds. Eight person vehicles will be used and it will be the first time anywhere in the world that cars have been developed that are suitable for a launch system and a vertical chain lift.
Additional highlights for the 2009 season will include an Easter Bunny and Easter Flower Festival in April, along with a Summer Flower Festival from July to August and Autumn Magic by the Sea for a 16 day period during October. A series of one-off events with various partners also forms part of the events programme.
Like most parks, Hansa-Park provides guests with a range of live entertainment each season which takes place in a number of different venues throughout the park. These include the aforementioned variety theatre, an open air stage and a special jungle theatre for children, while a water circus show with sealions, live street entertainment with marching bands and characters and northern Germany’s biggest parade add to the fun.
Accommodation is another relatively new element of the park and was first introduced in 2007.
“The reason we introduced this was the desire of the guests to sleep nearby the park and get family oriented accommodation,” noted Leicht. A total of 104 Scandinavian-style holiday chalets are available for reservation, each offering various capacities.
Hansa-Park’s 2009 season runs from April 9 to October 25, with daily opening from 9am to 6pm and there is clearly much for visitors to look forward to in what will be another major year of development for the park. But how would Andreas Leicht like to see things developing in the future?
“We will strengthen our position as Germany’s only park located at the sea and with themes which are associated with the sea and the history,” he says. “The World of the European Hanse with its great bulk of stories will give us the opportunity to visualise our name with each new attraction. This means that our existing themed areas will be modified a little bit in the next years so that they will fit into the big European story of the Hanse, which was a kind of predecessor of the European community.
The Western and Mexican areas are fitting in this concept, for during the history of the existing Hanse America was discovered.”
It’s certainly exciting times at Hansa-Park for the owners, staff and their guests. We look forward to watching these further developments.
‘At a glance’
Originally a Legoland licensee
Germany’s only major theme park “by the sea”
1.2 million visitors annually
11 themed areas
Major attractions include – Super Splash, Variety Theatre, Rio Dorado flume ride, Montezuma Power Tower, Wildwasserfahrt log flume, Torre del Mar tower swing, Curse of Novgorod (2009)
104 Scandinavian style holiday chalets