What years represent the all-time peak and all-time low of Alton Towers?

Discussion in 'Talbot Street' started by Matt N, 14th Mar 2021.

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  1. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    Hi guys. An interesting discussion has started in the 2021 thread regarding the 2010 season, and how quite a few consider it a “peak” for the park, so I thought that that might make a really interesting topic to discuss on its own. So my question to you is; if you had to pick 2 years out of the 41 years that Alton Towers has been operating, what years would you consider the park’s all-time peak and the park’s all-time low, taking the overall experience into account as opposed to any one factor?

    For the park’s all-time peak, I’m actually going to be quite controversial, and I’m going to say the present day. I personally feel that the park is just as much fun to visit as it ever has been, if not more so than in previous years in the park’s history. Admittedly, the fact that I might be slightly more gravitated towards roller coasters than other attractions might help with that from my perspective (not that I don’t love other types of ride, because I do, and I feel that some degree of variety is important, but it’s the roller coasters that get me most excited rides-wise in a theme park), but I do think that since about 2018, when Wicker Man opened, the park has had a real sense of buzz about it. Areas that suffered post-Smiler seem to be gradually getting revitalised, and things seem to generally be on the up. 2020 in particular, in spite of the pandemic, seemed like a really strong year, with absolutely phenomenal opening hours and the introduction of more events outside of Scarefest and Fireworks keeping things interesting from that standpoint.

    For the park’s all-time low, I’m personally going to choose 2016. The Smiler crash hadn’t long happened, and the park was still reeling from its effects. Despite the Towers Loving Care initiative getting off to a great start, Galactica being a nice enhancement to Air (although I’ll admit that the VR wasn’t really my thing after the first go), and the Rollercoaster Restaurant being a phenomenal addition that I really enjoy, visitor figures were rock bottom, quite a bit was SBNO/fenced off, there were huge layoffs, and the park generally seemed to be struggling a lot, and there was a general sense of doom and gloom surrounding the park, especially in the early parts of the season.

    But what years would you personally pick as Towers’ all-time peak and all-time low?
     
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    Posted 14th Mar 2021
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  2. Thameslink Rail

    Thameslink Rail TowersStreet Member

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    All time peak: probably 1994 with Nemesis (but I wasn't alive then so I don't know for sure)
    All time low: 2016 with embarrassing cuts across the board and the first 10-4 openings.
    Edit: out of the years I have been to Alton Towers (2012 onwards), I think the park was at its best in 2015 up to the Smiler Crash, the park had a formidable 42 strong line up with something for everyone, even after the crash the park still had quite a good lineup despite losing the Smiler and Sub Terra suddenly.
     
    Last edited: 14th Mar 2021
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    Posted 14th Mar 2021
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  3. D4n

    D4n TowersStreet Member

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    2010 was by far the best year of operation that I can remember - I don't imagine that it was the 'all-time high' for the park, although had that year coincided with the introduction of the Oktoberfest event seen in 2020, the best innovation from the park since Scarefest in terms of providing variety and quality entertainment throughout the season, then I'm sure that may well have been the season to remember.

    2016/17 were both pretty dreadful. I think I ditched the MAP between 2016 and 2018 as a result of the poor standard of the product on offer - lots of cost cutting, attractions lost and shocking opening hours. I've had one every other year since 2007. Fortunately things are now improving again - Wicker Man & Oktoberfest are both huge steps forward ... next step entertainment (shows!) please!
     
    Last edited: 15th Mar 2021
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    Posted 15th Mar 2021
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  4. RicketyCricket

    RicketyCricket TowersStreet Member

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    High: 1998. The hype around Oblivion was incredible and the overall magic of the park was at it's peak.

    I was a bit too young at the time though so I'll just go 2005 when Rita opened. The park was still at it's peak in terms of overall experience but now had a solid coaster line up as well as lots of flats and filler attractions.

    Ug Land was brilliant with the sound of Rita's launch, Corkscrews lifthill and Thunder Rock Radio. Although IIRC Ug Land wasn't hugely popular amongst enthusiasts?

    Low: 2012
     
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  5. rob666

    rob666 TowersStreet Member

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    As above.
    As an old git, playing at the Towers since the start of the Corkscrew, the time around the birth of Nemesis, through the first couple of years of Oblivion, were the tops for me.
    And we were doing it for free on Sunreader tickets as well.
    Just watching the queuemunch on Oblivion was amazing, five thousand people doing a spiral shuffle up that hill, pretty much non stop.
     
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  6. Plastic Person

    Plastic Person TowersStreet Member

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    1998/1999 were probably the potent high between the overlap of old-school Alton Towers 'magic' and the park we know today. I am biased towards these years, as they are dripping in childhood nostalgia, but as @rob666 inferred, I'll never forget turning the corner into X-Sector and seeing Oblivion for the first time. Nemesis was an outright force in popular culture, and watching them follow it up with something as audacious and extreme (for then) as Oblivion was, well, magical.

    2004, when Tussauds suddenly belonged to an investment firm, was really bleak; whole sections of the park closed off, ride removals and SBNO things, events suddenly cancelled, nothing much opening before noon. The early years of Merlin refreshed the park, 2007-10 felt very positive.

    I stopped regularly visiting circa 2015, largely as I moved abroad, but also as I didn't feel like the park was doing much for me any longer. It was easy to maintain as less-obsessive perspective on the park, but I did feel like the park had gone down the proverbial hill. Elements like good operations, once a dead cert, were no longer reliable. Wicker Man was a great investment, and I think the next few years could be great, with the relevant focus.

    Objectively speaking, The Smiler incident was undoubtedly the low-point in the park's trajectory.
     
    Last edited: 15th Mar 2021
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  7. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    The "magic" left with Peter Rabbit on Ice. Best years were the 90s.

    Although personally it was the arrival of Air was my first main visit as an adult and the fact it was another world-first ride concept was very exciting. I got the Aerial Inversion Ride t-shirt and studied the model that was in Towers Trading at the end of the prior season.
     
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  8. Benjsh

    Benjsh TowersStreet Member

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    1992 was the first year I started to visit at 7 years old.

    1992 to about 2002 was pure magic. Never be beaten. To be there on the opening weeks of Nemesis was so special. I was hooked from the start.

    So many great memories of the Thunder Looper and the New Beast too. Such good rides at the time.
     
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  9. WillPS

    WillPS TowersStreet Member

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    My first visit was 2002, so that's probably the high-point. 2003 was definitely worse as there were cut-backs and signs of pay-to-play attractions all over the place.

    2004 was probably the worst I'd visited. Spinball Whizzer was a great ride but wrong in so many ways and getting on it took hours. At the same time the park sat Dynamo, Bone Shaker, The Swans and half of Cred Street SBNO. Part way in to the season the 3D Cinema was stood down too, and then by the end UG Land was completely closed. I think 2004 was also the last year free Fastrack operated and the first year upsell Fastrack became prevalent.

    I had a big gap in visits between 2011 and 2018, so I can't comment on that period - but what was really galling about 2004 was how busy the park was despite all those closures.
     
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  10. pluk

    pluk TowersStreet Member

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    The year or two Nemesis and Thunder Looper sat side by side were as good as it ever got. The mix of shows, entertainment and rides across the board were spot on, and those two rides are the two best that were ever at the park.
     
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  11. Matt.GC

    Matt.GC TowersStreet Member

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    2002/2003 era was the best. Although storms were brewing with cutbacks, the park peaked with the opening of Splash. Just think of the lineup the park had at the time, the best it's had in its history. It would take a few years for the rot to set in. Bearing in mind I was in my early 20's by this point so it's not a nostalgic thing (that would belong to any season between 1992 and 1998).

    The worst is between 2016 and 2017. But 2017 takes the crown. I don't need to add any further to what has already been said about this time, but by 2017, with the shadow of Wickerman looming, the park felt just that little bit more pathetic than it did the year before. And correct me if I'm wrong but I think opening hours were somehow even a slight bit worse in 17 than they were in 16.


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  12. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    @Matt.GC I’d be intrigued to know; what is it about 2017 that seemed worse than 2016 for you? Because for me, I’d say that 2017 actually seemed like a bit of an improvement on 2016; guest figures were beginning to pick back up, Wicker Man was being constructed, and really good things like Hex reopening after TLC happened that year. Whereas 2016 seemed to have less of a general buzz, from my perspective; the aforementioned Wicker Man construction site in 2017 was replaced by the SBNO Flume in 2016, Hex was closed, and visitor numbers were still pretty low on the whole. I’ll admit that Galactica and the RCR were solid additions, though, as much as I went off the VR element of Galactica a bit once the novelty had worn off.

    From 2018 onwards, I think the park really seems to have hit its stride once again!
     
  13. venny

    venny TowersStreet Member

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    Broad brush, but I see the park’s ascendency and decline in periods of time:

    Early 80s: An explosive start with ambitious investment - see Corkscrew, Rapids,Log Flume, the parades and infrastructure investments.

    Late 80s going into the new decade: a gradual decline from a lack of investment and attention due to The Battersea distraction.

    Early 90s to 2001/2: Another round of massive investment and innovation arising from Tussauds’s takeover. That begins to drop off in quality and ambition as we approach Air. Splash Landings arguably being the last real quality Tussauds foray. by

    Mid 2000s-2007: Creativity wanes with DIC, uninspiring additions like Rita and Spinball with lots of false hope from blue sky projects which never come to fruition. The first Wardley retirement.

    Late 2000s: The Merlin takeover is seen as a massive positive given the previous years and a view that the park was being run by accountants (oh how naive we were!). Merlin start positively with Mutiny Bay and continue to make improvements and try new things. Thirteen is a let down and there starts a slow, bust hastening decline in nearly all aspects from 2011 onwards.

    2016: Poor operations were a thing well before, but the crash accelerates the decline. Operations are generally appalling relative to the good years and cuts proliferate.

    Present day: I don’t see Wickerman as the massive positive others do - it is for all intents and purposes just another (pretty poor) ride experience disguised by decent themeing. However, the green shoots start to appear late in 2020 with the likes of Oktoberfest. That change feels like it will continue into this new season, which could either be a false dawn or hopefully another upswing in the park’s operation.
     
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    Posted 6th Apr 2021
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  14. Matt.GC

    Matt.GC TowersStreet Member

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    Sorry, I've only just read this. 2017 had even shorter opening hours (on the day, not talking about closed days) than 2016. 17, I seem to recall (correct me if I'm wrong) was the year they went after the single rider queues. Galactica VR was a new experience and worked for at least some of 2016. By 2017 it was half retired and mostly broken, even the bridge vinyls were hanging off the walls after just a year. 16 was the last full year the Rapids operated properly (and in the dark at Scarefest). The KC pathway was shut in 17. 17 was the year we lost yet another flat with the closure of Toadstool. Another massive blow to the variety of park lineup was the closure of the 4d cinema. 17 marked the year where CCL was left in an unacceptably depressing state.

    Granted we got Hex back and you could look at some diggers rather than the abandoned Flume, plus some new paint jobs to look at here and there but that was about it.

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