Sunday, March 15, 2009

Six Flags to the World: It's Business as Usual

Amid the torrent of rumors, speculation, and doubt which began circulating well before Six Flags publicly acknowledged the possibility of that dreaded "B" word, the beleaguered company would like to make one thing crystal clear: As far as the parks are concerned, it's business as usual in 2009. Bankruptcy or not--and, as you'll recall, that remains to be seen--the company's pending financial obligations will in no way impact the manner in which the individual parks are run, nor the quality of the new and improved Six Flags experience.

Since the dawn of the Snyder/Shapiro era, Six Flags has proceeded to set the bar higher and higher at its parks with each passing year, and 2009 is no exception. The company has set aside more than $200 million for operational expenses and intends to hire a full staff to serve each of its properties. Still, a growing concern is the percentage of would-be visitors who will equate the financial headlines with quality and safety and opt to take their patronage elsewhere. One debt analyst has predicted that a bankruptcy filing would result in a 6% drop in attendance across Six Flags parks, as compared to a predicted 3.5% drop otherwise (simply due to the current economic crunch).

What a shame it would be if a simple matter of public perception were to become the undoing of everything the Shapiro team has worked so hard to achieve! I will be the first to admit that when this new management team took the helm, I had serious doubts about whether they would be willing or able to turn Six Flags around. But over the past few years, they have turned this skeptic into a believer with all the positive--yet carefully measured--changes they have made across the chain. I am a Shapiro fan. There, I said it.

Only time will tell what the future holds. But as long as we have the present, we as enthusiasts can make a difference (however subtle!) by publicly reinforcing the fact that the Six Flags parks as well as all of our other favorite parks remain firmly committed to guest satisfaction and safety during these difficult times. A day at the local amusement park may be just what the doctor ordered to fight the gloom and doom of the daily headlines!

For a great synopsis of Six Flags' current financial situation as it relates to park operations, check out this article from The New York Times.