Saturday, May 30, 2020

Cedar Fair Shares More Info on Park Operations Once They Reopen

© Cedar Fair
We only know so far that Cedar Fair's two Schlitterbahn parks in Texas plan to reopen in mid-June, and the rest of the company's parks are still waiting on local governments to give them the go ahead to open.  While those details are worked out, Cedar Fair has sent out more detailed news on how they plan to operate their parks in the 'new normal' pandemic world.

Most of the changes they detailed are related to the use of new technology and the parks' existing mobile apps to "enable a safe and efficient park reopening experience for its guests and associates."  The changes will affect how visitors plan and prepare for their trips, when they arrive at the park and throughout their stay.

Before arrival guests will make required reservations online or through the park's app, picking a specific arrival time on the day of their choice.  This will allow parks to limit attendance to keep in line with state and local health guidelines.  Once booked, guests will get a "time-bound entry voucher" that will show in the park's app.  The apps themselves will be beefed up to inform guests of changes at the parks due to the pandemic.  Additionally, season passes will be able to be processed in the app instead of in person at the park.

Arriving at the park will require an "initial health check," and guests with the park's app can complete most of the health questionnaire prior to visiting.  No details on the rest of the process, such as a possible temperature screening, were revealed.  Additionally, face mask rules were not covered here the news was mostly related to technological changes.

While in the park a focus will be placed on cashless payment methods to limit interaction, "reduce touchpoints and expenses, as well as improve efficiency and throughput."  Mobile food ordering via the app is being started at 4 parks in 2020, though which parks was not stated.

The app will also be used to "monitor potential overcrowding in various areas of the park throughout the day; this will help determine where to deploy crowd control measures and enable appropriate social distancing.  These modules will also direct guests to the closest hand sanitizing stations."  I have to wonder if a certain part of a park gets too crowded, if the app will alert guests to move on to another area?

Cedar Fair CEO Richard Zimmerman said, “The safety of our guests and associates has always been, and will always be, our highest priority.  I’m pleased that our internal health and safety experts, as well as state and local government officials, have informed the development and implementation of these technology enhancements which, when combined with our other in-park safety procedures being implemented, should help renew the public’s confidence when visiting our parks.  Our more robust suite of mobile technologies not only strengthens the safety measures recommended by health officials, but also offers exciting, guest-friendly alternatives that could very well enhance the overall guest experience for the long term,” said Zimmerman.

Hopefully the coming week will reveal which of the chain's amusement parks will be the first to reopen under these guidelines!

Friday, May 29, 2020

Another Round of Park Reopening Announcements

© Kentucky Kingdom
I like posting these!  Here are the latest parks to officially announce reopening dates.  There are several more who are in states that have clarified when parks can open, but we prefer to wait to hear from the parks directly.

Up first is Kentucky Kingdom, which will reopen to visitors for the 2020 season on June 29th.  The water park, Hurricane Bay, will open soon after that.  While more details will come as the opening date nears, for now the park is saying that it "will operate with enhanced sanitizing and cleaning procedures and safety protocols to provide the best possible protection of guests and team members during the current coronavirus crisis."

Also, as a huge plus to the public, they have lowered their gate prices to $29.95 and 2020 season passes are only $49.95.  For people who already purchased 2020 seasons passes (they say there are 15K of them), they have made those passes also valid for the 2021 season.  Nice!

© Aquatica San Antonio
Aquatica San Antonio, located adjacent to SeaWorld San Antonio, will open on June 6th, the park has just announced.  Right now water parks are allowed to open in Texas, but not theme parks so SeaWorld San Antonio will have to open later.

The park has spent the past two months creating a full plan of how to operate the park safely, and they can't wait to welcome guests back and show them a good time.

This news is so new that the park's website isn't even updated yet, but watch for details soon.  The park has also confirmed that their new attraction, Tonga Twister, will be open for visitors on June 6th.

© Arnold's Park
Arnold's Park, located in Iowa, is a small classic lakeside park operation and it's wonderful to see that they are planning on reopening on June 3rd.  We've seen some parks of this size opt to not operate in 2020, so it's nice to see that Arnold's Park hasn't had to go in that direction.

The park hasn't set up a dedicated page that details any changes that have come from the pandemic.  However they have stated on social media that they are setting up a full set of new safety and cleaning procedures to cover the entire property.

For now visitors can look forward to rides on the classic Legend wooden coaster in just a short while!

© Bay Beach Amusement Park
Bay Beach Amusement Park, located up in Wisconsin, is planning to open for the 2020 season on June 26th.  They would like to hold two test days, on June 20th and 21st, with tickets being sold first come first served on those days.  So long as those practice days go well, the park intends to fully open on the 26th.

The purpose of the two test days is to make sure that the elaborate safety plan that has been put into place will work properly with visitors.  I'm sure the park will have no problem finding people who want to come out for the test and try out the Zippin Pippin for the first time this year!

The Park at OWA, located in Alabama, will welcome back guests starting June 5th.  The amusement park is one of the anchor attractions at OWA, along with a large downtown shopping and dining area. 

A whole set of guidelines for visiting the park have been published, available at this link.  Face masks will not be required, but strongly encouraged.  They will do temperature screenings at the entrance, and strictly enforce social distancing throughout the park and while on the rides.

Additionally, the park will be limiting attendance levels like we've seen with many other parks.  As such, they will be selling a non-rider wrist band for $5.00 in order to keep track of the total number of guests on site.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Conneaut Lake Park Will Not Open in 2020

© Conneaut Lake Park
Sadly, Conneaut Lake Park has announced that they will not be opening for the 2020 season as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.  The park has been on a great upswing in recent seasons, but it still technically in a state of bankruptcy with very limited resources.  That status means the park has to work carefully with creditors for normal year business operations, and the stresses of the pandemic have really turned things upside down for them.

Preparing the park to operate safely for the pandemic adds a lot of costs, and on top of that Conneaut says that the state hasn't even made things clear for them.  Conneaut reports that Pennsylvania hasn't specifically said that amusement parks can open in the "green" phase, and even if they can it is at 50% capacity.  Conneaut has open gates and no way to accurately track how full they are.

Plus, they point out that they are trying to get out of bankruptcy by having packed midways, and plans to combat the virus mean exactly the opposite of that.  They would have a hard time finding financial success in that scenario, so they will sit this year out.

For those who purchased season passes for the rides or water park, they will be automatically made valid for the 2021 season.  They are also offering refunds if that is not desired.

Let's hope that this park, and others that are staying closed, do return for 2021!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Reopening Dates Planned for Disney World and SeaWorld Orlando + First Cedar Fair Parks to Open

© Disney
Some major announcements came today with regard to parks reopening, the largest of which is Walt Disney World in Orlando starting to reopen on July 11th (pending final approval from Florida's Governor).  On that day both the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will open, and a few days later on July 15th both Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot will welcome back guests.

The property has paused new ticket sales and hotel reservations in order to focus on guests with existing tickets and hotel plans - this includes annual passholders.  Guests will need to utilize a reservation system in order to visit the parks to control crowding - the park's attendance will be limited as expected.

The parks will hold off on holding shows, parades and fireworks for now, since these events create crowd gathering situations.  Face masks for anyone aged 3 and up will be required across the entire resort, except for when people are eating or swimming, and touchless temperature checks will be used.

Walt Disney World is a gigantic property, and arguably the largest park (set of parks) reopening that this country will see.  To that end everyone has a lot of questions about the property's 'new normal' so be sure to check out this site for some additional details.

© SeaWorld Entertainment
SeaWorld Orlando has also detailed their plans to reopen their park, which they hope to do on June 11th.  The park would like to hold an employee appreciation/test day on June 10th as well.

The park appears be waiting for final approval from the Governor until they update their website with official plans, however several sites are covering information from their presentation today.  The park will require guests aged two and a half and older to wear a mask, and will also utilize temperature screenings.  Interestingly, they do still plan to have parades though all guest interaction will be removed from them.

The reopening plans include Aquatica Orlando and Discovery Cove - all properties will have strict social distancing markers in place to keep guests spaced out.  That is an especially big concern for animal exhibits, where visitors commonly gather.

Expect to see more from the park with regard to their full plan as soon as they receive final approval.

© Cedar Fair
It also looks as though we have our first set of Cedar Fair parks to open, the recently purchased Schlitterbahn New Braunfels and Schlitterbahn Galveston.

No specific dates have been set yet for these two water parks to reopen, but the parks did post this today:

"We are pleased that Governor Abbott’s reopening plans now include waterparks. The safety of our guests and associates has always been, and will always be, our top priority.  Schlitterbahn is preparing to reopen our properties mid-June with enhanced safety measures and operational changes throughout both of our parks. We miss you and cannot wait to welcome you back to the Hottest, Coolest Time in Texas."

Unless another Cedar Fair park makes an announcement soon, it seems that these parks opening in "mid-June" could be the first for the company.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Six Flags Shares More on COVID-19 Operating Plans + Frontier City to Reopen June 5th

© Six Flags
Six Flags Entertainment sent out a mega-update today covering their elaborate plans to operate their theme parks in a COVID-19 world.  This is the "new normal," as they put it.

But first, they've also announced their first theme park to reopen, which will be Frontier City on June 5th.  The park will have very limited attendance and will open on June 5th through June 7th only for Members and Season Pass Holders only.  It will then open to all guests and gradually increase the maximum daily attendance throughout the month.  As stated earlier, the park will require the use of a reservation system to visit, and has a host of other information available here.

© Frontier City
“Frontier City, like all Six Flags parks, is an outdoor attraction that poses a significantly lower risk of exposure than indoor venues.  Our guests are not confined to one space for lengthy periods.  Guests move constantly throughout their experience; some are riding rides, some are eating in restaurants, while others are shopping in our souvenir stores, or playing games.  Because our parks cover dozens or even hundreds of acres, we can easily manage guest throughput to achieve proper social distancing,” said Six Flags President and CEO Mike Spanos.

“We have developed a comprehensive reopening safety plan that includes best practices from theme park and waterpark industry experts, along with top destination parks from around the world, which will allow guests to experience our parks in the safest possible way.  This ’new normal’ will be very different, but we believe these additional measures are appropriate in the current environment.”

© Six Flags
Along with the first park in the Six Flags chain to have an opening date set, the company also released a very robust set of standards for operations that meet or in most cases exceed local and government minimums for the safety of workers and visitors.

The plans are so thorough that they've created a 37 point summary of the changes they have implemented, which you can view online as part of Frontier City's reopening news.

© Six Flags
A lot of the programs we have already discussed in previous stories, so I will not go through each point one by one.  Some other things have come up or been clarified for us, though.

For instance, "contact-less IR thermal imaging" will be used to scan guests as they enter the park, a fast way to determine if anyone's temperate is more than 100.4, at which point they need further screening to see if they can enter.

Also guests over the age of two need a face mask that covers their mouth and nose, and it must be worn at all times.  Exceptions will be made on a "case-by-case basis for persons with disabilities, health concerns, religious restrictions, or other circumstances that in Six Flags’ discretion warrant a modification of this face mask requirement."

© Six Flags
The parks will also use new technology to scan bags with no contact to make sure proper safety standards are met.

Souvenir drink bottles, which grew very popular in recent years, will not be refilled, instead a new paper cup will be given.  Guests can then just use that, or put it in their bottle on their own.

This is the first time we've also been able to read the Six Flags Health & Safety Policy, which every guest must adhere to.  If not, Six Flags says that "if at any time Six Flags determines that a guest does not meet the criteria outlined in this policy, Six Flags reserves the right to refuse entry or (if the guest is already in the park) immediately remove the guest from the park.  These actions are at the sole discretion of Six Flags."  That sounds good to me, and I hope that is enforced.

A summary video of the changes and plans was also released today, which has been uploaded to YouTube by Amusement Insiders:

Stay tuned for more Six Flags parks reopening dates, I think there will be plenty over the next few weeks!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Water World in Colorado Staying Closed for 2020 Season

© Water World
While we had some great news over the past few days about parks planning to reopen (or already having reopened), we're still seeing some other properties go in the opposite route.

Located in Colorado, Water World, which is a part of the Hyland Hill Parks & Recreation District, announced that it will not be opening for the 2020 season.  Instead it is telling guests it looks forward to welcoming them for the 2021 season, starting May 23rd, 2021.

The park keeps the safety of their guests as their top priority, and having proper training time to get all their lifeguards ready to go seems to be a big part of the closure.  They note that there is no data that COVID-19 can transfer in treated water, but the state still hasn't given orders that they can reopen.  Instead of waiting for that clearance and then trying to hire and train staff, the park will just stay closed.

© Google Maps
The park has already extended all season passes and tickets to be valid for 2021.  Pass holders will also receive some extra benefits once the park opens next year.

Water World is also teasing what could be a new attraction for 2021, saying that they "have some EXCITING news to share" over the summer.  The park is known for a giant selection of water slides and attractions (seen above), and new additions are usually quite significant.