Wicksteed Park has appointed Alasdair McNee as its new managing director as it continues to strengthen its position as a top family attraction and the home of children’s play.
Mr McNee joins the park, near Kettering, from Chester Zoo, where he was commercial director. He oversaw a re-branding and a doubling in profits at the world famous attraction over four years, as well as introducing new restaurants and award-winning events.
He has spoken of his vision to broaden Wicksteed Park’s appeal even further as he takes over the reins.
The park was founded by Charles Wicksteed, who invented the modern day slide and swing, as part of his vision to inspire and encourage play as part of families' health and well-being.
In his new role Alasdair is looking to continue to strengthen community links and he will also drive forward ambitious improvement plans at the much-loved 90-year-old park. They include a £2million project to improve the lake – the first stage in a wider scheme which will see the creation of a large amphitheatre, new pathways around the lake and arboretum and the creation of water play areas for children. Other plans include a zip wire for older children and teenagers and opening up the islands on the lake. The park’s elegant Edwardian pavilion and wedding venue has just been renovated as part of the continuing work to strengthen the attraction.
Mr McNee, who has also worked as marketing director for national hotel chains De Vere Group and McDonald Hotels, said: “This is a fantastic job and I’m really excited about the future of Wicksteed Park. The potential here is amazing.
"Once the lake project is completed, I am particularly keen to enhance the wonderful green spaces we have and make them even more engaging to children and people of all generations.
Widening the Experience
"Increasing the educational side of what we do is also key – both in our work to support schools and tell the wonderful story of the park's history and development and also to engage with the local community and get them actively involved with what we are trying to achieve.
“The park status as a charity means there are not large cash reserves to draw on but we still have ambitious plans to broaden the appeal of the park away from just the rides and also bring in natural play for children.
“It’s about widening the experience so we can open the park up to new audiences, including families with pre-school children. We’re looking to strengthen our links with the local community even further, through projects such as our new Walking Festival, launched this summer.
“It’s all about making Wicksteed Park even more of an attraction for local people of all ages and building on its natural beauty and its heritage. We have a lot more to offer and it is a continual process of improvement.
“An increasing amount of work is now being done to offer an improved educational programme for schools based on the park’s history and its founder Charles Wicksteed’s unique role in the development of children’s play.”
Wicksteed Park, one of the most popular attractions in the East Midlands, has been awarded just over £1million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to support the restoration of the magnificent main lake.
The lake is an important landscape feature and a reminder of park creator Charles Wicksteed's original vision. It was created between 1919-21 prior to the park being formally opened in 1921. The beautiful 147-acre country park, one of the oldest in the UK, combines a wide range of attractions for all ages with the largest free playground in Europe – and some of the oldest thrill rides in the UK, including the 1926 Water Chute.
The park also contains a nature reserve run by the Wildlife Trust. For more information: www.wicksteedpark.co.uk