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edition 12 (216)
December 2016
Construction

Maya buzzes into Poland

The first phase of a huge 200 ha amusement park is being built in the Lubuskie region

Rafał Ostrowski

Maya buzzes into Poland
Daniel Heinst (back), CEO, Holiday Park Kownaty Poland (back) and Bruno Lambrecht (front), general manager, CFE Polska – the project's general contractor

The cornerstone for the first theme park in Poland was laid at the beginning of December in the village of Kownaty in Lubuskie province, 40 km from Frankfurt an der Oder on the German border. We spoke to Daniel Heinst, the CEO of Holiday Park Kownaty Poland, and Bruno Lambrecht, the general manager of CFE Polska, about the nuts and bolts of the project

Rafał Ostrowski, Eurobuild Central & Eastern Europe: Dutch investor Momentum Capital is planning to build a major tourist destination in central Europe the Holiday Park Kownaty Poland amusement complex, consisting of a number of theme parks over an area of 205 ha. The first phase is to be called Majaland and is due to open as early as December next year. Could you tell us more about what Majaland will be like?

Daniel Heinst, CEO, Holiday Park Kownaty Poland: Majaland will be an indoor and outdoor theme park. This means that it will have attractions and activities based around a topic or theme. This theme comes from the Maya the Bee cartoon, which is very well known in Poland, along with two extra characters: Vic the Viking and Heidi. It will be open all year round, catering to families with young children from 2 years old up to 8, 10 or even 12.

How big will Majaland be?

DH: The indoor hall, which is to be built in the first phase of the project, will have 8,000 sqm of usable space, and the outdoor area will cover another 1.5 ha. Both the indoor and the outdoor area will make up a single park, where you can stay after buying a single ticket. It will feature around 25 attractions ranging from very big mechanical rides, like carousels and an indoor rollercoaster – specifically, one that is suitable for children of at least 1m in height. It is not some huge, crazy rollercoaster. It has been designed so that children with their parents can have their first rollercoaster experience.

The first phase of the park is to closely resemble an existing park in the Netherlands, called Plopsa Indoor Coevorden. Why is that?

DH: Momentum Capital is a Dutch investment and development company and we are developing the project in a joint venture with Belgian company Plopsa. Plopsa is currently the owner and operator of six theme parks in Western Europe. It has three amusement parks in Belgium, one in the Netherlands and one in Germany, as well as another themed aquapark in Belgium. Basically, Plopsa is bringing its know-how and its expertise for the contract, design and construction work, while Momentum Capital is the investor. Plopsa parks are all a little different, but what we did is to take the Plopsa Indoor Coevorden design and adapt it to Polish conditions. So we had to make some small changes in line with various Polish construction regulations. But basically, what we will build for Majaland is like 80 pct of Plopsa Indoor Coevorden.

What do you like most about Plopsa Indoor Coevorden?

DH: Firstly, it provides a bit of an escape for families with children. It is open all year round, so you can go any time you want. It just has everything you need in one place and under one roof.

How will the Majaland project compare to other amusement parks in Poland.

DH: What we are now building has not existed in Poland up to now. It is a real theme park, where everything is immersed in the story of its characters.

Bruno Lambrecht, the general manager of CFE Polska: It will be like a mini Disneyland, as everybody knows from the Plopsa parks in Belgium and Holland. They are very popular. It will not only be a park, but also a world of its own – one that children know from the TV. Even parents know Maya the Bee.

Majaland is a EUR 20 mln investment. When do you expect this to start paying for itself?

DH: Majaland itself should break even in seven years’ time.

Are you able to say how much a ticket is going cost?

DH: We haven’t really decided yet what the ticket prices will be. We will open at the end of next year, so we’ll see how the market has developed by then and will set our ticket prices accordingly. But, of course, we have to come up with a ticket price that is affordable both for our Polish customers and those from Germany as well – the park is very close to the German border. We have to find the right balance.

Are you planning to extend Majaland in the future?

DH: Yes. Majaland will grow. In December 2017 the park we will be opening will be of the same size as the one in Coevorden, but in the following year we will already be adding something to the outdoor zone, and we will again add something the year after that. These features don’t always have to be big. Extending Majaland might just mean adding another attraction, and this could be an investment as small as EUR 500,000. The park can grow continuously. But eventually, it should be even four times the size of Plopsa Indoor Coevorden.

If Ive understood this correctly, you are looking at all the different Plopsa parks and picking from them what you would like to have here?

DH: Yes. We are cherry picking the best elements, but for this we're not limiting ourselves only to Plopsa parks – we have visited many parks in Europe and beyond to see what’s new, what is available, what works and what would be a perfect addition for us.

Are you also planning an aquapark? Plopsa owns an aquapark in Belgium. You could also bring a similar concept to Poland

DH: Yes, we are.

BL: Plopsa has an aquapark in Belgium, which has thunderstorm and rain special effects and is also totally themed.

So Majaland will eventually cover about 30 ha but the land owned by Momentum is seven times larger. How are you going to use the rest of it?

DH: Well, this won’t be done in a day. It is going to be a development site for another fifty years. The thing is that with this kind of development you never finish building. Look at Walt Disney World Resort. Every year something gets added. And in the leisure sector especially you have to add something new every year to be able to get your customers to come back for the next season. So that is why I am saying it will take fifty years, because such things tend to never get finished.

Ok, so within this fifty-year span, what do you plan to develop in Kownaty?

DH: In the current first phase it will be Majaland. The second phase,which will be adjacent to Majaland, will be aimed at a slightly older clientele. We're going to offer a range of sports, extreme sports, outdoor activities. This is a completely new concept. It could be a combination of trampolining, indoor climbing, indoor skiing, indoor surfing and maybe carting, motocross and so on. It will basically be for twelve-year-olds or older.

And how big will this park be?

DH: To give you a better idea, in our partnership with Plopsa we’ve secured around 30 ha, of which 10 is now being developed and will open next year. So we have another 20 ha to develop in subsequent phases with Plopsa. And for the sports park we have reserved another 40 ha.

Will you have a partner for that, such as Plopsa is for Majaland?

DH: Yes, this will be a media and entertainment company from the UK.

So it will also have a definite theme?

DH: Yes, of course. We’re always looking for this kind of immersive experience. Because this time it will be about sport and will feature famous sports figures, athletes and so on. But it will still have something to do with the media. These things are all very complementary today. You see something on TV and you want to experience it in real life.

When are you planning to open the second phase and how soon will it start after the first one?

DH: The second phase should realistically open either at the end of 2018 or early 2019. We would like to start the second phase very soon after the first one. Ideally, we will just continue building one phase after another.

BL: If I may add, even when we have only completed the first phase, it will already be an all-day amusement park. Coevorden in Belgium, which this park will be very similar to, is an all-day amusement park. In Belgium and Holland you only have Majalands as standalone parks.

DH: Yes, but Majaland in Kownaty will offer six to eight hours of entertainment on average. To give people a reason to actually stay there, we have to go on to have at least ten to twelve hours of entertainment. So the second phase will increase the total entertainment time to more than twelve hours. And then it will start making sense to add accommodation.

So there will be a hotel?

DH: Yes. We expect that the fully built-out park will attract enough visitors to make accommodation feasible. So the third phase would be to build either a hotel or a bungalow park. And again that would be done with a third partner. We just want to keep the same formula: Momentum Capital puts up the finance and the investment, while we find a third partner with the expertise and the know-how to deliver the project and make sure that it works.

Do you have an idea of who the hotel operator will be?

DH: No, we are not at that phase yet. We have been approached recently by a Spanish hotel group that is already interested in the project, but like I said it is a little too early to get into the hotel operations details.

It has not known yet whether this hotel will be a standalone building or chalets?

DH: Well, at some point you have to have a diversified accommodation offer. So I think you have to have both. You have to have a hotel where young couples would like to stay, and you have to have cabins, where families can stay. I can see the potential for cabins that can accommodate six, eight, up to twelve people. So you can have groups and bring all the family with you.

And youre not thinking about building a shopping centre there?

DH: At some point in the next fifty years this location will become so attractive that it will have separate retail facilities, but that time is definitely not now. I really think that it could eventually easily attract 3 mln visitors a year, once it is fully developed. When you can attract the number of visitors who will also spend several days there, then developing retail absolutely makes sense. But now we are really talking about the next ten years of development.

What else will there be in the future?

DH: I think, for example, that at one point we will also add a variety of small entertainment facilities, similar to Disney Springs or Universal City Walk. Because people will be coming on Monday and leaving on Friday, so they will have four nights to stay. During the day they will spend time in the park, but that will close at six or seven, leaving them with the whole evening to do something. That will be the time for night entertainment. So then restaurants will be added and bars, theatres, cinemas, whatever. And that could all be done in the form of an open village. One that is not ticketed, but open to the public and that could also be used in different ways. And if everything is then working fine, the final addition would certainly be a range of B2B facilities, such as a corporate five-star Hilton hotel with conference rooms.

BL: The idea is that company representatives will bring their families to the park when a large conference is on and then the next day, for example, they will all go off to play golf.

Will this park have a rollercoaster for adults?

DH: Yes. One day, but I cannot tell you when. You also have to listen to your customers, so now we are creating an entirely new product with completely new facilities. We have many ideas, but without feedback from the public, you cannot fully know their needs.

As the general contractor, CFE is working for the investor in a design and build contract. What will your work entail?

BL: First of all we have prepared the building permit application and obtained this together with the investor. We have drawn up the execution design and we are doing all the construction work. This includes constructing the buildings and all the installations, such as the electricity, the HVAC and the lighting – so we are doing everything except the decoration and the attractions themselves. These are to be bought from the attraction suppliers and it still hasn’t been decided whether we will be involved in their assembly.

Whats so special about this project from the point of view of a general contractor?

BL: Well, first of all I’d like to say something about the way we cooperate with the investors, because we joined Momentum and Plopsa early on in this project. And for us this is a real partnership between CFE and the investor. We have been to Holland and to Belgium and visited all the parks – and now we are designing it together with the client and building it for a fixed price. So this involves CFE working very closely with the investor. And this makes it really unique – we all have the same targets and we know that we are going to be successful next year.

DH: Yes. Exactly. This model is the main reason why we chose to work with CFE.

How does design and build save time?

BL: With our model there is no tender design, so you already save two months this way, plus everything you design is immediately the rightdesign, because you don’t have to redesign anything at later stages. Normally, there is the design prepared by the architect, and then the contractor comes in and comes up with other ideas. So then you have to redo the design. Whereas with our system, the contractors come in at the beginning, they work together with the investor and come up with the rightapproach themselves.

So how are things going now on the construction site?

BL: Oh, I like this question, because if you go to our web page you will find a live camera feed, so you can always see how the work is progressing. At the moment we are busy with the groundwork and we’re starting the concreting. By December you will be able to see the columns and the structure taking shape. We deliver all our buildings on time and this will not be any different. In fact, the way we are working, one team together in partnership, is the way we as CFE prefer to work as a general contractor. It also allows us to build faster. We signed the contract at the end of July, when only the concept design existed. And by the end of September we’d already obtained the building permit and started the work.

DH: The building permit was issued in six weeks. We have really good relations with the local authorities and have been always very careful to work on these relations. We have involved as many people from the local area as possible. From the very outset we have always explained our concepts and ideas, stating precisely what we want to do. Anytime any new drawings of what we were working on were completed, we would immediately publish them. So this was not done the usual way, by suddenly submitting a big plan to the local authorities before they’d seen it and it’s all a big shock for them. No, they’d already seen it at least five times, so that, I think, has saved us a lot of time and allowed the cooperation to be really smooth.

Foreign investors have not had much luck with amusement parks so far. Adventure World Warsaw, which was supposed to be completed some time ago, hasnt even really started. Park of Poland is not going according to schedule, either. Is it difficult to build parks in Poland?

DH: I don’t really know why this has been happening. We haven’t encountered this problem.

BL: I think this is down to the history of the country: there is always a degree of scepticism about theme parks. What I can say is that once Plopsa and Momentum came together and signed a contract with us, things then moved forward at great speed. Plopsa is part of Studio 100 – and every child in the Benelux countries has grown up with Studio 100. So we have a very serious partner and a very determined one. There is absolutely no doubt about that. We are working with serious people and a serious investor. The thing I like very much about this investor is that they are not insisting that in three years I will have to build up 200 ha of land. They are not thinking so big at beginning and want to take things step by step.

More than 400 km from Warsaw this is far, isnt it?

DH: We’re not expecting to attract visitors from Warsaw at this stage to Majaland. Once Holiday Park Kownaty fills out, then for sure. But what we are really looking at the moment is a catchment area of 25 mln people within a three-hour drive. This gives us plenty of scope for achieving the visitor numbers we need. Of course, we will invite everybody in Warsaw to come and visit us anyway; but yes, at the moment the city is well beyond the three-hour travel range we have planned for.

The engineer

Bruno Lambrecht is the general manager of CFE Polska. He has been working on the Polish construction market for 15 years. He is fluent in Dutch (his mother tongue), French and English and can communicate in Polish and German. In 2012–2016 he held the position of chairman of the board of the Belgian Business Chamber. He graduated in civil engineering at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium).

Attraction Man

Daniel Heinst is the CEO of Holiday Park Kownaty. Previously he was the managing director of Silesia Amusement Park. He is also the president of the Polish Association of Tourism and Family Attractions STiAR and is certified by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. He contributes articles to Interplay Magazine and is the co-owner of the Parkmania.pl portal. He is Dutch and has lived for over 15 years in Poland. Daniel speaks fluent Polish.

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