Brothers celebrate 15 years at helm

  • 11 March, 2024
  • On the pier


Two brothers are set to celebrate
15 years at the helm of Europe’s largest pleasure pier.

Billy and Elliot Ball
took over Clacton Pier on March 16, 2009 and have steered the iconic seaside
attraction through several stormy waters over the past decade and a half.

Not least of these was
the collapse of the west corner of the ride deck on Valentine’s Day in 2020 due
to the effects of Storm Ciara, followed just weeks later by the outbreak of the
Covid pandemic.

Government restrictions
closed the site for a number of months over two periods with the subsequent
loss of income.

However, none of this distracted
the brothers from their goal of continuing to restore the pier to its former
glory and create a legacy for their family which will also benefits the town
and district’s tourism offer.

Many millions of pounds
have been pumped into major improvements including new developments,
attractions and rides.

At the same time cash has
continually been poured into the maintenance and upkeep of a structure that is
almost 153 years old.

All this has been
achieved, while at the same time remaining at the centre of the community with
regular events and supporting charities and groups.

Director Billy Ball said
it is no exaggeration to describe the 15 years as a roller coaster of a ride.

“From the day that Elliot
and I were handed the keys and discovered the real state of the attraction to
where we are now it has been a massive challenge,” he said.

“That is in no way to
detract from the major efforts of those who proceeded us as each has played
such a huge part in simply ensuring the pier is still here and operating.

“We always had a plan –
and we have one for the future – and we are working our way through that as and
when the money and opportunities arise.

“If anyone asked me the
secret of the success we have had so far it would be hard work, determination
and the bloody mindedness we have drawn on to meet the challenges that arise
when running an attraction 6.5 acres in size and one that takes a constant pounding
from the North Sea.”

The brothers were 28 and
25 respectively when they bought the pier from the Harrison family.

“We were relatively
young, energetic and fully prepared to get stuck in. We are still the same men
but a little bit older and wiser. Our commitment to the business and area
remains undiminished and we are still driven to do better,” added Billy.

“We are not regenerating
the pier to sell it on – we are in it for the long haul and it has very much become
our life from day one.”

He was also quick to
praise staff, suppliers, contractors, family and friends who have helped make
the dream come true.

“There is no possible way
that we could have done it without them and their support has been immense and
kept us going,” Billy said.

“It might be a cliché,
but it has been a real team effort and will always have to be.”

The largest single
project was a £4million development in 2018 which made the pier a true all year
round attraction. It involved a soft play area, adventure golf, first floor
dodgems, new food and drink areas as well as weather proofing the pier’s
central concourse.

Last year the brothers
proudly opened Jurassic Pier, an exciting interactive walkthrough experience
leading to a 4-D special effects cinema with motion seating.

Some of the latest rides
have included a Big Wheel, Log Flume, and the Looping Star Roller Coaster. On
top of that the amusement arcade has been revamped with new machines and the
Boardwalk Bar and Grill given a totally new look.

“With 15 years under our
belt we are continuing to plan ahead with new projects always in the pipeline,”
said Billy.

“One major ambition is to
transform the Jolly Roger building – put up in 1893 – into a multi-purpose
venue fit for the 21st century while being sympathetic to its
incredible heritage.

“We want it to involve
significant community use and when this goes ahead very much depends on the
funding being available. The challenges continue and we will tackle them in
exactly the same way as we always have – head-on!”


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