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What has happened to Thorpe Park?


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Seriously! 
 

Back in 2008 when I first visited the park was arguably the most exciting park in the UK due to amazing investments the park was installing each year! 
 

Now every new attraction is either a maze or “experience” and the fact they turned their only “good” family coaster into a horror themed attraction is just ridiculous! 

 

Why don’t they add any new coasters or flat rides? It’s becoming such a bore! The last decent addition was in 2012! 
 

The 2nd hand kiddie rides they’ve added to old town don’t even blend into the area they stick out like sore thumbs with their colourful colour scenes and old “theming” 
 

Why have they closed rides and left them to rot? Loggers leap is closed and rotting, Slammer is closed and rotting, Saw: Alive is closed and rotting are they just going to leave them there it’s so strange and sad to see the once great park in such a depressing state...

 

I also don’t understand who they are marketing themselves at anymore are they are thrill park or trying to be a family park because there image is all over the place and doesn’t quite fit together because they market it a lot different to the addictions they then add or don’t add... 

 

what’s going on? 

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I guess the problem all ultimately comes down to money, back in 09/10/11 the park was packed out on the back of Saw being an overwhelming success for the park, generally year on year numbers visiting was going up.

 

Then come 2012 with the Swarm there was abit of an unexpected slump, could be down to external factors such as the olympics etc we will never know for sure what caused it, but I guess it’s where nerves set in, and it’s fair enough I can see why Merlin would worry about large investments if they were not confident in a return. 
 

The got through to 2016 their next “big” investment and sadly again it didn’t deliver, I’m not sure if they were too ambitious with ghost train with the technology available for the time, but sadly it couldn’t live up to the hype, to be fair many of its issues were solved for 2017 but it was probably too late by then, and it still didn’t offer a consistently good experience, but worse for the park still it was another large investment which didn’t deliver a return, so I guess I can see why merlin are hesitant now. When the time comes it’s so

important for the park the next investment is the right one and it launches successfully.

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I am sceptical that they will get another large investment, at least not in the near future, as covid will have set merlin back financially yet again, just like they were set back after the smiler incident.

 

This financial set-back and the fact that money gets prioritised to other merlin park’s first, I wouldn’t expect the park to get a major addition until at least 2025 now. I’m fully expecting another 4-5 years of filler attractions and more SBNO rides.

 

If merlin ever sell a park off Thorpe park is undoubtedly the first they will get rid of. There becomes a point when it’s cheaper to sell the park off than to maintain all the issues they’ve caused over the last 8 years. What happens when rush, vortex, zodiac, Colossus and samurai all die at similar times? I can not see merlin pumping in the money for those high volumes of maintenance or for new developments, they will be left SBNO or the park will sell itself off to a new business owner, and hopefully a better one.

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9 hours ago, GERSTGUY said:

Seriously! 
 

Back in 2008 when I first visited the park was arguably the most exciting park in the UK due to amazing investments the park was installing each year! 
 

Now every new attraction is either a maze or “experience” and the fact they turned their only “good” family coaster into a horror themed attraction is just ridiculous! 

 

Why don’t they add any new coasters or flat rides? It’s becoming such a bore! The last decent addition was in 2012! 
 

The 2nd hand kiddie rides they’ve added to old town don’t even blend into the area they stick out like sore thumbs with their colourful colour scenes and old “theming” 
 

Why have they closed rides and left them to rot? Loggers leap is closed and rotting, Slammer is closed and rotting, Saw: Alive is closed and rotting are they just going to leave them there it’s so strange and sad to see the once great park in such a depressing state...

 

I also don’t understand who they are marketing themselves at anymore are they are thrill park or trying to be a family park because there image is all over the place and doesn’t quite fit together because they market it a lot different to the addictions they then add or don’t add... 

 

what’s going on? 

 

So here's the Thorpe problem in a nutshell. Their investment in the 2000's was big. it was exciting, it was dynamic, it was a dream to be a Uk theme park fan with rides left right and centre. But the Thorpe problem comes down to a lack of space and a lack of diversity. They've got themselves into a rut when The Swarm kind of failed. Their target audience demands the newest, most exciting attractions. Who cares about Colossus and its measly ten inversions when The Smiler has fourteen.So then when they fail to grow, they start to downsize. The problems start to increase. The lack of investment means a lack of return which just spirals until we get to now. Thorpe doesn't have the advantages of the family market. Chessington went through a similar slump when it left the thrill market altogether and turned to family. The difference there though is that the family market spends money. Kids demand toys and treats. Ap family holders are all too happy to grab a nice meal and a pint with their family. They like staying in an over-priced hotel. Kerching. 

 

Thorpe's target audience doesn't. Thorpe AP holders are happy to only spend a pound in the park all day. It starts to cost too much money to remove the SBNO attractions. Just build a wall. Who do you target at now when the bulk of your attractions are thrill heavy. 

 

Really there is absolutely no reason why the park couldn't build a family rollercoaster or some entry level flat rides (give me a breakdance you cowards). But they won't because all they want are headlines and aren't interested in sustaining the park beyond the end of the financial year. So we get short term rubbish like I'm a Celeb or Black Mirror instead of attractions that stand the test of time. I'm amazed that Chessington actually replaced Black Bucaneer and are replacing Rameses with a generic drop tower AND redid Tomb Blaster AND built a Rainforest area, refurbishing Toadies and building a Log Flume at the same time. This stuff never happens at Merlin, it will certainly never happen at Thorpe because the idea of cookie-cutter attractions would never fly. So instead the current attractions just age away and nothing gets built or done. 

 

If you were to ask me what Thorpe should do, I'd go with refurbish attractions, build rides that attract a wider audience and beef up that awful entrance with a new look and better security stations. Inferno shouldn't be turning green, family rollercoasters are awesome additions and  a stabbing should never be able to happen again. There is absolutely no point in building an RMC or B&M Hyper if the rest of the park looks like a rubbish dump. Putting a bow on trash is still trash. 

 

And that for me is the Thorpe problem.

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Mark's post has hit the nail on the head really. 

 

There's also a similar discussion here where there's loads of great points raised about Thorpe's current position (ironically with the same name, but I'll keep them separate for now): 

 

 

I think one thing which should be stressed too is Thorpe's ever-changing branding. Even when they've stuck to a specific target market, their branding has been a flip-flop mess for about 10 years now. 

 

It started with the 'fat heads' and the brash, in your face marketing. Something like that can work for a theme park (Walibi Holland have made something similar work imo), but it needs to be done slowly. Thorpe rushed into it. They then dropped it and went back to a family target market with the 'Island like no other' branding. But they then shifted target market to thrills with DBGT, but kept the 'Like no other' brand. They then see-sawed flipped away from this whimsical but thrilling 'like no other' brand to the dark 'Year of the Walking Dead' and horror brand, which disappeared again for the family-friendly but still thrill focused 40th anniversary thing last year. 

 

The 'Island like no other' branding has drifted away and we've got a slightly blander, but coherent, style. But how long will that last? And will they once again dip their toes into the family market? 

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Thorpe experienced an ambitious and significant amount of investment and expansion during the 2000’s which carried on until around 2012 (or less-so 2016). 
 

Realistically it was unviable to continue this level of expansion as Thorpe were going to run out of space if kept at the level they were, so a slow down was going to be inevitable, even if the one we’ve received is more of a stop! This is also the issue you have the park’s two previous major investments have been deemed unsuccessful from a corporation that expects return from investment.

 

The park’s marketing and direction is another problem, over the years the park has constantly changed branding and marketing. One year they’ll appeal to families and then thrill seekers the next, before trying to appeal to all ages the year after before repeating this all again. Thorpe lacks a definitive brand point where parks such as Towers and Chessington are seemingly better at let alone others.

 

Off years haven’t been used particularly effectively at the park as rather than refurbishing and cleaning up delapidated areas they’ve blown it on cheap and tacky unpopular experiences such as I’m a Celeb/Jungle Escape. So many areas of the park look rundown and the ratio of horror attractions only worsens this. There have been some efforts to refresh small areas of the park, but these have  resulted in a one step forwards three back scenario. Where features/theming have been removed and not replaced leaving an even weaker impression, e.g The Dome.

 

The park have a way to go in terms of restoring and getting back on the road again. But given the current positions both financially and operationally, that will probably never happen.

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There is a few core reasons to why I think Thorpe has reached its current state.

  1. Heavy expansion, and then, nothing at all. Thorpe had a rapid expansion/investment rate up until about 2012. They received the cream of the crop when it came to investments. Merlin at some point seemed to be more keen in investing in Thorpe over Alton even. Ever since 2013 the park has seen to take a backseat, and their last proper investment was the nail in the coffin (DBGT). The Ghost Train basically ruined all hope of Thorpe ever regaining its status as a worthy rival to Alton Towers for the best park in the UK. It also ruined all hope of any good investment anytime soon. Merlin have no reason to pump money into Thorpe anymore.
  2. Lack of a resort. Thorpe Park is barely a resort. It barely has a hotel, and honestly it offers the least out of the 4 UK Merlin Parks when it comes to non theme park stuff. Look at Alton, they offer 2 hotels, Enchanted village, the roller coaster restaurant that is open past park hours, a water park, golf, a ropes course, and entertainment in their hotels. Thorpe Shark is absolutely pathetic in comparison. Chessington and Legoland also have much better accommodation. I bet those hotels are cash cows too, why invest in a park with one small budget hotel when you can invest in a park that is a full resort (Alton Towers)
  3. No image. Thorpe Park is like a middle age person going through a identity crisis. It doesn't know who it is, who its target audience is, and it shows. 
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The big investments in the early 2000s was to transform the park and double the numbers, which it did well. That level of investment was always going to die down, but all parks still have to keep up good new rides to stop declining attendance.

Thorpe did do this for a while, but the park itself just died. In the early 2000s Thorpe still had most its family park era, which made it a fun place to be and a good visitor base. After that got sidelined and grotty, combined with so much marketing towards young adults, the park seems to have lost its visitor base over 10 years.

And then, after Saw's hype died down, it started to lose its young adult appeal too. The Swarm was badly marketed and failed to get the hype Saw did (both are very overrated rides I think anyway). The young adult appeal is a lot more volatile and usually comes with each new coaster hype.


At this point the park really needed a huge reinvestment, improve the park, make it a much better place to be and sort out so many problems. As well as expanding the park further around the lakes and the hotel etc, which it really should have done ever since Merlin got the park.

Instead of that, it got a slew of gimmicky IP attractions, a shipping container hotel and Derren Brown's Ghost Train, probably the worst use of all that money thinkable. Their big rebrand was nothing more than a slogan and new graphics.

 

The park continued to just die and now they're feeling the consequence of it. The young adult appeal died off without new coasters and there was no value for money for families anymore.

 

It's still possible for Thorpe to turn it around and become a brilliant resort, but now they've got to do it in the face of a big recession for the entire leisure industry, and terrible attendance. It's like doing 10 years of work in one hit and requires huge vision. Maybe this is what was being planned once Merlin took on private ownership again, but too late. It's very sad really, it has so much potential.

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Thorpe now is Chessie in the mid 2000s.

 

Had a mass level of investment which has stopped, park is aimless in its direction with few quality attractions being built (although at least Fury was a thing, however the horrendous cuts of the time are easily visible in the land), plus losing two big attractions in the park.

 

In general all the Merlin parks need a big refresh and a true long term decision chosen and kept to. The short termism was killing the parks.

 

Can hope that the slight change of ownership will boost the chances of the long term being viewed towards. They'll need that in the current climate.

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5 hours ago, SteveJ said:

The Swarm was badly marketed and failed to get the hype Saw did (both are very overrated rides I think anyway). The young adult appeal is a lot more volatile and usually comes with each new coaster hype.

Was Swarm badly marketed though? Personally, I think they did a solid job with it. Anyone who visited the park in 2011 heard about it as they had a good on-park marketing campaign. They played on the popular 'end of the world' gimmick for 2012. The online stuff was good. The last minute You Me at Six song drew a lot of attention to tbf.

 

I think Swarm's major issues were that the brand was weak, and that the ride experience wasn't the intense thrill ride people expected. But they were both post-opening issues.

 

Personally, I think whatever they did in 2012, it would have "failed" in Merlin's eyes. The park were coming off the back of their two best years ever attendance-wise, and 2012 was a year when a lot of other things captured people's attentions. People just didn't want to go to Thorpe, and indeed theme parks in general saw a dip.

 

Swarm has stood the test of time though and is largely a popular and well-received ride. But obviously that means little for Merlin's short termism.

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On 7/22/2020 at 1:27 PM, JoshuaA said:
  1. No image. Thorpe Park is like a middle age person going through a identity crisis. It doesn't know who it is, who its target audience is, and it shows. 

 

I'm 37 and I find that incredibly insulting to be compared to Thorpe Park 🤣🤣

 

It really is quite something when you think you have a ride that caused unheard of (in this country) life changing injuries to innocent theme park guests generating 80-120 minute queues on peak days yet the Swarm can be virtually walk on in the afternoon on peak days.... and that comes from someone loves both! Like @JoshC. said, I also loved the Swarm's marketing - but for some reason, it just never resonated with the public in the same way as other Merlin coasters.

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5 minutes ago, MattyMoo said:

 

I'm 37 and I find that incredibly insulting to be compared to Thorpe Park 🤣🤣

 

It really is quite something when you think you have a ride that caused unheard of (in this country) life changing injuries to innocent theme park guests generating 80-120 minute queues on peak days yet the Swarm can be virtually walk on in the afternoon on peak days.... and that comes from someone loves both! Like @JoshC. said, I also loved the Swarm's marketing - but for some reason, it just never resonated with the public in the same way as other Merlin coasters.

To be fair it is only walk on because everyone goes on it first thing (that Or Saw is what most head to these days) and once its done the area is a dead end so thus no reason to go back resulting in quiet queues post 4pm almost every day. It is popular among GP and most non enthusiast groups I ever go to have to be talked out of riding Swarm first!

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One of the issues with the Swarm is unlike most rides, it’s in an area of the park by itself (bar toilets and a (currently closed) shop. The location feels strangely out of the way especially as layouts go, however that would’ve probably been rectified if the park followed the MTDP
 

The Swarm (though not immediately) is definitely amongst the more popular and well received attractions at the park. I think it’s “supposed” failure (by Merlin standards) is perhaps down to not only some confusing marketing, but the overall disappointing 2012 season attraction-wide. 
 

The olympics That year were expected to bring in large crowds/tourism, but the opposite happened likely down to fears of this happening. Towers also much lower figures. Camelot shut down as a result. 

 

 

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On 7/27/2020 at 8:01 PM, JoshC. said:

Was Swarm badly marketed though? Personally, I think they did a solid job with it. Anyone who visited the park in 2011 heard about it as they had a good on-park marketing campaign. They played on the popular 'end of the world' gimmick for 2012. The online stuff was good. The last minute You Me at Six song drew a lot of attention to tbf.

 

I think Swarm's major issues were that the brand was weak, and that the ride experience wasn't the intense thrill ride people expected. But they were both post-opening issues.

You're confusing marketing and promotion. The promotion was good, as you said in the first paragraph. The overall marketing of the attraction (e.g. its brand, who it was aimed at vs the nature of the experience) was what killed it.

 

The ride was positioned by marketing as a high-intensity thrill ride comparable to Saw, when in reality its super floaty and hella boring and probably the 'tamest' of the big 5. It should've had a lighter-tone theme and been pushed as a less intimidating ride, something to introduce new riders to the bigger thrills of the other coasters, giving it the approachability it warrants. This would've been especially useful as the park seems to lack from an outside perspective an 'in-between' coaster. More thrilling than X and Fish, but not as intense as Saw, Inferno and Stealth. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

We were spoilt with all the investments which garnered an audience of always expecting the "next best thing". Then when that didn't deliver (The Swarm), that "fan base" went elsewhere. Then there was further collateral damage with Derren Brown's Ghost Trainwreck. 

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