Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Look Into Cedar Fair's Present & Future, + Cedar Point and Carowinds Details

Cedar Fair recently had investor events at two of their parks, Carowinds earlier in the summer and Cedar Point just a few days ago.

At these events executives are more than happy to sing the property's accolades, along with those of the entire company.  And I'm by no means saying that's a bad thing, because there's a lot to be proud of and plus we get to check out the slide presentations that are offered at the events.

The investor events usually have a bit more color than the earnings and general investor slide decks, so there's some fun stuff to look at.  So let's look!

Starting with the recent investor day at Cedar Point.  Obviously so much has changed at the Point this year there is a lot to share.  This slide shows off the company as a whole, though in terms of revenues and EBITDA.  For those unfamiliar, EBITDA is a figure that the company uses to measure success, as it is 'what's left over' before interest, taxes, depreciation and the like.

So while looking at which parks have the largest revenues is important, much more important is looking at which ones are on top in terms of EBITDA.  Those are the parks where it is easier to justify larger expansions, as there is more bang for your buck, you could say.  The pie graph shows that things look to run down like this, largest to smallest:

Cedar Point, Knott's Berry Farm, Kings Island, Canada's Wonderland, Carowinds, Kings Dominion, Dorney Park, Worlds of Fun, California's Great America, Valleyfair, and finally Michigan's Adventure.

So if you're ever wondering why [insert park here] hasn't gotten that big coaster in a while, check where it falls on this list.  The further down you go, the longer between big expansions.  There's more to it than just this, of course, but this is not a Finance blog so we'll skip the rest.

Here is a slide we all will love.  While not naming names, this shows Cedar Fair's plans for what kind of expansion mix they plan for the next five years.  Everyone relax, major thrill rides and coasters are coming each year.  Coaster re-works, expected to be more stand-up to floorless conversions are also planned, however three years are noted for this and the chain only has two more B&M stand-ups left.  So what else will be re-worked?

The Interactive dark rides are coming for four more years, interesting as I thought they were taking 2016 off from this.  Then again it also lists this category as "digital experience" so maybe something else is up their sleeves.

The push for entertainment and in-park experiences will taper off in a couple years, and we've got at least three more seasons of ride-removals to look forward to.  Hopefully they keep announcing them as they have been so we can get our final rides in!

Infrastructure, water park additions and "tween" rides are always on the books, according to this.  Accommodations will show up two of the years, and I'm quite interested to see where that is.  It seems Carowinds is a sure target.

This one is a little more conceptual than the previous slide, but it shows a scale of what the company is working on, basically.  You can read though them all, but we will note that several of them are left blank of purpose, mostly in terms of expansion and making the parks a "place to be."  That's more of a down-the-road focus it seems.  Real estate development is very interesting to see on here, but more on that later.

Ride fans will also want to take notice of the three soon to be announced "place to ride" developments they have marked.  Also the virtual reality POV for an upcoming ride announcement, and a test for virtual reality on a coaster.  Very out of the box stuff here.

Here we have a little more detail on the plans to develop real estate to get people in the parks, or at least near them.  We have an obvious plan for more overnight accommodations, but a new idea is the "amateur sports facilities," near the parks, the first currently planned for near Cedar Point.  My theory is that if you get people near the parks for sporting events, you can tie that into hotel stays and park visits as well.  Smart.

The final bullet point here is of great interest to me, the commercial development like "retail, hotel, dining and entertainment."  I believe there is a plan in place for this near California's Great America, which is dependent on a total rezoning of the park (which is underway but not final).  It sounds like from 30,000 feet this would be like how big resort parks, Disney and Universal, create shopping and entertainment districts by the parks, to keep people on site and busy.  Now I do not in any way foresee something of the scale those parks do, but partnerships for more hotels, restaurants, even shopping areas could fit and extend visits to the parks if done adjacent to them, and done right.  Very interested to see where this goes!

Everyone loves Cedar Point, and rightfully so, so I included this slide as well.  They also have a big photo of the pumpkin patch that is expected to be home to the 2016 attraction in the slides as well.  It sounds like the placemaking will continue indefinitely at the park, bringing older parts of the park up to today's standards.

The slides are available here, nearly 100 of them, and I'm only covering a small bit of them in this post.  If you're a fan of the parks, make sure to sit down and take a look.

Earlier in the summer was an investor day at Carowinds, which is undergoing a huge push by Cedar Fair to grow it into a bigger park.  This slide appears to show that the plan is to bring Carowinds up to Kings Island levels of attendance, revenues and EBITDA.  Still a far way to go, but remember this was before this season so the gains from Fury 325 are not reflected in these graphs.

On paper, Carowinds already has some nice comparisons to Kings Island, at least in terms of ride offerings.  The big hole in the park right now seems to be the amount of water park attractions, but I think we all know it won't be long at all before that's changed.  The addition of Fury 325 really kicked the park into a new must-visit category for many folks as well.

Cedar Fair picked Carowinds to see heavy investment for a reason, and that's reflected here.  The park is in the right market (a growing one), has plenty of developable land, and has areas just waiting for improvement.  The chart on the right really shows this - the park has the 5th highest attendance in the chain (11 parks), but ranked near the bottom for almost all revenue categories.  The per-cap spending is lower than much smaller parks, specifically food, merchandise and games were second to last.  With all the knowledge that Cedar Fair has I would think these are pretty easy things to change.

And happily, they are changing!  While no detail is given in terms of numbers, we can see that all important indicators for the park are up this season year to date, and that was a couple months ago.  I have a feeling things have continued to climb since then.

And finally, I wanted to share this overhead of the park because it also includes a yellow line showing the land that the park owns.  As you can see there's plenty of it, quite a bit untouched as of now.  Here's where I can see partner hotels, and some of the other things mentioned earlier going in.

The full Carowinds investor day presentation is available here, and also worth checking out!

All images are © Cedar Fair