Please introduce yourself shortly to us. How did Zamperla started to exist? Was their first focus immediately to amusement park industry?
It all began in the mid-1800’s when Giovanni Zamperla and his son Giuseppe started an equestrian circus to entertain at local celebrations. Recognizing that moving pictures were gaining popularity, Giovanni purchased a cinema machine to join the travelling circus. With the arrival of “talkies” and permanent movie theatres, Giuseppe and his son Antonio, i.e. my father and founder of Antonio Zamperla Spa, decided to focus their efforts on the carnival aspect of their business. Today I’m proud to represent the third generation of amusement industry innovators.
What was the first attraction they designed/sold?
My father was only sixteen when he built the first amusement ride: a series of small cars that travelled on a track affixed to a platform with three hills. The Zamperla company was then officially founded in the 1960’s when he realized that popular adult attractions could be successfully reproduced for children. We began to sell our rides (Kiddie Bumper Cars, Mini Scooter rides, Punchball games, Mini Jet, Convoy and Balloon Race) in the United States during the 1970’s with the same success he had in Europe.
Zamperla’s portfolio is really impressive: which attraction is the most popular one to sell over the years/lately?
The Disk’O’s family, for sure! Available in many track and vehicle sizes, for both park and trailer models, Disk’O is the ideal addition to any park or carnival’s thrill ride roster: it combines a breathtaking dual rocking/spinning motion with a new, patented, outward facing seating system.
Zamperla also develops rollercoasters: do you use external experience from for instance Stengel? Or is everything happening in house?
Our co-operation with Stengel has been fundamental at the beginning, when we decided to enter the field of Roller Coasters in the 90s and we started to design and manufacture our own roller coasters. Interacting with Stengel, our roller coaster designers have been given the opportunity to acquire best available know-how and expertise very quickly and we are now totally independent although we still turn to Stengel’s studio in case of overwork or stringent deadlines. It goes without saying that we still consult Stengel whenever we approach a particularly complex project or we just need to verify our assumptions.
In almost every park people may see one or more Zamperla attractions. Especially rides for children. How do you explain the success for this?
Kiddie rides are where we have started from, but we are now a reliable partner, ready and prepared to face any expectation even of the most demanding clients. We are able to offer a widest possible range of products as well as to build and carry out, in relatively short term, any customized project even if complex and ambitious, Our company philosophy “One stop – One shop” gives our customers the opportunity to find, from a single supplier, most of the rides which make up an amusement park, and this is surely something which makes life easier for them.
A further reason of success is represented by our widespread network of sales offices and subsidiaries throughout the world which guarantee us a direct commercial presence on all world markets, production at competitive prices and, above all, the control of local competitors who are thus obliged to measure up to our quality standards. Each branch office is run by an Italian manager to guarantee everywhere the same level and style that are still the company’s winning cards.
Which attraction has been the greatest challenge to construct/develop/design?
The Moto Coaster, our compact launched coaster which gives thrill-seekers of all ages the opportunity to experience the emotions of a motorbike race. The main challenges in connection with this roller coaster have been the design of a powerful but cost-effective launch system capable of delivering a high energy ride with low energy costs and the innovative pedestal seating design maximizing safety, comfort, and rider freedom.
Are there particular attractions from other manufacturers that you really admire? Which ride or rollercoaster is your favourite? What does this ride make so special? Could Zamperla also construct a similar ride?
I admire Bolliger & Mabillard a lot for their capacity to design and manufacture high quality super roller coasters, and my favourite coaster is surely the “Incredible Hulk” at Universal Studios in Orlando. As for Zamperla’s capability to design and manufacture roller coasters of this range, I am sure we wouldn’t be second to any one in terms of design quality and reliability, but when I say I admire B&M I do not mean that I intend to do anything similar to their big coasters. We are very good at designing and manufacturing medium-sized roller coasters and we feel at ease in this market segment. We have made our choice and market strategy plans: we will continue to innovate without entering the field of hyper coasters.
Tell us in short the strengths of a Zamperla attraction. Which are the core reasons for a park to choose Zamperla.
An amusement ride is far more than just a mechanical device – it is a fascinating combination of sensations that translates to people as “fun” in full safety, and Zamperla rides can rely both on the creative fantasy of an excellent Art Department which is continually enhancing attractions by developing new themes or by elaborating on ideas submitted by customers, and a Technical Design Department which I have no problem in saying is one of the best in the world in the field.
Are there any future projects which are totally innovative for Zamperla?
Innovation plays a role in Zamperla’s success and is part of its everyday activities. As for innovation applied to amusement park products, at the moment, for example, we are working at the feasibility study of an inverted coaster with a 600m long track and a height of 35 m which is something more than a mid-sized roller coaster.
The rollercoasters which are built vary from junior until mid-sized rollercoasters. Are there any dreams/plans to build a major rollercoaster ride? If so, what kind of type?
As said above, mid-sized roller coasters are and are intended to be our preferential products, but we are ready to answer our customers’ needs and in case we are so requested we would see no difficulty in taking up new challanges.
Are there any people inside the amusement park world that you really look up to?
Yes, there are a few who I sincerely admire, i.e. Bolliger and Intamin as ride manufacturers and Stengel as a designer. A company I have always looked up to in the past was Huss: they were really able to come out with gorgeous rides.
When a park quite far away would buy an attraction (for instance in Finland), how should we see the set-up of a ride in a practical way? What is the process of such a deal?
We are always able to offer our customers qualified technical assistance at the installation, no matter in which country in the world. Before shipping any ride we submit to the final customer an Installation Tools Data Sheet specifing the type of equipment needed, the expected time of installation and the number and type of qualified local manpower to be made available on site. As soon as installation works are ready to start, one or more Zamperla’s skilled technicians depending on the complexity of the project or the number of rides involved, will move to the construction site to supervise on all site activities, coordinate local workers, and take care of final testing and commissioning.
Many companies in Europe (and outside) have been suffering due to the general worldwide crisis. How was the impact for a company as Zamperla?
The general economic crisis has affected our field in different ways. Paradoxically speaking, the poorer economic climate has increased attendance in local amusement parks due to reduced opportunities to travel and see new countries and cultures. On the other hand, however, the generalized financial crunch has affected investments for new projects and ride supplies, thus penalizing amusement rides manufacturers in general. As for Zamperla, I am proud to say that we have suffered the crisis only a little bit: thanks to our widespread sales network, our capability to continuously come out with new products, and a prudent management we have been able to keep the situation under control.
Is everything based in Italy or do you have many sites on different continents? Is there just one factory, or are there also many factories worldwide? How many people are currently working for Zamperla? Does this number include the parks you own?
Today Zamperla has affiliated companies in addition to distributors and sales/ representative offices all over the world: ZAMPERLA INC. in USA, ZAMPERLA AMUSEMENT RIDES (SUZHOU) CO. LTD. in China, ZAMPERLA ASIA PACIFIC INC. in the PHILIPPINES, BELLARIDEZ in the Republic of Belarus, ZAMPERLA MIDDLE EAST in DUBAI – UAE, and ZAMPERLA RUSSIA in Russia. We have also in place exclusive agency agreements in Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, and Brasil. All Zamperla design and prototyping activities as well as most of the production are carried out in the Italian headquarters, while the Chinese and Philippine plants manufacture kiddie and family rides for the domestic markets. Zamperla overall staff is around 450 people, parks staff excluded.
You also own a few parks in New York, Victorian Gardens in Central Park and since 28 May 2010 Luna Park in Coney Island. So, let’s talk about them. Luna Park, Coney Island: Why the name “Luna Park”?
We have decided to name the relaunched amusement park at Coney Island after the original seaside resort to pay tribute to the birthplace of the amusement industry.
We know Luna Park was built in only 100 days. At the moment there are 19 attractions. Can you tell us more about any future plans for Luna Park?
Luna Park features a mix of world class rides that offer something for everyone. Rides have been selected in a way that would maximize the park available space, while providing an assortment of classic and cutting edge rides. As for future plans, a new zone called Scream Zone with 4 additional attractions will be opened in 2011: two thrilling roller coasters, a sling shot ride, and go-karts are deemed to attract more and more teenagers to Luna Park.
The opening weekend has been a real success, many media have been publishing nice reviews. Did you manage to finish all planned rides by opening?
Setting-up and opening Luna Park in time for Memorial Week-End with 19 amusement rides in operation has been a real tough task because we had been given less than 100 days to have the whole infrastructure planned and built and deal with all relevant applications and inspections (electrical, sanitary and water), design and build five food kiosks and a restaurant, coordinate the work of graphic studios and ad agencies both in US and in Italy, select and train 211 people and, of course, deliver and install 19 new rides!
We have been a few weeks later now. How do you evaluate the park?
We are very satisfied: so far Luna Park has got off to a good start and we are confident we will be able to manage some minor shortcomes we have experienced at the very beginning mainly due to lack of experience on the part of park staff. Sure we will not loose the opportunity to improve overall service quality and rides offer. In other words, I can say that so far park attendance has been up to expectations and budgetary projections, and I am confident Luna Park has high potentialities of growth bringing to the park people throughout the world who have visited Coney Island in the past and attracting new patrons, both local and foreign.
For next year a Thrill zone area would also arise on Coney Island. Will this area be part of Luna Park, or will it become a brand new area? Is it with a free entrance principle and ticketing per ride (or wristband)?
The new Scream Zone area will be integral part of the existing Luna Park and it will also be on a cash-less principle: visitors will have the opportunity to buy a sort of credit card available in different amounts and use it both to get on rides and buy food or gadgets.
In the media there has been the mentioning that some prototype rides would make their appearance. Can you inform us more on the rides to be expected?
Air Race has already made its world debut at Coney Island in May this year, delivering a hugely exciting ride experience combined with an impressive visual impact. Air Race flips riders upside down as their planes spin around a central axis with up to 4Gs of force as it replicates the experiences and sensations of an acrobatic aeroplane flight, with banks, loops, and dives. Another prototype ride which is likely to make its appearance at Luna Park in 2012 is a breath-taking medium sized roller coaster with good hourly capacity: you will surely forgive me for not unveiling the project more in detail.
Do you consider Luna Park to be some kind of a showroom for your rides as well? Will this park have a positive impact on sales for instance?
Coney Island has always been a popular location for Zamperla’s attractions; in the early 90ies the new Zamperla ride Power Surge was such a huge success that New York magazine dedicated its cover page to our company. We have no doubt Coney Island will have a positive impact on our sales: we have already had a few delegations of customers, one from Japan and one from Europe, visiting Luna Park although it has been open for only few months now.
What do you think about scenic rides like Cyclone and Wonderwheel which are “Luna Park neighbours”? Do you think people could think Cyclone and Wonderwheel are part of Luna Park?
Cyclone and Wonderwheel are sort of historic icons in the amusement industry: moreover they are “scenically” impressive and eye-catching. I see no problems of neighbourhood and it would be not a problem for me if people should think Cyclone and Wonderwheel are part of Luna Park. To the contrary, I am sure we will all be able to take advantage of interesting business synergies in the future since I believe the new park has also stimulated business for Coney Island’s existing amusement operators.
Victorian Gardens, Central Park: Can you tell us more about Victorian Gardens?
Victorian Gardens at Wollman Rink in Central Park is a traditional family amusement park in the heart of New York City with rides, games, food and gifts specifically geared to ages 2-10 years. Victorian Gardens first opened its gates to the general public in the summer of 2003 to give New York citizens and tourists the opportunity to utilize the rink facility not only in winter but all year long.
Victorian Gardens is a family park. Do you think to introduce a thrill ride in future?
Victorian Gardens will never have any thrill ride: it has been conceived as a high quality family park meant to serve a nice market with a clear traditional approach in delivering family fun and entertainment in a safe, friendly and clean environment.
Is Victorian Gardens visited only by NY citizens or does the park also attract many tourists?
Given its special location in the heart of Central Park Victorian Gardens attracts lots of tourists but we are proud that many New York citizens choose this park to spend their free time with their families.
As Victorian Gardens is part of Central Park, there might be some limitations of rides to be built (height, noise,…)? Can you tell us more on that topic?
As already explained above, Victorian Gardens is geared to guests 2-10 years of age and their families, so amusement rides are deliberately of a kiddie and family type.
Can we expect also participation of Zamperla in other parks (over the world)? I think for instance on the Asian or Arabic market?
Why not? We are open to any new opportunity anywhere in the world and ready to take it into consideration. I like describing my approach to life and to business by quoting an excerpt of the popular novel by Marguerite Yourcenar, Adriano’s Memories, one of my favourite: “Few are the men who love travelling for long time. It is a continued breaking of all habits, an unceasing denial of all prejudices. But I did my best to have no prejudices and few habits; I appreciated the differences of each segment of the world circumference”.
Patrick Joossens – www.parkworld.be