The Trocadero, on Coventry Street in Piccadilly Square, first opened in 1896 as a large restaurant operated by J. Lyons and Co
It served a noble tenure there, through two world wars and beyond, and impressed guests with its opera house theming and cabaret until it closed in 1965
For almost 2 decades, the Trocadero sat vacant - until its doors opened once again in 1984, this time in the form of an urban entertainment complex.
The anchors of this remodel were a Guinness World Records exhibit, an MGM cinema, and the "London Experience" multimedia show.
One more important tenant of the 80's Trocadero was Funland, a large arcade which later expanded to include Lazer Bowl, a bowling alley.
Funland would prove to be the Troc's longest-running tenant, even after a far larger arcade eclipsed it.
This version of the Trocadero generally followed the "mall aesthetic" of the 80's - mirrored columns, marble floors, planters, and a central atrium.
This would be the look of the Trocadero for about a decade - until the mid 90's, which saw its transformation into a true marvel.
The first groundbreaking experience to open at the Troc was Alien War in 1993, a 20 minute "total reality" experience that occupied the entire basement.
This attraction was created by John Gorman and Garry Gillies, two business partners and Alien fans who netted a contract w Fox
Guests who entered Alien War - similar to a haunted house, with live actors - found themselves in the dim halls of a Weyland-Yutani freighter.
Sets/props from the Alien films were used in the building of the attraction, and key FX staff from the franchise worked on the project.
Guests would travel alongside a group of hard-boiled colonial marines, who would protect them from xenomorphs (played by suited actors).
Pulse rifle fire was simulated via a cutting-edge "Soundfire" fx system, which used a combo of strobelights, IR sensors, and hidden speakers.
Guests praised Alien War for its immersion, innovative tech, and fantastic execution of its source material.
Its life was tragically cut short in 1996, when it was ruined in a basement flood.
Several revivals of the concept, lacking the Alien license, have been attempted since.
Ironically, 1996 would be the year when the Troc reached its zenith - with the help of a popular soft drink and a similarly popular blue hedgehog.
Time to kick this thread into high gear.
In '96, Pepsi became the Trocadero's sponsor, and its first order of business was a massive renovation of its main atrium into something truly extraordinary.
Where there was once marble and mirrors, metal and neon sprawled. This massive hub was an attraction unto itself.
The place felt like a a y2k-era space station, saturated in blue/orange lighting and covered in bold signage.
The Troc is a perfect example of what I call "mediablast" - a design motif in the 90's where the goal was to absolutely inundate guests in media from screens or speakers
Reaching up to the top of this massive complex was the Pepsi Max Drop, a full-scale Intamin Giant Drop tower.
Guests who rode it would get a good view of the Troc's new theming, which was fairly extensive.
The centerpiece of the new lobby was the "rocket escalator", a large escalator surrounded by glowing rings that took you directly to the Troc's new star tenant (who we'll get to later).
The escalator had a small landing (or "launch pad"), which overlooked an ENORMOUS video wall.
You may have noticed these little spacemen littered around the lobby. There's more to them than meets the eye!
They were the "four Trocs" - T-Roc, Albertroc, Tec-Troc, and Star-Troc - whose personalities vaguely represented Trocadero tenants.
An hourly light show would explain the story of the Trocs - and have them face down the Troc's resident monster, TROCODILLA.
And I mean MONSTER - this guy was a MASSIVE animatronic, which /descended from the ceiling/!
(sadly, there's no footage of this short-lived show)
Some of the '96 Trocs most prominent tenants were the UK's largest HMV store, a 3D IMAX cinema, and several themed restaurants: Thunder Drive, replaced by a Rainforest Cafe, and a Planet Hollywood.
Funland, the longstanding arcade, now had some stiff competition...
By now, you must be wondering where that majestic rocket escalator led. If the rings didn't give you a clue, here's a big reveal:
SegaWorld London, a multifloor marvel of an arcade which is gonna double the length of this thread. Buckle up - we're going up the escalator.
After getting off the rocket escalator, you would reach the lobby, which I can only describe as a work of 90's cyber-corporate art.
This hallway of eyeballs on screens is that delicious combo of futuristic and ominous that came from the early y2k era.
Inside the lobby, you'd be greeted by the coolest hedgehog alive - who also had a fantastic sign at street level.
Sega Saturn kiosks were also set up in the lobby, letting you try the newest Sega titles.
I /really/ dig the cyberpunk industrial motif.
(don't forget your map!)
Past the lobby was the Combat Zone, an action game-oriented arcade area.
Notable games: Virtua Cop 2, Tekken 3, Virtual ON, Time Crisis, Fighting Vipers, Crypt Killer, Fighting Bujutsu, and Virtua Fighter 3 - which saw its UK launch here mere weeks after its Japanese release!
Combat Zone, like most of SegaWorld's areas, featured a ride - Beast in Darkness.
This ride (no photos available) was a traditional "ghost train" style dark ride, which made use of speakers and sensors to imply the presence of a giant beast lurking in the dark.
The next area was Race Track, which featured real F1 cars on display.
Games: Scud Race, Sega Rally, Sega Touring Car, Le Mans 24, Harley Davidson & L.A. Riders, Motor Raid
The centerpiece: 8 player deluxe Daytona USA and Manx TT Superbike setups, complete with a live announcer!
The ride in this section was Aqua Planet, a 3D-motion sim with shooting elements that took players under the sea to face off against a massive kraken.
This ride was cloned at other Sega amusement centers, known there as Aqua Nova.
Next up was the Flight Deck.
With a real Harrier looming overhead, guests could play arcade legends like Sky Target, Wing War and the famous Sega R360 360-degree motion cabinet.
Sega Net Merc VR, which made use of the infamous cancelled Sega VR headset, could also be found here
This section's ride was VR-1 Space Mission, Sega's most cutting-edge simulator at the time. It used a combo of a motion sim and VR headsets to offered unparalleled immersion for 1996.
Sadly, no footage of this elusive simulator could be found.
The largest area of SegaWorld was The Carnival, dedicated to both redemption games and kiddy standards like a ballpit. It even featured a McDonald's shaped like a box of fries.
Some areas of The Carnival in particular looked like Classic Sonic come to life - palm trees and all!
The Carnival featured several large attractions:
-Power Sled, a Model 2 based bobsled sim with a rotating cockpit. -House of Grandish, an obscure horror ride developed by Human. -Ghost Hunt, an early AR ghost train which used mirrored CRTs to add virtual ghosts to the dark ride.
The last area of SegaWorld was Sports Arena, featuring sports games like Alpine Racer, Wave Runner, and Sega Bass Fishing.
A surfing Sonic statue could be found here, along with his two arcade debuts - SegaSonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Fighters.
This section had two rides:
-the AS-1, an older motion sim, running Megalopolis or Michael Jackson's Scramble Training
-Mad Bazooka, a dodgems-style ride with foam ball cannons and targets.
Appropriately, guests exited through the Sega gift shop.
A few other odd attractions littered the Trocadero:
-a James Bond motion sim, "License to Thrill" -Virtual Glider hang-gliding sim -another motion sim called "Emaginator", which used 70mm film at 60 FPS -a "Virtual World" Battletech pod center -the cinema, now a Virgin Cinema
The '96 Trocadero, seemingly born with the snap of a finger, was an almost overwhelming presentation of high-tech amusement.
You know what they say about half as long and twice as bright. From the outset, it was clear a project of this scale was stumbling under its own weight.
SegaWorld in particular didn't draw the crowds it needed to offset its gargantuan costs, and the low capacity of its simulator rides resulted in massive queues. This, combined with a 10 quid (in 90's money) entry fee, led to SegaWorld struggling out of the gate.
By 1998, a contingency had formed to sublet 6 of SegaWorld's floors to the owner of neighboring Funland, Family Leisure.
By 1999, a mere 3 yrs after opening, SegaWorld was no more.
With bitter irony, the veteran Funland inherited its space, expanding to fill the majority of it.
SegaWorld's closure started a cascade effect, kicking off the Troc's decline.
Prominent tenants closed up shop, and the sparkling Trocadero turned into a chrome-plated ghost town.
The beloved rocket escalator, now leading to nowhere, was covered by vending machines.
Ironically, Funland lasted the longest of all, seeing a brief resurgence in the DDR craze of the early and mid aughts.
Funland gained a reputation as a hotspot for the London arcade community, and its status as a music game mecca even overlapped with the local b-boy scene.
Funland, the last tentpole of the Troc, folded in 2011.
In 2014, the entire building was shuttered.
These abandoned pictures say it all.
What would become of the Troc, once a glistening slice of the future?
There were several plans. A capsule hotel. A TJ-Maxx. None of them came to fruition.
That is, until this very year, 2019, where a poetic blast from the past would give the Trocadero life, at least for a time, as an entertainer center once again.
Didn't expect this thread to end on a sweet note, did you?
For that, thank The Crystal Maze!
The Crystal Maze was a wildly popular 90's UK gameshow similar to Legends of the Hidden Temple - a beloved contemporary of the Troc.
In 2019, the Crystal Maze Live Experience opened in the former Troc, giving you the chance to play the game show yourself!