One of the things I really enjoy about living in Ireland is the way that the general public flatly refuses to accept when a business changes its brand identity. The canonical example is the Point Depot, a concert venue that has rebranded twice – in 2008 and 2014 – yet is still widely known locally by the name it premiered with in 1987. Other examples in the capital city include the Grand Canal Theatre and Landsdowne Road, both of which have official sponsor names that are for the most part only used by TV broadcasters and foreign tourists.
Emerald Park is the new name for the park formerly known as Tayto Park, developed after the owners decided against renewing a long-term licensing deal. All references to the ambulatory spud have been expunged from signage and printed materials, but despite that the old name will inevitably live on. In August 2023, as this trip report was being finalised, a Google Search for it still returned over a million results. It'll be interesting to see whether that figure has decreased in a few years time. (The change had evidently been planned for a long time, as the only ride in the park requiring a name change was Mr. Tayto's Pony Rail which was installed in 2014.)
The decision to visit today wasn't my idea. My brother-in-law was offered cheap tickets through his workplace, and discussion on the family WhatsApp group resulted in a group of twelve, comprising nine adults and three children. Understandably enough the park requires that all those on a group ticket enter together, and as such my day began with a twenty minute wait outside the gate as one of our three cars was running behind schedule. (If anyone from management is reading this, it’d be great if you could have a coffee stall outside your gate for this very eventuality; I’m quite sure that others fall into the same trap on a regular basis.)
Our morning began at Flight School, a Zierer Force 281 coaster now in its fifth season. The eldest of the three children decided not to board, but the younger two were happy to try their first “big” roller coaster. Results were a mixed bag; the four year old came off the ride with a broad grin on his face, but his older brother was decidedly less enthusiastic; when asked if he’d enjoyed himself, the response was an emphatic and unequivocal negative, and there was a definite sense that a colourful metaphor modifier might have been hiding just beneath the surface.
The group decided to split at this point, with the grandparents and children heading over to the park’s Junior Zone while the adults heading into the queue for Cú Chulainn. Nine seasons in the Gravity Group creation was running more or less as it did when new; a slight shuffle in the not-an-inversion being the only rough spot. I particularly enjoyed the floating airtime on the second drop right after the initial turnaround. Two trains were in use today, and while operations could have been faster I’ve experienced far worse; out group only spent thirty seconds or so on the brake run.
We regrouped at Sherrif’s Shuffle, a SBF Rides Mini Break Dance (MX891) and a completely new ride type for me. One interesting feature of the family-friendly design is that the car bodies are identical to those found on the ubiquitous figure eight spinning coasters; I'd be very surprised if there wasn't a dedicated line producing them given how many are needed each year. The cycle today had thirty seconds of clockwise spinning followed by thirty seconds of anticlockwise spinning, and the result was quite a bit more intense than it looked. I felt fairly queasy at the end of it, though the kids were in their element.
One of the challenges the park has as it continues to grow is capacity in its main eatery, The Lodge. The building was designed at a time when guest numbers were much smaller than they are now, and while an extension with more table space was added in 2016, the guest serving area hasn’t changed from day one. Today there was a twenty-five minute queue to buy food at lunch time delineated using a makeshift rope barrier. It's definitely past time to rethink guest flow, and perhaps add a second serving counter to improve overall throughput.
Our afternoon began at the World of Raptors arena, which today was presenting a completely different show to the one I’ve seen in previous years. Rodney the Secretarybird was conspicuously absent; in his place were a number of eagles that flew back and forth across the space, coming within a few inches of guests sitting underneath. It was nice to see something different, though I'd argue that the variety in the previous presentation made it more interesting to me. That said, it's easy to judge; I don't envy those tasked with keeping the show fresh from year to year.
Next up was Viking Voyage, the park’s themed Interlink Super Flume. When I rode this first on opening day the theming was incomplete, and when I rode it again in late 2021 the sound system was out of action. Today represented my first chance at the full experience, and I really enjoyed it. The one caveat is the one I've noted in previous reports; the ride is unusually wet by flume standards. The optional ponchos are highly recommended for all three of the splashdowns, as water has a tendency to lap over the side of the boats.
One perk of doing Viking Voyage was that the eldest child survived a taller drop than Dino Dash, a data point that helped us persuade her to try her first “big” roller coaster. Vekoma's finest was still a little too much on this occasion, and it’s fair to say that the included second lap wasn’t particularly well received, but on a happier note we caught both an on-ride photo and a smiling/relieved snap once the train was parked in the station. It remains to be seen whether another attempt will be made in future years.
With that complete the kids and supervising adults retired to the Junior Zone, while the rest of us finished up our day with a second lap on Cú Chulainn.