Gulliver’s Valley theme park will cost £35m, create 450 jobs and be bigger than the firm’s three other venues put together - and boss Julie Dalton says she is very happy it is in Rotherham.
After a year of preparation, construction work is about to start on a 240-acre site in the south of the borough.
This exclusive interview is in ‘ROTHERHAM ROARS’ The Star’s supplement to celebrate Yorkshire’s fastest growing economy, published on Wednesday March 28.
Not only will it be the biggest Gullivers by far - there are sites in Matlock, Warrington and Milton Keynes - but it is a significant project for Ms Dalton personally.
It will be her first development after her father stepped back from the business - which she now runs with her brother - and it is celebrating its 40th year.
Despite all this, so far it has been “a pleasure,” she says.
“Rotherham is very forward thinking and positive and there is a ‘can do’ attitude in business. Dealing with the council and local residents has been a very good experience.
“It’s my first big development from the ground up. It’s exciting and a bit scary - it’s a big piece of land. At 250-acres it’s bigger than all our parks put together.”
The Pit House West site is on the old Brookhouse Colliery, which closed in 1985. It beat three other contenders and was chosen partly due to its easy access to Rotherham, Sheffield and the M1.
Buildings should start rising from the ground in June, the venue is set to open in 2020.
She added: “The Coal Board did a great restoration job and there are lakes and walkways, and wildlife has taken over so much that you wouldn’t know its former use - it has more of a country park feel. And we will design around it.
“It’s a chance for us to have all the best bits or our other sites in one place and more accommodation.”
The first park was Gulliver’s Kingdom, followed by Gulliver’s World in Warrington 10 years later, then Gulliver’s Land, Milton Keynes, a decade after that. They are aimed at children aged two to 13.
Ms Dalton has been involved since she was seven. Today the company employs 500. Some 53 per cent of the 100-strong management team are women, “because they are the best people for the job.”
“I’m very proud of the business, I have a huge passion for it, it’s in the blood.
“I don’t particularly look on myself as a female business leader, it shouldn’t be about your sex. It’s about how good you are with your team. I firmly believe in developing them from within.”
Gulliver’s is a big hitter in the ‘staycation’ market of parks offering accommodation - along with the likes of Legoland and Center Parcs.
But she doesn’t believe in rivals.
“We are all in the same boat of persuading families to stay in the UK by offering stronger and more professional levels of service. People have come to expect a decent level of service.
“Our aim is to make everything as safe and as fun as possible and give people the best day out ever.”