Later this week, Thorpe Park will unveil details of its proposed next major rollercoaster, when it begins a public consultation.
To local residents on Thursday, and online to the world on Friday (leaks not withstanding), details will be unveiled regarding the park’s plans.
It isn’t clear how much detail we will get at this stage ahead of any planning application, but such events usually offer a mixture of both details and clues into what is to come.
Material of construction
This is one of the most interesting aspects. Operators Merlin Entertainments have traditionally shied away from wooden rollercoasters, citing the public’s hesitation towards them.
But Wicker Man’s launch – and subsequent success – at Alton Towers has shifted the ground somewhat in this area.
Thorpe Park has reportedly had wooden rollercoasters on the table before, and perhaps one could be among the options here.
A wooden ride of any height would however have a dramatic impact on the surrounding landscape, and as such this option may be a remote one – unless it proves to be effectively a larger version of the twisty Wicker Man.
Bolliger & Mallibard (B&M), the famed Swiss manufacturers, built Thorpe Park’s last major rollercoaster addition in the Swarm – soon to be ten years ago.
At the more expensive end of the rollercoaster market, the Swarm was also Merlin’s last B&M purchase for the UK.
Cheaper manufacturers have generally been favoured in recent years as they ultimately deliver more product for the money.
We may however be able to learn from Chessington World of Adventure’s recent ride consultation, and not expect ride’s the manufacturer to be confirmed at this stage.
Planners might insist that several manufacturers have their names in the hat, and a final decision has not yet been taken.
Unique selling point(s)
Merlin has typically favoured “world’s first” attractions to bolster its marketing campaigns.
In the last decade or so, it has not insisted upon this, however. The Swarm was marketed as a “UK first”, and we may see a similar claim with this rollercoaster.
A UK height record has been widely mooted in online speculation, but at 200-foot-plus ride seems quite literally a tall-order here given the planning concerns.
Stealth may exceed 200 feet, but it is effectively a thin, white hoop above the skyline. A conventional lift hill or other rollercoaster element of this size would likely irritate at least some nearby.
There are signs that the recent craze of virtual reality seems to be slightly slipping out of favour, having been added and then quickly removed from Air’s transition into Galactica at Alton Towers.
It might be wise to expect a more conventional record claim with Thorpe Park’s new rollercoaster – even if it ends ip being the relatively modest “UK first” tact.
But then again, if the Wicker Man’s launch was anything to go by (“the world’s first infusion of fire and wood”), we might just see a more imaginative marketing claim on an effectively a middle-of-the-road ride with no physical records at all.
Guest height restriction
Chessington raised eyebrows when it was repeatedly confirmed that their proposed new rollercoaster would have a 1.4-metre height restriction on guests.
For a family-orientated park, planners cited guest dissatisfaction with the ride offerings for slightly older children.
With Thorpe Park openly marketing itself as “thrilling” in nature, Merlin may have concluded that they need to diversify the park by adding a ride with a lower height restriction to widen appeal.
That would re-raise questions over what exactly Thorpe Park wants to be. With this in mind, they may decide to bolster their thrill offerings, and as such we could easily see a 1.4-metre restriction.