Editorial: The Alton Towers Dungeon is an opportunity

The Dungeons boat ride

The addition of another off-the-shelf attraction to Alton Towers has been met with some derision from the park’s fans.

At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that Merlin Entertainments have shown no imagination in adding a Dungeon to the Staffordshire theme park.

It already has a Sea Life Centre in the form of Sharkabait Reef, as do sister Merlin parks Chessington World of Adventures and Legoland Windsor.

But Merlin is in the business of growing its own brands, and it is not unfeasible that we could see a Madame Tussauds being added to Thorpe Park or elsewhere in the future.

We should not forget that making the Alton Towers Dungeon a success is in Merlin’s interests. Damaging the image of a key midway brand is not.

The Dungeon should be seen as an opportunity for the park to expand its offerings, perhaps later into the evenings for hotel guests.

But with its planned last admission times being 75 minutes before the park closes, and its distant location from the park’s accommodation, it may be that management don’t see the Dungeon as this sort of opportunity at this stage.

Leap of faith

With a £5.00-£7.50 cost of entry on top of park admission, the Dungeon will need to be a near-instant success if the proposed model of operation is to survive.

If not, it could become yet another peak or Halloween-only experience with embarrassing budget cuts and a diminished experience preceding that.

But Merlin have proven competent in growing their revenue streams and building their brands in the eight-plus years of the company’s public ownership.

By their standards and compared to their other midways, they have tread relatively carefully with the Dungeon brand.

Only in recent years have we seen Dungeons opened in countries outside of medieval Europe.

It may require a leap of faith from Alton Towers fans, but there is no evidence to suggest that Merlin is not serious about the Alton Towers Dungeon.

The now largely defunct Cloud Cuckoo Land, currently a bizarre location for the Dungeon, now appears to be ripe for replacement with a new themed area of the park.

The Alton Towers Dungeon could yet prove to be an unlikely catalyst for greater things to come at Britain’s most successful theme park.