Indoor park’s days are numbered
Modelled on the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, Metroland in Gateshead, England, opened in 1988, was relaunched as New Metroland in 1996, but will very soon become ex-Metroland. Park World bids farewell.
Metroland occupies a 5,760-metre area of the Metro Centre shopping mall near Newcastle Upon Tyne and was, when it opened, the first indoor theme park in Europe. The project was developed by the Church Commission, which founded the Metro Centre, and designed and initially managed by Forrec, also responsible for the West Edmonton Mall.
Inside the mirror-clad 17-metre-talll building that is Metroland’s home are a package of attractions sourced largely from Zierer and Zamperla, including a Ferris wheel, rollercoaster, wave swinger, pirate ship, waltzer and dodgems, plus many smaller attractions, games, food & beverage and a Mr B’s amusement arcade. All those attractions are now for sale.
Despite the “New Metroland” branding, the ride selection has changed very little from day one. The park’s senior manager, Andy Bailey, says there were plans to put in a new ride a few years ago but the terms of the lease with Capital Shopping Centres (CSC), which now runs the Metro Centre, made this very difficult to do.
Metroland’s final day of operation will be Sunday, April 20, and Arlington Leisure, the present operator of the park, will hand the property back to CSC on June 2. The “Yellow Quadrant” that houses the park will turned into an Odeon cinema upstairs and a Namco bowling alley/gaming area downstairs.
“This next phase will ensure that the Metro Centre continues to offer the best in modern shopping and leisure for local people and visitors to the North East,” says CSC’s development director, Richard Cable.
There will in fact be less leisure space, as the cinema is designed to replace an existing Odeon within the Metro Centre’s Blue Quadrant, which will instead be used for retailing. Of course, for many people shopping now is a leisure pursuit, but Bailey feels the park’s removal robs the Metro Centre of its unique selling point.
“Other malls have got the same stores as us, even bowling alleys and cinemas,” he tells Park World. “The only think that makes the Metro Centre different is Metroland. I think closing it is a big mistake.”
Bailey adds that the park has been, “trading very successfully.” While he clearly doesn’t agree with CSC’s decision to force the rides out of town, he understands their motives: “Leisure can’t command the same rents as retail, and never will.”