55 and one half years old. At that age, you could already be a grandparent or, if you were a pilot, retired. Over half a century! Yet, that is the average age of the roller coasters at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. The newest roller coaster there is 17 years old (despite the fact it was moved to Blackpool in 2007). I love Blackpool. It’s quirky and fun, a living antique. I go to enjoy the rides that time forgot – wooden Wild Mouse, the Moebius Grand National, and the unique Steeplechase. Blackpool is a museum to old rides – great or innovative in their day. But now, Blackpool is getting a new rollercoaster. The first addition in 9 years, the first new roller coaster since the record setting Big One was built in 1994, and this ride brings Blackpool right up to date.
Mack rides, while not so big in the United States, are very popular in Europe. Europa-Park, owned and run by Mack, is one of the best theme parks in the world and a showroom for the manufacturer to display its goods to prospective buyers. The Mack Mega coaster launched onto the scene in 2009 with Blue Fire. The powerful launch, smooth inversions, ejector airtime, and comfortable lap bar restraints won over enthusiasts and the “general public” and gave it a great reputation throughout the industry. Since Blue Fire, Mack rides knocked it out of the park with Helix at Liseberg. The twin LSM launch, 62mph top speed, smooth inversions, and stunning LED lit trains blew away expectations. Now, the latest Mack Mega coaster is coming to Blackpool.
Set to open in 2018 at a price of £16.25 million (around $20 million USD), the yet unnamed roller coaster will be 3,750ft long, 88ft tall, and feature two LSM launches, taking the ride to a maximum speed of 55mph. The ride will sit in between Infusion, Big One, Steeple Chase, and Big Dipper in the only way a ride can fit in at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, going over and under all other respective rides due to the lack of free space available on the sea front.
The computer-animated video of the ride that was released by the park shows a camelback after the first launch, like Blue Fire, which no doubt acts as the high point of the ride to ensure a roll back in case of loss of power instead of the ride stalling somewhere mid layout. The first half of the ride stays close to the ground and other rides, accentuating the feeling of speed by their proximity in your peripheral vision. A couple of airtime hills taken sideways looks a lot of fun with a heartline roll before dropping down to the second launch and straight into an Immelmann. The second half of the ride twists left and right, no doubt between the other rides at the park, and looks to have a couple of good airtime moments too.
The animated point of view footage reminds me of Taron at Phantasialand, unrelenting twists and hills interspersed between two launches, but, instead of avoiding heavily themed rock walls, this ride will be navigating it was in between iconic British roller coasters. It looks a lot of fun.
The pluses I see about this ride are: it’s what the park and the United Kingdom need. It will be far and away the best airtime roller coaster in the UK when it debuts. It will be smooth, and the lap bars are very comfortable, which will hopefully take away the stigma in the UK that it’s safer to have uncomfortable over the shoulder restraints if the ride inverts.
The minuses of this coaster are – well, I don’t really see any. Blue Fire is a great ride that I could marathon yet get a thrill every time I go on it. I have some hopes for this project though. I hope the station fits in. Blackpool Pleasure Beach has some amazing theming, some art deco treasures, and some things that just don’t fit. I hope that, if this ride is themed, it is well done (they can do it; look at Valhalla). I also think that, if there isn’t an incredible lighting package on this ride, they have missed a trick. Mack has already shown that LED’s on the wheels of the train are possible along with headlights and hopefully track lighting. Blackpool is famous for its night time ‘illuminations’ and having a brand new brightly coloured and lit roller coaster will only add to the attraction as a whole.
2018 is going to be a big year for roller coasters in the UK. Alton Towers announcing a ‘secret weapon’ usually steals the headlines. What is yet to be seen is whether this will be a repeat of 1994 when the Big One and Nemesis rejuvenated the theme parks of the North of England. Maybe, this is the murmuring of a second coaster war. Most importantly, things look incredibly bright for Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and healthy competition is always good for the consumer.
[Image courtesy of Blackpool Pleasure Beach.]