At a press conference in Blackpool Merlin Entertainments’ global CEO Nick Varney announced that the redevelopment works on the iconic Blackpool Tower were progressing so well that all parts of it would be open again on 1st September – the day before the switch on of Blackpool’s 2011 illuminations.
This news comes just 12 months after Blackpool Council, with funding from NWDA, ERDF and HCA, purchased the iconic Tower as a key part of the town’s regeneration programme; and entered into partnership with Merlin to develop the building further and run the businesses.
Merlin already has a long association with the town through its SEA LIFE aquarium on the Promenade, but for Varney and his team, the chance to help develop and to operate the Tower ongoing was an opportunity not to be missed. Merlin believes that Blackpool has the potential, and the vision, to once again become one of Europe’s leading family holiday destinations.
Commenting Varney said; “Only last week the Government launched its Tourism Strategy one element of which is to encourage visitors to the UK to see beyond London, and to experience some of the other wonderful elements the UK has to offer. Blackpool and the North West should be at the heart of that policy. A measure of Merlin’s own commitment to the region is that by 1st September we will be operating no less than 7 attractions here in Blackpool – more than anywhere else in the UK, even London. Add to that our LEGOLAND Discovery Centre in Manchester, and our belief in the future of North West tourism is evident.”
The Tower Transformation
1st September will mark the successful completion of the first, and most extensive, phase of the Tower’s transformation including:
- The reopening of the Tower top observation platform as the Blackpool Tower Eye, with sensational new viewing access including an extended glass floor area, and the addition of a 4D cinema offering visitors the chance to take a birds eye view of Blackpool through the seasons just before they go onto the Eye itself.
- The opening of the grisly Blackpool Tower Dungeon depicting the ‘worst’ of UK/North West History including Cromwell’s exploits and the Pendle Witch trials.
- The fully restored Ballroom roof including glass ceiling which will allow visitors to dance under the stars
- A wonderful new entrance and refurbished common areas with much improved signage and access
More than that from September 1st access to the Tower will be completely free, with all visitors able to enjoy the beautiful building, and only paying for those attractions that they want to visit. A range of flexible ticket options, including annual passes, will also allow holidaymakers to try everything, but in a time frame to suit themselves. Merlin also believes that this will encourage local visitors to make the Tower a regular venue whether it is a trip to the circus or Tower Top with family and friends, or afternoon tea with “the girls” in the Ballroom.
With Merlin’s third new attraction, Madame Tussauds Blackpool, due to open on 21st April, Varney also used his visit to the Tower Ballroom to “unveil” one of the fantastic new figures which will be featured in there, and which over recent years has been so clearly associated with that room through Strictly Come Dancing – Bruce Forsyth. Like all Madame Tussauds around the world the design and choice of all the figures in the Blackpool attraction will reflect the best of the town – its fun and special atmosphere – including footballers and sports personalities and stars of the small screen like Bruce and the recently unveiled Gok Wan.
Joining Nick at the event, Peter Callow Leader of Blackpool Council talked about overall progress on Blackpool’s regeneration programme. Peter Callow said: “As the Leader of Blackpool Council, I knew we had to take action to stop the decline of this magnificent building. It was essential to restore this national treasure and bring it back to its former glory.
It was imperative to put the Tower at the heart of Blackpool Tourism strategy – saving and creating jobs – ensuring family visitors continue to come back to Blackpool.
The Council taking ownership of leisure attractions was a very ambitious proposal and we are delighted to have Merlin here in Blackpool operating the Tower.”
Summarising Nick Varney said: “Blackpool is a very special town, in a very important region of the country for tourism. The North West has a culture and enthusiasm which is infectious; and Blackpool has a belief in itself and its future success which is demonstrated by the Council’s ambitious regeneration plans. We are delighted to be a part of those plans – and look forward to a long and successful partnership.”
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 five years. Europe’s Number 1 and the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator, 70 attractions, six hotels/two holiday villages in 16 countries and across four continents. The company aims to deliver memorable and rewarding experiences to its more than 40 million visitors worldwide, through its iconic global and local brands, and the commitment and passion of its managers and more than 15, 000 employees. Merlin Entertainments’ brands include – SEA LIFE – the world’s biggest aquarium brand; Madame Tussauds, LEGOLAND, The London Eye, Dungeons, Gardaland, LEGOLAND Discovery Centres, Alton Towers Resort, Warwick Castle, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures, Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Tower Observation and Skywalk Heide Park and Earth Explorer.