We caught up with Philip Miller, owner of Adventure Island, Southend-on-Sea. We talked about the milestones in the park’s history and what lies ahead for the ever expanding seaside park. The park has been owned by the Miller family since 1976 and has continued to grow and evolve.
Rage is now in its third season. Do you consider that installation as a milestone in the history of the park?
The installation of Rage is certainly one of the key milestones in the history of Adventure Island, along with the East Side expansion. It signified to enthusiasts and customers why we are the UK’s No.1 Free Admission Fun Park and that we are committed to continually investing in the future of the park.
Was it a difficult decision to remove the log flume for construction of the roller coaster, or does Rage better suit the site and your audience?
The Raging River Log Flume was one of our most popular attractions and it was upsetting to have to remove it, however it was showing its age and combined with the high running costs it felt like it was the right time to remove it. With regards to whether Raging River better suited our target audience, as both rides have the same height restriction (1.2 metres or over) and the fact that children are becoming much more daring nowadays, Rage has proved to be an ideal replacement that has greatly appealed to our target audience just as well as Raging River.
Gerstlauer have begun to install some iconic rides globally. Two other Euro Fighter rides have appeared in the UK since Rage debuted. Have you ridden either of them?
I’m yet to experience Saw The Ride and Speed, however Rage was voted by BBC’s Blue Peter as one of the UK’s most thrilling Roller Coasters so I feel we have one of the best examples of a Euro Fighter right here in Southend-on-Sea.
Around the time of the ride opening, I read that you had considered acquiring the rights to a superhero character with a view to launching the ride with a different theme. Can you see a time where the park will buy into a brand for a larger ride or children’s attraction?
Although using a known brand does mean it can assist in appealing to your target market, it does also mean a large chunk of your budget is taken on purchasing the license to use the brand which means less money spent on the ride itself, which I feel is where the money should be spent.
However I’m not ruling out the possibility of ever using a known brand for a future attraction, it would all be a case of if it is the right brand for us and if the price is right as well.
The park has been organising special themed weekends throughout the year, including the forthcoming Pirate Weekend. Have these events been successful?
Our Themed Weekends (Caribbean, Circus and Pirate) have proved popular among our customers, unlike other Theme Parks guests can enter Adventure Island and enjoy all of the event entertainment for free without even paying a penny which makes us very unique.
Entertainment has played a major part at Adventure Island throughout this year with not only our Themed Weekends but also our Big Saturday Night Out event which takes place every Saturday throughout September and October where guests can enjoy a Live DJ, some of the best tribute acts in the UK, Seafront Fireworks and our Illuminations.
We are currently reviewing our Themed Events for next year, so watch this space.
The park is unusual among UK parks for a couple of reasons. Firstly the park has a 12 month season and secondly the park regularly remains open until late in the evening. Are these factors important to your business model?
Staying open until late in the evenings is a vital part of the parks business model and we generally find that out of town customers visit during the day, while our regular local customers normally visit in the evening and take advantage of our Half Price Wristbands after 6pm. However opening all year round is not as important to our business model as staying open until late in the evening, in fact we have recently decided to close completely throughout December 2010 and January 2011 due to the large amount of construction work that is taking place for our 2011 additions.
Is the physical size of the site going to hinder future development at the park?
Space is at a premium for us and it is the biggest issue affecting future developments, to make way for our 2011 attraction we have had to construct a brand new arcade underneath our Mighty Mini Mega Roller Coaster then demolish the old Lucky Strike arcade situated next to it. We are constantly trying to think of new ways in which we can create more space and it does unfortunately get to a point every now and then where we do have to remove a ride to make way for a new one.
Developments at many UK parks are often hindered due to issues with planning permission. Is that something the park has had to overcome?
Obtaining planning permission is always a lengthy process and we along with many other parks have encountered issues at times, that is why you will find a number of our rides are transportable so we do not have to apply for planning permission.
If space, planning and money were no object, what sort of attraction would you like to install?
As Adventure Island is situated in the UK’s driest and warmest region a major water ride would have a large amount of appeal to our customers, especially during the hot summer months and one water ride in particular I’d like to install but never would be able to due to lack of space is a “River Rapids” attraction as these are fantastic family attractions that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
G-Force would like to thank Philip Miller, George Bejko-Cowlbeck & Adventure Island Guide for their assistance with this week’s content.