For nearly 20 years, the cowboy-themed antics at The American Adventure theme park kept crowds of thrill-seekers entertained.
Mired in decades of controversy, the former opencast mine had been the site of the ill-fated Britannia Park, which closed just months after opening in 1985.
The £9million American Adventure opened on May 23 1987 and Ilkeston Advertiser reporter Peter Pheasant was lucky enough to get a tour of the new attraction before it opened.
Describing it to readers, he said: “Water canoe rides, a ‘ball swamp’, a Clipper ship, slides, live magic shows, a shooting gallery and a buckin’ bronco ride to tempt dads after-lunch courage lead to a 200-seat arena where giant models of Custer and Sitting Bull look down on a spectacular eagle fountain and talking Little Big Horn.”
At the time the theme park was said to rival Alton Towers with rides, amusements, shops, restaurants and Wild West shows.
In the years that followed, the theme park grew in popularity, welcoming as many as 15,000 visitors a day at its peak.
While the park’s popularity went from strength to strength, its bosses were constantly at loggerheads with residents who complained about the noise and disruption it caused.
In June 1993, theme park chief Phillip Sowter was reported as saying that special liaison meetings set up in order to solve problems between the park and residents were a waste of time, questioning whether it was worth continuing with them.
In June 1990, an investigation was launched after a woman fell from her chair into surging water on the rapids ride.
General manager John Cooke commented at the time: “We can’t understand how this woman could have fallen into the water. The seats in the rapids bowl are very high and there’s a very high step.”
During the hot summer months of 1991, sweaty theme-park goers were asked to keep their clothes on, as it was reported that visitors walking around the park with their chests and backs bared needed to cover up for health and safety reasons.
A spokesman told the Tiser: “It is for safety, especially on slides, where you are more liable to friction burns if you haven’t got a top on.”
In 1998, by which time the park had changed its name to American Adventure World, drastic measures were taken to ensure the safety of a new ride. The new £500,000 Cyberstorm ride was blessed by two clergymen, who then led a hymn written especially for the occasion which contained the lyrics: “A is for adventure, who will leave a fling? God’s world is not boring. He made everything.”
In 2003 the owners Ventureworld applied to Amber Valley Borough Council for planning permission to build a static caravan park and golf course, which was denied.
The attraction continued to suffer low attendance figures until, in January 2007, bosses announced it would not be reopening.