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2015- A look back


Mark9

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If 2014 was a year with new rollercoasters left, right and centre, then 2015 was like returning to old friends and sharing a big hug. This was a first for me. Not a single new park in 2015 and only two rollercoasters to my name. Why was this? I wish I knew but my priorities seemed to be tried and tested parks rather then venturing out into the unknown in a quest too boost a coaster count.

To start the year, it took till May to visit my first theme park of the year; the amazing Europa Park. We all know the draw with this, the important thing is that this theme park blows my mind overtime and if you haven't been yet, go. The best collection of rides, shows, hotels, entertainment, bars, environments and theming in the world. We took a detour via Disneyland Paris which just seems to go from strength to strength.

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A month later, came Florida for my birthday (Although my partner will always maintain it was just for Star Wars weekend). Despite all the criticism Florida gets, I always have a wonderful time at Disney World and always shed a tear when I leave. Was good to see Dan9 on his first trip there too.

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October time and back to Disneyland Paris before the big refurbishment years hit which includes massive closures to Disneyland Parc. No Thunder Mountain, no Star Tours and other rides down for several months. We were there to take my partners mum on her first Disney trip. She had an amazing time is already pushing us to visit for Christmas in 2016.

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The final foreign trip of the year was a free trip that I won to Europa Park. I could complain that we were only there for a day and a half and spent most of the time tired, but thats petty when everything about the trip was paid for buy the Stuttgart government. Every ride had some kind of Christmasy vibe such as the Spacemen on Euro-Sat dressed as Santa or entire rafts on the Indian river raft ride taken over by Snowmen. It was wonderful.

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And now.. the depressing part of the trip report.

I've taken a massive break from Merlin, even before the Smiler incident. My trips to Alton, Thorpe and Chessington in 2014 had been pretty depressing. The parks were getting run down, lots of ride closures and things broken and a general feeling that the parks were not where they should be and with no hope in sight I'd just gone cold turkey and wouldn't be talked round to visiting. Once the Smiler crashed in June, I felt compelled, despite my feeling that Merlin don't deserve defending, to defend the park against the public and particularly the media calling our parks unsafe, deserving of closure and other negative comments that really put a shiver down my coaster enthusiast spine. Despite all the bad things that I know of the Merlin parks, safety has never been something I've questioned or even thought of when riding an attraction at their parks.

I even felt a need to visit and it wasn't until August that I stepped back into Thorpe Park. The same old issues arose. Loggers, Saw, Slammer, Colossus, Fish, Storm Surge and the Swarm all closed at the same time. The terrible Angry Birds Land and the not even worth looking at I'm a Celebrity Maze hardly inspire confidence that Merlin can get these parks back on track. There are some nice shiny parts of Thorpe but Nemesis Inferno, Stealth, The Swarm and Detonator cannot save Thorpe. A worthy, insightful, interesting, entertaining, fun attraction is needed desperately IMO.

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October saw me visit Alton. Christ what a ghost town. The Smiler incident has truly ripped the heart out of Alton Towers. I've never seen Nemesis, Air and Rita running one train and struggling to fill all the rows and I've certainly never seen Oblivion on a two carriage operation. Whilst all the outrage at Alton about rumoured ride closures and massively cut hours is justified, theres only so much money that can be made from the few people that visit. It's very easy to sit in a room and declare Alton a disgrace for whats happening there. All we can say is that Alton is ever to get back to its feet, it needs to remember what its sole purpose is and hopefully in two/three years time, Alton would be the popular place it was ten years ago.

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And with that, happy new year everybody! :)

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Thanks Mark, made for an interesting read.

I found Disneyland Paris highly magical and it definitely feels like a park that's getting back to its feet after some years of neglect (something our parks need to do but in a larger way).

Europa Park from what you've said sounds superb and I shall certainly be visiting at somepoint next year, especially having won 2 free day tickets to experience this place of gold and the Rolls Royce of theme parks.

Florida sounds nice too, how does WDW compare to DLP as its a place I hope to visit eventually.

Merlin have sadly let our parks get mouldy (Lego to a lesser extent) where I've found it difficult to find positives the last few years and 2016 doesn't fill me with too much optimism in all honesty especially with the planned ride closures.

WC16 needs to be a successful, fun,exciting and impressive ride to bring back guests and excitement back to the park as otherwise I worry what'll happen here.

Chessington seem to be doing lots of good shall things for next year but it certainly won't take it back to the heydays of 87-99.

Towers need to get guests back otherwise they're a lost cause, yet I'm concerned the way they're doing it is still not the right one.

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The Smiler incident, and the desperately poor year overall for our parks, can go one of two ways. 

- It could give them the shot in the arm they clearly need to strive to actually provide a good day out, giving people a reason to go to (and more importantly, return to) their parks.

- Or they could retract, pull away and let themselves meet the low expectations people now have. Not invest for the future, but live in the bad times of now.

 

The expected closures, of rides and for days, do not make me think they are going to go about the coming season with any positivity, and it'll just become harder and harder for themselves. 

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And I think this is where Merlin need to think about their priorities - shareholders, or securing the future of their parks?

 

In the longer term these are serviced by the same thing; being good at what they do. Investment in the parks, for the visitors, is an investment for the shareholders too as the punters come, and come back, spending their money to give to the shareholders. 

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