Thorpe Park plans to back up its claim to be "the UK's thrill capital" with the addition of two new rollercoasters over the next five years. In our latest article asking for readers' views on current theme park topics, this week we'd like to know which type of coasters you'd most like to see join the park's line-up.
While Thorpe Park has confirmed the addition of the Storm Surge spinning rapids ride in 2011, it's the prospect of two new coasters that has got fans really excited. As revealed in our in-depth report on the park's development plans for 2010-16, it hopes to add the new rollercoasters in 2012 and 2015.
The early plans submitted by Thorpe Park to the local council claim that the 2012 coaster will stand a maximum height of 164-feet-tall, will reach a maximum length of 850 metres, and will feature no more than 9 vertical loops. The park plans to situate the coaster close to Stealth, on a currently unused island. However, despite the drawing above giving clues to the ride's layout, it is unlikely to represent the final design.
Even less is known about the proposed new rollercoaster for 2015, although it will share the same maximum length and number of inversions and has a lower maximum height of 131 feet. Designs for the later ride are likely to be at an even earlier stage than for the planned 2012 addition.
With details of the planned rollercoasters still thin on the ground, we thought now would be a great time to ask Thorpe Park fans what would be top of their wish-list. We've listed a few ideas below - let us know your own through the comments section at the bottom of this article.
The UK has seen a dearth of new wooden rollercoasters in recent times, and it's no surprise that Thorpe Park was deluged with demands from hardcore coaster fans to add one when news of its plans leaked. Could it actually happen?
While there's still a perception that the rickety old coasters seen at places such as Blackpool Pleasure Beach are unreliable and less exciting than modern steel coasters, developments in the US over the last few years have started to change that. The opening of the "airtime"-heavy El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure and the hugely popular wood-steel hybrid The Voyage at Holiday World demonstrated that modern "woodies" can match their steel counterparts in the thrill department. And with Thorpe Park's major coasters (particularly Stealth) suffering from frequent downtime, the newer wooden coasters also offer greater reliability.
Owners Merlin have a track record of bringing concepts from sister park Alton Towers to Thorpe Park, with inverted coaster Nemesis Inferno having followed Nemesis and launch coaster Stealth opening just one year after the similar Rita. Could Air, the B&M Flying Coaster that opened at Alton Towers in 2002 be next in line for the same treatment?
We're not huge fans of Air, with the a lack of theming and a dull second half detracting from what is a genuinely innovative attraction. However, SeaWorld Orlando has since shown how fantastic a flying coaster can be when the concept is exploited to its full potential. Its stunning Manta rollercoaster creates the perfect blend of ride experience and visual spectacle, with the ride's trains gliding within inches of waterfalls and pools as they traverse the misty circuit.
With Thorpe Park having started life as an aquatic attraction (the park is built on the site of a flooded quarry) and still featuring a large number of water rides, could a similar concept prove a success in the UK as well?
OK, so this one is wishful thinking given the height restrictions already outlined in Thorpe Park's development plans. But this is a wish-list, and the idea of a new 200-feet-plus mega-coaster opening at a UK park is too intriguing not to mention. B&M Hyper Coasters such as Behemoth at Canada's Wonderland (and Intamin's Mega Coaster equivalents) are on a scale not seen in the UK since Blackpool Pleasure Beach's Pepsi Max Big One opened in 1994. Plus, the invention of new lapbar restraints that offer riders greater freedom of movement means that the ride experience is significantly more comfortable.
It's a question that bothers us continually - why aren't there more indoor rollercoasters in the UK? Given the frequent rainy weather that theme parks have to deal with even during the summer months, surely an attraction that keeps riders dry should have obvious appeal? Ironically, enclosed coasters seem to be far more popular in areas with warmer climates - Orlando alone has both Rock'n' Roller Coaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios and The Mummy Returns at Universal Studios Florida.
To be fair to Thorpe Park, it does already have an indoor coaster in X:\No Way Out, though that ride is so dreadful that it barely warrants a mention. The opening section of Saw - The Ride is also a Mummy-esque dark ride experience - and for us, the strongest part of the coaster. Why not expand upon that with a fully-enclosed, story-driven, rain-protected indoor rollercoaster? That could even present an opportunity to build upon and improve the freefall technology seen in Alton Towers' Thirteen.
4th Dimension rollercoaster
"4th Dimension" rollercoasters see guests positioned either side of the track, enabling their seats to rotate independently of the ride's circuit. Pioneered by Arrow Dynamics with X² at Six Flags Magic Mountain (a troubled ride which contributed to the manufacturers' eventual bankruptcy), the concept has since been further developed by Intamin with its ZacSpin coasters.
With ZacSpin coaster Green Lantern due to open at Six Flags Magic Mountain in 2011, could Thorpe Park be next in-line to receive a version of the innovative design?
Frankly, we'd be delighted if any of the concepts above (along with many others) are added to Thorpe Park. Ideally, though, we'd like to see ride experiences that have not been seen in the UK before rather than retreads of existing ideas seen at other parks.
Top among these would be a really strong, well-themed indoor rollercoaster. While theming hasn't always been Thorpe Park's strong point (and its last indoor rollercoaster was a disaster), the park showed that it has the ability to do this with the opening section of Saw - The Ride. Adding such an attraction would also help make up for the park's severe lack of dark rides.
Second on our list would be a modern wooden rollercoaster, along the lines of the recent attractions seen at US parks. While Thorpe Park's marketing department may not see existing strong demand for a wooden coaster in the UK, we hope that the strong attendance figures seen at Holiday World since the opening of The Voyage could help persuade them that the ride's appeal would extend beyond coaster fanatics.
What do you think?
What sort of coasters would you like to see added to Thorpe Park in 2012 and 2015? Let us know through the comments section below!