Mr CoasterForce 2016
Social Media Team
See, I'd say from an investment POV that Merlin have improved Thorpe since the 2007 take over. They've installed 2 decent coasters (i know that can be debated with SAW but from a GP perspective its good) and well actually thats about it. But I'd argue that thats still an overall improvement since the take over, granted its not a substantial improvement but Thorpe was in a good position before Merlin took over, it had all the fundamentals for a good park with 4 good coasters, log flume, rapids, a shoot the chute and a great selection of flats. When you have a good all round park what do you do to improve it? It took them a little too long to realise they needed a dark ride and they didn't execute in the best of ways but its still got the fundimentals. I think Merlin have got away with poor installations like Storm Surge, Angry Birds land, Im a celeb and the dodgems because there's nothing that old in the park. For me Alton Towers is at a different stage in its life compared to Thorpe, I'd say Thorpe is younger overall whereas Alton feels older and a little more tired.Also, I'd argue Thorpe have regressed immeasurably since the brief ray of hope that was 2012 - likewise Chessington in 2010.
IMO parks need to consistently add quality investments to keep the ball rolling and to keep the park feeling fresh, Thorpe's ball has slowed but hasn't stopped rolling yet because of solid foundations laid by Tussaud's in the early 2000's. Alton's foundations were laid excellently in the 90's but the solid investments have stopped (bar Smiler) and its caught up with them now. Years of plodding along riding on the wave of success that came from the installations of the 90's has left the park feeling tired and dated. Rides have been removed and not replaced efficiently and the best rides are nearly as old as me. There comes a time when serious regeneration has to occur. New lands and changes to the existing landscapes have to be made to keep the park feeling fresh. Look at Phantasialand keeping that momentum going with the demolition of a whole area to make room for an entirely new land. I'd lump Chessie in the same bracket as Alton unfortunately, they had their solid foundations laid in the late 1980's with the opening of the park and then the addition of Transylvania. They need an overhaul.
Blackpool are an example of how the ball stopped rolling a long time ago. But they embraced it, they embraced the history of the place and focused on conserving their old rides for years to come, they've understood the importance of investment from the beginning but for them its always been a cashflow problem. It doesn't come as a coincidence that they announce quite possibly the best coaster in the UK after a few years of profit. That to me says that it's always been in their intentions. The embrace of their history hasn't always been plain sailing though as their social media is littered with people stating the rides are too old, unsafe or just in need of being replaced. Will this be happening to Nemesis when it gets older? Just consider that theres never a queue for it now. See, Merlin aren't going down the preserve your history route that Blackpool have taken, they've removed two of the most iconic themepark rides in their parks, the log flumes. They just kind of sit in the middle, not quite preserving but also not quite investing enough. They aren't preserving their history but they aren't making significant improvement of the parks either. Its just that middle ground of mediocrity.
I think my theory is sort of supported by average queue patterns throughout Themeparks. Lets take the Towers as an example, I'm gonna group the big six in new and old categories. The old (Air, Oblivion and Nemesis) all have substantially shorter queues than the new 3 (Thirteen, Rita and Smiler) but I'd argue that the old 3 are more superior rides. Granted capacity, layout of the park and advertising will have an effect but that still says to me that the GP like new things regardless of the overall ride experience. This supports my theory for the need for constant investment and the idea of maintaining momentum rather than plodding along and relying on existing things. People get bored and thats a fact.
Heide and Gardaland are different because their old rides are **** anyway. Id argue that they were purchased as up and coming parks that needed investment to get them to were they are now as opposed to the already established UK parks.
I'd like to think that if the competition in the UK was on the same scale as what you see in Germany then Merlin would either seriously buck their ideas up or just simply get left behind. Wishful thinking...