It was 20 years ago today that television star and theme park fan Jonathan Ross officially opened Valhalla.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s famous water-and-dark ride has somehow stood the test of time, albeit with some bumps along the way.
Those that were lucky enough to have ridden right back at the beginning would notice a considerable difference if they had been on the ride last season.
Valhalla’s numerous, extravagant and expensive effects have often disappeared, re-emerged and been reworked over the years.
Often any give season – or even day – is a roll of the dice as to what effect will be working or will not.
But the fact remains that even on an ‘off-day’, someone experiencing Valhalla for the first time is left with a memorable experience.
The fireball finale is one of the most reliable effects, and the Pleasure Beach is right to focus maintenance in this area, as it serves a real ‘wow’ moment to finish off the six-minute voyage.
Earlier on in the trek, the sub-zero tempertures and snow of the ice room are sadly one of the more inconsistent offerings, more often than not switched off these days.
And the dramatic lightening effects provided by Tesla coil are also a thing of the past.
It is however the Pleasure Beach’s dedication to keeping the ride going that is perhaps the most remarkable thing about Valhalla.
With the exception of this year, when it was announced that it would be closed for refurbishment, the park has almost always had the ride open for the start of its main season in early February.
They would be forgiven for not opening a ride that has a self-proclaimed warning that riders “may get soaking wet” in what is still winter, but Valhalla has always endured.
The park’s dedication to the ride was further demonstrated in late 2011, when corrosion and water damage rendered the outer facade dangerous for continued use. It required complete removal and restoration before the ride eventually reopened in May 2012.
The current refurbishment represents the first full season where Valhalla will be out of action.
With its high running costs, and Pleasure Beach managing director Amanda Thompson herself saying the ride needs to be more sustainable, it appears that Valhalla had finally become a responsibility too much to bear.
In what form the ride will return is currently unknown, but it is worth bearing in mind that the Pleasure Beach have always understood the importance and popularity of Valhalla.
As a six-time winner of AmusementTODAY’s Golden Ticket Award for best water ride, the recognition from industry is also there. Since the award’s conception in 2001, Valhalla has been beaten only by Islands of Adventure’s superb Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls.
At a cost of over £25 million in today’s money, its scale has not been matched by the Pleasure Beach or anyone else since.
Scheduled to return next season in what will be the Pleasure Beach’s 125th anniversary, it seems likely that Valhalla’s wow factor will be back, even if in somewhat amended form.