The Ultimate at Lightwater Valley Theme Park
The Ultimate was Lightwater Valley Theme Park in North Yorkshire’s signature ride. The £5m Thrill Ride which opened in 1991 held the World Record until 1999 for being the Longest Roller Coaster in the World. Sadly it has now been confirmed by the owners of the park that this amazing ride is to close permanently and be removed from the park.
Statement From the Parks Owners
A Statement Issued today by the Brighton Pier Group Plc, owners of Lightwater Valley Family Adventure Park stated the following:
“We have devoted much time and effort considering the future of The Ultimate. The ride has been out of service for some years now and the process of assessing the viability of bringing it back into use was a long one.
“We are mindful of its nostalgic status and that many of our visitors have fond memories of riding the Ultimate Coaster. Nevertheless, given both the investment required to bring it up to acceptable standards of safety and the re-imagining of Lightwater Valley as a family-orientated Adventure Park, we have decided to close The Ultimate permanently and remove it from the Park.
“We look forward to welcoming everyone to the new-look Lightwater Valley as it develops and evolves into the north of England’s number one destination for family adventures”
Anne Ackord, Chief Executive Officer, Brighton Pier Group PLC
Loved by the roller coaster enthusiast community for its honesty, brutality and sheer rawness, The Ultimate owes a debt of gratitude to Lightwater Valley’s founder (Robert Staveley) for his pioneering vision during the early 1990s. It all started when work began on a project aimed at announcing Lightwater Valley’s arrival as a bona fide theme park for thrill-seekers. The aim of the project was to build the longest roller coaster in the world, but due to the sheer scale of the project, there were a number of hurdles which needed to be overcome.
Construction of The Ultimate
Robert Staveley used the success of the Rat Ride (more recently known as Raptor Attack) to persuade his wife that another roller coaster should be built. He liked the idea of having a roller coaster coming down the valley at the far end of the theme park. The challenge he faced was how to get people to the top of the valley to board the roller coaster train. His wife suggested that they send the train out to the top of the valley and then return it to the main theme park by constructing two lift hills. Robert Staveley headed into the woods with a spray paint can and said “this is where I’d like to do it”.
With the location of the ride decided upon, plans were drawn up and construction commenced. Park employees helped with the building of the wooden structures on which the ride would run. They painstakingly bolted the pieces together one by one like a giant Meccano set. Partway through the build, the decision was made to modify the track design on the second half of the ride to offer a more thrilling and exhilarating experience. During the build process, British Railway Engineers worked closely with Robert Staveley and Big Country Motioneering. The ride was built using the highest quality Canadian Redwood Trestles which both support the Ultimate’s incredible track length and act as a cushion to soften the ride as they flex with the movement. The track manufacturer struggled to deliver to agreed time scales and ended its journey on the rollercoaster project by going bust.
The Opening of The Ultimate
Upon completion of the ride, the end result put Lightwater Valley Theme Park on the roller coaster map. The Ultimate was especially popular with teenagers, although there was a lack of other rides to cater for this market at the time. The number of visitors went through the roof, but it wasn’t long before they were looking for the next challenge, the next big ride, but sadly Lightwater Valley didn’t have the finances to take the park to the next level. The issue came from the fact that The Ultimate had initially been forecast to cost £1.2m but the actual cost was closer to £5m and this was at a time when interest rates were sky-high, putting a lot of pressure on the business. Even with the massive increase in visitor numbers the loan interest was eliminating the park’s profits. This made it extremely difficult for the theme park to sustain the business, so it went on a very level plateau in terms of any further investment in new rides and attractions.