8 key UK theme park industry moments of 2022

Nemesis, Phalanx closure notice, Alton Towers

As 2022 draws to a close, RideRater takes a look back at some of the key moments the UK theme park industry saw during the year.

Nemesis rollercoaster rebuild announced

In January, it was confirmed that Alton Towers’ famous Nemesis would be largely re-built during 2023.

The announcement was significant in that it will effectively be the first like-for-like re-build of a permanent steel rollercoaster in the UK.

Most non-wooden rides tend to be removed, but the decision to re-build rather than replace Nemesis was reportedly as a result of positive guest feedback.

It is being rebuilt to ensure the latest “safety standards” and address suspected foundation and fatigue deterioration over its 29 seasons of operation.

Scott O’Neil becomes Merlin chief executive

In November, Nick Varney stood down after more than two decades at the helm of Merlin Entertainments.

US sports veteran Scott O’Neill was appointed Merlin’s new CEO. It may now prove interesting to follow Merlin’s developments and strategies in the year ahead.

Although retired from Merlin, Varney took up the role of non-executive director at the Marston’s pub chain in March.

Sik opens at Flamingo Land

The 10-inversion Sik rollercoaster finally opened at Flamingo Land in July following COVID-19 related delays.

It went from initially being an unconfirmed rumour that few people believed to becoming reality a few years later.

The Intamin ride was the winner of RideRater Best New Addition award at the end of the year.

Sik rollercoaster, Flamingo Land
Sik and Flamingo Land went on to enter RideRater’s Hall of Fame in 2022

UK’s tallest rollercoaster finally approved

After months of challenge and referral, Thorpe Park finally received the go-ahead for its plans to build what will be the UK’s tallest – and possibly fastest – rollercoaster.

Dubbed ‘Project Exodus’, the original construction schedule aimed for a March 2024 opening.

In 2023, fans will be keen to gauge progress and determine if that timeframe remains realistic.

The 236-foot (72-metre) tall rollercoaster will be the tallest in the United Kingdom, beating Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s Big One by 23 feet (7 metres).

Theme park entry rising faster than inflation

In December, we revealed that at some UK theme parks admission is rising faster than inflation.

While some parks might argue that they are adding significant investments and facing above-inflation rises in running costs, they did not come out to explain that.

2023’s movements in pricing will likely be of high interest to theme park visitors, as cost of living pressures are set to continue.

Notably though, all types of Merlin’s annual passes have remained the same price for over a year now.

Indoor rollercoaster plans revealed by Alton Towers

November saw a planning application submitted for a new indoor rollercoaster – dubbed Project Horizon – at Alton Towers in 2025.

Such is the case with enclosed attractions the provided detail was pretty scarce, but the proposals have attracted considerable local opposition.

We should know early in the new year how much traction the opposition has, as Staffordshire Moorlands District Council moves to consider the proposals by the end of January.

Proposed indoor building location
Project Horizon will be located on the former ‘Coaster Corner’ area of Alton Towers

London Resort planning application withdrawn

The long-running saga of the proposed London Resort in Kent appeared to finally draw to a close when its planning application was withdrawn in March.

2022 marked a decade since plans for the resort – initially as ‘Paramount London’ – first emerged.

Yet another change in leadership occurred this month, and it was acknowledged that the proposals would need to be significantly down-sized if they are ever to become reality.

Lightwater Valley decommissions the Ultimate

August saw the sad news that Lightwater Valley had decommissioned the Ultimate rollercoaster – the former world’s longest.

“The Ultimate does not fit with the new direction of the park,” was the response to guest queries.

The park also confirmed its transition to a young family model this year, removing virtually all thrill rides except the Eagle’s Claw flat ride.

The loss of the Ultimate sees Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s Big One become the UK’s longest rollercoaster.