Chessington World of Adventures Resort today held a public consultation event to provide an initial insight into their plans to add a new Waterpark Adventure attraction as an extension to the existing Safari Hotel.
Due to be constructed at the back of the Safari Hotel, extending out into the north-west area, the Resort state that the waterpark will create an indoor sub-tropical paradise through a variety of water-based activities. These will include themed pools and slides, a spa area, a wave pool and a lazy river which transports guests outside, through an area overlooking the existing Wanyama Reserve. It will create a ‘wild adventure’ by bringing guests closer to animals, including two indoor floor to ceiling fish tanks and a meerkat enclosure visible from the lazy river.
The waterpark will be set across two levels, with the main guest experience area and an outdoor terrace on the lower level, and a small food and beverage provision on the upper indoor mezzanine level. The upper level also features an indoor infinity pool and cabanas. The concept images released suggest the waterpark will have a rainforest / jungle type theme, featuring water-squirting statues of elephants and monkeys, overgrown ruins, and caves. A key theming feature looks to be a large elephant statue, that incorporates two slides as its tusks. Based on the corresponding concept image and floor plan, it looks as though the aforementioned meerkat enclosure will be located in the area behind this.
The outdoor attractions are shown to include an infinity pool, a lazy river and an action river (i.e. a more fast-paced, an turbulent experience than the lazy river). There will also be a new indoor restaurant, connected to the outdoor terrace and utilising the same kitchen as the existing Zafari Bar and Grill. The development also includes a new, separate hub building in the outdoor area, referred to as the Lazy River Retreat. This is due to provide additional leisure space as well as food and beverage options. Although not stated, it appears as though this could be accessible to guests who stay in the Safari Lodges once they open. Plans for this additional accommodation option first emerged in April 2017, although they were revised and stripped-back in late 2018. Work on this development is said to have started (although this is understood to have so far only been limited, and just to ensure the planning approval remains valid), with the Resort intending to complete the development over the next few years, presumably to coordinate its opening with the waterpark.
The entrance and changing area to the new waterpark will replace the existing conference centre facilities, which are said to be underused. This will include reworking the hotel lobby area to install entry/exit barriers to the waterpark, with this entrance also shown to feature a fish tank. With the increased visitation expected, a new drop off area will be created outside the front of the Safari Hotel. Nonetheless, it is stated that there is not expected to be a noticeable impact on the local highway network due to the times at which the Resort anticipate most guests to be arrive and leave.
The exterior of the newly constructed building will incorporate a blend of natural and contemporary materials, with it due to be predominantly clad in timber. There will also be sections of full-height glazing, allowing guests to look out into the Wanyama Reserve, while the roof will consist of photovoltaic panels (i.e. convert thermal energy into electricity) and large rooflights. The roof will also be able to store rainwater, which will be used to water green walls and provide water for the shower and toilet facilities. When considering the impact on views towards the Resort, it is noted that the proposed building is no taller than the existing hotel and that the use of dark, non-reflective material will help to reduce its visual impact.
Whilst there is nothing in the details and concepts released to tie the waterpark to the Jumanji IP, this does seem a plausible prospect and one which would be consistent with the concept images. Reasons for this include the fact that the original announcement of the agreement between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Merlin Entertainments to develop and operate attractions based on the Jumanji film franchise encompassed waterparks, and of course that it would complement the World of Jumanji which is due to open in the theme park in 2023.
The Resort state that the desire to add a waterpark is for the primary reason of encouraging guests to visit more during the traditionally off-peak periods, since they are attractive all year round by virtue of not being weather sensitive. It is also said that the waterpark would help the Resort diversify its offering and increase the number of people taking multi-day short breaks, which would in turn bring additional economic benefits to the local area. The Resort believes that it is well-located for a waterpark since there are no comparable existing waterparks in Greater London or within the M25, and, at a more local level, it is noted that there is a lack of wet leisure and swimming pool facilities in the Kingston Borough. On this latter point, the Resort are said to be considering how it could provide access to the existing Safari Hotel swimming pool or the new Waterpark Adventure to local community groups.
Similar to what was cited during the consultation and planning application for the World of Jumanji, the Resort highlights the importance of investing into and improving itself in order to maintain its attractiveness to guests and continue its recovery from COVID. An updated graph of admission numbers for Merlin’s UK Resort Theme Parks has been published, which includes 2022 figures for Chessington showing a continued recovery from the 2020 low-point. It is noted that recent years have seen a focus on improving the Resort’s accommodation and establishing the site as a Resort, but focus is now shifting to introducing new quality rides and attractions, to be kickstarted by World of Jumanji in 2023. This suggests that there are a series of proposed attractions in the pipeline, of which the Waterpark Adventure is the latest to be brought forward.
No timeline has been given for when the attraction is planned to open, although the formal planning application is expected to be finalised and submitted in early 2023. This will be after the feedback obtained from the consultation has been considered, with an online survey open for two weeks until Wednesday 30th November. The development is stated to have a total construction cost of £30m and require a two year build period. Assuming the application is approved by mid-2023, this could therefore put it on track to open during 2025. Unlike an attraction based in the theme park, its opening will not necessarily be dictated by the standard theme park season, so it seems reasonable that it could open mid-year. This timeframe would put it on track to directly compete with the Great Wolf Lodge under development near Bicester, which will also feature a large-scale indoor waterpark. Once operational, it is claimed that Chessington’s Waterpark Adventure attraction will create 92 additional jobs at the Resort.
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