Rides and slides and flumes and pools at a state-of-the-art waterpark are part of the east coast resort’s ongoing efforts to revitalise its tourist industry Slide away
Imagine you are one of the world’s leading waterpark operators, with £14m burning a hole in your pocket and a desire for a UK gig – pre-Brexit vote, of course. Where do you go? London? Edinburgh? Cardiff? Not if you’re Anton Hoefter, CEO of German aqua-fun expert Alpamare, which has constructed some of the world’s most advanced waterparks. Anton likes Scarborough. “When we saw the visitor numbers and the potential location, with this sea view, we couldn’t ignore it,” he says. There is also the fact that the English east coast does not have anything like this: the new waterpark, which opens to the public on 30 July, has the kind of slides and wave machines you would previously have needed to travel to Florida or Dubai to experience. One of the flumes takes groups of four on “boats” that drop the height of three double-decker buses – a fall that designer Rick Hunter promises will create a feeling of weightlessness and disorientation.
Hunter, a former champion Canadian ski-racer, brought about a revolution in water slides when he had the notion of applying bobsleigh-run geometries to flumes. The results can be spectacular. Scarborough will also boast the Black Hole, a slide that hopes to record the UK’s fastest ride speeds – of more than 30mph. The thrills continue with the Cresta Run, a flume based closely on its bobsleigh namesake in St Moritz. For the more sedate – or you might say sane – visitor there are plenty of other attractions, including a heated indoor wave pool and play area, and four heated outdoor pools, including another first no one expected to see in Scarborough – an infinity pool enjoying that sea view over North Bay. A spa is opening in January 2017.
It’s not the first time that Scarborough has turned to water for visitor satisfaction. In the early 19th century it became enormously popular for spa cures, attracting luminaries such as the Brontë sisters. The glamour faded, however, and in recent years its reputation has been more for shabbiness. The lovely setting, harbour and beach were unchanged, of course, but a lot of buildings were in sore need of a lick of paint. A big push by the local council and some big-ticket projects have started a major revival, centred on the North Bay area, where a 1930s open-air theatre has been turned into a 7,000-seat stadium (James Bay kicked off the summer season; Noel Gallagher and Busted are due).
On top of that, surfing has been discovered, the fishing industry revitalised (prawns and scallops), and the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race has twice chosen to stage finishes along the spectacular Marine Drive between south and north bays. There’s a buzz about the place that was notably absent a few years ago. Visit England statistics show it is now second only to London in terms of holiday trips for visitors. With staycation holidays the theme of the year, it looks like Alpamare has timed its Scarborough run to perfection.