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Amusement Parks: Merlin to Open Three New Attracions in Blackpool as Part of Regeneration Programme

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Related: Merlin Entertainments: Financial Results for the year to Dec 26th ’09 / Merlin tops Fastest Growing PE Owned Companies in UK for a record Breaking Third Year 
 
Global visitor attractions operator, Merlin Entertainments (Merlin), has been appointed by Blackpool Council to manage the redevelopment and operations of the iconic Blackpool Tower complex and Louis Tussauds Waxworks.  This is part of a ground breaking regeneration initiative designed to bring the town back into the premier league of European holiday centres. 

A major £10m Council funded investment programme starting in the autumn will establish the iconic Blackpool Tower complex and associated buildings as a world class family leisure destination for the future. Merlin’s global expertise at running successful visitor attractions, and the arrival of their high profile internationally renowned attraction brands in the town, will be key to achieving this.  

Merlin already has a long association with Blackpool through its SEA LIFE centre which is located on the Promenade close to the complex; but as part of this deal Merlin will bring three more of its international brands to Blackpool:    

In the Tower complex itself they will introduce:

     a thrilling new Dungeon attraction

     Merlin will use its experience in operating the world famous London Eye to develop the current observation platform at the top of the Tower into an
     exciting new ‘Eye’ branded experience, including a 4D cinema preview show. 

Additionally, the current Louis Tussauds wax attraction close by will be transformed into a second UK Madame Tussauds, with all the interactivity and high quality figures associated with this unique brand.  

The current restoration programme for Blackpool Tower itself will also continue, and from next year visitors will again be able to wander round and enjoy the beautiful historic building.  Finally, the famous Ballroom and Circus will be retained and are expected to be in great demand in the future to host a programme of exciting new events.  

Madame Tussauds will open in Spring 2011.  The first of the new attractions in the Tower complex is scheduled to open later in the year; with all works completed for early 2012.  

Blackpool Council estimates that these investment plans could bring an extra 800, 000 visitors to the town every year generating up to £55m more spend right across the resort (see editors note for details).

This ambitious project has been made possible following successful bids for European and Government funding by Blackpool Council, combined with a £10m contribution from the town’s own budget. This allowed the Council to pursue its successful acquisition of the Blackpool Tower complex and associated businesses, which completes later this year.  

Commenting, Merlin Entertainments’ Chief Executive Nick Varney said: “This is a very innovative and ground breaking initiative by Blackpool Council, and a measure of just how seriously they take the regeneration of the town. We are delighted to be playing a key role.  From 2011 no other UK European centre other than London will be able to offer such a broad selection of international attraction brands.  This will help take what is already the best loved, and in our view most iconic, seaside destinations in Europe into the premier league as an exceptional new family holiday destination.

‘The unique location; together with the City Council’s planned investment in the Tower; and Merlin’s expertise and brands will we believe be an unbeatable partnership and offer significant commercial advantages for Merlin and Blackpool.’ 

Council Leader Peter Callow said. ”This is a fantastic deal for Blackpool securing long-term investment in the resort, and is the culmination of months of negotiations. 

He continued: “Merlin is just the kind of operator we need.  Merlin is a global company, and the biggest entertainment name in the UK and Europe.  It is just the kind of world class operator we need with the track record of running quality attractions that people visit time and again, and they will be bringing some of the most iconic attractions in the world to Blackpool. The Council is ambitious for Blackpool and Merlin is absolutely the right choice of partner for us.”

Sir Howard Bernstein, Chair of ReBlackpool, said: “This is a bold but necessary initiative which provides the best possible platform for strengthening the destination role of the town. I am confident that this will result in a significant increase in jobs and visitor numbers and will weld together all the other valuable projects and programmes which are designed to make Blackpool an attractive place to live, visit and invest. "

Craig Hemmings, Director of Leisure Parcs said: “We are extremely proud of our long association with Blackpool Tower, Winter Gardens, Louis Tussauds and The Golden Mile Centre but we recognise that these popular assets are part of Blackpool’s heritage. We have worked hard with Blackpool Council to find a deal that would allow these iconic attractions to be owned by the Town, and to be enjoyed by future generations”.

Hoteliers and businesses in Blackpool have hailed the deal saying it will put Blackpool well and truly back on the tourism spotlight for families from all over Britain.

Councillor Maxine Callow, Cabinet Member for Tourism and Regeneration said: “This is an amazing opportunity for Blackpool to really reap the benefits from having such major brands operating in our area.

“The deal will see Merlin market the Blackpool attractions across the UK and in Europe helping to raise our profile as a tourist resort.”

Enquiries
 
Merlin Entertainments Group Tel: ++ 4420 8899 6110/ ++ 208 948 4225 / ++ 7774 415372
Sally Ann Wilkinson
Penny Roberts
 
Tulchan Communications Tel: ++ 44 20 7353 4200
Susanna Voyle
Tom Rayner
 
Blackpool Council
Suzanne Halliwell, Head of Communications at Blackpool Council on 01253 477133 or Suzanne.halliwell@blackpool.gov.uk 

Editors notes:

 
MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS GROUP is the leading name in location based family entertainment, and has seen the most successful and dynamic growth of any company in the sector over the last six years.   Europe’s No 1, and the world’s second largest visitor attraction operator, Merlin has 61 attractions, 6 hotels and two holiday villages in 13 countries, across 3 continents.   The company aims to deliver memorable and rewarding experiences to its 38.5 million visitors worldwide, through its iconic global and local brands, and the commitment and passion of its managers and 15, 000 employees.   

Merlin’s UK portfolio includes the Alton Towers Resort, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures, Warwick Castle, SEA LIFE centres; the Dungeons, Madame Tussauds, LEGOLAND, the Merlin Entertainments London Eye., and its newest attraction – the first UK LEGOLAND Discovery Centre – opened in Manchester earlier this month.   
 
  Blackpool Council has completed the purchase of the 
  Blackpool Tower, Winter Gardens, the Golden Mile and Louis Tussauds from Leisure Parcs Ltd
 
  Funding for the purchases and investment has been secured from:
    Blackpool Council £10m
    Northwest European Regional Development Fund £14m
    Northwest Regional Development Agency £7.9m
    Homes and Communities Agency £7m
 
  
Figures quoted are from the economic appraisal of the Blackpool Leisure Assets

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