In the series of Coaster World, we’ll review a specific roller coaster. For the first article in this series, we’ll start with a brand new roller coaster: Heidi the ride from Plopsaland De Panne.
The 2nd of April 2017 is a date for the Belgian roller coaster history books. Why is that? Because on that date Belgium got his second operational wooden roller coaster. While wooden coasters are very common in America, they are not that common in European parks. And surely in a small country like Belgium, the history of wooden roller coasters is poor.
The other operational wooden roller coaster in Belgium is the Weerwolf, which you can find at Walibi Belgium. That one opened in 2001 is also kinda unique as it is only one of tree wooden roller coasters Vekoma produced. The Belgian wooden roller coasters before that are not really worth mentioning. Those were roller coasters on a world fair or expo, and were broken down after a few months.
So the opening of a fresh new wooden roller coaster will surely set the spotlights on Plopsaland De Panne in Belgium. Just look at this video Plopsaland posted on their facebook! Which ride do you guess those people ran off to? I don’t think we need to make a drawing.
Let’s talk more about the technical stuff. Heidi is built by Great Coaster International (better known as just GCI) which is considered one of the topnotch manufacturers when it comes to wooden roller coasters. Heidi is not a unique lay-out, it’s the same lay-out from Fun Spot America’s White lightning. Though, some minor adjustments were made to fit the coaster in its location. Heidi has also wooden supports instead of steel ones like White lightning which makes Heidi a 100% wooden roller coaster!
With a length of 618 meter/2.027 feet and a height of 22 meter/72 feet Heidi is one of the smaller wooden roller coasters in Europe. Which already clarifies that if you’ll ride expecting a Troy or Wodan, you’ll be disappointed. But of course, stats don’t say everything and you have to place it in its right context. Plopsaland De Panne is a park which aims at children and families, so a huge wooden roller coaster wouldn’t fit their target audience.
The Gerstlauer launch coaster Anubis is the most thrilling roller coaster they have, and it’s even considered the best roller coaster Belgium has to offer. Besides that they have a Vekoma junior coaster, a double batflyer from Caripro, a Zierer tivoli large and a Mack powered roller coaster. All of them are family coasters without too much sensation. So a family coaster with some sensation to fill the gap with Anubis was the perfect investment for this park and Heidi was in this case the perfect choice.
It is short, but therefore doesn’t seem to lose speed. It has the twistyness and small height differences which are typical for a GCI coaster. The ride experience is pretty good and has a lot of re-ride factor. In order to get that experience, the trains are short and this is the weak point of Heidi: capacity. According to RCDB it has a capacity of 635 persons per hour and being the biggest theme park in Belgium when it comes to attendance, those numbers are not good.
Plopsaland De Panne is known to have a capacity problems, queue times tend to increase fast when it get crowded. They attract over one million visitors a year, but they keep the amount of ride operators low which doesn’t help to keep the capacity as high as possible. Now, when I visited Plopsaland De Panne to ride Heidi, the amount of ride operators was not a point a complain about with Heidi. They put one staff member at the front of the queue to control the minimum heights so that doesn’t had to be done anymore in the station. In the station there were two operators on each side of the train to do bar checks and put bags away. And there was one who stayed behind the control panel and operator the coaster.
If Plopsaland can keep up that amount of staff for Heidi, or even with one staff member less, than capacity will be maybe not that much of a problem. Though if you are planning to visit the park and ride Heidi, we recommend going outside of the holiday season in July and August. Don’t expect a Troy or a Wodan. If you have the right expectations, then Heidi will be a neat coaster to ride!