Abandoned theme park images give insight into urban exploration
Images of an abandoned British theme park have been revealed after a University of Wolverhampton academic was granted exclusive access for a research project.
The American Adventure Theme Park in Derbyshire closed in 2007 and has since been dismantled and left derelict.
Dr Peter Robinson was given access to the 390-acre site before it was cleared for his research work on urban exploration, where people visit abandoned sites for an ‘explorer’ experience, and nostalgia tourism.
He was a frequent visitor to the Wild West themed park in his youth so had his own nostalgic interest in its transformation.
His images show the remains of the former shopping mall, entertainment complex (which originally included an arcade, soft play and motion master cinema), views across the lake to the area where The Missile rollercoaster and Nightmare Niagara log flume used to stand, and the former car parks.
Dr Robinson, who is Head of Department for Marketing, Innovation, said: “The research suggests that childhood experiences create both a yearning for childhood periods of time and a desire to both repeat those experiences.
“This is especially true in the theme park context as such sites create artificially heightened experiences and emotional responses that are not so strongly sensed in relation to other tourist experiences.”
Dr Robinson’s research showed that nostalgia was important to a younger generation, as well as traditionally older, with comments found from those who visited the park as teenagers, not long before it closed.
“As these sites are no longer accessible, other sources of information such as online fora and photo sharing sites become the focus for mediating nostalgic experiences, consequently creating fertile ground for collecting data,” he said.
“My view in feeling an emotional response to the loss of an entertainment site and its subsequent dismantling is not unique. The power tourism has to deliver epiphanies is underestimated.”
The theme park was built on a reclaimed former opencast coalmine site on the edge of Ilkeston. It opened in 1985 as Britannia Park but shut within a year due to operational issues.
It reopened in 1987 as The American Adventure Theme Park, with popular white knuckle rides. Revenue dropped after these closed and there was an unsuccessful attempt to reposition the park for younger children.
Plans have been approved for new homes to be built on the site but work has not yet started. Pictures show how the former shopping mall is a mini ghost town (the blue building used to be a restaurant), how an area of landscaping with a fountain is now overgrown. The original park entrance was closed due to subsidence several years before the park finally closed to the public and the former entertainment complex once housed an amusement arcade, indoor soft play area and motion master cinema.
Although urban explorers have tried to access the site and images of the empty landscape have appeared on unofficial fan sites, this was the only time official photography and access were allowed before it was dismantled completely.
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