Thea Awards Recipients

Thea Awards 2013

2013 Thea Classic Award

EUROPA-PARK, Rust, Germany

Image 1/3: Europa-Park, Germany
Image 2/3: 2013 Thea Classic Award: EUROPA-PARK
Image 3/3: 2013 Thea Classic Award: EUROPA-PARK

This year’s Thea Classic Award honors Europa-Park, a laureate of the European theme parks industry, owing its success to the enthusiasm and energy of a family passionate about themed entertainment: the Mack family. From the manufacturing of wooden caravans in the late 18th century, to the operation of one of the world’s leading regional theme parks, the Mack family gradually built an international reputation.

The story of Europa-Park begins in the early 70s. Franz Mack (1921-2010) ably leads the family business which has grown to specialize in the design and production of rides and attractions: first for showmen and later for the amusement park industry at large. 

Mack products are exported all over the world, and it is in the course of visiting customers and parks in the United States that the idea takes root in the minds of Franz Mack and his son Roland to create their own amusement park. The park would both entertain the public and serve as a showcase for Mack products. 

The challenge is formidable, but the desire of both men to succeed is strong. They will need a little more than three years to see the project emerge in the municipality of Rust, only a few kilometers from France. Europa-Park opens its doors on July 12, 1975, on a wooded, 16-hectare site. The first attractions include a track of small racing cars, a panoramic train, a kiddie car ride, a tow boat ride and a fairy-tale themed walk-through. Nearly 250,000 guests come to discover the park in its first year of operation; visitation attains 1 million by 1978.

The Mack family quickly learns the tricks of the trade. Focused on maintaining and improving the quality of the guest experience, they recruit a German architect and designer with strong experience in theater, TV and movie productions, Ulrich Damrau (1914-2007). The collaboration is successful and in 1982, Europa-Park opens its first themed area, representing Italy. A Venetian-style plaza surrounded by buildings includes a theater, a mechanical puppet show, a pizzeria and two dark rides.

This is a turning point for Europa-Park and the Mack family business – joined later by Roland’s brother Jürgen – and a series of new themed areas unfolds: Netherlands (1984), United Kingdom (1988), France (1989), Austria and Scandinavia (1992), Switzerland (1993), Spain (1994) and so on. If some areas are built around existing rides or facilities, others like Greece (2000) and Iceland (2009) are fully designed from a blank page. Adaptation and imagination are evident in the evolution of the park which is today divided into 16 themed areas within which 13 European countries are represented.

Despite its name, Europa-Park was not originally conceived to become a symbol of diversity in European culture: its name was actually chosen for a completely different reason. But over the years and with the development of the European Union, it became a natural direction for the park.

In 1995, the Mack family embarks on a new adventure. Europa-Park is becoming a short-stay destination with the opening of a hotel adjacent to the park. Again, great care is given to the theming and to the quality of experience – this time, to immerse the guests in the heart of Andalusia, Spain. The business model is a success and other projects follow, including the spectacular Hotel Colosseo, an architectural reference to the Colosseum of Rome. The site is now said to be the largest hotel resort in Germany, with five themed hotels (over 4,500 beds), a guest house and a Camp Resort.

When Ulrich Damrau retires, the Mack family establishes its own creative department to continue the legacy and focus on ever-more detailed theming, from queuelines to shows, catering, shops, hotel rooms and even restrooms. The Mack Solutions team of designers and architects is responsible for imagining and realizing the future development of the resort, in conjunction with the Mack manufacturing plant and the occasional external partner. Europa-Park’s most recent projects such as the Icelandic themed area and the Hotel Bell Rock, exemplify their work in the creation of compelling places and experiences.

Today, Europa-Park is said to rank as the most popular regional theme park in the world with an annual attendance exceeding 4.5 million, a hotel occupancy rate of more than 90% and repeat visitation rate of 80%. The company now employs nearly 3,500 people in high season and has welcomed over 90 million visits since its beginnings.

The recipe of Europa-Park’s growth has been based on the same basic ingredients since 1975: a daily attention to the quality of service, a genuine sense of hospitality, regular updating and re-investment in attractions and entertainment, a spirit of innovation, a desire to serve the public and an exacting management of the business. And then there is the singular, standout ingredient: the driving force of the Mack family. What differentiates Europa-Park and makes it unique comes from their passion and ambition.  

Europa-Park has always been focused on the future while keeping a close eye on the foundations of the past. The members of a third generation of the Mack family business, Michael and Thomas Mack, represent the next phase. They will certainly make their mark on the Europa-Park resort of tomorrow. In facing the challenges that lie ahead, they will apply the Mack family’s signature creativity, business savvy, and passion!

François Mayné ( comes from Belgium. He is the editorial director of NewsParcs, an online publication dedicated to theme park industry professionals. 

Award Credits