Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Cedar Fair to Purchase Land Under California's Great America for $150m

© Google Maps
Cedar Fair announced today that they have reached an agreement with the City of Santa Clara to purchase the land under California's Great America for approximately $150 million.  Previously the city owned the land and Cedar Fair, and the owners before it, leased it from them.  The park originally opened in 1976.

Cedar Fair President and CEO Richard A. Zimmerman said, “This is a once in a generation opportunity to solidify our control of 112 acres in the heart of Santa Clara. The transaction underscores our long-term commitment to enhancing and expanding California’s Great America, insuring a high-quality, family-friendly entertainment destination for those who live and work in Northern California.”

Calfornia's Great America has had a history where, at times, it has seemed as though the park's future was in doubt.  The building of the 49ers stadium near the park caused a lot of friction, and tight zoning restrictions were also required by Cedar Fair to be removed in order to clear the path for the future of the park.  Those zoning changes were made in 2017, where a new master plan was issued for the park (read more here and here).  That plan was filled with new rides, a water park expansion, and the creation of an outside-the-park dining, entertainment, and retail area. 

© California's Great America
The plan started strong with infrastructure improvements in 2018, RailBlazer this past year, but appeared stalled once again.  The park had applied for a tall roller coaster for 2019, then pushed it to 2020, then dropped the application completely.  The park also cleared out a huge area for an expected water park expansion that seemed certain for this year, but that hasn't materialized either.  It is focusing on additional small improvements and changes for 2019.

But now with this purchase made public, perhaps a bit of light is shed on what the hold up was - conjecture on my part of course, but maybe Cedar Fair was more comfortable owning the land under the park before it started to pour tens of millions into the park.

Time will tell on that, but the news is definitely encouraging.  Cedar Fair expects to close the purchase of the park in the next three months, and will finance it through new long-term borrowings.