Plans & Concepts
The Planning Application
A planning application to make changes to the park’s Air rollercoaster was submitted to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council on 17/07/2015:
“Minor works to the ‘Air’ rollercoaster, including enhancing the existing station area, installing a photo-opportunity kiosk and new themed features”
“Project Turf” was noted on a number of the planning application documents.
So are we getting a new ride?
No track changes are expected during this project; certainly nothing is detailed in the planning applications. The application states:
“These proposals are small scale in nature and constitute the enhancement of an existing attraction at the Resort and will improve the overall visitor experience.”
Detail of the changes as noted in the planning documents:
- Minor station façade alterations to shield visitors from the elements
- Queue line alterations near the station to include additional internal divisions, to ensure the queue process is more effective. One ramp on the west side of the station will be replaced by steps
- A new ‘green-screen’ photo kiosk will be situated within the queueline, at the former “merge-point” of the queue
- A new free-standing theming feature to encircle the track, with the ride crafts travelling through it (note: planning documents suggest this will be located at the point the lift rises from the tunnel, though concept art released 12/01/16 suggests this will be situated at the bottom of the first drop)
- A new free-standing theming feature situated on the paving within the ride area
Overall site plan
Station change details – external
Station change details – internal
I’ve heard rumours about “VR”?
It has been confirmed that the ride retheme focus will be on VR technology, where guests will fly through the galaxies using state-of-the-art technology that will sync the rollercoaster movements to a headset attached to each harness. See our news article for more information.
Following months of speculation, Alton Towers revealed details of 2016’s new attraction at a press conference held at the Science Museum on January 12th 2016. Air, the resort’s flying coaster, is being re-themed to an immersive virtual reality experience.
Launching in April, Galactica will be the world’s first rollercoaster dedicated to Virtual Reality. Each rider will wear a specialist VR headset which will be fixed to the craft. Through this, an on-board artificial intelligence guides them from the launch pad up into space, flying and looping beyond the stars, banking through wormholes and speeding across undiscovered galaxies, revealing the wonders of the cosmos in stunning clarity.
“Galactica uses ground breaking technology to give riders a breathtaking and completely unique rollercoaster experience. Tim Peake captured the imagination of millions of Brits last year when he set off on his mission to the International Space Station – and now our visitors can become astronauts too.
“There is nowhere else in the world that people can experience the feeling of a flying rollercoaster combined with soaring through the universe. For two minutes, our guests will be transported into space and we believe Galactica showcases the future for theme parks around the world – it’s a complete game changer!”
The virtual reality element of the ride has been produced by Figment Productions, utilising the ‘Vector’ motion sync and control system. A company who are no stranger to working with Merlin Entertainments, their previous work includes interactive elements to the group’s midway attractions such as SEALIFE, along with the Blackpool and Orlando Eye observation wheels. They were also responsible for producing Warwick Castle’s “Time Tower” attraction, which opened last year and shows the historic castle through the years. A promotional image courtesy of Figment Productions shows the ride crafts emblazoned with “Air Space Technologies”.
The launch of Galactica in the UK follows in the footsteps of German theme park Europa-Park’s take on the “VR Coaster” concept. Currently being used on the Alpen Express mine train coaster, riders are fitted with Samsung Gear VR portable headsets which take guests on a wild ride with park mascot Euromaus and friends.
For those who are not fans of trying out this all new experience, the resort have confirmed that guests will have the option of riding Galactia without wearing the VR headset. It has also been confirmed by the Resort via social media that the headsets have been designed to fit spectacle wearers and will be cleaned after every use.
A new website has launched in conjunction with the new ride. Galactica Tours gives details on the destinations ‘Galactinauts’ will visit on their flight, along with more information on the technology used in the attraction. As well as the website, a new video was published introducing Galactica to the public.
The road to Galactica
Alton Towers have been teasing the changes over the course of the last few months, with banners appearing around the ride area for Air during the final few months of the 2015 season. The resort’s social media channels also began to hint toward the changes, with a 21 second video appearing online which strongly hinted toward a space theme for the revamped ride. Press reports later confirmed an announcement would take place at London’s Science Museum at 8:30am on the 12th January.
During the build up to Galactica, the Alton Towers gave us a glimpse of Gravity Avenue, transforming astronaut Tim Peake's terrestrial street into something more akin to what he might experience in space.
Whilst they could easily have created the promotional shot through the wonders of digital manipulation, instead the effect was created using real life illusions to give flight to the residents of Gravity Avenue, as seen in this behind the scene video:
The game is available to download now from the App Store, and the objective is to guide a spaceman as far as possible, around objects such as rocks, space ships, fire and ice. The app features a prize wheel, a shop in which you can buy virtual items, and scannable content (which is yet to be made available).