Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Slow Turnaround for Classic Conneaut Lake Park Continues

It's been a very long road, to say the least, but more good news has recently come out of the classic Conneaut Lake Park, located in western Pennsylvania.  The park had been under bankruptcy protection to shield it from being auctioned off to pay off millions in property and other tax debts.  However, the park has recently emerged from bankruptcy and has already made significant progress in reducing their debts.

At the start of the year the park completed their third sale of excess land that it owned which in total has reduced the property tax debt by more than $600,000.  The lakefront property was subdivided into six lots, so that means there are still three others that could be sold and aid in reducing the back taxes owed.

This past December the park also held an auction of unused park items, some related to rides (such as old Blue Streak cars) that raised nearly $30,000.

This all comes after a memorable 2016, which was the park's most successful season in many years - they actually turned a small profit instead of losing money.  Much of that can be attributed to the park's leadership and the reopening of the water slides and lazy river attractions.  In total revenues were up 26% in 2016 over the prior year.

Turning to 2017, there won't be any new rides but the park is looking to make other improvements that will lead to further profitability.  The park is trying to extend their hours and operate more days of the week.  Also, Camperland (the park's campground) is using the auction proceeds and expanding to include 47 new camp sites and more amenities to attract campers.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ride Kings Island's New Mystic Timbers Coaster First for a Good Cause

Many of us are excited to get our first ride on Mystic Timbers, the new wooden roller coaster at Kings Island, and now you have the chance to be one of the very first to take a spin.

Kings Island and Cedar Fair Charities are joining with the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation to give ride fans a chance to raise money for a great charity and be some of the first people to ride Mystic Timbers.  To be held on April 13th, two days before the public will get a chance to ride, a First Rider Auction event is taking place at the park.  Those interested can commit to raising at least $100 for the Foundation, and if you do you will get to attend the event.  Rides will take place in order of the most amount raised, but all who meet the minimum will get to ride - and find out what is going on in that shed once and for all!

The Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation is "a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing life-changing experiences to seriously ill and physically challenged children and their families in the Cincinnati area."  They have created numerous community outreach programs in the past that benefit local hospital and their patients.

Mystic Timbers features a 109 foot tall lift hill, speeds of 53 miles per hour and 3,265 feet of track in the woods.  Be sure to stay up to date on the ride's progress via the official Mystic Timbers website.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Heard On... Cedar Fair's 4th Quarter and 2016 Year End Conference Call

Cedar Fair had their earnings announcement this past week for the 4th quarter of 2016, along with the full results of the year.  In short, it was a very good one, with the company posting its 7th consecutive year of record results.

Full year revenues were up 4% to $1.29 billion and EBITDA was up 5% to $481 million.  Overall attendance was up 3% to a record 25.1 million, and per cap spending was up 2% to $46.90.  The company still plans to achieve its goal of hitting $500 million in EBITDA by the end of 2017, a year earlier then their goal.

The company held their usual conference call for the earnings, and here are some interesting facts from it:

• The company continues to do brand positioning studies on all their parks, seeing great success.  The studies are done for six of the 11 parks - several of which that were completed first (Knott's, CP, Canada's Wonderland) were the largest contributors to the company's 2016 success.  The remaining parks will be completed in the near future.

• The studies have resulted in major successes like Knott's Boysenberry Festival, which second only to Haunt in attendance now, a big deal, and also the popular Taste of the Carolinas event at Carowinds.

• Full year out-of-park revenues, which is mostly from accommodations, was a record $146 million, up 6%.  Cedar Fair will continue to "strategically invest in this area" over the next several years.  Cedar Point will add 20% more rooms by 2018 with a new Hotel Breakers tower and additional rooms at the Express hotel, sustained by the new Cedar Point Sports Complex.  The company has also had conversations with major hotel chains for possible resorts at several other parks, along with possibly high-end campgrounds as well.

• Capital expenditures for 2016 came in at around $160 million, and there's about $135 planned for 2017.  However, that $135 could grow by $30-40 million if they pull the trigger on several accommodation and sports complex additions that are being planned.

• Cedar Fair's overall attendance is now 45% season pass holders, 20-25% group business and the rest independent day visitors.  Also, right now about two thirds of all visitors pre-purchase tickets before arriving at the park.

• Cedar Fair also continues to beef up their catering facilities, opening brand new facilities in 2017 at Worlds of Fun and Dorney Park.  These new areas will have modern kitchen facilities, free Wifi and self-service refreshment centers.  Executive chefs at the park can make customized meals to lead to higher guest spending levels via premium food offerings.

• Winterfest at California's Great America sounds like a smash hit.  Revenues in the 4th quarter were up $25 million, which is NOT just from Winterfest, but probably a large chunk of it.  Executives were proud of the quality of the event, noting that it took the chain's Halloween events 4 to 5 seasons to ramp up to the quality of offerings done in the first year of Winterfest.  The event, coming online at three more parks in 2017, bring 20 to 25 additional operating days, per park, to the company.

• The company is watching labor costs by utilizing more self-serve food locations, especially for this year's beverage refill program.  They will also adding more kiosk ordering to food outlets across the chain.

• The Battle for Cedar Point augmented reality app was a success at Cedar Point last year, and will return in 2017.  It is also being expanded to Kings Dominion in 2017.  Knott's will add a new virtual reality "Showdown at Ghost Town" experience, but no other details on it were given.

• California's Great America receive several shout-outs by executives, congratulating them on their recent zoning approval.  This will let the company focus on the park's "long-term master plan" as research has shown the potential for the park to grow in attendance significantly.  Matt Ouimet even stated that it could be one of their "top-tier" parks when they are done, and he has very "high expectations" for it.  A question was asked if the expansion will be as big as Carowinds, and it sounds like perhaps not quite as big, but they will go in an update infrastructure, add capacity to the park, and build "significant new rides, a la Fury, et cetera."  They plan to talk more about the expansion in 3 to 6 months.

• It was also asked if the plan to expand Valleyfair significantly was still on the table, and they replied that that is still "a little further out."  They just lost the park's General Manager to the Minneapolis Zoo, so this year will be one of transition and study of the marketplace to understand it more.

Friday, February 17, 2017

New Star Trek Coaster Now Testing at Movie Park Germany

One of 2017's most interesting coaster designs can be found at Movie Park Germany, Star Trek: Operation Enterprise.  The coaster has been designed by Mack Rides and contains multiple launches that give the trains a top speed of 56 miles per hour, enough to complete the full circuit track.  Riders will encounter not only full Star Trek theming, but also several inversions, including an elevated heartline roll, an Immelmann, and a zero-g roll.

© Movie Park Germany
The coaster's structure has been completed for some time now, but we just recently got our first look at the ride's trains.  Seen above, the coaster's rolling stock feature a sleek look that fits with the futuristic Star Trek theme.  If you check out the park's Facebook photos, you can see more of the trains along with recent theming progress.

With the coaster's opening coming up pretty soon, the ride has been testing and the park has released this footage.  There's a lot of quick cuts and changes to the movie's speed, so it's hard to gauge how fast the ride is really running, but this looks great!  The twisted elements, launch and unique layout make Star Trek: Operation Enterprise look like it could be one of this year's hits.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wild Adventures Gives a Detailed Look at New Ohana Bay Expansion

Hard to believe, but it really won't be all that long before visitors to Wild Adventures will be enjoying the park's Splash Island water area.  This year the water park will expand with the addition of Ohana Bay, which we heard about previously when it was first announced.  At that point there wasn't much in the way of details aside from the fact that it will be an expansive play area filled with smaller water slides and plenty of places to relax.

© Wild Adventures
Wild Adventures has been keeping us updated on the progress of Ohana Bay via a dedicated website for the project, which is where this photo comes from.  Sure it appears as though there is plenty of work left to be done, but quick progress is being made as each week passes.  More construction photos are being added to the website, and a few others can be seen from this news story.

© Wild Adventures
The biggest amount of new detail comes from this layout of Ohana Bay, which was shared by the park.  In addition to the new amenities such as a Splash Deck play area, plenty of lounge space, restrooms and more, we now know a bit more about the slides and their names.

Alani Falls are three miniature racing slides, designed for small kids.  The purple slide seen above is for bigger kids, also racing slides, named Polu Plunge.  A set of small body slides, named Oma Oma O Racers are next in green.  Finally, the largest slides (each 200 feet in length and starting at 27 feet high) are Uli Uli Twisters, which can be enjoyed by both kids and have enough thrills for adults, too.

Ohana Bay is scheduled to open at Wild Adventures's Splash Island on April 1st.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Dorney Park 2017 Construction Update + New Food Offerings Announced

© Dorney Park
Dorney Park recently shared a few photos of the work going on at the park on new for 2017 projects, starting with the Parkside Pavilion.  We've seen work on the expansive new catering facility previously, but in the most recent photo (above) you can see that several of the pavilions are already standing, complete with roofing.

The above photo shows only half of the area, with much more also being built to the right of this view.  In the middle of the area, and on the right of this photo, will be a full service chef's kitchen that will prepare specialty and themed foods for events and picnics.

© Dorney Park
We also have our first look at the park's two new rides from this update as well.  Above is the current work on Dodgem, the new bumper cars.  This area is a part of Talon's plaza, and the former location of Hang Time.  If you look at the larger image you can see the foundation for Dodgem has been started, with the rest of the area cleared.  These bumper cars are being provided by Bartazzon, and will feature 20 different vehicles in a mix of bright colors.

© Dorney Park
A classic Trokia ride, Kaleidoscope, is also in the beginning stages on the Main Midway, just past the Coasters restaurant.  It will be located in the space that the Screamin' Swing took up, seen above.  While the park has plenty of markings out for the ride, it looks like they were still busy removing the former ride's foundation when this photo was taken.  Trokias are pretty big flat rides, and I'm quite interested to see how it will fit on this triangle-shaped plot of land!

Dorney Park has also revealed a handful of additional food and beverage changes for 2017.  First, the planned Sunset Beach Bar in Wildwater Kingdom has been delayed from a 2017 opening.

© Dorney Park
However, two new food options will open next year, the first of which is Papa Luigi's in the water park.  This will replace Typhoon Treats near the original wave pool, and offer pizza along with other items such as Philly Cheesesteaks.

© Dorney Park
Inside the amusement park, a new Auntie Anne's pretzel outlet will open, where the Philly Pretzel Factory was.  It will offer many of the treats that Auntie Anne's is famous for, including cinnamon hand-rolled pretzels.

For more on Dorney Park's 2017 expansion, check out the park's website.