What's the likelihood of Florida getting a $26 million Bear Grylls theme park?

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IMAGE VIA BEAR GRYLLS ADVENTURE | TWITTER
  • Image via Bear Grylls Adventure | Twitter
Most of the midway attractions by Merlin, like their Madame Tussauds wax museums and their Sea Life aquariums, aren’t known for their thrills, but the latest concept by the U.K. company is all about pushing the limits of extreme thrills.

The $26 million Bear Grylls Adventure slated to open in Birmingham, England this fall is focused on bringing some of the most extreme experiences ever conceived by the company.

Admission, which starts out at just over $32, offers four "basecamp" activities with four more thrilling "challenges" offered as upgrades, with each challenge lasting between one to two hours in length. The "challenges" include Dive, iFly, Climb and High Ropes. All four of the challenges also include a photo package.
IMAGE VIA BEAR GRYLLS ADVENTURE | YOUTUBE
  • Image via Bear Grylls Adventure | YouTube
The Dive challenge involves scuba diving through a 228,000-gallon tank that has live sharks, a giant megalodon jaw prop, and a simulated shipwreck.



Unlike most shark dive attractions, here guests won’t be in a cage and aren’t required to have any previous experience. The central indoor plaza area of the attraction has large windows looking into the shark tanks where guests can watch others as they complete the Dive experience. A portion of each Dive ticket will be donated to the shark conservation group The Shark Trust.

Drawing inspiration from Yosemite’s El Capitan, France’s Fontainebleau boulders, and Everest the Climb experience brings theme park-level rock work to a rock climbing experience. 20 different routes are offered to allow for multiple attempts during the one-hour challenge. The actual boots and oxygen masks Bear Grylls wore on his Everest climb are displayed to help inspire guests attempting their own climbs.
IMAGE VIA BEAR GRYLLS ADVENTURE | FACEBOOK
  • Image via Bear Grylls Adventure | Facebook

iFly is an indoor skydiving experience similar to the ones found around the world, including on Royal Caribbean cruise ships, with the large clear cylinder visible from other guests areas.

The only outdoor section to the attraction is the High Ropes course. Hanging above the main entrance to the Bear Grylls Adventure is the backend of a military-style Boeing Ch-47 Chinook helicopter that guests zipline out of to access the nearby ropes course. At five-stories tall the free roam style course clocks in as the tallest of its kind in Europe.
A map of the four 'basecamp' activities at the Bear Grylls Adventure - IMAGE VIA BEAR GRYLLS ADVENTURE | YOUTUBE
  • Image via Bear Grylls Adventure | YouTube
  • A map of the four 'basecamp' activities at the Bear Grylls Adventure
The "basecamp" offers escape rooms, a maze with rooms that shrink and crawling tunnels, an archery area, and an assault course. Each of the smaller activities takes around 20 to 30 minutes to complete. All four of the challenge upgrades include access to the basecamp activities.

A café and a gift shop round out of the attraction.

The Assualt Course at the Bear Grylls Adventure - IMAGE VIA BEAR GRYLLS ADVENTURE | FACEBOOK
  • Image via Bear Grylls Adventure | Facebook
  • The Assualt Course at the Bear Grylls Adventure
According to the press release announcing the new experience, Merlin has partnered with Bear Grylls Ventures on the attraction. “Under the terms of the deal with Bear Grylls Ventures and Mantis Media, the entity which holds the master license for the attraction, the partnership grants Merlin global exclusivity of the concept until 2026, with an extension on further rollout of attractions. For use of the brand, Merlin will pay Bear Grylls Ventures and Mantis Media a revenue-based royalty.”

With months still to go until the new attraction opens its doors, Merlin is already looking to open other locations with Merlin Entertainments CEO Nick Varney confirming projects in both China and the United States are already in the works.

The archery section of the Bear Grylls Adventure - IMAGE VIA BEAR GRYLLS ADVENTURE | FACEBOOK
  • Image via Bear Grylls Adventure | Facebook
  • The archery section of the Bear Grylls Adventure
Merlin typically groups multiple midway attractions close to each other with tickets that include the numerous attractions being a primary offering. With a Legoland theme park, Madame Tussauds, and a Sea Life Aquarium, the Central Florida market has the most substantial Merlin presence of anywhere in the United States making it an appealing place for Merlin to invest more in.

In Birmingham, Merlin has three attractions currently open with two more, including the Bear Grylls one, opening this year. One of the three attractions already open is the Six Flags like Alton Towers theme park. With multiple thrill rides, Alton Towers draws a large number of the same key late teen through twenty-somethings demographics that the Bear Grylls attraction is designed to appeal to.

Merlin operates no attractions designed for this demographic in the United States. Previously, Merlin was rumored to be interested in buying the Busch Gardens duo of theme parks from SeaWorld though both parties now confirm no such sale is moving forward. Despite the deal not happening Merlin expressing interest in those coaster heavy parks shows that the company is willing to go after the same thrill-seeking demographic here that it draws in with its coaster based parks in the U.K.

Concept art for the highly themed maze experience at the Bear Grylls Adventure - IMAGE VIA BEAR GRYLLS ADVENTURE | FACEBOOK
  • Image via Bear Grylls Adventure | Facebook
  • Concept art for the highly themed maze experience at the Bear Grylls Adventure
With a seemingly endless amount of escape rooms, high ropes courses, skydiving options, and thrill rides the Central Florida market may prove a tricky one for Merlin who has up to now seen success with their operations here, notwithstanding exiting from operating the formerly named Orlando Eye observation wheel earlier this year.

But the Bear Grylls Adventure brings name recognition and theming that few other adventure attractions in the Central Florida market have. The only Orlando area attraction to the scale of the Bear Grylls is the Andretti Indoor Karting and Games, located just down the street from Merlin’s Orlando Madame Tussauds and Sea Life Aquarium. Since opening late last year, Andretti has been extremely popular. Together with the TopGolf next door, the Andretti Orlando location can host corporate events with more than double the 2,000 per day capacity of the Birmingham Bear Grylls Adventure and regularly hosts events with numbers at or above that of the Bear Grylls Adventure’s size.

A map of the four main challenges at the Bear Grylls Adventure - IMAGE VIA BEAR GRYLLS ADVENTURE | YOUTUBE
  • Image via Bear Grylls Adventure | YouTube
  • A map of the four main challenges at the Bear Grylls Adventure
At more than three times the square footage of Orlando’s Sea Life Aquarium (which mirrors the Orlando Madame Tussauds both with 25,000 sq. ft.), the Bear Grylls Adventure is larger than a typical Merlin midway attraction and would require a large footprint even if the concept was to be built from the ground up, unlike the retrofit that Merlin is doing at the Birmingham location.

Both a skydive experience and high ropes course have been rumored for ICON Orlando 360, formerly I-Drive 360. But with the Bear Grylls Adventure requiring such a large footprint, its unlikely Merlin would build one at that location. The developer of ICON Orlando 360, Unicorp, does own property directly across the street from 360 with previous plans for that property now looking to be on hold as they focus on a massive new entertainment complex slated for Palm Parkway near the Vineland Avenue outlets.

Despite being marketed to an entirely different demographic, the Legoland Florida Resort, in the heart of Polk County, might be a good option for a Bear Grylls Adventure. Also, unlike the majority of Legolands around the world, the Florida location offers no nearby Merlin attractions with the sole exceptions being the Orlando attractions, nearly 90 mins away, and the Legoland Water Park, for which a Legoland admission ticket is required. Merlin has stated numerous times that it plans to make the Winter Haven resort into a multi-day destination. Merlin opened a second hotel at the resort last year.

Other possible locations for the Bear Grylls Adventure in the United States include San Francisco where Merlin operates a Madame Tussauds and the only Dungeons attraction in the country. Southern California where Merlin has a Legoland and a Sea Life aquarium is also a likely location. But with 30 attractions spread across the U.S., Merlin has plenty of areas they’re already in to open a Bear Grylls Adventure.

With plans already in the works, it’s likely Merlin won’t wait long until they announce the next locations for the thrill-based entertainment centers.
IMAGE VIA BEAR GRYLLS ADVENTURE | YOUTUBE
  • Image via Bear Grylls Adventure | YouTube
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