with the president of GCI, Clair Hain Jr! Though it's not very well translated.
During our coverage of the WODAN Timburcoaster media event at Europa-Park (Rust, Germany), we had the opportunity to meet Clair Hain Jr, President of Great Coasters International (GCI), the company that designed and build this new wooden coaster.
Located in the nicely themed Iceland area of the park, it features a giant aeroplane-style first drop crossing the lift hill structure and three underground tunnels all packed with great pacing, quick direction changes, airtimes and a dynamic station Fly-Through. Equipped with three Millenium Flyers trains (capacity of 24 passengers with hight requirement of 120 centimeter/ 3 feet 11') going at a top speed of 95 kph (58.4 mph), the track is 1050 meters length (3.445 feet), 37,5 meters hight (123 feet) and offers maximal vertical acceleration approaching 3.5 G.
WODAN Timburcoaster is the fifth GCI coaster to open in Europe after Thunderbird (PowerLand, Finland, 2006), Troy (Toverland, The Netherlands, 2007), El Toro (Freizeitpark Plohn, Germany, 2009) and Joris en de Draak (Efteling, The Netherlands, 2010).
NewsParcs : How are you feeling about today?
Clair Hain Jr. : What just not to say about this day! This day is always my happiest day, when you can actually see the people riding the ride, hearing their expressions by the screamings, yells, laughs and clapping in their hands, watching them get out of the train, run down the exit and run back at the entrance to try it again, even fight their way to the front of the seats or to the back. That's a very exciting day especially if you are a person who designs and builds these type of rides. We are here to make the people happy, we are not doing this for ourselves, to make lots of money, this is for fun... we love to see people having fun... it's our passion!
NP : We supposed you’re used to that kind of feelings. Is this day bigger than the other ones, because of the good business relatonships you’ve had with Europa-Park and Mack Rides?
CH : This is a very big day for us. We are very good friends with the Europa-Park and Mack Family, and we have been for many years with business relationships, sales, going to conventions and so on. But the next generation of the Mack Family is moving up. And this is something we have been trying to really sell one of these ride inside their park for many years. It really is now catching their eye, they turned around and rode some of our rides also hear from different park owners that have our rides and all of it made the difference. To see the Mack Family faces when they see riders loving WODAN, they're very happy and that makes me very happy.
NP : You told us you had been looking to do that project with Europa-Park for a long time. You're one of the lucky manufacturer that built a ride for this Mack-owned theme park. Do you feel lucky about it?
CH : We of Great Coasters are very lucky to be in here. We have a lot of special thanks to Michael Mack. He has a passion for this park, he has a passion for rides, he has a passion to see people happy and I must say that Michael and I have probably a lot of likes when it comes to passion of these rides, and this is what it takes! Michael really help us to push in here and he turned out very good, and now everybody in his family is just astonded, up in arms and so happy, how can you not be happy?
NP : Can you explain us the story behind WODAN Timburcoaster?
CH : The configuration of the ride was a challenge for our design team. And WODAN has been redesigned and redesigned to make it fit perfectly in-between Blue Fire and Atlantica rides with the help of Europa-Park team and the Mack Family. It look a lot of design back and forth and different ideas and I really came to a perfect niche that everybody was happy. we came over here to negociate the contract last Summer, there were a couple of final tweaking of areas we wanted to make everybody happy. Within a few months after that, we were on site here beginning in August and they started building the foundation systems. We started building the structure at the end of August and we had the first train test at the beginning of March, so it's about 7 months of construction time which was our fastest because it's a big ride in a small tight area. So I'm very proud and pleased with my construction team.
NP : Is something particular with this ride compared to the ones you design and build before?
CH : This is the first ride we have done that has polyurethane wheels just to make the ride much less noisier compared with steel on steel, which to me our rides are always very smooth but with the urethane wheels, I feel it's much smoother and I think a lot has to do it because it's your mind working over because is not as noisy. It took lot more of preparation, we had to do a lot of study before to figure out what is the best to make WODAN work with urethane wheels. We had to do some changes on the track design, even on the steel track... a lot of different things. So it's something new for us, so far it's working wonderful I am very pleased. That's really the only thing that changes differently on this ride than what we done in the past. We wanted to go one step further over the edge, there's also a unique thing on your way to the lift hill, it's an overcamber turn where you're leaning the opposite way. Also the fly-through, we build many of them before but we never done one that was banked so the crowd in the station can actually see it. So there's a few things here and there that make WODAN different, but it's still one of our Great Coasters' rides.
NP: What was Europa-Park looking for in this ride?
CH : They wanted to intertwine with the existing rides they had here and also to fit behind the iceland themed area. And it fits perfect, this is a very unique great ride and it's gonna be this way for a long long time, it will never get old, no one will ever get bored with it because the temperature changes the speed for example, every seat is different... it is fabulous!
NP : Do you think you can market that kind of ride in America?
CH : Absolutely! The height of a ride doesn't make the roller coaster any better. You can have a ride at 60 feet tall (18 meters) and have a fantastic attraction. WODAN Timburcoaster had to be taller just because we had the urethane wheels makes it slower. So we had to go higher to make the length that we needed. So a little different in that respect but yes, we'll probably sell some easy in America, I'm sure of that!
NP : Looking ahead now, could you give us some details about the current project you have in Florida for Fun Spot?
CH : We are actually designing right now another new product for us because we have never build a steel structure wood track ride before. We've done lot of work on this existing type of rides out there, and a lot of repair work on them, but this is something new that we feel it's definitively necessary to do with the steel structure. That will be our first one and we are excited, that's gonna be one block or two blocks away from the Orange County Convention Center, the current spot for IAAPA Attractions Show.
NP: Do you have any other projects currently at Great Coasters International?
CH : We have projects on the horizon yes, but nothing has set in stone yet. Today* is a very important date for us because, if everything goes well, we will have another ride to be build in North America next year. There's a few other ones that are still possible in the States and there are 4 or 5 different places here in Europe where that are very hot prospects! But as you know, that's my sales team of Europe to take care of that. We're still working very hard in Asia. Nothing really set in stone yet but maybe soon hopefully.
NP : So even if the economy is slower, it seems that the attractions industry is going well?
CH : The industry is going well, and it has to! People must have fun... they may not travel across the world to go have fun but they will stay close to home and still have fun... and the easiest place to have fun is to go to amusement parks! As an operator, yes you may have to change your ticket cost a little bit because the economy is bad but they're still gonna come. Even if the economy was bad last two years, we got very lucky : we landed a project in Asia that kept going for one year, than we land WODAN here at Europa-Park. The economy now starts to boost up a little higher, start markets are going to rise in America and European markets also rise a little bit so I'm pretty positive. I feel everything is changing in the good way.
NP : What’s the GCI difference?
CH : Our rides are very unique, our rides are very smooth, we're a one shop stop : you buy everything from Great Coasters International! We're a very small company and our rides say it all! You get smooth long lasting rides, unscheduled maintenance is not there, our customers keep on come back to us and if they go to someone else, they call on back to us later to ask what can we do to fix it! You know, we try to educate our customers!
NP : A last question more personal. What's your favorite GCI wooden coaster right now?
CH : The one I just finished! Whenever one I finished last, it’s my favorite!
NP : Thanks a lot for your answers!
Interesting quote: "There's a few other ones that are still possible in the States and there are 4 or 5 different places here in Europe where that are very hot prospects!" Surely