Indiana Jones and the pounds 33m hot metal ride Steelworks ride again with pounds 33m facelift

Theme-park Britain is destined to get a new spectacular if the Millennium Commission coughs up pounds 15m to turn a redundant steel works in Rotherham into a white-knuckle ride in a giant ladle through water-walls, heat and laser lights to the heart of an exploding furnace.

Rotherham council maintains that the Ride of Steel will be about "education and heritage" but when the project's advisers include the Disney-MGM Indiana Jones Stunt Theater and Universal Studio's Ghostbusters Show, the high- mindedness is hard to swallow.

Only last week, Sir Nicholas Goodison, chairman of the National Art Collection Fund, had the luminaries of the museums and galleries world nodding sagely when he said "interpretative, theme-park, play-time displays" detracted from the unique character of collections.

There is also a big question mark over whether another industrial heritage project, however hi-tech, can succeed in an area where visitor centres are almost as thick on the ground as once were the pits and factories they have replaced.

High-profile projects are struggling. Transperience, an historic bus collection-turned-theme park in Bradford, started with visitor forecasts of 350,000 a year and never topped 80,000. It won pounds 8m of European and other public money yet is now in the hands of administrators. The Royal Armouries at Leeds forecast 1.3 million visitors but is reckoned to be doing well drawing nearly 500,000.

Rotherham council says the pounds 33m "Magna" centre could provide 500 full- time jobs and attract 400,000 visitors a year. Its bid for pounds 15m from the Millennium Commission has cleared the first hurdle and a decision is expected in September. The European Commission is being targeted for pounds 7m with the balance coming from other public and private sources.

Barbara Woroncow, director of the Yorkshire and Humberside Museums Council, is sceptical. "If public money is involved to any degree we need to have some honest and realistic business plans," she said.

Magna is one of at least four attractions in the area forecasting 400,000 visitors a year, including the National Centre for Popular Music under construction in Sheffield with Arts Council millions.

"It is just not possible to achieve this sort of a total increase in visitor numbers," Ms Woroncow said. There are already 170 mainline museums and other attractions in the area and people have a relatively fixed amount of time and money to spare. A standard ticket to Magna, including the Ride of Steel, is expected to be pounds 5.95.

Rotherham believes it can attract visitors from beyond Yorkshire. The council leader, Keith Billington, said Magna would be a "world-class" tourist attraction. "It is not about turning the steel industry into a Disney theme park. Its themes are education and heritage. But we are also taking a hard-headed business approach."

Magna poses a dilemma for Sir Nicholas. With visitors travelling in a steel ladle through a tube to emerge above the floor of the works, it is exactly the sort of "play-time" project he abhors. Transperience, the Royal Armouries and the Natural History Museum's Earth Galleries are among his pet hates.

But the 42-acre site by the river Don, and the vast green building, the size of four football pitches, which once housed the world's biggest electric arc melting shop, belongs to British Steel - whose deputy chairman is Sir Nicholas Goodison.

The top draws

The top "themed" museums and industry attractions, with annual attendance figures:

Granada Studio Tours - 750,000 *

Jorvik Museum, York - 692,000**

National Museum of Photography, Bradford - 610,000

Cadbury World, Birmingham - 533,000

Museum of the Moving Image, London - 393,093

Gatwick Skyview - 390,000

Royal Armouries,

Leeds - 382,000

Eureka! (Museum for Children), Halifax - 365,000

Beamish Open Air Museum, Co Durham - 364,000

Museum of Science

and Industry,

Manchester - 333,000

Ironbridge Gorge Museum, Shropshire - 276,000

1996 figures except *1995 and **1994. Source: British Tourist Authority, except **.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?