I hate to post these kinds of threads, but I am afraid for my own sanity I am going to post it to get it off my chest. Consider it a rant, consider it whatever you want. And, I am sorry to those of you who don't like the negativity, if you don't - then stop reading now.2011: The Honest Truth
Along with many members of this forum and countless others around Britain, I have been visiting Alton Towers since my childhood - when I was just 6 years old. Back in 1990, few would have believed the amazing transformations that would take Alton Towers into the forefront of theme and leisure parks around Europe and, to a degree, the world. Fast forward 21 years, and we're here today - in the 2011 season. Owned by a company who prides itself on being second "only to Disney" and attracting tens of millions of people to its attractions around the world. The independence Alton Towers one enjoyed in the 1980's and through much of the 1990's (even under the early part of Tussauds reign) has, for the most part, evaporated and investments are now controlled from on high from an office, somewhere in Poole.
Nobody could ever criticize Alton Towers for failing to invest in new developments. In terms of new attractions, the park has done rather well for itself. However, unfortunately - I don't think things are quite so shiny these days. In fact, I am rather worried about the way Alton Towers seems to be headed - beseiged by a frantic money making ethic which seems to be as in your face as a cold wash in the morning.Rides and Attractions development
Merlin started off promisingly, with Mutiny Bay being announced in 2007 (back when I served on the inaugural enthusiast Customer Council). Although Mutiny Bay meant that the arguably more pressing matter of a Black Hole tent replacement was shelved, few would deny that the overall package of Mutiny Bay breathed new life into what was a lost area of the park with no draw whatsoever. However, the area remains home to a failed - but beautiful - Mack Splash Battle, which nobody ever rides, a dozen games stands with attendants keen to shout at passers by, a bland games arcade, several food stands, a pleasant but basic theatre stage, a couple of reasonable kids/family rides (one of which, Marauders Mayhem, hasn't had a repaint and looks dire - check out that blue flooring) and a completely out of place, past it Flume ride. The aquarium addition for 2009 on the other hand - bingo. That's what you call quality. So yes, Mutiny Bay has ended up much where it's predecessor left off. With a handful of rides that either nobody really wants to go on or something so dated that it makes you feel ill just looking at it.
Moving over to other Merlin investments, there's Cloud Cuckoo Land. Repainted for 2011 - one of the only success stories I would argue for the new season. It looks vibrant and fresh, but it's a shame they didn't feel the need to repaint the floor of the Toadstool. Dino footprints returning indeed. And, as pleasant as the area is, it's still a rehash of old rides and let's face it - can't compete in the slightest with what Blackpool are offering this year, and nor with Thomas Land at Drayton and, presumably, Peppa Pig down at Paultons. Clearly, even a proper entrance for the Toadstool was beyond them - check out what Chessington managed with Monkey Swinger. Obviously, CCL was a cheaper development than Wild Asia, but it shows that Merlin aren't too keen to be consistent and make sure that what's at Alton - is always the very best.
Then we're on to Th13teen of course. The most hyped coaster I can recall to think of that ultimately failed to live up to what Alton billed it as. The discussion on Th13teen has gone over hundreds of pages, and I am not here to start another - but why Alton felt the need to pretend it was something it quite simply isn't, I still can't muster the reason for to this day.
And that's that really - in terms of attraction development. In 5 seasons, Merlin still haven't given us a thrill ride, still haven't replaced Black Hole, still haven't sorted out crumbling wrecks such as the Blade and the Flume. You have to ask... why? Perhaps they just don't care, perhaps they do - perhaps somebody, somewhere is content to let the park just mosey along. And then, of course, there's the failed 4D project for 2011 which wasn't even replaced by a last minute new ride together with the horrid SBNO Beastie.Entertainment
Harking back once more now to the 80's and 90's, Alton used to offer a show programme much like major parks across Europe. Ice shows, music shows, kids shows, parades, fountain displays, animal displays... you name it. Time does indeed move on, and at one stage Alton didn't offer a show at all. So credit must go out to the park for adding two shows from 2008. Both low budget affairs and strictly aimed at the kids visiting the park, but nevertheless shows. Oh how we all looked forward to a leap in quality as time moved on. Why then, come 2011 have we still got two cheap shows, still just for the kids - with absolutely no progress made whatsoever in this area? Obviously, much like the ride/attraction development, Alton can just mosey along.
Of course, it's not all doom and gloom here - Scarefest and the fireworks are success stories. But remember, the first Scarefest - which was planned before Merlin took over and delivered shortly into their reign, had more attractions and lasted a week longer. Although Scarefest is still a great event, and who can't love the lighting efforts made last season, it's still not expanded much at all and costs an arm and a leg to visit those mazes. Fireworks, OK - hands up here. That really is world class. There isn't much else in the theme park aside from the fleeting appearance of Sonic, or the shark - even the Wraiths seem to have left Dark Forest now. Haven't seen them for a while...Money Grabbing
The first thing you encounter these days upon walking in to the park is... "WANNA GET A QUENCHER FOR £6" shouted at you. Literally, the very moment you walk in. Charming. Then you battle the Picsolve photographers wielding their cameras at you, then there's the shoddy DVD wristbands "FREE" they shout. Then another Quencher for sale and then Fastrack paraded around in front of you all day. Ride staff even seem well informed on what you need to do to purchase fastrack and presumably are now trained to upsell at every opportunity, too. Not to mention the ridiculous (£8) cost of a photo from Picsolve, stupendous charges for games at HB stands (£2/£3 a go for a basketball shot), obscene charges for certain food items (hot dog, £4.35) and prices rising faster than VAT and inflation put together! It's quite literally a gauntlet at Alton Towers these days. Remember... it's 50p now to send your photo to Towers Street! Used to be free... not to mention parking at £6.General appearance
Alton is blessed with a beautiful landscape, envied the world over by theme parks. So let's not bother painting the Rita queueline - black and white shining through. Let's not bother painting the Th13teen queue fences so we have more graffiti. Let's add pratically themeless food sales units to queuelines (Rapids, Flume, Air). Whilst other parks local to Alton paint rides and attractions - including their tracks - Alton just let them fade further and further into Oblivion. No pun intended of course, but you get the point. You can't blame managers of different areas - they clearly aren't being given the budgets needed to do a world class job. So again, Alton being left to mosey along while G Force down the road - crap coaster it maybe, but hey - it's been freshly painted! Whilst the world rate B&M's at Alton, just fade. Anway, in danger of repeating myself... let's move on. Need I say more about the situation with Fanta and Oblivion ? We get no attractions, nothing at ALL - and they decide to rip apart an incredible experience by adding shoddy looking orange logo's to the ride all over the place? Oh, what a fabulous job! How "tummy bubbling fun" and "less serious" really adds to the Oblivion experience. Great job. Who on earth decides this rubbish!?Lost souls
Morwenna - love her or hate her - she was a true public figure, vying for Alton to be out there at every given opportunity. JP - he was always out and aboutm engaging with all of us, as was Russell Barnes now and then. Who is the current "group" of managers that have taken the mantle? I bet people can hardly name them.So, over and out?
What is to happen, who knows. But with the way Merlin seem intent on screwing every last penny out of people - they'll end up hitting the floor. Guest numbers will decrease when they see that there's no reason to return to Alton - no new ride, just inflating costs and no major improvements. You hope for a "quiet" year in terms of development so they do up the park. Like that has happened. I care more deeply about Alton Towers than I care to imagine - the place is the life blood of theme parks in Britain, and it matters to me so much. The times I have there and have had are some of the best in my life - but I fear, just at the moment, something nasty is happening. Something very nasty - and I wish, wish to the high heaven, that someone, somewhere, realises what is going on and puts a stop to it. For if they don't, the parks reputation will falter and suffer. Of course... I will still visit. I love the place too much. But I would love to see it rebound.
2011 is flat. Simple as that. What drive and vision is there at Alton Towers this year? I fail to see much at all. Thank god for Nemesis and that beautiful mansion.
Finally. I would like to remind Alton Towers and, moreso, Merlin, that the park and resort have a reputation to keep. One of the biggest reputations of any park in Europe.To all the people who have responded to this topic with comments or just acknowledgement of your support through the thanks button, we would like to invite you to submit your details into our official mail that will be forwarded to the Alton Towers Director. Please click here for details.
Thank you for your support. - Crofty :)