Fun Park ready to 'manufacture smiles' as new season gets under way

Nick Thompson
Nick Thompson
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Striding around the Pleasure Beach Nick Thompson is a man on a mission.

All around the park there are flurries of last minute activity – workmen busy making sure everything is in its place for opening day.

Inside one food outlet a gang of workers are busy putting the finishing touches to new displays.

Nick breaks away from the tour to check on progress, to make sure every last detail is right.

“Every morning the first thing I do when I drive in is get out and about the park,” says the deputy managing director, who along with sister Amanda keeps a close watch over what is still very much a family business.

“It’s important to be hands on, to see for yourself.

“People might think we’re managing from an office but we’re not.

“Being on the park, speaking to staff, seeing things for ourselves, it’s very important to me and to Amanda too.

“Its something we’re very proud of, we’re in the business of manufacturing smiles.”

All around the site there are things to check, Nick popping in to a new donut outlet at the base of the Big One to make some last minute suggestions, pausing to chat with two engineers working to bring a barbecue back to life.

These are the finishing touches, the final flourishes to ensure that when the gates open for the first of the half price Wow! weekends there are no glitches.

Nick said: “We have the longest seasonal operation anywhere in the world.

“Orlando, that’s year-round.

“But we don’t really have that much down time.

“As soon as the season ends we have to be on and ready, all the maintenance needs to be done.

“We have a great team and I know everything will be ready, I have every faith.”

Nick admits some jobs, including painting, will have to wait until the weather improves.

But there’s no doubt the Pleasure Beach is ready for the crowds.

Inside the casino building newly recruited staff are going through the last of their training, with seminars and roleplay exercises.

More than 100 workers have already been taken on with a second round of recruitment set to take place before the Pleasure Beach hits top gear for the busy summer season.

Not only are there counter staff, ride operators and food workers, but there’s a new entertainment team in place for Nickelodeon Land.

“We don’t just interview for Team Nick, we audition.”

“They are all round entertainers and we try to make sure we find the best.

“I’m sure there are stars of stage and screen who have started out as Micky Mouse, we believe we can produce the same.”

Nickelodeon Land was a major investment for the Pleasure Beach when it was opened in 2011.

And Nick believes, thanks to the latest trends among youngsters, it is set to pay off this season.

A quick detour into one of the shops reveals hundreds of items of Paw Patrol merchandise.

“It’s the biggest brand for young children at the moment and we’ve got it here,” said Nick.

“We’ve got two extra paw patrol characters on the park this year, we’ve really gone big on it.

“It’s one of the advantages of the tie up with Nickelodeon.

“I spoke to others in the industry when we went with this.

“There’s the Thomas Land at Drayton Manor which is always going to be a big brand.

“But with Nickelodeon we’ve got multiple brand, always getting the latest trends.

“We’re really well positioned to take advantage,”

The popularity of on park characters isn’t the only boost Nick is hoping to see this summer.

With the pound at a near all-time low against the Euro holidays abroad are becoming more expensive.

And with Brits more wary about heading abroad the Pleasure Beach and Blackpool are well positioned to benefit.

Nick said: “I think we may see more people deciding to holiday at home.

“It’s more expensive to go abroad.

“I’m not sure people see it as more of a risk, but it certainly isn’t as competitive on cost.

“That should play to our advantage, not just at the Pleasure Beach, but Blackpool as a whole.

“We’ll keep on with our marketing spend and we’re reaching out well beyond the North West.

“It’s a national message and it brings people not just to us but to the town.

“What is good for the Pleasure Beach is good for Blackpool.”

At the centre of the park is a huge building site where Construction 2018 is taking shape.

The new double-launch rollercoaster won’t be completed for another year but Nick, who masterminded the £16.25m project, is hoping it will prove a draw before it’s even begun to rise from the ground.

He said: “I’ll bet you on the first day there will be people looking over the boards trying to get an idea of the scale of it.

“It will create a buzz now, and of course it will be a real selling point for next year.”

The Pleasure Beach project is being built at the same time as a huge new wooden rollercoaster at Alton Towers.

But Nick insist the two parks aren’t in competition.

He said: “I think if you look at the distances it’s not really a rivalry.

“If anything we work together.

“I remember when the Big One opened, it was when they launched Nemesis and Drayton Manor brought out Shockwave.

“They were all different rides and all first for this country.

“Together it created a buzz about rollercoasters and we all benefited.”

Alongside the construction site sits the Big Dipper, one of the historic wooden coasters for which the Pleasure Beach is famed.

And Nick Thompson knows more than anyone how important they are to the resort and to the heritage of a trade in which he thrives.

He said: “The heritage is so important to us.

“We feel like we are custodians and its a huge responsibility.

“It’s a great honour to look after these rides which continue to be enjoyed by so many people.”

And with more events designed to bring in the crowds, Nick is hoping there will be more riders than ever this season, helping the park to build on two-years of solid profits.

He said: “We’re constantly planning events and we’ll be launching them through the season.

“There will be more late riding nights this year – they were, I think our busiest days in 2016.

“We’re planning eight for 2017 including a Ministry of Sound night which will be hugely exciting.

“We really can’t wait to get going.”

The Pleasure Beach is open for Wow! weekends from now until April 1 with wristbands priced at £16.25 when bought in advance online at www.blackpoolpleasurebeach.com