Having been without decent investment for a concerningly long time, and with general park upkeep and management going further downhill in 2018, it felt to me that the 2019 season was starting from a difficult position. The build up to the season continued to not fill me with great confidence as whilst other parks were talking about new things, or things to be excited about for the upcoming season, Thorpe finally confirmed the removal of Loggers Leap. So in the weeks leading up to the start of the season, the focus was on the continued removal of attractions from the park rather than excitement for the 2019 season.
Then we had this...
With a season of events being led in by whatever that was, 2019 was to me looking like it would be a complete write off.
But then Thorpe did something somewhat unexpected. It opened with a new set of positive management decisions and what felt like a breath of fresh air across the park. Rides were operated at full capacity at all times, unless maintenance work prevented it. Managers were overly visible patrolling the park, identifying and resolving issues, even waiting to say goodbye to guests as they left the park in the evening for the first month or so. Retail had managed to ditch a large amount of the rubbish that had been on sale in previous years, brought in Freestyle to finally remove the drink refills problem that F&B had never managed to get right, and added a range of better quality merchandise items than had been seen in a long while - along with bringing in Krispy Kreme! Marketing and the parks online presence had also remarkably improved, no longer trying to hint or essentially troll on things they knew were never going to happen, and instead giving useful and accurate information and appropriate teases. The speed at which their social media customer service representatives responded to, and resolved, minor on-park issues was outstanding. Then finally, but by no means least, the fantastic additions to the entertainments team, and the wonderful actors that worked across the park making fun interactions throughout the year.
The events were perhaps hit or miss, but given the diversity of them I can't really fault that. GameFX would never have appealed to me, but it did bring about better collaborations with Player Ready VR who came back with what looked like a fantastic addition for Fright Nights. Jungle Escape had decent quality, but felt too short and somewhat stunted by an unnecessary story need for a competition between two teams, and really shouldn't have been an additional charge attraction. BounceZilla, which from the face of it was one of the UK's largest theme parks installing a bouncy castle to mop up the issues caused by a lack of investment, went down incredibly well - regardless of any quality views, people came off laughing and smiling, so it was a success.
Sadly a little later on the season some issues did start to crop up. Ride reliability took a slight downhill, but didn't feel anywhere near the drops seen in recent years. Freestyle had some moderate recurring stocking issues, and had trouble dealing with the hotter weather and things like ice. Whilst the car park, security queue and general site crowd management became its usual joke.
I spent a fairly large amount of time at Thorpe this year, and overall enjoyed it. There were certainly things that didn't go well that shouldn't have happened, but there were also a lot of very enjoyable things that occurred. Does the park still need to improve - for sure - but it felt that a lot more of the fundamentals were back and working this year. It was also felt far busier than previous recent years, so presumably other people thought they were doing something right too.
For 2020 Thorpe needs to finally sort out that ridiculous parking system, along with the entry procedure that is significantly slower than either Alton Towers or Chessington. An actual food and beverage line up would be good - different topping flavours on processed meat in a bun is not a food offering for me. Then the park finally needs their budget returned - flat rides are ageing and need either replacing or major servicing else there'll be endless downtime, and something new needs to be added by 2021. Else if the London Resort were to get planning permission this year, I can easily see Thorpe Park becoming irrelevant to the UK market.