Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Heard On... Six Flags 3rd Quarter 2014 Results Call

Six Flags Entertainment Corp. has announced their 3rd quarter results, which saw revenues grow to a record $542 million, 7% better than the quarter last year.  This also made EBITDA rise 8% to $291 million, on a 6% increase in per capita spending and flat attendance.

The solid results led the operator to announce a new goal - to reach $600 million in modified EBITDA by 2017.  EBITDA is the earnings before taxes and depreciation, and is commonly looked at by the investing community as a key statistic.

The company held a conference call to discuss the results, and while there isn't any huge news in there here are some notes:

• The quarter saw Six Flags produce a modified EBITDA margin of 40.7%, which they say is an industry record.

• Six Flags is continuing to slowly raise ticket prices and erase the deep discounting that the previous operators relied on to draw guests to the park.

• The Season Pass Membership program, where a monthly fee is paid by the guest year round, has created a 10% increase in the number of active pass holders.

• With regard to the contracts that have been formed for Six Flags branded parks around the globe, the company feels there can be more to come and that this segment will be a "sustainable, valuable and significant long term growth opportunity."  They are also in talks with more operators for additional parks.

• The company plans to continue to invest 9% of revenues into new capital projects, and use excess earning for stock dividends.  They also announced a 11% increase in the quarterly dividend per share.

• Year to date revenue includes $10 million of "international revenue," which I would assume are payments for the Six Flags branded parks being developed.

• The addition of Holiday in the Park at Six Flags Magic Mountain and Six Flags Over Georgia will help to create additional revenue in the typically slow 4th quarter.

• Management was asked if they plan to acquire new parks to help reach the new goal of $600 million EBITDA, and management said they do not plan to take that route.  Sorry CNL parks!

• The revenues for Six Flags branded parks outside the U.S. will come from a design period that lasts until the parks open, then long term there will be management and licensing fees.  This actually sounds like a pretty great deal for the company overall.

Dollywood's DreamMore Resort Reaches Construction Milestone

The highest section of Dollywood's new DreamMore Resort was put into place today, marking an important milestone in the project's construction.  The resort's entrance tower, which will eventually greet guests as they arrive, was topped with the structure's highest spire.

The 307 room hotel will open right next door to both Dollywood and Splash Country in 2015.

© Dollywood
This photo shows that final spire being lifted into place, but also just how far along the outside of the building is.  Construction work will now focus on the resort's guest rooms and common areas.

The property also announced two key personnel additions for the property: "Kevin Osborn was appointed as General Manager of Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort after spending many years in leadership roles within Marriott International. Cordelia Marzak joins the team as Director of Sales and Marketing. Marzak joins the team after her tenure with JHM Hotels in Orlando."

The DreamMore Resort was inspired by Dolly Parton's memories of growing up in the Smoky Mountains, and will invite families to share stories, celebrate memories, and create new ones.  The property will offer amenities such as shuttle service to the parks, indoor and outdoor pools, landscaped gardens and a full service restaurant, salon and spa.

The resort is now accepting reservations for next year, and is the second addition that is part of a previously announced 10 year, $300 million growth plan.  The first addition was FireChaser Express, a family roller coaster that opened at Dollywood this year.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Demo Underway at Valleyfair for 2015 Soak City Expansion

The addition of a large water slide tower and a family splash pad area to Valleyfair's Soak City in 2015 meant that a couple older structures had to bit the dust.  And they really turned to dust - and quickly!

© Dave Frazier
The park's General Manager, Dave Frazier, was tweeting along the progress of the demolition, which took place over three days last week.  The park had previously removed the large IMAX Theater, and the Hydroblaster wet/dry slides - opening up the start of a large expansion pad.  Now they've bulldozed a Subway building, dining patio, restrooms and some games as well.

The combined space will easily fit the new slide tower and splash area, and one might think there will be some room left over.  The park's Mad Mouse roller coaster will actually be a bit isolated now, with not much directly around it beside Soak City.

The expansion area is viewable from Valeyfair's webcam, a screen cap of which can be seen above.  The bulldozer in the middle is where the recent buildings came down, opening up a long space for the slide tower.  The splash pad area will be in the foreground, on the land from the IMAX Theater.

WhiteWater Secures Record-Breaking Deal for China Park

WhiteWater has announced that they have the "largest-ever single order for the global water park sector," striking a deal with Zhengzhou Yinji Kaifeng Waterpark in China that is worth in excess of $29 million.

The new water park will be the largest in China when it opens in 2015, featuring both indoor and outdoor sections.  The indoor section will have peak capacity of 15,000 guests, with the outdoor part handling 32,000.

An example Giant RainFortress © WhiteWater
The amount of attractions that are a part of the deal are staggering:

• Nine separate waterslide towers with a combined 50 waterslides
• Three custom themed AquaPlay structures
• A Shoot the Chute splash ride
• Three different wave pools
• Two types of wave rivers
• A FlowRider Double

The work for Zhengzhou Yinji Kaifeng Waterpark includes designing the entire park, providing engineering services, construction management as well as after sales service and maintenance.  “This is a remarkable project for WhiteWater,” says Geoff Chutter, the company’s CEO and founder. “Since 1980, we’ve been committed to creating world-class, entertaining waterparks. Yinji Dynasty’s recent order is a testament to that commitment and to our growth.”

I can't wait to see photos of this monster sized project as it develops!

CNL Lifestyle Owned Parks to Soon Have New Owners

CNL Lifestyle Properties is an investment company that has owned several amusement and water parks for years now.  A recent filing with the SEC by the company points out that their are nearing the end of their investment cycle, which means that they will begin selling off their investments (for a profit, one would hope).  For instance, they just finished an agreement to sell a ton of golf courses they also owned.

Here's a list, created by CNL, of the parks they currently own:

This is quite a mix of properties, but there are several of note.  Those include Darien Lake, Elitch Gardens, Frontier City, Magic Springs, Pacific Park, and Wild Waves Theme Park.  There are also a lot of water parks, with bigger names like the North American Wet 'n' Wild parks, and two of the Hawaiian Falls parks.

CNL doesn't operate any of these parks, since they are investments, with different firms handling that portion under contract.

Darien Lake is managed by Herschend Family Entertainment, and has seen modest additions in recent years.  I have to wonder how tightly CNL held the purse strings, limiting what Herschend could really do.  It would make sense to me for them to purchase the park, but you never know.  If they do it could mean a whole new chapter in the park's life, and one that could be exciting.

Elitch Gardens, Frontier City, White Water Bay and the Wet 'n' Wild Parks are currently operated by Premier Parks, LLC - a company that has changed names several times already but was founded by former Six Flags executives.  I would also think that if they can get the loan, they would go for purchasing these parks as well.

Magic Springs is managed by AMP, Wild Waves by NorPoint Entertainment, and Pacific Park by Santa Monica Amusements LLC, so it is not clear if these entities could/would purchase those parks or if another operator would swoop in.

As for all the other smaller water parks and fun centers, well your guess is a good as mine right now.  I'm not sure I see any of the big operators - like Six Flags or Cedar Fair - going after and of CNL's parks, but it would be interesting if they did - for sure!  Either way I'm sort of glad to see the parks leave CNL ownership since I think they stifled them a bit.  I'll be excitedly on the lookout for news of sales.

Monday, October 20, 2014

High Flying New Flat Ride Headed to Liseberg in 2015

Many parks would take a year off after a huge coaster addition like Helix, but Liseberg (Gothenburg, Sweden) will do no such thing.

The park just announced the addition of Mechanica, a massive new flat ride for the park's 2015 season.

The park has prepared a video showing animations of the new attraction:

Mechanica will stand an impressive 30 meters tall, or 98 feet.  The attraction will be built by Zierer, one of the company's "Star Shape" rides.  The spinning motions that Mechanica will create are hard to describe - here is how Liseberg's press release handles the description:  "The ride can best be described as flying at high speed in a pendulum motion while gradually spinning round on two axes through 360 degrees."

So basically the simple version is that you will spin - a lot - and flip - a lot.  Mechanica's theme will also be strong, “through a combination of unique design, carefully selected music and inspiration draw from eighteenth-century Gothenburg we are aiming to create an all-round experience. It will be a strange machine that mixes contemporary and historical elements, like something straight out of a fairy tale.”

The ride will seat 30 guests per 90 second cycle, and represent an investment of over $4 million.  You can see more of the ride over at Liseberg's website.