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What is going on with Thorpe park?

Matt N

Well-Known Member
I’m not sure if the horror themes is it, as Alton Towers has done a very similar thing for years and remains successful.

I think it could have something to do with Thorpe’s lack of family appeal, however; the key difference between Thorpe and Alton is that despite the fact that both parks actively target thrill seekers, Alton arguably has a wider appeal, with more family rides as well as thrill rides; it’s always been touted as a destination for everyone and has been very successful at delivering this.

By comparison, Thorpe pretty much went for thrill seekers only from about the dawn of the new millennium onwards, with this motive accelerating once Merlin took over and changed the branding. As a knock-on effect, that meant that a lot of families were alienated and went to one of the other more family-orientated parks nearby, such as Chessington, Legoland or Paultons.

Now I’m not saying that Thorpe Park pursuing thrill seekers and being a thrill park is a bad thing, because I’d argue that the country does lack true thrill parks to a degree; the only UK parks I can think of that still actively target thrill seekers are Thorpe, Alton and BPB (possibly Flamingo Land, as well, as they have put in the 10-looper for this year), so it is comparatively a gap in the market when compared with parks aimed at young families, which there are quite a few of even in Thorpe’s near vicinity alone. There have been plenty of parks across the world that have been hugely successful at being thrill parks, such as Cedar Point and the Walibi parks.

However, I think what the more successful thrill parks have that Thorpe lacks is a solid backbone of family rides. Take Cedar Point as an example; they are known for their collection of thrill rides, but they also have tons and tons of family rides as well, making the park’s appeal very broad. While Thorpe Park does have family rides, there aren’t an awful lot in comparison to the thrill rides, especially in terms of major-scale family rides.

So my point is; I don’t think the park’s decision to target thrill seekers was a bad thing, but I do think they might benefit from having more family rides, especially ones of a major scale. Maybe target the park towards thrill-seeking families with older children as opposed to just the 18-30 age range and introduce some more introductory thrill rides; I think something like a GCI would be nice. Thrilling enough for enthusiasts, but not intimidating enough to scare away less confident riders, and a low height restriction makes them have a wide appeal.

I do think something like a B&M hyper would work nicely at Thorpe, however, so as to give the park a true icon in the way that the Big One is for Blackpool Pleasure Beach. They’re probably the only park in the country that could feasibly build one.
 
Would I be right in thinking Thorpe is unique in Europe being a dedicated 'thrill park' aimed at teens & 20's?

Most European parks aim at a family market but with Thrill rides (because the 'family' contain thrill seekers of course) - I can't think of another purely white knuckle park (or aiming to be) - whilst in the US there are plenty (most six flags parks, Cedar point etc).

In the 90s i Felt Thorpe purposely stayed tamish - to attract should we say a more 'middle class' crowd, because being so near London, the moment you add thrill rides - you do attract a more 'boisterous' teenage market!
 
In my opinion its just a case of merlin operating the "south parks" on a shoestring in order to maximize profits. if you take duplo dino out of the equation:

Thorpe park : 8 seasons no new coaster

Chessington: 16 seasons no new coaster

Legoland: 16 seasons without a "major" new coaster.

The equivalent of 40 operational seasons without a major coaster when you combine them. laughable
 

roomraider

Best Topic Starter
I'm not the best enthusiast in the world when it comes to going to parks.
But I live about an hour and twenty minutes from Thorpe Park. In fact i can get there quite easily on public transport and I have large periods of time where i have day off during the week.

And yet I don't think I've been to the park for at least 6 years, maybe 7 years.

Now I know Merlin (or any other company) dont build parks for enthusiasts, they build them for the GP.

However surely theres something wrong when someone like me has had no desire to go back over the better part of a decade.

In fact since the last time i went to TP I have been to every Happy Valley park, (Sans the one that opened last month) and i think I have increased my coaster count by almost 400 and yet i could easily go on any given weekday. Come on TP step it up.
 

Crazycoaster

Active Member
This is exactly the issue that Merlin have, ever since they took over the theme parks they have opted to use the parks as cash cows rather than investments. Squeeze as much cash out of guests, to get a higher return in the short term.

Unfortunately they have forgotten the most important rule of a business, and that’s the importance of a repeat customer. There is a reason that Disney parks are number one all over the world and that is because they are hyper aware of how important customer service and that repeat visit is. Disney have built their parks to be nice places to visit at any time. There is more to it than just having rides, there is the atmosphere, the scenery, gardens, everything.

I can say this with all honesty, but there isn’t a single “nice” area of Thorpe Park. Not a single area you can sit and relax and just enjoy the atmosphere, because the whole place is run down and derelict.

Even the entrance has had no work done to it in so many years, and that’s a guests first impression of the park. How many years have they used those horrible temporary metal fences for the ticket queues at the entrance and never done anything about it?

You look in the stations of the ride to see cobwebs and dust coating everything outside of a basic reach, just shows no pride goes into anything. I mean would it be difficult to give each station one of those long reaching dusters and get the staff to give the area a once over a few times a week before opening.

And then we get onto the horrible operations the park have that favour fastpasses over regular guests, and the price gauging at every opportunity they can take.

All of these little things won’t particularly matter by themselves but each one adds up to form a day that just isn’t enjoyable anymore. It’s a slow burning rot, maybe guests think they had a good time, but just not as good as the last few times, but eventually everyone will realise they just simply don’t want to go back. Why spend a few hundred pounds on a day to Thorpe for my family when there’s so much more on offer at other places.
 

VonRolland

Member
Is anyone actually surprised that TP hasn't gotten anything recently though?
They built a coaster. Attendance dropped
They built a 'dark ride' costing over £30 milliion. Attendance dropped
Hell no would i build anything else there for a while, just to see it p*ssed up the wall
 
I'm not the best enthusiast in the world when it comes to going to parks.
But I live about an hour and twenty minutes from Thorpe Park. In fact i can get there quite easily on public transport and I have large periods of time where i have day off during the week.

And yet I don't think I've been to the park for at least 6 years, maybe 7 years.

Now I know Merlin (or any other company) dont build parks for enthusiasts, they build them for the GP.

However surely theres something wrong when someone like me has had no desire to go back over the better part of a decade.
Yup, I'm in the same boat and for me Thorpe is only a ten minute drive away.

Last time I visited it was with one of those free tickets from The Sun, midweek during term time so relatively quiet. Rocked up at noon and the woeful single-train ops meant that both The Swarm and Colossus had 90-minute queues. Stealth was at 60 minutes. Left after ten minutes.
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
In my trip report of Thorpe Park from last year, I repeated quite often that it felt like everywhere in the park was behind some water slide or other. Almost everywhere you are, you can turn around and look up on the dirty, dripping underside of some elevated water trough. Now I've taken a stab at proving this impression graphically:
 

JoshC.

Active Member
I mean, the occasional horror attraction isn't bad in itself. But nothing but horror, for more than a decade straight? I could see why it would turn some guests away.

EDIT: This may actually be more of a Merlin problem than a Thorpe problem, though, as Alton Towers has done exactly the same. Each of the coasters installed there since ... Spinball, I guess ... seems to be outright threatening to kill you in its marketing material.

It feels like the park have been horror-focused, but interestingly it hasn't been completely dominated..
2011: Storm Surge
2014: Angry Birds
2015: I'm a Celeb
2019: The brighter / generic birthday stuff

The trouble is it that it feels completely dark/horror dominated because the only worthwhile things have been dark/horror. And it goes back a bit to what I mentioned in my previous post about the see-sawing / flipping of target markets they have done. They always seem to jump straight to horror as a quick fix, knowing that Fright Nights is always very popular. But it doesn't work like that in practice.

Towers has the same issue with the coasters, yes, but it's a lot more balanced. This decade they also had investments in Th13teen, Smiler and Wicker Man (and Nemesis Sub Terra), but also Ice Age, CBeebies and even the Galactica retheme. It's a similar split to Thorpe really, but it just feels more balanced as the not-dark stuff has been more worthwhile.

Would I be right in thinking Thorpe is unique in Europe being a dedicated 'thrill park' aimed at teens & 20's?

I'd say Walibi Holland was pretty much aimed at that market, especially a couple of years back. Just look at the slogan of 'F#ck Slow - Hard Gaan' (Go Fast) they used. I think it was said last year they were reverting back to welcoming families again a bit more actively, but they've always felt like a teens and 20s marketed place.

Legoland: 16 seasons without a "major" new coaster.

Legolands are a weird one though. Only Billund has really (successfully) added major new coasters a long period after opening. In part, it's because the parks don't need coasters in a sense to be successful. And because they do focus on non-coaster rides too.

Windsor has issues with space development and the locals, but in the past few years they'll have added 3 major dark rides and redeveloped lots of the park. That's pretty damn good.
(I do agree with your other points though)


Even the entrance has had no work done to it in so many years, and that’s a guests first impression of the park. How many years have they used those horrible temporary metal fences for the ticket queues at the entrance and never done anything about it?

Technically speaking, the entrance has had a lot of work done to it though. They add the big screen thing. They tidied the bit over the turnstiles at the entrance. They've completely changed the security system and location. Some of what they've done with it is good and the idea has come from the right place of improving the experience of entering the park.

The trouble is, none of it really has had much impact. Entering the park on a busier day can still be a nightmare. In the past it's still been chaos there. And people don't care much for the screen, for example.

I think in part it's because they're limited with what they can do in that location by the council. But equally it's been such a problem area for so long, by now they should have come up with a better solution.
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Technically speaking, the entrance has had a lot of work done to it though. They add the big screen thing. They tidied the bit over the turnstiles at the entrance. They've completely changed the security system and location. Some of what they've done with it is good and the idea has come from the right place of improving the experience of entering the park.
Entering the park on a quiet day is a puzzling experience. You cross the bridge, enter the dome, exit the dome, and find ... uh, this:


You're on a balcony with no apparent way forward, the park proper is all away in the distance, for some reason on the other side of some water slides (see my post above). When you go left around the balcony to find the path forward into the park, it's hardly a Disney Main Street:



I mean, it really looks like you've accidentally wandered onto some rear-of-the-park maintenance road, but this is literally the main pathway from the entrance to the center of the park.

It's hardly welcoming, is it? The route from the gates to the dome is really nice, but from the dome onward it becomes pretty confusing. There exists a "main street" of sorts in the park, but you have to walk through half the park to get there in the first place. It left a rather confusing impression on me.
 
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JoshC.

Active Member
Very true, the post-Dome area is confusing to new eyes, and is (I think) unchanged entirely since the park opened as a leisure / entertainment area (ie not as a theme park). The view of Depth Charge and the Beach in particular made more sense back when they were introduced, with the park having a lot of water-based rides and having that as a focus in some sense. But these days, it's very out of place.

Removing the Beach and creating a proper, post-dome, theme park like entrance would be absolute wonders for the park. It'd be a hefty project in reality, but would be amazing if it happened.
 

Ethan

Well-Known Member
Agreed. I mean if I had my way I'd scrap the dome entirely, keep the offices below in a basement level and have guest enter an "Amity Fishing Village" sort of thing. Maybe some rocks on the left of the bridge with a lighthouse (sorry IOA) and then the shops are in individual-looking buildings.

That's my dream anyway haha.
 

caffeine_demon

Well-Known Member
One thing I noticed during my post lockdown visit in summer was that the stairs in the dome, between the main floor and the bogs were blocked off - anyone know if this is a covid measure or permanent?
 

JoshC.

Active Member
One thing I noticed during my post lockdown visit in summer was that the stairs in the dome, between the main floor and the bogs were blocked off - anyone know if this is a covid measure or permanent?

Almost definitely a Covid measure. There is nothing they could do with the space aside from stairs, and I can't think of any other safety or structural reasons why they would have to close.
 
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