Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Location: Blackpool, UK
Blackpool Pleasure Beach, one of the most visited tourist attractions in the UK, is located along the coast of the Irish Sea in Blackpool, Lancashire, England, UK. The park is privately owned by the Thompson family. It includes a four star hotel, called the Big Blue Hotel, which opened in 2003, a mini-golf course, and in 2011, a dedicated children’s area called Nickelodeon Land. The park has a long history dating back to 1896 when it was founded by William George Bean, who purchased 30 acres of land formerly known as the Watson Estate. Bean and his partner John Outwaite dreamed of turning Blackpool into a park inspired by the US park, Coney Island. The first attractions at the park were a Hiram Maxim Captive Flying Machine and a water ride called the River Caves of the World. When William George Bean died, he left the park to his daughter, Lillian Doris Bean Thompson, who took over the park in 1929.
The first appearance of a roller coaster happened in 1906, the year that Henry Iles was brought in to build the Scenic Railway. The L.A. Thompson-designed Railway brought wooden roller coasters to northern England for the first time. Three years later, Blackpool installed their largest wooden ride - John Miller's Velvet Coaster. 1922 brought Virginia Reel, one of the latest international ride fads and a predecessor to the wild mouse. But the major addition of the 20s came the next season, when John Miller's Big Dipper opened. The Big Dipper became one of the largest coasters of its time, at 60 feet in height and a track length of 3,300 feet.
Throughout the 1930s, Blackpool updated its collection of rides. It closed the Velvet Coaster but used parts of it to create Roller Coaster (1933-2010). This coaster has since been renamed Nickelodeon Streak. The park also dismantled Scenic Railway. That was only the beginning. The following season, in 1934, Zipper Dipper, now known as Blue Flyer, a PTC coaster designed by Charlie Paige, arrived at the park as the Pleasure Beach collection's fourth wooden coaster. Finally, 1935 would bring Harry Traver's racer called the Grand National. Modeled after Traver's Cyclone Racer overseas, Grand National, one of three Mobius loop coasters, became the star attraction of Blackpool for many years to come.
In the years that followed, several smaller new rides were installed, but any major additions would have to wait until after World War II. In 1958, a new coaster landed at the park with the opening of the Wild Mouse, one of the world's few wood-tracked mice rides. With the rising of the steel coaster the next year, Blackpool's coasters were about to head in a new direction.
The 1970s became the next big decade of coaster additions, kicked off with a compact steel twister, Cyclone, the first steel coaster in the region. With 1977 came Arrow Dynamics' triple-racing single-rail Steeplechase steelie with a modern design playing off of the similar rides of the 20s. This coaster is the last coaster of its type in existence. Blackpool Pleasure Beach introduced the first inversion on a steel coaster to Europe with 1979's Irn Bru Revolution, a modified Arrow Dynamics launched shuttle-looping design sending riders through a vertical loop twice.
Other coasters were added then removed but of note, Avalanche, a twisting bobsled coaster from Mack was added in 1988 and in 1994, Arrow's (Pepsi Max) Big One was opened to the world, towering over all other steel megacoasters at a then-unprecedented 235 feet high and spanning nearly the entire length and breadth of the Pleasure Beach. For the year 2000, Valhalla arrived, coming from Intamin AG as a themed enclosed flume attraction.
Today, as the Thompson family’s second and third generations have taken over and transformed the park into a modern, aesthetically pleasing place for ride enthusiasts, they have added other rides or relocated rides from other family holdings as well. For example, Pleasure Beach now is home to Infusion (formerly TraumaTizer), a Vekoma steel inverted coaster relocated from Pleasureland Southport. It is the only steel invert entirely suspended over water. The park also recently added Wallace and Gromit Thrill-O-Matic, a new dark ride.
Most recently, the Thompson family has re-branded the park as Pleasure Beach Resort. The Pleasure Beach has one of the largest, most dense and most unusual collections of rides of any amusement park in the world (40 rides including 10 coasters), and the road goes ever on with new rides and attractions just around the corner.
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