It is looking like a busy few seasons coming up at Alton Towers, from a revamp for Duel and a retrack for Nemesis, through to exciting new plans emerging for the old ‘Coaster Corner’ site. Let’s take a look at what we know about the projects the park have lined up…
CBeebies Land will be getting three new attractions for 2022, along with two new shows in Big Fun Showtime and a more general refresh to the wider area. Construction on the new attractions has been ongoing since the end of the 2021 season and on December 20th the park announced more details about their plans for the area, including a ‘CBeebies Bug interactive trail’ around the land as well as a refreshed entrance portal.
The three new attractions are:
- JoJo & Gran Gran at Home, replacing Charlie and Lola’s Moonsquirters and Green Drops
- Hey Duggee’s Big Adventure Badge, replacing Tree Fu Tom Training Camp
- Andy’s Adventure Dinosaur Dig, replacing Mr Bloom’s Allotment
And if all that wasn’t enough, Big Fun Showtime will also be getting two new shows for 2022, with a new show for Bing as well as The Map Badge, a new show starring Hey Duggee. Elsewhere, Bing will also be staying over in the CBeebies Land Hotel from 2022, in a set of new themed rooms. It is not yet known which rooms, or how many, will be converted into the new theme.
Swiss Cottage Repairs
The Swiss Cottage will be the latest building in the garden to receive attention. Though unlike some recent garden projects, this will be more modest in scale and aims to repair damage to the back of the building and make the structure watertight.
During the years when the Swiss Cottage operated as a restaurant, a flat-roofed kitchen extension was built onto the back of the structure. It has been many years since the building was in regular use and by 2019 the roof of this extension had collapsed, which lead to the subsequent demolition of the entire modern section of the kitchen.
The current planning permission is for repair works to complete the process of removing that structure and return the back of the Swiss Cottage to its original state. This involves repairing windows, brick and stone work, as well as removing remaining remnants of the kitchens, such as extractor fans and electric boxes.
Whilst this work will secure the structure for years to come, there is no indication that the park are planning to return the building to regular use at any time soon.
Retro Squad Returns
Originally, the park were expecting the Retro Squad to be a single season phenomenon, but we now know that the Squad will be returning for 2022. Responding to a question on Twitter, the park have revealed that Funk’n’Fly and Roller Disco will be returning to the park, though without Mixtape this season. Flavio’s Fabulous Fandango, the fourth of the pop-up rides will also remain in The World of David Walliams.
The park officially announced the return of the rides just a few days before the start of the season, including a new addition, Spinjam, which has replaced Mixtape in X Sector. The new ride is an Extreme by Tivoli and is due to open a few days into the season.
Whilst it would undoubtedly be preferable if the park were to invest in some new permanent flat ride, the return of the Retro Squad is at least a promising sign that they have recognised the need for extra flat rides in the park. Over the years, the park’s flat ride line-up has dwindled with the removal of popular rides such as Ripsaw and Twirling Toadstool (and also Submission). Now there are four sites prepped for flat rides, perhaps 2023 will finally see Merlin invest in this much maligned area of their operation.
2022 Event Line-up
The park have announced another full season of events for 2022, repeating last season’s line up along with a new event for the Easter Holidays. Alton Towers have confirmed that Mardi Gras will be returning for its second season, this year joined by the new Festival of Thrills in April.
We already know that several events will be receiving upgrades this year, with new food and drink offerings for Mardi Gras and Oktoberfest, as well as a new Scare Maze to celebrate Scarefest’s 15th birthday.
The new Festival of Thrills event will kick off the season’s event line-up in April, and so far we know that it will be a celebration of the park’s seven main rollercoasters. The new event will include live music at each of the coasters, so we’re expecting that it may be a new version of the park’s long-running Big Six Challenge crossed with Mardi Gras style entertainment.
Further ahead, the park have already revealed that Lightopia will be returning for Christmas. They have not, however, elaborated on the new scare maze for Scarefest, though it seems likely that it might replace either Altonville Mine Tours or Darkest Depths, both of which were conspicuously absent from the new promo video.
The full line up of this year’s events is:
- Pirate Takeover: 18th – 27th February
- Festival of Thrills: 4th April-6th May
- Mardi Gras: 21st May-19th June
- Oktoberfest: 10th September-2nd October
- Scarefest: 7th-9th, 14th-30th October
- Fireworks: 4th-6th November
- Christmas: Select dates from 25th November
In 2021, the park applied for planning permission to keep the ‘temporary’ stage on the front lawns during future seasons, so we can expect that this area will once again play host to many of this year’s events.
The Curse at Alton Manor
After closing during the 2022 season, Duel: The Haunted House Strikes Back will return this year as The Curse at Alton Manor, which is due to open with the rest park at the start of the the season on 18th March 2023.
The latest incarnation of the ride will focus on the story of Emily Alton, the little ghost who has inhabited the dolls house in the ride’s queue for the past 30 years. The new storyline will see Emily draw guests into her dolls house, bringing riders down to her level for a fun and chills, mixing the ride’s traditional effects with brand new set pieces designed especially for the new storyline.
It was first announced the ride would receive and overhaul in the Summer of 2022. For many years, a chalkboard in the Duel’s exit corridor has displayed random messages, purportedly written by Emily Alton. But in its final weeks this chalkboard was daubed with the message 6+9 = The Duel is over, followed by ‘This is my house‘, written in a ghostly scrawl.
As forewarned, the ride closed on 6th September 2022, at the end of the busy summer period, and work has since been underway on a revamp of the ride. The doors of the house have been boarded up for the duration and signs proclaim that the Property has been Repossessed due to Unnatural Displays. Hidden within the repossession sign, a ghostly message reads “I want to play!”, all starting to point towards what we could expect from the updated ride.
During the renovation, Duel’s blasters and targets will be consigned to history and the ride will be returned to a more traditional style dark ride. Equally, it is likely that the various ‘off-the-shelf’ style zombies, which were added during the ride’s conversion into Duel will also be removed. But whilst the current interactive features may be a thing of the past, the Haunted House theme will remain. Indeed, John Wardley has also reportedly been seen in the area, despite officially being retired, suggesting the park may be seeking inspiration from the ride’s original design.
And as the park are intending to focus on invoking the spirit of the original Haunted House as part of the overhaul, we could expect the return of some of the ride’s classic effects, such as the Trommel Tunnel, which has not spun for several years now. Many fans of the ride would be thrilled to see these dormant features brought back to life, combined with new scenes and perhaps even a nod or two to the ride’s past (or even unused effects considered for the original attraction).
It is likely that any change to The Haunted House will also involve upgrades elsewhere in Gloomy Wood. We can expect a refurb of Spooks R Us and Nitrogenie, which closed in 2019, will surely become prime real estate next season. Duel’s graveyard queue line is also receiving a revamp – the overgrowth in the Graveyard has been cut back in preparation to bring it back to life, so to speak.
The Enterprise has been closed for the duration of the 2022 season and has largely remained in pieces, after seemingly running into issues during its regular closed season maintenance. It last operated during the 2021 Run Alton Towers event, but it is increasingly looking like the ride might have taken its final spin.
It remains to be seen what happens in this corner of the park for 2023, but either way the park surely won’t leave the ride heaped in the X-Sector for a second season.
The park have submitted plans to the local council, which show they are planning to retrack Nemesis to extend the coaster’s life long into the future. The plans submitted to Staffordshire Moorlands are not technically seeking planning permission, but rather a certificate of lawfulness for the work. The certification, which was passed on 23rd March 2021, is an agreement from the council that the work is classed maintenance of the existing structure, rather than a new development, and so will not need full planning permission.
The plans will see the entire track replaced from the top of the lift hill right through to the break run, but there will be no significant changes to the coaster’s design, beyond strengthening and extending some of the ride’s foundations in the most intense parts of the course. The only significant variation from the existing structure will be that the supports will be now filled with sand, which was not a practice commonly used when the ride was originally built, but is now standard.
It has now been announced that Nemesis will close at the end of the 2022 season on Sunday 6th November and is due to reopen in time for the ride’s 30th birthday in 2024. In keeping with the ride’s adopted story, the closure has been announced as being by order of the Phalanx, the mysterious militia first introduced in the Nemesis Comic and later featured heavily in the plot of Nemesis:Sub-Terra.
What Sites are Available?
There are several sites around the park that are currently available for redevelopment. Here we take a look at some sites where we can expect to see new attractions built in the coming years.
The World of David Walliams
The World of David Walliams may be new, but the park’s latest area has plenty of room to expand.
Most of the buildings on one side of the area are no longer open to the public, from the shuttered 4D Cinema and Toy Shop at one end through to the old Nickelodeon building at the other. We can expect the area to expand over the coming years to incorporate these unused spaces, and not forgetting the Driving School, which is likely to be rethemed in the near future.
2021 saw the end of The Submission Memorial Garden to make way for the Retro Squad. However, the former site of Submission will soon be vacant again, so perhaps it is time for the Ministry of Joy to add a new experiment and bolster the park’s dwindling flat ride line-up.
The Dark Forest is brimming with potential for future development, most notably on the former site of the Ug Swinger, which is currently home to Roller Disco.
When the area was Festival Park in the 90s, the area around Th13teen’s entrance played host to several other rides, including The Beastie and Enterprise, so there is potential for more than one attraction in this under-used area. Perhaps the park could re-visit plans for the Robo-Arms that were considered as part of the Dark Forest development.
Equally, it is worth mentioning that the site that currently houses the Dark Forest Lockers was once the site of the Magic Carpet and later The Spider. Whilst the site itself is compact, the queues for these attractions once ran through the neighbouring woodland, with some evidence of the site’s past still visible today.
Funk’n’Fly took over the site left vacant by the removal of Ripsaw in 2015. Will this prime location once again become home to a new headliner for the park’s flat ride line-up?
The Sub-Terra compound is also available for redevelopment, especially now Project 42 has been retired from the Scarefest line-up.
Even with all the new attractions added to the land in 2022, there is still room for new additions in CBeebies Land, such as the shuttered Nina’s Science Lab, which is a prime site for redevelopment.
Next door, in Adventure Land, there is also the long abandoned [email protected] site, which site in an area which could be re-used as part of either of the neighbouring lands.