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Attraction Profile Polar X-plorer

Legoland Billund has just launched a new Arctic- themed environment for the enjoyment of its young “explorers” – the first of its kind at any Legoland park worldwide. The highlight is a unique Zierer rollercoaster promising a penguin

encounter. Owen Ralph reports


pened on April 29 by explorer and TV presenter Philippe Cousteau Jnr, Polar Land is the biggest addition to the Danish theme park since it opened in 1968, representing a DKK75 million ($13m/€10m) investment by operator Merlin Entertainments.

Legoland Billund CEO Henrik Hohrmann (left) with explorer Philippe Costeau Jnr


At the heart of the new land, which can be found in the far right hand corner of the park, is Polar X-plorer. This one-of-kind Zierer rollercoaster features a vertical drop and a dark ride section that passes by the park’s newest arrivals: 17 live Gentoo penguins. “It was important for us to offer something unique,” explains Legoland Billund CEO Henrik Höhrmann. “As we are the original Legoland park, we already have all the classic Lego themes such as Pirate, Kingdoms (castle) and Adventure. Our research showed that the polar theme was well accepted among our guests, plus it gave us the opportunity to include a new type of coaster. The majority of our guests will never have tried anything like this before, and I think they will be quite surprised to see the penguins too!” Unlike several Legoland attractions, Polar Land is not based around a particular Lego toy range, but brick- built models of various Arctic animals reinforce the theme. As well as Polar X-plorer, the new land also includes a brand new restaurant and Ice Pilots School, the park’s former Power Builder (Robocoaster) attraction. “We are very proud of our achievement,” says Höhrmann, “but at the end of the day the only thing that matters is our visitors’ verdict. All of us were therefore eavesdropping on opening day, and it seems that we have hit the spot with Polar Land.” And what about Polar X-plorer? “Most visitors found the ride fun and wild, but it was the freefall which

brought out most screams,” adds the park’s CEO. “It’s a very nice coaster actually.”

Set around a giant mountain, the 111-second journey begins as riders board one of two 16-seater trains themed as a snow mobile, before setting off on a half-a-kilometre-long expedition (498m). On leaving the 20-metre lift hill, explorers dive beneath a frozen waterfall into a helix and through a series of twists and turns, reaching a maximum speed of 65kmh. Forces of up to 4.2G are experienced during the ride, countered by a surprising amount of airtime for a family-friendly offering such as this.

Polar Plunge Yet – unlike most coasters – the attraction’s highlight comes towards the end of the ride as the train re- enters the mountain and comes to a halt. A short animated film accompanies this sequence as two Lego men are seen working on a frozen lake. Suddenly one of the men drops his pick, breaking the ice and the track, together with the train, plunges 5-metres. Passengers then proceed into a slower, dark ride section and see the penguins on the left hand side, before returning to the station area. Polar X-plorer’s storyline provides a particularly effective way of integrating a vertical drop, but Legoland Billund is not the first Merlin park to introduce this feature on one of its rollercoasters. Alton Towers (UK) did it in 2010 on Th13teen, its Intamin Family Freefall Coaster.

However it was actually an attraction at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in the USA that brought this particular ride system to Legoland’s attention. By the time you read this, the Virginia-based theme park will have opened Verbolten, its new multiple launch

MAY 2012

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