Thorpe Park, which bills itself as "The Nation's Thrill Capital", relies heavily on its line-up of roller coasters to draw in guests. The most recent addition to that roster of coasters came in 2012, when the park opened The Swarm - the UK's first "Wing Rider" coaster.
Hopes were high among fans of the park that another new coaster could be on the way as soon as 2015. Those hopes were seemingly dashed last July, though, with the news that the park is expected to delay the opening of its next major new ride until 2017.
The news came in an application to extend the stay of the Crash Pad temporary hotel until 2014 (it has now been converted into the Waterfront Hotel), with the park stating that a new coaster is unlikely to be built by the end of 2016. It also reveals that since The Swarm - which opened in 2012 - was shorter than originally planned at 128 feet tall, the next coaster is likely to be taller, at some 164 feet.
Merlin Entertainments, which operates Thorpe Park, typically looks to include a "world first" element in its roller coasters, in order to make them easy to market. With that in mind, we thought it would be fun to look at three types of roller coaster that would fit the bill for the next addition to the Surrey park.
3. Multi-inversion wooden coaster
The Rocky Mountain Construction Group has made inroads in the US theme park market with its new generation of wooden roller coasters. The likes of Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City and the under-construction Goliath at Six Flags Great America have transformed expectations of what is possible on a wooden coaster. Suddenly, all kinds of inversion are possible, as well as 85-degree drops.
The ability to include inversions in the circuit opens up the possibility of breaking the world record for most inversions on a wooden coaster (which currently stands at three, and is held by Outlaw Run). With sister park Alton Towers already holding the record for most inversions on a steel coaster (with The Smiler), marketing such an addition should be relatively easy. Alternatively, while achieving an even steeper drop than Goliath would be challenging, but could the first "vertical drop" wooden coaster be on the cards?
Merlin boss Nick Varney has dismissed the idea of adding a wooden coaster to one of its UK parks in the past, blaming a lack of interest from the public. But could this new-style, inversion-capable breed of wooden coaster change that?
2. Vekoma Dragon Fly Coaster
Prior to the opening of freefall coaster Thirteen, Alton Towers considered another option for the site. This was the Vekoma Dragon Fly Coaster, a concept put forward by the Dutch firm that has yet to be utilised in a real installation and would therefore qualify as a "world first".
The ride would have employed suspended trains which would swing as they navigated the circuit, in a similar style to existing coasters such as Vampire at Chessington World of Adventures. The twist, though, was that riders would be in a kneeling position, just as they are on motorbike coasters. The resulting experience would potentially have been akin to riding a floating “speeder bike” from the Stars Wars movies.
1. S&S Worldwide 4th Dimension "Free Spin" Coaster
S&S Worldwide snapped up the remains of the bankrupt Arrow Dynamics in 2002, with the famous coaster manufacturer having collapsed into insolvency following the disastrous debut of X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain - its first 4th dimension coaster (previously known as X). The "4th dimension" moniker comes from the trains' ability to rotate 360 degrees during the ride. X suffered from serious problems even before its opening day, eventually opening half a year late.
That hasn't stopped S&S from plotting another crack at the 4th Dimension coaster market. It's put together a prototype of a new version, dubbed the "Free Spin". It's very different to X2, with no control rail in place to limit the spinning. Instead, as the name suggests, gravity alone causes the free spinning effect. You can see Robb Alvey and his pals from Theme Park Review trying out the prototype in the video above.
The world's first S&S 4th Dimension "Free Spin" Coaster would certainly be a good fit with Thorpe Park's thrill-seeking target audience of teenagers and young adults.
What would you most like to see?
What are you hoping for from the next big development at Thorpe Park? Which type of coaster would you like to see? Or would you like to see something different altogether?