Today Walibi Belgium announced their master plan for the future years. We already knew they were going to do that today, we didn’t expect anything special. Maybe a new family roller coaster as a replacement for the Coccinelle kiddy roller coaster or maybe something else on that place. Walibi kept mysterious about what they had to stay besides a director that mentioned the park would look completely different in five years. But looked like nothing more than the typical ambition we hear from most theme park directors. Now Walibi Belgium released their master plan we can conclude the director was completely right!
In a nutshell: Walibi Belgium will invest about 100 million Euros in the next years. They will add ten new rides, three of those new rides are roller coasters! And that’s not all, their water park Aqualibi is also included in their investments and Walibi will re-theme about 75% of the park. Dizzying news from Belgium! But why especially does this shock the theme park industry?!
Thirteen lean years
Walibi Belgium has always been a pioneer in the European theme park industry. Let’s take the old Tornado roller coaster, closed in 2002 and demolished in 2006. It was the first roller coaster Vekoma built themselves. The Dutch manufacturer only sold Arrow roller coasters before that. Walibi founder Eddy Meeus was warned by other parks that a roller coaster like Tornado would be a bad investment since it would attract the wrong kind of visitors. Meeus didn’t listen and opened Tornado in 1979 anyways. It was a huge success and other European parks like the Efteling and Alton Towers decided to place a similar roller coaster as well.
Walibi Belgium was sold to Six Flags in 1999 and Six Flags made some big investments like a wooden roller coaster (Weerwolf/Loop-Garou), a Vekoma boomerang and much other stuff. Their final investment was a new state of the art dark ride (Challenge of Tutankhamon) in 2003. While it’s not a dark ride from the level of Universal or Disney, it is considered to be a high level dark ride. Especially for a park like Walibi Belgium. Six Flags encountered financial problems and had to sell Walibi Belgium and their other European parks. In 2004 Palamon bought the park and already got rid of it two years later.
In 2006 the French company Compagnie des Alpes (abbreviated to CDA in the rest of this article) added Walibi Belgium to their belongings. The French group was a young starting theme park chain but already bought Parc Asterix. Investments were expected, but stayed out. Money was spent on rebranding: a new mascot, new themes, new color schemes… All of those had little effects to the park and the fans kept hungry for a new ride. Remember, the last new ride opened in 2003… But finally, it seemed like CDA found some money to transfer to Belgium in 2015 when the park announced Pulsar.
Pulsar would be the first real (big) investment since 2003. The park tried to open a world unique roller coaster in 2006 but failed miserably since the roller coaster had so many technical problems it was almost closed for the whole time it stood there. Walibi took it down in 2008. But last year in 2016 Walibi finally opened Pulsar which is also a world unique roller coaster, in the line of the pioneering Walibi Belgium. Pulsar is the world’s first (and only) launched shuttle water coaster. It is built by Mack, a renowned manufacturer and got excellent critics when it opened. But for the fans were unsure if Pulsar is the start of a new era after thirteen lean years or would be just a flare-up.
And this announcement is a proof that a new exciting era is about to start for the Belgian theme park located near Brussels.
New rides every year, starting from next year
Walibi announced they will now open a new ride (or more) every year. And they will start from next year. On the place where they removed the Coccinelle roller coaster, they will build a new family roller coaster. This will be getting a Tiki theme and the zone around it with the old theater will also be transformed into a Tiki theme. The former Coccinelle roller coaster will not leave the park but will get a new place in the park. So credit hunters can already get a new credit next year! Walibi isn’t forgetting their water park Aqualibi. The water park gets a 700 square meter addition focused on kids. And the whole water park including the restaurant near the entrance of it gets a full re-theming to a tropical theme.
New theme zones
Not only is Walibi Belgium investing in new rides, they will also re-theme 75% of the park. In 2019 three existing zones are getting re-worked to open in a new theme. The Arabic theme zone for example will be transformed to an Indian theme and will feature a new interactive theater. The kiddy zone Walibi Play land will be attached more to the park thanks to a new kiddy roller coaster, meant to be a first roller coaster for the kids.
A theme zone that doesn’t get a big refurbishment but isn’t forgotten in the new plans is the Wild West village. In 2020 a Twist’n Splash from Mack will open in that area of the park. The wooden roller coaster Weerwolf/Loop-Garou and Vampire, a Vekoma SLC, will be drawn together into one new zone with a New Orleans theme. This also means there will finally be a path between these two rides connecting them more.
The highest and fastest roller coaster in the Benelux
If this isn’t already mind blowing news, than you didn’t hear the best yet… 2021 marks the opening of a new mega coaster! Walibi Belgium announced this as the new highest and fastest roller coaster in the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands & Luxembourg). This means the new coaster will be higher than Walibi Holland’s Goliath, which is 46,5 meter high. Goliath is also the fastest roller coaster of the Benelux reaching a top speed of 106 km/hour. Numbers the new mega coaster from Walibi Belgium will have to beat! That means Belgium will get their second roller coaster beating the 100 km/hour mark. And only the third in the Benelux.
Walibi Belgium didn’t say which manufacturer will built the new mega coaster. On their press conference they showed a sketch but it was not really clear enough to make any conclusions out of it. Of course the two most renowned manufacturers for building this type of roller coaster are the Swiss Intamin and B&M. In the case of B&M it still is a question if a park can afford one. Even with a budget of 100 million Euros. Intamin isn’t that cheap either but seems like a more achievable manufacturer to buy a mega coaster from for Walibi Belgium.
They might just surprise us and chose a different manufacturer. Mack didn’t build a real mega coaster yet but has proven to be a solid manufacturer that can realize the wishes of their customers. And since they did business with the park already for Pulsar, it wouldn’t surprise us if they made another deal with each other. Or what about Vekoma? They haven’t built a mega coaster either but did design one for Energylandia (a Polish theme park). Energylandia decided to go with Intamin instead but that proves the Dutch manufacturer can build these type of roller coasters as well, if being asked.
Walibi Belgium back on the map
Walibi Belgium faded away in the years 2000 but kept their reputation as biggest theme park in Belgium. Plopsaland De Panne however surpassed them in pure attendance numbers but compare it with the German football league the Bundesliga. Even if Dortmund wins the league, it is still Bayern Munich who is the biggest club in Germany. Thanks to their history and the same principle goes for Walibi Belgium. They had lean years but still had the best catalog of rides in Belgium. On the European scale the park has long been surpassed by parks like Phantasialand, the Efteling and Europa Park.
Can they place their foot again next to those parks?! I believe they can if they do these announced investments. Walibi Belgium will have a complete different new and fresh looks in just five years. The concept arts from Walibi reveal a more heavily theming than they have right now. Parks who invest in atmosphere and theming are the booming parks, Phantasialand is the best example in this case. No doubt people will be curious to see the new Walibi Belgium. Pulsar is already open, while it’s a world unique ride with a very unique ride experience, it doesn’t have the look of a world class coaster. The ride experience is better than it its looks. With the opening of a mega coaster, Walibi Belgium will have their eye catcher.
It will say the park is here and have to be reckoned with. Will their attendance numbers increase to the same level of the Efteling or Europa Park? That seems unlikely. While it for sure will grow, Walibi Belgium doesn’t have any overnight accommodations and didn’t announce any yet. The park will remain a park to do in one day however it wouldn’t surprise us the transformation to a multiple day park is what they want to do in the long run. They already have a water park next to the theme park and with this 100 million investment, the theme park will be placed on a higher level. Exciting years to come in Belgium. How will other Belgian theme parks answer to this?! Be sure there were some thunder clouds in the offices of Bobbejaanland and Plopsaland De Panne.