Attractiepark Slagharen, one of the major theme park resorts in The Netherlands, is widely known for its western theme. One of the rides of the park that stands out in the way that theme is adopted is their dark ride Wild West Adventure, which takes guests in boats along scenes depicting iconic western elements. Or actually, we should say that it took guests along scenes: one week ago, the park announced the closure of this dark ride, which will receive a retheme for next season. Last Sunday marked the last operating day of Wild West Adventure, and Team DRdb was present to attend the closing ceremony.
Ever since Wild West Adventure opened in 2000, it has been one of the major rides in the park. The ride was located inside a large dome, which created an unusual setting for a dark ride: the scenes were placed between rock formations and most were devoid of any roofing. All scenes were thus housed in the same space, creating views over large portions of the decor in some places. Especially the final scenes, which could also be watched from a bridge at the ride’s exit, were known for their vastness. Due to the dome being non lit from the inside, it appeared to be nighttime.
Riders would travel through the ride in a round boat, a system which was delivered by Mack Rides. The ride itself was designed by Heimotion, a German company known for dark ride design and animatronic manufacturing. Between the large rock formations created by AAB, guests would encounter typical western cliches such as prisoners, a Native American tribe, pioneers panning for gold and finally a shootout at a battle fortress. Wild West Adventure marked the park’s biggest and most expensive project up until that point.
The dome that housed Wild West Adventure has an even longer history. It was originally built to host a large show stage, where guests could enjoy large stunt shows in western theme. The shows used to be of remarkably high level, including large special effects. “When we closed the show, that was quite a big thing. People loved that show. And we see the same thing now, when we close Wild West Adventure,” said Dave Storm, General Manager of Attractie- en Vakantiepark Slagharen.
“Closing a ride like this, which fans have come here to visit throughout the last 22 years, always comes with some emotion,” he continues. During the closing ceremony, Dave Storm mentioned that 2,228,000 ride cycles were made in all the years that Wild West Adventure has operated. The ride will be refurbished and re-opens during 2023 in a new theme. “I’m sure that people will love the way we’re going to operate the new ride. This ride was amazing when it opened 22 years ago, but now it’s time to make in fit in the current time again.”
Riders of Wild West Adventure would access the dome via a mine tunnel queue line, where they were welcomed by the recognisable music of Rawhide. The tunnel led towards the boarding station, where they would board one of the 6-person boats. They were an adaptation of Mack Rides’ existing Round Boat Ride but features two more seats compared to the regular models and no roofing. The ride through the dome started in some small caves, where we would encounter some prisoners and a large bear. Exiting the cave went together with a water effect, quickly followed by a fire effect caused by a pioneer standing beside the canal, knocking over a gas lantern.
After riders made their way out of the caves, they found themselves underneath the high roof of the dome, captured between rather high-quality rockwork fencing off the different scenes. The ride passed along more waterfalls, eventually ending up at a native American tribe which was desperately waiting for the next rainshower. After another canyon, the ride ended with a series of large, open scenes where riders passed along pioneers, camping in the desert and panning for gold. The finale of the ride consisted of a scene in front of a battle fortress, where riders ended up in the middle of a gunfight.
“What I really liked about this ride was that it was very authentic,” says Dave Storm in an interview with DRdb. “It had a story, it was quite educational actually. Visitors could learn from the ride about the real wild west.” We also asked him whether there was something that he particularly liked from the ride, which he might want to have in his own office. “Well, I’m not sure. Maybe a gun,” he replied laughing.
On the final operating day of Wild West Adventure, the park invited a group of press and selected season pass holders to experience the ride for the last time. Team DRdb was present and we were lucky to be able to ride Wild West Adventure with lights on, as can be seen in our video below. The very last ride was reserved for a lucky season pass holder family, and was officially started by Dave Storm together with the park’s entertainment crew.
After the final ride in Wild West Adventure, press was invited to the adjacent Crazy Horse Saloon to attend a short speech by Dave Storm. He however could not announce that much information on the retheme of Wild West Adventure. However, he did not count on the Red Bandits: the outlaws Valerie Heart and John Batterson interrupted Dave’s speech and announced that they would be taking over the ride from now on. Together with Dave, they pushed a TNT box to officially close the ride with a large shot of confetti.
The park already announced that the rethemed version of Wild West Adventure is scheduled to open next season. The retheme is designed by Leisure Expert Group, a Dutch theme park design group. Their subsidiary Aniba Entertainment conceived the characters of the Red Bandits, part of the park’s entertainment line-up. The storyline of the new ride will revolve around this group of bandits, who are often seen around the Slagharen grounds, where they even have their own show stage. A teaser video about the Red Bandits taking over the ride was published last week.
Looking further into the future, we asked Dave Storm whether he would like to build another dark ride in the park, as it now has only one (there used to be two dark rides, but Ocean of Darkness closed in 2012). “Well, I like dark rides a lot,” he replied smiling. “But I also like roller coasters a lot, or many other types of rides. We think about all options for this park, how we can develop this park into the future, and in that way we look at all kinds of rides.” Nevertheless, we do know that the park is investing in the former Wild West Adventure, which will be back in 2023 in a completely new way.