Zamperla Looking To The Future With IAAPA Announcements
In business for more than 50 years, Zamperla has likely seen it all as a company when it comes to the amusement industry.
At this week’s IAAPA Expo, they announced that they are looking ahead to the future with not only their roller coaster manufacturing, but in other technological aspects of their business as well. We were able to catch up with Michael Coleman, North American Sales Manager for Zamperla, to learn a little more about what they announced at IAAPA.
Zamperla’s popular Windstarz attraction is receiving an upgrade with the inclusion of “smart technology.”
“We’ve partnered with Rockwell Automation to include some sensors and data collection points on this particular ride,” Coleman told us. “We’re going to be putting on every new ride from here on out. This will allow park ownership and maintenance staffs to monitor rides from a remote location. They can check hydraulic levels, they can check to make sure that all arms are operating — if the attraction has multiple arms — within their allowable limits. Anything that happens on a ride, they’ll be able to see in real time, from where ever they are in the park, as long as they are connected.”
While this will not change the overall ride experience for a guest, it is something that will assist parks in streamlining their ride operations.
One of the things that we, not only as manufacturers, but as operators, (Zamperla operates Luna Park at Coney Island and Victorian Gardens in Manhattan), we’ve seen a need for to minimize any downtime for the ride, and to better understand what’s happening. To say ‘okay, is there something we can do better’?”
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Zamperla also debuted a smaller version of their Windstarz attraction, known interally as Windstarz 8, at the Expo this week. Traditionally, a Windstarz attraction has 12 arms for a capacity of 24 riders per cycle. The smaller version has 8 arms and features a smaller footprint.
“We’ve had three previous versions [of Windstarz] at the IAAPA Expo,” Coleman said. “All of those are 12-arm, capacity of 24. And the market for the mid-size or privately-owned park, for them, the footprint is was a little big, and not always necessary. What we were able to do through that feedback and market needs, was to come up with a pricepoint and footprint that the market feels is acceptable for that size attraction. We’ve brought it down to a 48’ footprint with 8 arms.”
The smaller footprint is not the only improvement to Windstarz. The kites have been upgraded as well.
“We used to have a fabric kite, and found that over the years that as they’re installed, whether its wind or birds landing on top of them when the ride is not in operation, that they can rip or fade. We’ve developed a new light-weight fiberglass for the top,” Coleman said.
Zamperla has built more than 330 roller coasters in their history, and last year was a big year for their “Wild Mouse”-style coasters, one of the most notable being Tom & Jerry’s Swiss Cheese Spin at the new Warner Bros. Movie World in Abu Dhabi.
“The reception on that has been absolutely fantastic. Initially, we weren’t considered a manufacturer for that project,” Coleman said. “With the evolution of our roller coaster department, it’s really put us at the forefront, almost in the same conversations as those ‘top five guys.’ We put together our presentation, showed them what we were capable of, and actually ended up being a little bit more expensive than some of the other coaster manufacturers, and we delivered an amazing product with on-board sound, which uses lithium ion batteries that recharge in the station, a controlled spin – Disney just patented a similar style – the ride itself is an excellent family ride.”
“It won’t make anyone scream with fear, more of ‘oh my gods,’ cheers and laughs all the way through, which is the overall goal”
For 2019, one of Zamperla’s new roller coaster projects is the new Frankie’s Mine Train at Frontier City in Oklahoma, who were recently re-purchased by Six Flags. However, it wasn’t necessarily the purchase by Six Flags that caused this addition. Zamperla has maintained a great working relationship with Frontier City for years.
“We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Frontier City, going back to the days of Gary Story, when it was ‘the’ Six Flags park,” Coleman told us. “Having worked with Stephen Ball there for years in between, and staying in contact with them and ensuring rides that were existing at Frontier City were running in tip-top shape.”
“I wouldn’t say that a relationship with Six Flags had anything to do with adding the new coaster for 2019, but it certainly didn’t hurt,” he continued. “Going in this year, we’ve got Frankie’s Mine Train, which is a family gravity coaster, that Six Flags has a few of in their portfolio across the globe, and we’re doing a Zamperla Jump Around themed as frogs, and that will also go in this coming spring.”
At this years #IAAPA Zamperla have announced the sale of a new Thunderbolt coaster to the small Guatemalan park of Mundo Petapa.
— VHCoasters (@VHCoasters) November 13, 2018
Coleman also noted that Rapid Train, a “Thunderbolt”-style coaster is scheduled to open at South Korea’s Gyeongnam Mason Robotland in Spring 2019, and Relámpago, another Thunderbolt-style coaster will open sometime in 2019 in Guatemala.
High Tech After-Sales Support
For parks with more than one Zamperla attraction, the company will be introducing a new “smart conferencing” feature to provide client support in real time.
“We’re going to be implementing the use of a Microsoft Hololens system for parks that have multiple Zamperla attractions as a service package,” Coleman told us. “If the park is having trouble with something, or they are doing a major maintenance overhaul that would be called for in the manual, they can schedule a Hololens call with one of our technicians, whether it be in Italy or one of our engineers here in the US.”
“Through the use of the Microsoft Hololens, the technician on-site can wear the headset, and our technicians can pinpoint exactly where to look, what to focus on, they can open up on their screen and they can pivot to a schematic or a page of a manual, and see what the technician on site is looking at. From there they can tell them how to remedy the problem, or perform the maintenance in a proper and safe way.”
When asked about the benefits of using the Hololens, Coleman noted that it was a technology that was available, but not utilized very much in the amusement industry.
“It’s something that’s not being taken advantage of,” he said. “The technology is out there, and it’s something that we’re really happy to bring to our industry, because if it’s there, why not use it? Instead of talking over the phone blindly for 30 minutes trying to figure out what someone is looking at, we can see it right then and there. Operational efficiency is going to be a key moving forward, especially with all of the technology we have available.”
Z+ – Zamperla’s Foray into Virtual Reality And Gamification
Last year at the IAAPA expo, we were able to experience what Zamperla called “Z+,” by taking a virtual ride on Luna Park’s Thunderbolt. From there, the Z+ concept has continued to grow for Zamperla.
“We talked with a lot of potential and existing clients after last year’s IAAPA Expo, and we had that 8-seater with a large black shell around it,” Coleman said. “The Family Entertainment Center (FEC) market here in the US, real estate is at a premium. Working with our FEC Clients, they said that we need to be able to justify this on a ‘revenue per square foot’ basis. So we went back to the drawing board and designed the VRBox-4, which is an open air concept, and a four-seater. We’ve installed the first one at Andretti Indoor Karting and Games in Orlando.
The Z+ Experience at Andretti Karting currently has three roller coasters: The Coney Island Cyclone, Thunderbolt at Luna Park, and the Mine Train from Ocean Park in Hong Kong. Zamperla also debuted a 360-degree VR tour of Rome at this year’s IAAPA Expo.
“We’re really focused on the content aspect of this product as well, where we can incorporate the ‘edutainment’ aspect and take people somewhere they’ve never been. It’s like Disney’s Soarin’ at a much more affordable price. It’s one of those things that takes up less than 20×20 on the floor, but is a physically imposing structure, so when you see it, you kind of go ‘oh, whats that?’” It’s a really cool experience.
However, it’s not just roller coasters and simulators that Z+ is focusing on. They are also integrating Virtual Reality and Gamification into their catalog of flat rides.
“We’ve got our first international VR installation going in at Europe, but it will be on a Windstarz. 6/12 arms will have the VR headsets with a couple different videos they can show,” Coleman said.
“We also just finished testing a new product for a swinging ship, Galleon+, which we can install on any swinging ship out there in the world, not just our own model. It’s an audio system that prompts one side of the ship to scream when their end is up in the air, and with directional microphones, we can tell and read the decibel meters, so at the end of the ride, we can tally up the scream levels, and we tell the guests which side won.”
For an attraction like a Swinging Ship, the addition of Z+ can “breathe new life” into the attraction and surrounding area.
“Swinging Ships are high capacity rides, so if a park is experiencing congestion, something like this would draw a crowd to a high capacity ride, and creates a level of human interaction as well to enhance the overall experience for the guest. It can not only serve as a way to bring people to an area – because human curiosity wants to bring you to an area where there’s action, so this will accomplish that and increase the interaction with a ride that many parks already have. If a park is thinking about replacing a swinging ship, this could bring new life into it.”
Zamperla has also developed some gamification for another classic attraction, Bumper Cars, called “Bumparcade”
“We’ve developed two systems for bumper cars that create a different level of interaction,” Coleman told us.
“One of them is projection mapping. We have a bumper car demonstration track within our booth that has projection mapping so you can run over the fruit or whatever object you select, projected onto your bumper car floors, and then guests can accumulate points for their team.”
“The other system is a back-lit bumper system around the outside edges, where the colors will change. If you’re on the red team, you’ll want to get the red box, but those colors will change. You can swerve out of the way, you can bump other cars to get the point, so it’s a different level of interactivity. The object is still to bump someone but the opportunity is there to breathe new life into the attraction.”
As the future rapidly approaches, it’s clear that Zamperla plans to be on the forefront of technology for years to come.