“Would a woodie not see an investment return?”

It really makes me giggle when Merlin Entertainments comment about how the public don’t “get” wooden coasters, when they conduct their customer surveys.

Would a new wooden coaster not see a return of investment that they predict it won’t?  Would attendance not increase if a Merlin park opened a woodie?  If such a ride was built, would no one bother to ride it?  Well, I can only comment about what I have witnessed with my own eyes when I have visited parks in the UK, Europe and in the US.

Maybe the Merlin research teams need to actually spend a day in the field at parks like Oakwood, Gullivers Warrington or Pleasure Beach Great Yarmouth, to see if these wooden rides are actually popular and if so, who is riding them and how often are they doing it?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t prefer wooden rides, I enjoy all kinds of coasters; steel, wood and even the new hybrids (to an extent), but I really would love to see a UK park take a chance on a wooden coaster to complement their existing ride portfolio.

We visited Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach at the weekend and as always, really enjoyed our day at the attraction.

The Pleasure Beach was relatively quiet, however one ride was at full capacity all the time during our visit.  There was one ride where people were jumping off, running back round and going on it again. There was one ride, where all members of the family were going on it, even tiny kids. More importantly everyone was enjoying it.

That ride was the wooden Roller Coaster.

It was our second visit this year and the reason for our attendance was this wooden ride.  I could sit on that coaster all day; such a lovely ride.

It does make me wonder what questions Merlin are asking in their surveys about wooden coasters and to whom, as I see the same thing that happened at the weekend, happen at Oakwood, Gullivers etc.

Young kids, teens, young adults, middle aged and even the older generations were all riding over the weekend.  We got talking to three pensioners who were at the Pleasure Beach celebrating a birthday, and they were there on the Roller Coaster, hands up, laughing and screaming.

Much the same happened when I visited Gullivers Warrington this year; The Antelope was far more popular than any of the other coasters at the park and had all members of the family riding it.

Again at Oakwood, Megafobia was by far the most popular ride on park and it was lovely to see kids getting off and running round to join the queue again, while us older “kids” did the same thing, but walked instead of ran.

Sometimes simply being a good ride is enough to get bums on seats without the aid of a gimmick.

My roller coaster travels have seen me visit overseas park where much the same happens.  A park installs a good woodie, attendance goes up and it becomes a popular ride.  The likes of Troy (Toverland), Joris (Efteling), Wodan (Europa Park) and Wooden Warrior at Quassy in the US, all go to show that new wooden rides are popular, increase attendance and are, most importantly, fun.

When I find myself stood in a long line for a parks wooden coaster in the UK, I always think about Merlin’s comments and indeed wished that the public didn’t “get” woodies, as I would be able to get on a lot quicker!

Are all of the people whom I witnessed repeatedly riding the Roller Coaster at Great Yarmouth wrong?  Are we not supposed to dislike woodies in the UK?  We are supposed to only like gimmicks and nice smooth steel coasters aren’t we?  Well what was the queue like for the spinning coaster which was installed last year that the Pleasure Beach has?  It was walk on all day with only a few people riding it, whilst the Roller Coaster ran with a full train.

Funny that isn’t it?

Peter Andrews

3 comments

  1. George Styles says:

    Woodies are the best. I believe ive been on all good ones in the UK, including dreamland margate scenic, great yarnmouth scenic, BPB 5 woodies (took my 3yo on it for his first coaster this summer – yay!) . Not tried Megaphobia, but am living in York atm so hoping to try some local woodies soon. As Jamie says, Blackpool is /the/ place for woodies (grand national and wild mouse kick ass – in the latter case literally). If Merlin were to clone grand national into any of their parks im sure it would get used. by me. lots.

  2. John P says:

    It infuriates me that Merlin insists on only building “firsts”, instead of just building a really good ride that will keep people pouring in for years to come.

    Merlin DOES operate one wooden coaster – the superb Colossos at Heide Park, which was installed by the park’s previous owner When I have visited, it seemed the park’s most popular ride by a huge margin, and far more popular than the B&M and Intamin rides Merlin later installed.

    I love both wood & steel rides, but Merlin’s resistance to wood defies all logic, and tells me that there’s a fault in their ride selection process

  3. Jamie says:

    I agree with this. The public love wooden coasters and I’m sure that if Merlin built one, it would be a success.
    When giving examples, don’t forget Blackpool Pleasure Beach with five wooden coasters!