Chessington World of Adventures Resort

Funcone

TS Member
Since Merlin took over a lot of the developments have involved animals: Sea Life Centre, Wanyama, Zufari, new penguin exhibit etc I can see why it might seem like they’re moving back towards being a zoo. There probably would be advantages in doing that. It would solve some of the planning issues. They could rely more on volunteers. It would help them develop into a year round attraction. Their Zoo Days, Winter Tail and February Half Term events have been very popular. But I’m not so sure.

The reason Tussauds bought Chessington Zoo in the first place is because it was struggling and going cheap. It seems to me that most of the major zoos in the UK are charities, and that probably makes it difficult for a commercial zoo to compete. Parques Reunidos run quite a few zoos including Blackpool Zoo, but I’m not clear how commercially successful they actually are. Last year out of the 10 biggest theme park operators in the world, the only two to see a fall in visitors were Sea World Parks and Resorts, and Parques Reunidos. Both of which derive a significant portion of business from animals.

I’m not sure the ins and outs of how the finances work with running a charity, but I believe charitable zoos can get visitors to ‘gift aid’ their entrance fee, meaning the zoo claims back their VAT. I suspect it might also be easier for a charitable zoo to access grants, although a commercial zoo can still access them if they can demonstrate they’re doing serious conservation. It might also be easier for a charitable zoo to find volunteers, although Chessington World of Adventures does use volunteers in their zoo. There’s a lot of people who want to work with animals. It might also be easier for a charitable zoo to get help in other ways, for example getting local businesses to donate food.

I’m not saying you can’t run a commercial zoo in the UK, and Parques Reunidos may be doing it in Blackpool, and the West Midland Safari Park and Longleat may do well. But I do wonder how much of a commercial opportunity there’d be. At the moment Chessington World of Adventures get more visitors than any straight forward British zoo, including Chester Zoo, which is generally considered to be one of the best in the world.
 

thefatone

TS Member
There has been some clear investment in Chessie the past few years - the park itself, particularly the zoo, have been transformed. The new hotel investment is actually wonderful. The place felt like it had life in it last year, the first year properly since I've started visiting in 05 (can't count 2010 - only one area felt good!).

Yes it still has some way to go, and it really desperately needs investments in rides. But in terms of actual experience it's rather good nowadays.

Doesn't help that Chessie sells the highest number of MAPs, has the highest percentage of MAP visitors, and is so so easy to get to London with (and therefore making the accommodation side oh-so-worthwhile). If that wasn't the case, maybe the park would get more investment. Oh, and also kill all the locals cos that'd make life easier too.
 

jon81uk

TS Member
To Chessingtons credit though they haven't gone down the Thorpe route of solving the too many MAP holders route by charging standard pass holders extra for certain events. But as you say Chessington is a short train ride from Waterloo so is easy to get to.

Hopefully once they have the zoo back to perfection they will look at adding rides. And the route on Zufari needs lengthening!
 

Rose Of Dawn

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Eejanaika (Fuji-Q Highland)
But as you say Chessington is a short train ride from Waterloo so is easy to get to.

For this reason, I don't understand why Merlin don't pour more money into Chessington. It's stupidly easy to get between Chessington resort and the Eye/Sealife/Dungeons/Shrek, as it's just one direct train between Waterloo and Chessington South. Considering a night in Chessington's hotels are comparable to Central London you'd think it would make a perfect short break.
 

Dave

TS Founding Member
I would hazard a guess planning is Chessingtons big problem. It has a harder job getting permission than Towers, which is ironic when you consider Chessington is in London and Towers is in Staffordshire Moorlands.

NIMBY in all its glory.
 

Funcone

TS Member
Planning Issues may be part of it, and a lack of space, which kind of comes back to planning issues given that a significant portion of the site falls on the green belt. Planning may explain why they haven’t built on the picnic area next to Fury or the glade behind the Temple of Mayhem. But it doesn’t explain why they didn’t add theming back in around Dragon Fall’s drop, or why they didn’t add some more substantial theming to Scorpion Express to hide the access road. They certainly wouldn’t have any problems getting planning permission to re-theme or update the insides of Bubble Works or Tomb Blaster or to add better effects to the final cave in Zufari.

I think part of the problem is that a lot of the rides have limited throughputs and the perception is that the barrier to more visitors has more to do with throughputs and height restrictions than it does to do with the actual quality of the attractions. You might be able to make small improvements to the throughputs with things like single rider queues, but it’s difficult to make big improvements without some serious capital investment, and the question is whether they’d rather spend money trying to attract extra visitors to Chessington, or spend the money on new Legolands or midway attractions. Particularly given that competition has been a little limited lately.

Having said all that and been quite critical, the last couple of years have seen an impressive level of investment. Zufari was a similar cost to Legoland’s most expensive attraction, Atlantis, and Legoland gets significantly more visitors than Chessington World of Adventures. But I’d say they’re investing more to maintain their visitors numbers than to grow them. And to offset the negative effects of the ever increasing Fast Track sales.

I’m not an expert on planning issues and I wasn’t expecting Legoland’s recent problems, but I suspect that if Merlin wanted to invest more money in Chessington World of Adventures, there wouldn’t be a shortage of things to spend it on. It may be the case that if planning was easier they could find investment opportunities that would give them a bigger or quicker return than what they can spend money on at the moment. But if there was the appetite to really go to town on Chessington I think they could do it. I’ll give them some ideas if they want it. I just don’t think they see it as a priority at the moment.
 

jon81uk

TS Member
For this reason, I don't understand why Merlin don't pour more money into Chessington. It's stupidly easy to get between Chessington resort and the Eye/Sealife/Dungeons/Shrek, as it's just one direct train between Waterloo and Chessington South. Considering a night in Chessington's hotels are comparable to Central London you'd think it would make a perfect short break.


Their hotel booking site does try and sell Eye / Tussauds tickets (as well as Ripley's!!) but at full prices. Given you can get 2for1s quite easily or you can get a ticket for Tussauds/Eye/Dungeon/SeaLife combined it seems stupid to only offer full price.
In fact compared to Alton Towers site, the Chessington Hotel booking site is a bit rubbish.
 

thefatone

TS Member
Chessington suffers from the traffic issues which leads to planning being rejected - same as LLW.

It also gets the issue with noise, but with technology advances etc that's the easiest thing to get around. Usually most of the rejections are purely down to increasing of traffic. I still don't understand why the parks don't just try opening&closing an hour later (11-6), just to see if this helps with any traffic issues.
 

josht

TS Member
Favourite Ride
bandit (movie park)
Chessington suffers from the traffic issues which leads to planning being rejected - same as LLW.

It also gets the issue with noise, but with technology advances etc that's the easiest thing to get around. Usually most of the rejections are purely down to increasing of traffic. I still don't understand why the parks don't just try opening&closing an hour later (11-6), just to see if this helps with any traffic issues.
So does towers but they've invested in about 3 coasters since chessington last built 1
 

BigAl

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Forbidden Journey
Even if Chessington could invest in three coasters, they have nowhere to put them. The largest site they have left (in front of Fury) is green belt, and the other site behind Kobra and Falls is the same. The park are working with the council to try and come up with something for the future, but having not added anything significant (like a coaster) isn't down to nobody there being arsed. Part of it is due to traffic (something which they are working on with the council on a regular basis), part of it is also due to the park simply not being able to cope with the larger numbers of guests that bigger coasters and dark rides would bring with them. They are, however, trying to work on this, and the changes to the parking are one of the steps in place to take the park forward and eventually to the point where a coaster is possible.

With regards to funding, yes, the park does get quite a lot but it's having to go towards making the place safe / presentable. Most of the theming in the older attractions just wasn't meant to last this long without any work, but considering Tussauds neglected the park in favour of turning Alton Towers into their main attraction in early 90s from having realised they were forever going to struggle with building bigger rides there, that's what has ended up happening (they had planned a B&M for Chessington, believe it or not).

In my (ignorant) opinion, Chessington would benefit from gutting their two major dark rides and doing something with those first over trying to reclaim land. The removal of everything which made the Runaway Train even remotely interesting was their opportunity to rip that out, take some of the Petting Zoo's land, and build some form of new roller coaster there. The problem there is, they decided to keep it...
 
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AstroDan

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance, Cedar Point
I agree that new dark rides would also be welcome.

But as they constantly invest in no new decent rides of any form...

I am therefore bored with the park.

The only reason it has some die-hard fans is due to past glories, which is very sad because I am sure they crave new stuff as much as the next person.
 

Cakey

TS Member
I've always wondered why they haven't gutted Tomb Blaster's warehouse and killed two birds with one stone by building a Mummy-esque dark ride/coaster combo.
 

Rose Of Dawn

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Eejanaika (Fuji-Q Highland)
I'd support both dark rides being gutted. Whilst I've only started going to the park recently, it seems obvious that these rides are a far cry from their former glories - a sentiment shared by many who were visiting back in the 90's, before crappy lightguns and a boring product tie-in. They might as well make something new.
 
N

_nemesis_

Much like what Al said. The reason nothing major has happened at Chessington is down to capacity issues. They simply cannot cope with the crowds the park attracts as it is, let alone the levels once coasters start arriving. 2013 was a prime example, a big, large ride with a wide appeal opened and everyone flocked to the place, a couple of rides had to close and all hell broke loose.

Something else which is an issue is that most major attractions at the park were installed around the same time (Falls, Tomb, Bubbles, Vampire & Skyway), meaning that they are all going to expire around the same time. They need to sort that out too. This is the reason they can't constantly invest. They want to get it to a standard which allows for successful, and continual growth, rather than a load of misfires. Such as Zufari.

Also, I wouldn't be surprised if they hate the dark rides as much as we do.
 

AstroDan

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance, Cedar Point
Too many rides are still past their prime - Safari Skyway, Bubbleworks, Tomb Blaster and more. I am surprised they haven't been steadily overhauling them over the past few seasons. I know the likes of Duel and/or Charlie at Alton Towers could also do with work but, unlike CWOA, Alton Towers has the capacity to add to existing ride stock - not simply replace it.

Even Pleasure Beach have re-themed Gold Mine, added new parts to Ghost Train and removed Magic Mountain in recent years.... and that is a park which doesn't add much!

Instead, like 2015, none of the existing major rides are being upgraded. The only reason Scorpion Express was relaunched was because it was practically collapsing!
 

SuperMuscleMan

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Colossus
I'd love to see a rework of tomb blaster. It was a great ride before they added the guns. It feels 1/10th of the attraction it used to be. For its time the ride system itself was pretty advanced. I agree though it could be a great place for an indoor coaster. Could the wearhouse be expanded under the flume and higher up? (If they put the theming back). I think with the little space available to chessington they need to think outside the box. Look at the rattlesnake, when new it was themed beautifully and the idea of it in a pit fitted in perfectly.

Bubble works is the first ride I feel that should go though. Its old, tired, and nothing like its former self. I remember crinkley bottom theme park (noles house party) had the same system and that was way more modern than just a few fountains and some flashing lights and basic animatronics.

Chessington to me is.. One step forward, two steps back. They need to bring the park up to scratch and then focus on new additions.
 

nadroJ

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Skyrush
^Tomb Blaster is on its last legs as it is, I've heard from so many different people that it barely got let off last season when Runaway and Dragon Falls had their theming demolished, and those rides are (mostly) outdoors!

I'll be very surprised to see Tomb last much longer.
 

Ted

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Kondaa
The fifth dimension lasted 6 years (1987 - 1993)

Terror Tomb lasted 8 years (1994 - 2002)

And Tomb Blaster has lasted 13 years so far, so I think it needs something done to it.
 

nadroJ

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Skyrush
Apparently the building backstage is a H&S nightmare, so I'd say it's just a waiting game of when it's going to close.
 
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