Park Hours 2014

Discussion in 'Future Discussion' started by AstroDan, 6th Feb 2014.

  1. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Park hours at Alton Towers have long been a bone of contention amongst enthusiasts, going back many years. Sometimes you get the ridiculous "they should be open till 10pm every night", but in practise, we know full well that would be absurd, not make business sense and nor is it necessary.

    However, it is true to say, and I am sure Alton Towers themselves would privately acknowledge, that park hours over the past two years have not always been what they should have been.

    I'll give an example.

    Last season, it was a warm weekend day, and the park was moderately busy - with 45-60 minute queues for most rides (far longer for The Smiler). Yet, in spite of this, the park closed at 5pm - with many rides still sporting 30+ minute waits, including The Flume. Leaving the park was horrendous, as a mass of guests a) didn't want to leave and b) found themselves all heading to the monorail at the same time. It was awful.

    Yet, of course - on some days, closing at this hour is fine.

    What I would like to see is a commitment from the park as follows:

    ERT
    Early Ride Time should be flexible, to suit demand. This is the case at some other parks, including Europa-Park in Germany. During quieter periods, only 2 or 3 rides may be operating on ERT. During busier times, more rides are added. This way, the park can cut costs when it is quiet, and therefore save money to use when it's busier. Logical.

    5:00pm ride close
    Applies during school term time week days only. Some smaller family rides could be cut from ERT during selected periods in order to save money to put towards later opening at other times. This would be extended when a certain threshold is passed (around 10,000 guests).

    5:30pm ride close
    Applies on all Sundays through the year, apart from those Sundays when it's a bank holiday weekend or school holidays (see below). This would be extended when a certain threshold is passed (around 12,000 guests).

    6:00pm ride close
    Applies on all Saturdays through the year, all bank holiday Sundays and bank holiday Mondays, the entirety of the school Easter holiday and May half term. This would be extended when a certain threshold is passed (around 15,000 guests).

    6:30pm ride close
    This would not be pre-advertised, but this would be the closing time if the park was closing at 5/5:30/6:00pm and a threshold between 15 and 18,000 was reached.

    7:00pm ride close
    The standard during the 6-week school summer holiday. This would be extended when a certain threshold is passed (around 20,000 guests).

    7:30pm / 8:00pm ride close
    The absolute maximum during the season, with 20-22,000 guests correlating with 7:30pm and 22-25,000 guests with 8:00pm. Over 25,000 guests which would be incredibly unlikely, then the park could go later.

    9:00pm ride close
    Scarefest and Fireworks, as exists.

    I do not believe the above is too much to ask. It is asking the park to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the additional guests which visit the park during holiday periods and weekends. They have not always acted as such in recent years. If the park is particularly busy, they should allocate the funds to extend ride close, increase guests satisfaction and allow for extra spends on food, beverage and retail.

    I don't want the park to close at 10pm every night, I don't think it's needed. But they do need to be more flexible, they should make ERT more flexible too, and they should alter ride closes as required. However, the benchmarks should be what is set out above.

    Thoughts?
     
    Posted 6th Feb 2014
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  2. Jonathan

    Jonathan TowersStreet Member

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    Fully agree with that, Astro. It needs serious looking into, and the extra costs of operating rides for longer would undoubtedly be offset by the extra food, drink and merchandise sales. The park's location, and the poor public transport links to the park, are two things which go against extended opening hours throughout the year, and these would need to be addressed in order to make extending opening hours a more viable possibility.
     
    Posted 6th Feb 2014
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  3. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    I think the times you've suggested Dan are pretty much spot on with how it should be. Alton Towers opening hours are embarrassingly short for such a large theme park, many smaller parks around the world have better hours than Towers.

    I can't see anything drastic changing in regard to opening hours this year though. At the moment I think the best we can hope for is a gradual season on season improvement.

    :)
     
    Posted 6th Feb 2014
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  4. BarryZola

    BarryZola TowersStreet Member

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    Yep, all sounds pretty sensible to me ;D

    They should at least be discussing this issue and seriously considering the advantages and disadvantages.
     
    Posted 6th Feb 2014
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  5. Dave

    Dave TS Founding Member

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    Other than suggesting that the 7pm closes only happen on the last 4 weeks of the summer holidays (as the first 2 weeks are always quiet) i agree.

    For some reason i have a feeling opening may be a bit more responsive this year.
     
    Posted 6th Feb 2014
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  6. TheMan

    TheMan TowersStreet Member

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    Sounds perfectly reasonable. Very logical.
     
    Posted 6th Feb 2014
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  7. NF2

    NF2 TowersStreet Member

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    This idea may take some changes at the resort to implement but how about introducing ERT on select nights AFTER park close? You would need a greeter at each ride entrance to check for room keys and annual passes, but this would help stagger the amount of guests leaving for the monorail at close and also ease the pressure on the engineering teams getting rides like the Smiler open in the mornings.

    As previously mentioned, they would need to get a system in place to ensure only the right people are allowed on, but as an idea it may just work. They could even utilise the Woodland walk to further help with crowd control.
     
    Posted 6th Feb 2014
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  8. Alastair

    Alastair TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Opening later than 6pm in peak summertime would be a start. I think 8pm closes every night during the summer holidays is about right. It's always very busy, and with the (usually) warm weather - it seems a little weird for them not to be opening until then as standard. Especially given there are 9pm closes in the freezing winter.
     
    Posted 7th Feb 2014
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  9. Tom

    Tom TowersStreet Member

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    The only way longer hours would be sustainable is if:

    A) the park offered MUCH more as a stay-over resot - to be frank it is currently very sparse, uninteresting and pretty poor in comparison to virtually all European and American park 'resorts'
    B) the park was in a high-tourist area (say the seaside) where evening pop ins would be more likely
     
    Posted 7th Feb 2014
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  10. Bob

    Bob TowersStreet Member

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    People will stay if they are given a reason to stay. If the park overlords opened their wallets a bit, put on some kind of show in front of the towers, advertise the heck out of it, people could be encouraged to put off the drive home and stay to watch. It astounds me how Towers never think how much money could be made off of people staying for dinner. Even if they had to close the odd quieter attraction like Blade, Ripsaw and the water rides, they could really capitalise on it.
     
    Posted 7th Feb 2014
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  11. PeteA

    PeteA TowersStreet Member

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    I did my fair share of European parks in the summer months last year, and loved the fact that they stayed open late. I am not talking about the mega parks like Europa either, but the likes of Walibi Belgium, Holiday Park.

    They had the infrastructure to do this which included lighted paths. The restaurants were heaving, people were drinking sensibly, kids and adults alike were having fun. It was actually quite bizarre as well, because the ride queues reduced as people were just more than happy to stay in the park and eat and drink.

    I know this is more to do with a European culture than anything else, but it was nice to see and so much better than "ok, its 5pm, close up shop" and see everyone heading home all at the same time.
     
    Posted 7th Feb 2014
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  12. Dave

    Dave TS Founding Member

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    Towers can't install lighting around the park, they have a limit on the amount of external permanant lighting they can have to prevent light pollution.

    So they won't open beyond dusk on any day other than SF and fireworks. No reason not to open late on the last 4 weeks of summer hols (1st two weeks are always quiet). They need to be more flexible about their closing, instead of sticking solidly to projections based on previous seasons.
     
    Posted 7th Feb 2014
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  13. EuroSatch

    EuroSatch TowersStreet Member

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    There is so much more innovation in preventing light pollution these days. Controls like this are there to be negotiable. I'm sure if Towers actually thought about it they could easily put forwards a case, particularly as most the light will be below tree height
     
    Posted 7th Feb 2014
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  14. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Decent permanent lighting (i.e. not big bright halogen lights) would almost certainly cause less light pollution that the halogen and generator lights currently used during Scarefest and Fireworks. I drove to the park a couple of time at the end of last season when it was dark and you could see where the park was from a fair distance away, the sky was lit up in a white glow. You could even locate specific lights on the road between Denstone and Alton.

    :)
     
    Posted 7th Feb 2014
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  15. Dave

    Dave TS Founding Member

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    It's part of the councils planning guidance on the park so they would be breaking their own development plans in allowing more permanent lighting. I imagine Towers do ask for more, they tend to put all plans to the officers for advice before putting in an application so just because we don't see a document saying they have asked for something doesn't mean they haven't.

    The Scarefest/ fireworks lighting is more invasive than permanent lighting would be, but that lighting is for 17 days only, not 365.
     
    Posted 7th Feb 2014
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  16. djtruefitt

    djtruefitt TS Site Team Team Member

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    I do agree longer hours are needed on some days of the season. There were plenty of days last season, especially at weekends when the park was packed, yet ride close was 5pm, maybe 5.30pm if you were very lucky. Even joining the queue for the Smiler near the end of the day and leaving an hour or two after ride close, there were still plenty of guests around. Yet every is closed.

    Why close the restaurants and food outlets when there are plenty of people still wanting food and drinks?

    When it is a hot summers day the park should not be closing at 5 or 5.30pm, yes if it was a wet and cold day then close earlier. They should take the approach that Drayton Manor take. They say they will be open 10.00am - 5.00pm every day and ride close will be extended depending on how busy it is. Last year ride close got extended twice from 5pm when we were there!

    This way people can't complain that the park closes earlier than advertised on the website (as it will always say 5pm), but people will be happy if the park extend ride close. However if they do this it shouldn't be a last minute decision, it should be advertised in the afternoon once they know the guest numbers for the day.
     
    Posted 7th Feb 2014
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  17. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    One of the most ridiculous things last year was Woodcutters not serving any food after the fireworks. We went up on the Friday evening just to watch the fireworks, then planned to get some food at Woodcutters before heading off park. Yet we were told in Woodcutters that they were only serving drinks, utterly mind boggling. It was deserted because of this. I think we ended up with a McDonalds in the end.

    :)
     
    Posted 7th Feb 2014
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  18. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    The park need an inspiring, nicely decorated and heated F&B restaurant on Towers Street that people actually want to stay in. At the moment, both outlets on Towers Street are wildly outdated in design, and Towers Family Restaurant is an embarrassment.

    With proper promotion, a tasteful décor and stylish bar-restaurant style offering, there's no reason why a venue on Towers Street could not encourage guests to remain socialising there for 2 to 3 hours after ride close.

    I hate the idea that you're 'kicked out'.

    They could have a patio area, with a summer BBQ after the rides close. They could have a small music group. They have limitless opportunity, yet they don't experiment with such things. Such a gorgeous setting too! Hotel guests could be advised about it, thus relieving pressure on the hotel bars/restaurants during busier periods!

    Thorpe Park are trying now with Summer Nights - it's a shame Alton Towers don't try something, even if it isn't rides based!
     
    Posted 7th Feb 2014
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  19. Dave

    Dave TS Founding Member

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    The above would be a great idea, they could keep two monorail trains running till 8 or 9pm, advertise a summer nights on the lawns with a bar and maybe keep a few rides open in Bay CBeebies and Spinball.
     
    Posted 7th Feb 2014
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  20. djtruefitt

    djtruefitt TS Site Team Team Member

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    Towers family restaurant is very much in need of a refurbishment, gut the whole lot out and start again! It says a lot when its only open for 2 hours in the morning for breakfast then its closed for the rest of the day.

    I would knock the whole lot out in side and turn it into a pub style bar (think weatherspoons), one section can be drinks and relaxing area, the other section food. Nothing to fancy, just weatherspoons style menu, you find a table, order at bar, they bring you food. None of this school canteen style or anything that it has now. The outside area can be done up with nice furniture and heaters and then it can open late after park close.

    Coffee corner also needs a complete refit, it just needs to be made modern, like a starbucks or costa coffee. I'm surprised it hasn't (as far as im aware) had any work done to it over the winter season with CBeebies opening up next door.
     
    Posted 7th Feb 2014
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