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What has happened to Thorpe Park?

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1 hour ago, Mer said:

 

Haven’t been to Chessie yet this year (even though I’ve wanted to!) 😭 Some people moan about it/aren’t bothered about going because “It’s always busy” but I always manage to have fun there 😁 I don’t get that with Thorpe, instead I just feel let down. Yes, I have a MAP and can go whenever, yes, I’ve done the rides hundreds of times. That’s not the point. The lack of fun/relaxing, less busy attractions like Logger’s and CCR is a problem IMO. I’m not just being sentimental, it’s something the park needs.

Definitely agree about lack of fun/relaxing rides - when I’m at Thorpe after I’ve eaten I’m very limited as to what I can go on due to pretty bad motion sickness (which I take meds for).  Chessington have the animals and sea life and more gentle rides which are perfect when digesting food!

 

I know this is a post about Thorpe but going back to Chessie I recently took my younger sister and my 3 eldest nephews over the course of the past 3 weekends and they loved it - yes it helped that they are 8, 7 and 5 years old but even my niece and I enjoyed it - and we usually just do the coasters/Rameses/log flume.  One day we did Toadies Crazy Cars 3 times and still had a fab time.  Chessie is just more relaxed and for me at this point in time, a nicer atmosphere than Thorpe.  Heck I even enjoyed Howloween last year more than Fright Nights.

 

@Mer I’ll go with you if you want!

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On 8/16/2019 at 8:16 AM, JoshC. said:

For a recent example, Untamed cost €12m. Assuming a ground-up RMC would cost more, and then take into account Merlin inflating prices, a brand new RMC would probably be slated to cost between the £18-20m mark. Hardly cheaper than a 'big' manufacturer.

 

Sure, Freespins would be a nice idea, but they'd be pretty low down on my list of rides I'd like to see go to Thorpe (or Towers really). It wasn't too long ago the idea of one them (or a similar-ish Intamin Zac Spin) would have been shot down for being ridiculous, due to their average throughput. Now it feels like that option would be brilliant because it's something.

It definitely is. Alton did that with B&M in the 90s to be fair. Six Flags seem to have done it with RMC.

 

But for every successful partnership, they'll be unsuccessful ones. Sure it's not coaster-related, but Merlin/Simworx is a prime example. Parque Reunidos work closely with Gerstlauer, but they've gotten very little out of it. It's a gamble, especially with smaller manufacturers, so it doesn't always pay off. 

Wildfire and Outlaw were around the 10 million mark. I assume the topper track is a tad cheaper than IBox. Wildfire cost 110 million Sek which is about half of what Helix cost! Wildfire isn’t a  small coaster by any means earns either.. 18-20 is pushing it even with inflation and Merlin.  

 

I think with free spins they make a good supporting coaster. They also fit into spaces that other coasters can’t squeeze into. A bit like a skyrocket 2 or a impulse, not the best rides but it’s fun, cheap, and compact. 

 

With simworx I don’t think they could of done anything to deliver what Merlin wanted for the Ghost Train. Also not forgetting that every Tom idiot and Harry manufactured that mess.

I think no company or nobody on this entire planet could of delivered the ghost train without changing the current idea of the attraction. The VR just doesn’t work, it didn’t fail because of Simworx, it failed because it was a bad idea to begin with. 

 

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15 hours ago, Han30 said:

Definitely agree about lack of fun/relaxing rides - when I’m at Thorpe after I’ve eaten I’m very limited as to what I can go on due to pretty bad motion sickness (which I take meds for).  Chessington have the animals and sea life and more gentle rides which are perfect when digesting food!

 

I know this is a post about Thorpe but going back to Chessie I recently took my younger sister and my 3 eldest nephews over the course of the past 3 weekends and they loved it - yes it helped that they are 8, 7 and 5 years old but even my niece and I enjoyed it - and we usually just do the coasters/Rameses/log flume.  One day we did Toadies Crazy Cars 3 times and still had a fab time.  Chessie is just more relaxed and for me at this point in time, a nicer atmosphere than Thorpe.  Heck I even enjoyed Howloween last year more than Fright Nights.

 

@Mer I’ll go with you if you want!

Having flashbacks to our routine on every visit of rides, then eating lunch, followed by waterbus to Thorpe Farm, train back to Canada Creek and then more rides. :(

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57 minutes ago, MattyB said:

DBGT - Ok this was not what I had originally envisioned for this plot of land.  I found it to be an interesting concept, however it was not delivered well. The queue lines design (or lack of) makes it one of the worst (if not the worst) queues I have ever been in

An excellent post, thanks for that.

 

I'm intrigued as to what you (and maybe Merlin) did envisage for this plot of land? I do struggle to understand how something as deeply flawed and conceptually misguided actually happens, especially when money is so tight the parks are crumbling around whatever is new. 

 

I also wonder, why this plot of land? As you point out, there have been other options since well before DBGT, and it seems ever since they removed the previously under used arena they've been trying fit events into unsuitable places when an arena type space is exactly what they needed!

 

 

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2 hours ago, pluk said:

An excellent post, thanks for that.

 

I'm intrigued as to what you (and maybe Merlin) did envisage for this plot of land? I do struggle to understand how something as deeply flawed and conceptually misguided actually happens, especially when money is so tight the parks are crumbling around whatever is new. 

 

I also wonder, why this plot of land? As you point out, there have been other options since well before DBGT, and it seems ever since they removed the previously under used arena they've been trying fit events into unsuitable places when an arena type space is exactly what they needed!

 

 

Hey thanks

 

Originally the idea was to use the arena as the new location for a "Ghost Train", as the arena wasn't being used all year round,  Also it was the largest plot of land at the time to fit a show building on (remember at the time this idea was put forward the infill project was still ongoing). The original idea that was put forward was to:

 

  • Emulate the old Alton Towers ghost train - something scary and fun!
  •  The attraction would have been called The Amity House of Wax, and would have been a "take" on a dilapidated Madame Tussuads, where the was figures would come to life. Big Bob mentions  The Madame Tussuad's House of Wax in his radio show (tickets as the prize). 

I left the park in 2014 so not sure what had happened to this concept (even if it was any good lol), however its good to see the land was used as intended, just not delivered properly.

One of the ideas was to move the maze (think it was Seven at the time) to underneath the Stealth top hat.

 

I think if I was coming up with this type of attraction now, I would have used the trackless ride system (Ratatouille etc.). (They should replace Duel with this ride system and build a proper Ghost Train! )

 

M

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3 hours ago, MattyB said:

TP - DBGT - Ok this was not what I had originally envisioned for this plot of land.  I found it to be an interesting concept, however it was not delivered well. The queue lines design (or lack of) makes it one of the worst (if not the worst) queues I have ever been in.

I remember doing a bit of digging into this. The queue was literally designed to pack as much queueing space as possible into as little space as possible. Acknowledging this, Thorpe put in the two photo points (group photo against the screen and head in a jar) as a way of making the queue more fun. Instead, people were literally queueing for these photo points, and one of them (head in a jar) never really worked out. And, most importantly, they weren't actually that enjoyable, meaning we're left with the lump of the queue.

 

For 2017, they redesigned the queue slightly (to include the two batching areas rather than one), and followed the same principle of putting as much queue in as little space, leaving us with the messy queue we have at the start now.

3 hours ago, MattyB said:
  • As far as I am aware, Merlin did not operate any theme parks until acquiring Legoland and the Tussuad's Group.  I've noticed that all of the Merlin investments to date have either been lacklustre or poorly delivered (Ok Wickerman was good, however not too sure a pre-show was required - even though the show is good).  I think there is a lack of interest within the company (I found this out when I was working  at TP, and was shocked to find so many senior people not interested in the industry - a lot of them had never been to a Disney park... Its just a job to them)

There was a fair bit of theme park experience within Merlin when they acquired the parks I think. But for all the people that did have that experience, there's no doubt just as many who had none.

 

From my experience, there's a lot of senior people within Merlin who specialise in a more general setting of visitor attractions. The theme park side of things is sort of secondary, and this comes through in the company's focus and investment strategy. This then causes issues when people who have that more general visitor attraction experience have to focus on theme parks (or move across to them specifically), as the strategies and focuses required are completely different, and most don't have a clue. 

 

Another trend that's happening is, because Merlin focus more on their midways than their RTPs, some of the best middle managers / senior staff at the parks move over the midways for more opportunities / to progress further. In the long run, it can harm the park, as there's not enough people wanting to stay in the long term within the parks.

 

3 hours ago, MattyB said:
  • One of the most heated discussions I had whilst working at TP was surrounding the lack of a decent family zone/area.  My argument was that parks such as Six Flags and Cedar Point (parks TP tries to emulate) all have decent (ish) kid friendly/family friendly areas. The answer from management was a return on the investment would not be possible as "how would they sell it"?

This is how the park ended up with Timber Tug Boat and Lumber Jump. Managers at the park acknowledged they needed kids rides, but also knew they couldn't get the funds as they wouldn't get the ROI. Since SeaLife Weymouth were getting rid of those rides, Thorpe picked them up for nothing, had engineers install and commission them when free and taddah. No money spent = no need for a ROI = no risk.

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It's interesting that over the last ten years, the amount of visitors to TP has always fluctuated around the 1.8 million per year, indicating that this is a normal rate; there is a limit on the visitor numbers.

A great ride or item, has to be "re-rideable", one wants to run round and get straight back on, for me DBGT was never that.

There has to be sufficient entertaining items for those who don't want to ride at that time, I.e., just had lunch, can't do rough rides, don't do upside down, or just want "time out".

Merlin have sold the parks, and we really don't know the direction of the new controlling body, and they will wait to see what the figures are. Those organizations are primarily investors therefore they will look at the gate figures ahead of the item throughput. I also thought that with Merlin, they were waiting to see the results of Wickerman, whilst appearing to run TP down, but it's now a lot tidier.

 

 

 

 

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12 hours ago, planenut said:

the amount of visitors to TP has always fluctuated around the 1.8 million per year

I highly doubt they get 1.8 million a year. I think it's more like 500K to 1 million.

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21 minutes ago, Ivsetti said:

I highly doubt they get 1.8 million a year. I think it's more like 500K to 1 million.

They definitely get more than that. They've hit 1m every year since the early 2000s (maybe even late 90s; not sure off the top of my head).

 

2010/11 they hit above 2m. Since then, they've probably varied between 1.5-1.8m people a year, and it's slowly been going down.

 

The trouble with published attendance figures (like the TEA Attendance Report) is that parks and companies don't want to reveal when they're doing badly if they can avoid it. So they'll fudge their numbers to avoid that, which can make them inaccurate. The Merlin parks in particular regularly have their numbers fudged.

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Quite interesting, got me thinking about the Merlin rides where I've been happy enough to run around and ride again;

 

- Duel

- Nemesis

- Oblivion

- Vampire

- Dragon's Fury

- Swarm

- Stealth

- Inferno

 

I always have the most fun at a park when the queues are low enough to do that on one of those rides. Most I've done is seven times on Nemesis. Had an awesome one-off time on Colossus at the end of the day where we got to go round twice without leaving the station, staff were hyped up to go home. When the ride hosts are motivated it really makes the atmosphere electric and 1000x more enjoyable. For this reason the best part of the day at any Merlin park is usually the hour before closing.

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On 9/11/2019 at 10:08 PM, MattyB said:

I think if I was coming up with this type of attraction now, I would have used the trackless ride system (Ratatouille etc.). (They should replace Duel with this ride system and build a proper Ghost Train! )

This is the kind of ride I was expecting back when it was announced I thought finally a high level themed indoor dark ride for a UK park, something we could be proud of!

Instead we end up with VR headsets (which you could just do at home) and an ok acting/experience scene in the middle (on opening) and at the end.

It's so lackluster that it beggars belief they hyped it up so much, as you said all they have to do is look at what others parks around the world are offering and see that just slapping on a VR head set and have some attendants tickle your legs does not make a theme park worthy experience.

I mean something with screens I would expect with hopefully some animatronics would have been amazing but alas it wasn't to be...

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Now that I've been this season, I think I can safely put some more thoughts down here. Now initially, when I got to the park, I couldn't wait to leave. Admittedly the weather was pretty bleak, with dark clouds over the park making it look washed out and miserable. So:-

 

-Entrance. With all the changes here, the entrance now feels really claustrophobic. I understand the changes required for security reasons but it doesn't make the entrance look inviting in the slightest. They've compacted the area down completely. With all that space at the front what with the drop off area and car park, a better change to open up the entrance should be to push security forwards. I don't like it at all.

 

- The Dome. Why do they insist on making the dome as bland and featureless as possible. Black walls with just a screen breaking up the tedium. I think I preferred the Atlantis theme, it at least made the place vibrant. It doesn't come across like that at all and now completely unfriendly.

 

- The shops. Why are the shops at Thorpe so awful? Bland and featureless. Take the Inferno shop, completely empty, so much open space with nothing of real interest to buy. The Thorpe megastore, painted in boring white on the inside. The Colossus shop with half of it barricaded off. What exactly is that about. We know this company can do interesting shops (The Smiler and The Wicker Man for example) so why does Thorpe get so shafted?

 

- Rumba Rapids. This gets a special mention as this thing is absolutely dire. It was never exactly a special rapids, as Thunder River it was plain as a cracker but it had some charm at the very least. What Rumba is now is appalling and needs to leave. I don't think it can be saved anymore. What have they done to the look of this ride? The fencing paint is awful, you'd think this was an abandoned theme park or in some Japanese park that opens for four hours a week. Not an Island like no other. No splashing, no waves, embarrassing theming, bland and featureless. Waste of time. 

 

- Amity Cove. Anyone aware of my past Thorpe love will know that Amity Cove and Tidal Wave used to be my favourite ride and park area in the UK. What have they done to this area, I'm talking specifically about the Tidal Wave area. Why have they chosen to try and hide Tidal Wave behind things like Bear Grills punch bags, waffle shops, basketball hoops etc. Why is the Tidal Wave entrance hidden behind a set of Coke freestyle machines. Why was the splash pool bridge taken out and the pathway next to it turned into a smoking area? When I was a young little TP fan, the Tidal Wave entrance sign never worked. Now that it does, the sign can barely be seen because of the amount of stuff chucked into the area. And what is worse is that none of it is themed at all. Not even a small attempt to make it work in the area. It's a 1950's themed American fishing village but you can hardly tell. I've long given up on the water tanker sending out water of the fire hydrant going off but the rest of it, isn't nice for me.

 

- The food offerings. So I'm at the fortunate age where I prefer to have nice meals at theme parks and not rush around with KFC or Burger King. So why is it hard to find something nice at TP? Chessington has the Barbecue place, Alton has Woodcutters and Food Loop. Thorpe has the dome restaurant which is so far behind most theme parks, it makes me somewhat sad. Why aren't menus on tables regularly available? I remember last year that when I went, you couldn't buy food before 12pm. I can get smashed on stella if I wish, but a burger and fries is too far. The barbecue place near Old Town suffers from being outside at fright Nights time and the Pizza restaurant is only really a valid option if you want to be a glutton. So its the dome or fast food and I thought it was below par. Chips were nice though.

 

- Aesthetics. Colossus's concreting off water areas, Inferno's track slowly turning white, the chewing gum pole at Saw the ride and the subsequent litter all over the indoor section, The area near Walking Dead and Storm Surge being a complete theming catastrophe, areas such as Inferno's queue stairs flooding. It's all very ugly and some are quick fixes.

 

 

But you know what.. there are positives. 

 

Full capacity is something I always approve off, effects such as all of Inferno's smoking and Tidal Waves entrance sign working or The Swarm where the operator insisted the attendant turn the train lights on. The rides are on the whole, actually okay. Good opening hours. Good lighting. 

 

So yeah..

 

 

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22 minutes ago, Mark9 said:

Good opening hours.

 

 

I couldn't be bothered to quote anything else, but this I had to, bar 10am-10pm the opening hours are crap

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7 minutes ago, Mark9 said:

Is 10-5 most of the season crap then? Looking back they had 8PM closures in August as well.

 

 

The 8pm closes during summer were changed to 6pm at the last minute "BPB style" if I recall correctly.

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44 minutes ago, Coaster said:

The 8pm closes during summer were changed to 6pm at the last minute "BPB style" if I recall correctly.

Maybe its to do with the demand, at Thorpe demand drops pretty quickly in the evening hours. They would need a proper hotel or resort to prevent this.

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48 minutes ago, Glitch said:

Maybe its to do with the demand, at Thorpe demand drops pretty quickly in the evening hours.

IMO the park really could benefit with being flexible with opening hours (e.g. on an unexpectedly busy day, extending opening hours).

2 hours ago, Mark9 said:

The Swarm where the operator insisted the attendant turn the train lights on.

AFAIK the lights on B&M trains are rechargeable battery powered (that get recharged whilst the train is in the station) which means it costs the park very little to turn on. I completely agree with all your other points though.

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13 hours ago, Mark9 said:

The fencing paint is awful, you'd think this was an abandoned theme park

The ironic thing, they actually painted some of the fencing again only about a month or 2 ago. 

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18 hours ago, Marc said:

Thorpe open hours are probably the best we have in the UK? Granted some of the 8pm’s in the summer were cut but still overall they are much better than other merlin parks.

Adventure Island.

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5 hours ago, Coaster said:

Adventure Island.

Adventure island is also very different to Thorpe in the fact that it is in a resort style town, with tourists and footfall, who see the park and think oh why don't we spend a few hours there, whereas at TP you don't exactly get that same sort of walk up footfall being in the middle of two not very touristy towns and 40 mins out of London.

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