Coaster Kingdom


The amusement industry is all about making people happy. If you run a park, the very cornerstone of your business is to entertain. When people are entertained, they’ll spend money, and that’ll make you happy.

It seems a shame that for an industry moulded around such high-spirits, that 2004 has been one of the most miserable seasons I’ve ever known. In fact, I strongly considered not writing this article as there was very little positive upon which to dwell, but Coaster Kingdom has never shied away from the bad; in fact, I strongly believe it is one of Coaster Kingdom’s strongest assets that we say what we see – if 2004 has been a catastrophe, I don’t think we have any right to shy away from it as we have a certain obligation to report on rides, attractions and indeed the industry, whether the findings are good – or sadly bad.

Dragon's Fury

Dragon's Fury was eagerly awaited, and had an important role to play.

Spring 2004, and Spinball Whizzer and Dragon’s Fury had been the subject of scrutiny in old Blighty, whilst abroad on the continent, Denmark were looking forward to the country’s largest looping roller coaster, Dæmonen.

As the coasters rose, so too did people’s expectations.

Denmark would see their first wooden roller coaster, Falken, whilst Europe would see another Gerstauler 95-degree drop Eurofighter (Typhoon, Bobbijaanland), the world’s first Vekoma launched ‘Motorbike’ coaster (Booster Bike, Toverland) and Heiße Fahrt represented a landmark installation for Freizeitpark Klotten as the first major ride in the park.

But there was a quite outstanding reason to get excited about this season, for 2004 was a special year for Thorpe Park, Pleasure Beach Blackpool, Drayton Manor and Alton Towers.

Celebrating their tenth anniversary, Shockwave (Drayton Manor), Nemesis (Alton Towers) and the Pepsi Max Big One (Blackpool Pleasure Beach), whilst celebrating its silver anniversary after 25 years, Thorpe Park. More incredibly, though, Sir Hirim Maxim’s Captive Flying Machines would, by August, have been flying for over a century.

And so, the foundations were laid for an excellent year. So what went wrong? Well, in the UK, almost everything. Birthday celebrations were neigh on non-existent, Tussauds’ new coasters were dogged with downtime, and both Blackpool and Oakwood had to learn to cope with almost immeasurable trauma.

And so, the construction fences came down, and the ticket booths reopened. Both Dragon’s Fury and Spinball Whizzer opened to modest fanfare from the parks, but were both subject to almost universal acclaim. Fury in particular sparked a new-found passion in a park whose ailing line up relied upon much needed investment.


Air: by Alton's definition, neither efficient with queues or reliable

Despite an interview to the contrary in Attraction Management Magazine suggesting Alton Towers were after more steadfast and high capacity rides (of which Air really is neither), Spinball was a coaster with an excruciatingly low capacity in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ironically, as Alton Towers opened Spinball Whizzer, it closed many other rides in a fairly draconian manor. Due to a lack of interest, Dynamo (Huss Breakdance), Vintage Cars, Carousel and Bone Shaker (Mondial Supernova) were all mothballed. Dynamo was packed up and dumped unceremoniously on the hardstanding behind Duel, whilst in supremely ignorant fashion, Boneshaker and most of Cred Street were fenced off effectively mocking everyone by taunting them by rides that were fenced off for their inconvenience.

As if four filler attractions closing weren’t enough, the park decided to close the historical Swan Boat ride with the usual adage of poor rider numbers being cited as the reason. In place of the stately swans, Splash Kart Challenge, an ugly up-charge attraction whereby those willing to pay for the privilege navigate an unsightly floating course in ‘Splash Karts’

Sadly, Alton Towers’ new philosophy has been proven that you either have to queue for a ride, or pay for the right not to queue by either being confined to up-charge attractions or having to stay in on-site hotels.

Tussauds’ other parks had issues of their own.

Poor attendance was heard as being the catalyst to a knee-jerk reaction throughout the chain with regards to cut backs. Well-publicised events such as Alton Towers’ Halloween Spooktacular were cancelled, as were the fireworks at Thorpe Park and the newly planned and heavily advertised late summer openings that were advertised in park and on leaflets right up until the day the event was cancelled. Continues...

Coaster Kingdom Magazine
Issue 01: Dec 2004

Issue 01
A Season in Review
Coaster Kingdom looks back on the 2004 season