Blackpool Council has unveiled plans for a £300m leisure-led development on the town’s Central Station site, working alongside developer Nikal, featuring what it claims will be a “UK-first” entertainment offering.
The masterplan what the council says will be the UK’s first “flying theatre”, a virtual reality entertainment zone, an indoor family entertainment centre, and a multimedia exhibition space, as well as restaurants, a food hall, and an 1,000-space multi-storey car park. A new 150-bed hotel is also planned.
The “flying theatre” is an indoor immersive experience with surround sound and effects including wind, fog, and water.
All these will be delivered in the first phase of the development, due to open in spring 2024. This will be followed by a second phased featuring apartments, further food and drink outlets, an additional hotel of 250 bedrooms, and public open space. Future phases have also been outlined for the southern end of the site including more leisure attractions and apartments.
The entertainment offer for the site is themed on Chariots of the Gods by Swiss author Erich Von Däniken and is being brought forward in partnership with Media Invest Entertainment, which owns the intellectual property rights to von Däniken’s work.
Under the plans, work on the first phase could start by 2020 and it is estimated that once complete the project could attract 600,000 additional visitors a year and generate 1,000 jobs along with an annual spend of £75m. The council has had an exclusivity agreement with the site’s developer since March 2016.
The Blackpool Central Station site covers around 17 acres and the council had formerly earmarked the site for a supercasino, putting forward a bid in 2006 to the Labour Government of the time. However, the town lost out to Manchester’s bid, which had proposed building a supercasino in Eastlands, though this was never progressed.
The site behind Coral Island is currently used as a surface car park.
Nikal, the council’s development partner, is active in the North West with assets including the Altair site in Altrincham, Greater Manchester. Development has been promised by the company on the site since around 2015 but to date nothing has been built out.
Cllr Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council, said: “Over more than fifty years, many ideas for this site have come and gone. The difference this time is that we have worked very hard with our fantastic partners at Nikal and MIE for almost two years to create a scheme that is not just aspirational, but highly deliverable.
“These new attractions are of ground-breaking international quality and their cutting-edge technology will take Blackpool’s tourism offer to another level.
“We already have, to my mind, the best amusement park in the UK, in the form of Blackpool Pleasure Beach. These new attractions will allow thrill-seekers to enjoy their visit even more, will attract new visitors, and encourage existing visitors to stay longer. They will create jobs, regenerate a part of the town that is in need of love and attention, and boost trade.
“This new development, alongside the other investments taking place in the town, represent a game-changer for our visitor economy. We have long stated that a key objective is to create a year-round destination that delivers year-round employment. Blackpool Central will play a major part in that ambition.”
Nick Payne, managing director of Nikal added: “Blackpool Central is a hugely important project for the town and the region and it is an honour to be on board. Place-making and regeneration are the DNA of our business and we thrive on creating dynamic new spaces that inspire, excite and engage.
“It’s taken almost two years and a lot of hard work to get to this point. We know that the masterplan fully maximises the site’s potential and will deliver a unique and ground-breaking, entertainment destination with global appeal that will revitalise and underpin Blackpool’s growth and regeneration.”