Contaminated water and soil. Lengthy vertical shafts hidden by overgrown vegetation. Hazardous machinery submerged in stagnant water. Closed mines and quarries can be dangerous—even deadly—but sponsors that halt operations aren't always successful at deterring trespassers. The rescue of three people from a closed coal mine near Charleston, West Virginia, USA in December brought new attention to the problem—and sparked fresh interest in projects to transform these perilous spaces into unique attractions. Four successful projects in particular could provide lessons learned for future initiatives:
AMUSEMENT PARK IN TURDA, ROMANIA
The 400-foot (122-meter) deep salt mine from the 17th century has seen a number of makeovers, including into a cheese cave and a wartime bomb shelter. Its most recent transformation into a year-round amusement park, named Salina Turda, includes an amphitheater, a Ferris wheel, spa rooms, a mini-golf course and a subterranean lake with rowboat tours.
DATA CENTER IN SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI, USA
Bluebird Network's 2018 project to convert an old mine into a data center puts its IT infrastructure out of harm's way from tornadoes and snowstorms, both of which are common in the state. And it's hard to beat the security of a data center nestled 85 feet (26 meters) deep in limestone.
ZIP LINE IN LLECHWEDD, WALES
In the 1880s, more than 500 people worked at this bustling slate mine, but by the 1960s demand had plummeted and production stopped. The company began offering slate cavern tours in 1972, but attendance skyrocketed when Zip World created an adrenaline-laced adventure park—complete with giant trampolines and the world's largest underground zip lines—in 2015. In February, the company proposed a project to build a similar site in southern Wales, in a former coal mine.
UNDERGROUND HOTEL NEAR SHANGHAI, CHINA
Built on the site of an abandoned quarry outside of Shanghai, the Intercontinental Shanghai Wonderland has just two floors above ground—and 16 below. The more than 10-year project, which was finished last year, included a team of some 5,000 architects, engineers, designers and workers.