Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Holiday World to Host Digital Opening Day May 2nd

© Holiday World
It is opening-day season for many amusement and theme parks across the country, though understandably they are currently delayed during to the pandemic.  Holiday World's opening day for the 2020 season cannot take place on May 2nd in person, but the park will instead hold a digital opening day for fans of the park.

Starting with a welcome from park President Matt Eckert and fourth-generation owner Leah Koch, the park has packed their entire day with plenty of fun events - all which can be experienced digitally.  “We may not be able to welcome guests through our gates on May 2 as we had originally planned,” says Leah Koch, “but we’re going to celebrate it just the same.”

The park has plenty of details for the event on their website, so be sure to check that out.  They will be releasing videos each hour from 9 am until 9 pm central time.  Videos will include topics such a cooking tutorials for making park food at home, a chat with the park's President, general entertainment and an hour dedicated to healthcare and other essential workers.

© Holiday World
The day will be topped off with a fireworks celebration that will be set to holiday music and viewed from a drone, followed by a sweepstakes drawing for free tickets to the park at 9 pm.  Holiday world has packed the whole day with fun so be sure to stay tuned throughout the day!

“Opening day is a special day that we count down toward every year. We can’t wait until we can open our gates to Guests again, but until then we’re going to celebrate and help our Guests bring opening day home,” adds Koch.

Right now the park is tentatively planning on an early June reopening, with more details on that to come as they are decided.

This is a wonderful idea by the park to keep their fans engaged and excited!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

From The Vault: 1999 Wild Adventures Brochure + Map

© Wild Adventures
Wild Adventure Theme Park is another property that started off as an independent park and struggled to find its footing for a number of years.  After starting to add rides for the 1998 season, Wild Adventures returned in 1999 with even more attractions to draw guests to the property.

The biggest new ride was The Hangman (now known as the Twisted Typhoon), which is a Vekoma SLC.  It joined the park's Boomerang, another Vekoma ride, as the park's biggest thrill ride.

© Wild Adventures
Wild Adventures first opened without thrill rides, so the zoological component of the park has always been a big draw as well.  Later down the line the park also added a water park, which has indeed helped to draw guests under the warm Georgia sun.  Back in 1999 a lot of the park's rides weren't very unique, but they offered an interesting reason to visit along with the animals.

© Wild Adventures
In addition to the rides and animals which we've already mentioned, the park has also always featured a selection of live concerts to draw visitors - and still do in present day.  This page shows that as well, along with different season offerings.  Not many parks were doing both Halloween and Christmas celebrations back in '99!

© Wild Adventures
Here is a look at the park in 1999.  The park was divided into separate themed areas, which have sort of melted away over the years.  The newest at the time was The Wild West, where the Hangman roller coaster was built.

Wild Adventures is now owned by Herschend Family Entertainment, and while not seeing a massive amount of capital investments, it does seem like the company is trying to "right size" the park for its market - hopefully to help it thrive in the long run.

Friday, April 24, 2020

From The Vault: Visionland 1999 Park Map

© NewsPlusNotes
Long before Alabama Adventure Amusement Park and Splash Adventure Waterpark came to be there was VisionLand, located in Bessemer, Alabama.  The park is now in a regrowth stage (which hopefully can continue), under new independent owners, but it stated as a unique community driven theme park.

Opened in 1998, VisionLand was created by nearly a dozen local cities coming together to borrow the funds to open the modest theme and water park.  After a couple years the park was in financial trouble, and Cedar Fair almost operated it at one point.  Eventually it was sold to Southland Entertainment Group, which invested it in and tried to help the park grow.

© NewsPlusNotes
That worked for a while but then the park was suddenly sold again to Adrenaline Family Entertainment in 2008, who only held on to it for a few years - the park was sold again before the 2012 season.  This time, the new owners (who were a part of Southland Entertainment) decided to close the theme park and only operate the water park.

In 2014 members of the Koch family purchased the park and started the slow revival of it that is still going on today.

© NewsPlusNotes
© NewsPlusNotes
But if we look back at when the park opened, it looked like a nice place at least in terms of this drawing.  While I did not visit the park, it definitely did not have the grand amount of shade that is shown here.  Granted over time the park has grown in all those planted trees, but it must have been hot back in the early years!

The park is home to the highly regarded Rampage wooden roller coaster, which has been fully restored under the Koch family.  Once this virus clears out Alabama Adventure will be a great place for locals to support!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Indiana Beach Has New Owner, Plans to Possibly Reopen This Summer

© Indiana Beach
A new owner has been revealed for Indiana Beach, one who is committed to reopening the park as soon as July of this year - depending on timing related to the current pandemic.

In a slightly unusual announcement, which saw the park's social media pages updated reflecting the park's reopening but with no real detail, most of the guts of the news comes from this Facebook story from News & Review, a local news source that publishes via social media. (however it has been confirmed in larger media outlets and through the local commissioners and Mayor)

The story lists the park's new owner as Gene Staples, a Chicago area investor who plans to restore the park to its former glory.  Described as an amusement park fan, Mr. Staples understands the importance of classic amusement parks and also what the property means for the local community.

The details are in the story, but it sounds like his first mission will be to get the park open and polished up.  It sounds like the debt needed to obtain the park will be structured in such a way that it will make the establishment viable in the long term.

Also, the season passes that people purchased, at least ones that were not refunded by Apex or credit card companies, will be honored when the park reopens.  The campground will also reopen, possibly sooner than the amusement park.

There is a section of the story that talks about reopening the park just after a large pandemic, which does leave some room for possibly pushing back the reopening to 2021.  That depends entirely on the way the virus battle plays out.

The park's official website is still reflecting a closed status, hopefully that will be updated with ongoing information as reopening plans are made.  Best wishes to the park's new owners, it's wonderful to hear that the park will remain!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

SeaWorld Entertainment Business Update Regarding Covid-19 Closures

© SeaWorld Entertainment
Today we got another business update from one of the industry players, this time from SeaWorld Entertainment.  While their parks are closed the company, like the others we've seen so far, is working to keep enough cash on hand to operate until the parks and reopen.

SeaWorld Entertainment has decided to offer private notes (private loans - Six Flags and Cedar Fair also did this in the past week) to the tune of just under $230 million, and also received relief on their loan covenants for the rest of the year.  Both give them addition freedom as they operate.

Between these measures, cash on hand and their revolver, the company says they can stay afloat until at least till the 4th quarter of 2021.  They're utilizing, on average, about $25 million a month.

Also of note, the company reported preliminary results prior to the parks closing for the first two months of 2020.  They were doing well, with record attendance and revenue through the end of February.  They had 1.9 million guests, up 9% over 2019.  Revenues were a record of $121 million, an increase of $13 million over 2019.

© SeaWorld Entertainment
They have also detailed some specific actions taken at this time to survive the parks being closed.  Most are similar to those we've seen Six Flags and Cedar Fair announce.  These include furloughing 95% of staff, reducing executive salaries by 20%, and cutting expenses such as marketing and other non-essential spending.

The company is going even harder at managing cash spend, which isn't a surprise given their tendency to please shareholders at all costs.  They also list that they are looking to take advantage of the Main Street Lending Program through the government, and also have a daily approval process for all payments being made.

As for capital expenditures, which we saw reduced at Six Flags and even more heavily so at Cedar Fair, SeaWorld is only noting that they "substantially reduced or deferred all capital expenditures starting in March 2020 (other than minimal essential capital expenditures)."

That's more vague than the other operators so it's hard to know exactly what they're holding back on.  Their 2020 attractions appeared pretty much done, I mean their new wooden coaster in Texas was already open, so those seem safe.   We'll have to wait and see if this changes plans for 2021 like we're expecting to see at the other operators parks.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Dorney Park's Alfundo Returns For a Good Cause

© Dorney Park
Here is a nice feel good moment - Dorney Park's famous Alfundo the clown mascot has made a reappearance in order to help raise money and awareness for an emergency Covid-19 fund that is being run through the Lehigh Valley Health Network.

Alfundo was brought out of a sleepy retirement in order to take part in the Goals for LV Challenge, which is sponsored on social media by the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.  Those who are challenged must donate $1 for each goal they make in 20 seconds, in their own house or backyard of course.

Here is Alfundo's attempt:

Not too bad for a clown that's in his 60s now!

Also notice that Alfundo says that he might just stop in at Dorney Park here and there once it is able to reopen!  It's great to see the old guy again, who's name famously is a combination of ALlentown has FUN at DOrney.  He was a prominent feature of the park from 1960 through the mid 1980s, and it's great to see him back again, even if not on a daily basis, and especially for a great cause!

Sunday, April 19, 2020

From The Vault: Cedar Fair's 2008 Annual Report Letter From the President

© Cedar Fair
I came across Cedar Fair's 2008 annual report while cleaning, which contained this Letter From the President that recaps the year.  I don't think these letters were done after this year, as a recession raged on and Cedar Fair was trying to be acquired by Apollo Management.  Prior years, however, these annual reports were slick, colorful and nice collectors items.

Anyway, this one peaked my interested as the company was dealing with a recession and uncertain future at the time... feels familiar to today.  They actually ended up putting Valleyfair, Worlds of Fun and California's Great America up for sale, as they were saddled with the debt of the Paramount Park purchase in very tough economic, specifically banking, times.

© Cedar Fair
Still, during 2008 Cedar Fair managed to squeak out some increases in net revenues and adjusted EBITDA.  Technically the worst of the recession wasn't over at this point though and indeed, the company saw both those statistics decline in 2009.

© Cedar Fair
Back during this tough economic period Cedar Fair had to cut their distribution, almost by 50%, still less dramatic than having to stop it totally like they have currently.  In addition to listing the three aforementioned parks as for sale, they also were trying to sell excess land by Canada's Wonderland (which I think they did) and also Geauga Lake.

This section of the letter also mentions that despite bad economic conditions, people still visited the parks because they "offer a unique entertainment experience that has real value for people."  Let's pray that remains true once we get through this pandemic.

© Cedar Fair
The Letter from the President always touted the company's achievements in the season that had ended, and also the one that was ahead of them.  In 2008 they had seen great success with Behemoth at Canada's Wonderland, a strong year at Cedar Point, and a record year for Michigan's Adventure with the opening of Thunderhawk, a coaster moved from Geauga Lake.

The 2009 season was another exciting one for Cedar Fair - despite challenging times they were building three new coasters that year.  Diamondback at Kings Island, Prowler at Worlds of Fun, and the Carolina Cobra at Carowinds (another ride moved from Geauga Lake).  Those coasters and other additions at the various parks meant a $62 million investment for the year.

© Cedar Fair
The last part of the letter talked of the future of Cedar Fair.  At the time reducing their debt levels was key during the "unprecedented times" (isn't that also familiar?) they were in.  As we well know, the company did indeed weather the recession and continue to grow in the decade after it.  Sure, there were some steps backward, but those only led to greater steps forward in the end.  Hopefully history can repeat itself again in that regard.

© Cedar Fair
Finally, just for fun here is the 11-year financial data that was usually included in the annual report.  It's interesting to see how dramatically Cedar Fair changed from 2005 to 2006, when the Paramount Park purchase was completed!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Six Flags Magic Mountain Files Plans for 2021 Coaster Project

© Six Flags Great Adventure
The sleuths over on Reddit have posted a link to some approved plans for a new roller coaster for Six Flags Magic Mountain's 2021 season.  They are marked as approved in early March, so take 2021 with a giant, whopping grain of salt as all plans for all parks are probably up in the air depending on how the rest of the pandemic plays out.

© Six Flags Magic Mountain
The new roller coaster would somewhat replace the park's Green Lantern: First Flight coaster, which is supposed to open at La Ronde this year.  That means that the new coaster's layout, contained in the black box in the above image, will extend through the part of the park themed around super heroes and villains.

© Six Flags Magic Mountain
The plans also include an aerial of the ride layout, which is the most exciting and most telling.  This appears to be a very similar ride to the currently under construction Jersey Devil Coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure.  A Rocky Mountain Construction Raptor style coaster appears to be planned for Six Flags Magic Mountain, using the Green Lantern's station area as its own.  The ride would then turn 90 degrees and head out over the parks shoot-the-chutes (unless it is removed), and into the plaza area in front of the Riddler's Revenge.

© Google Maps
For comparison purposes, here is the area of the park where the coaster would be located.  Just keep in mind that there is no way to know for sure that this ride will move forward for 2021, but it certainly would be great if it did!

Friday, April 17, 2020

Indiana Beach Hinting at a New Owner + Reopening in 2020

© Indiana Beach
After being closed for good by Apex Parks, Indiana Beach has had a lot of support from fans and local government who hoped to see the classic amusement park saved.  It is looking like that may indeed happen, as the park has started to post some fun hints on their social media about their status.

Above is Indiana Beach's cover photo on Facebook, which is a pretty obvious hint about their future.  Crossing off the "permanently" closed is about as bold a statement you can make, although no news has broken yet as to who may have purchased the park.

We can be sure that it isn't Apex Parks who just filed for bankruptcy protection on top of closing several of their properties.

© Indiana Beach
Hopefully it will not be long until a new owner is revealed, one who can sustainably operate the park and all its attractions.  This park is loved by many, and while some changes in attraction offerings and other features might be necessary to make it in the long run, even a modified version of the park is better than none at all.

Indiana Beach has also posted the above image, featuring their mascot asking us all of we can keep a secret?  Hopefully the secret is that they have a new owner!  Stay tuned, I doubt it will be long until we have an official confirmation.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Cedar Fair Posts Business Update + Reduces Capital Expenditures

© Cedar Fair
Much as we saw last week from Six Flags Entertainment, today we finally got an update from Cedar Fair about the status of their business and decisions that have been made in response to the parks being closed during the pandemic.

The company is working through many cost cutting measures in order to keep cash on hand to survive the parks being closed.  Right now they are maintaining staff at the parks only to keep them ready to open within a reasonable time should they be allowed.  Even at that rate the company estimates that they will need $25-$35 million per month.  Between cash on hand and their revolving credit, they have access to more than $200 million at this time.

So far, in order to conserve cash, Cedar Fair has:

• Reduced season labor and part time labor force to nearly zero
• Suspended all marketing costs and reduced costs administrative expenses
• Reduced the CEO's salary by 40%, reduced all other full time employee's salaries by 25%, and reduced hourly full time workers hours to 30 hours per week
• Suspended the quarterly dividend to unit holders until further notice

The company also noted that they have rescinded their earnings forecast, future aspirational goals, and noted that prior to the start of the pandemic their 1st quarter results were ahead of the prior year.

© Cedar Fair
As we saw with Six Flags, Cedar Fair has also decided to reduce their amount of capital expenditures for the year, but even more so than Six Flags.  Cedar Fair notes that they will suspend "at least $75-100 million of non-essential capital projects planned for the 2020 and 2021 operating seasons."  They expect to spend $85-$100 million on capital expenditures in 2020, and they average around $175 million per year going off the last 5 or so years.

© Cedar Fair
Unlike Six Flags, Cedar Fair usually has their new capital ready and open for the start of the season.  Orion has been standing at Kings Island for months, and we've seen updates of nearly all other new for 2020 projects well underway or nearly complete (maybe with the exception of Knott's).  

Not much cash to save on the big ticket items for 2020, however, the company has been spending significantly on special events and was again in 2020, so I'm going to guess that many most of those won't take place when the parks eventually do open.  There are also other smaller changes, such as to food and beverage, retail and operations in general that could be removed.

© Cedar Fair
The resort side of the business could see capital expenditure reductions as well.  The company was working on large renovations at their hotels by Knott's Berry Farm, their indoor water park near Cedar Point, and a large overhaul of their recently purchased Sawmill Creek Resort.  I would not be surprised to see many of those paused for the time being.  I can't imagine moving forward with the hotel in Canada anytime soon as well.

I think the big savings is going to come in capital expenditure payments that would come later in the year as the 2021 projects started.  Cedar Fair often starts the next season's projects in May or June of the prior year, and that means they're paying for them (incrementally) the year before as well.

What it sounds like to me, which is pure speculation, is that the 2021 season will be very quiet at the Cedar Fair parks in terms of new additions.  I'm not saying there will be nothing added, but I have a feeling it will be unlike any year we've seen in a long time from the company.  That said, if it means preserving the parks for the long term, then I say so be it.  2022 is just around the corner!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Cedar Fair to Extend 2020 Season Passes to Cover 2021 Season

© Cedar Fair
As these trying times continue, parks and attractions are looking at ways to manage both the uncertainty of when they will be able to reopen and relationships with their customers.  As we've learned in watching the regional players over the past few years, the season pass holder is regarded as one of their most important customers.  To that end, Cedar Fair has decided to give their passholders a huge benefit in the form of a free year of park visits.

In a rash of e-mailed announcements today, the Cedar Fair parks sent out updates to season pass holders.  They do not give an update as to when the parks can open, understandable as too much is still unclear at this time surrounding the virus.

They did however note that all season pass products will be extended "through the 2021 season according to pass type."  So, for those who purchased or purchase a 2020 season pass, suddenly the entire 2021 season is coming along with it.  And even better, add-on products such as all drink and meal plans, will be valid in 2021 as well.

© Cedar Fair
As we opened with up top, this move helps with both the uncertainty of the parks opening, and at the same time is a huge win for customer satisfaction.  Plus, monthly billing for the passes will remain suspended until the parks are able to reopen.  This all combines to be one of the smartest moves in the industry thus far, at least in my own opinion.

So if you haven't picked up a pass for your local Cedar Fair park yet but were thinking about it, now might be an excellent time.  Also, if you don't have an add-on you've thought about in the past, getting it at half price (or for two years, however you want to look at it) isn't so bad either!

Monday, April 13, 2020

From The Vault: Kennywood's 2011 Brochure

© Kennywood
2011 was an exciting year for Kennywood, one of the nation's finest classic amusement parks.  A brand new roller coaster, named Sky Rocket, had debuted in the middle of the prior summer, which meant that it was still the big focus for the park's 2011 season.  The ride is a custom designed launch roller coaster from Premier Rides, featuring several inversions and a giant top hat.  Naturally this made it a perfect fit for the cover of the park's brochure.

© Kennywood
Sky Rocket certainly attracted the attention of the park's guests, but the amusement park offers so very much more than just that one ride.  While that latest and greatest ride did get a lot of real estate in this spread, there are plenty of other rides featured here as well.  Kennywood has a fantastic mix of both classic and modern rides, and is a favorite park of many.

© Kennywood
And if you want to get into the details of what the park has to offer, they were kind enough to include a part map right in the brochure!  The park has changed quite a bit just in the time since 2011, with notable attractions like the free fall and log flume now a part of the park's cherished history.  But new ride have replaced those to keep things fresh, such as last year's enormous investment with the Steel Curtain.

With a 120+ year long history, Kennywood has shown that it's not afraid to balance the old with the new, and that's a winning formula for them and their fans!

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Dorney Park Seeking Approval for New Coaster-Looking Attraction


As quickly as this news arrived it has left, as the South Whitehall Township's website now lists the plan for Dorney Park's new attraction as withdrawn from the upcoming meeting.  Will the plan ever be revisited?  Unclear at this point.  Pure speculation on my part, but perhaps the pandemic is changing things in the future of our favorite parks even faster than we thought.  While still excited that this attraction was planned at all, we are no longer expecting this to become reality anytime soon, if ever.

Original post below:

Dorney Park has been listed as an agenda item on South Whitehall Township's upcoming Planning Commission meeting, as the park is seeking approval to build a new attraction.

Here are the details from the agenda:

An application to further develop the property located at 3830 Dorney Park Road.  The plan proposes to remove an existing attraction, construct a new attraction, associated walkways and access drives, and relocate a portion of the existing Zephyr train ride.  The new attraction will be approximately 106 feet tall (419.5 feet above MSL).  The project proposes a net reduction of impervious surface.  The property is zoned CR Commercial Recreation.  Dorney Park LLC is the owner and applicant.

The website, due to the pandemic, also notes that the meeting will be held virtually.  Along those lines, the schematic featured at the top of the post was made available online instead of just at the meeting as is the norm.

So what do we have going on here?  Well the project site is clearly taking up the site of the former Stinger roller coaster, plus a bit more land here and there.  The agenda states that it is 106 feet tall and the plans show a lot of proposed concrete being put down.  In short, I'm going to speculate that this is a new roller coaster, while remembering that anything could change down the road.

© NewsPlusNotes
Starting at the start, this appears to be the entrance to the new ride.  Similar to where the Stinger entrance was, near the Rita's building.  The queue (aqua) will then meander toward the station with the ride going over it several times.

© NewsPlusNotes
The queue (aqua) then eventually comes to the ride's station (yellow), which sits nicely tucked in the middle of the ride.  You can see that the exit path (green) will drop guests off on the midway further down, near the Cedar Creek Flyers.  There is also a maintenance shed (purple) on the other side of the Zephyr tracks and Stinger's old electrical connection building (orange) looks like it will be utilized again for the new ride.

You'll also notice the red on this image, which is what I believe the ride path to be.  There's a bit of a loop here with the direction of travel, which is a very telling aspect of the ride type.

© NewsPlusNotes
So let's dig into that some more.  The above image is how I believe the coaster will play out, including direction of travel.  Station is orange, then follow the red out of the station, up a lift hill, through a tight 180 degree turn, then down a drop.  The red then zooms through the layout until a curious stopping point not far from the entrance to the ride.

This looks like a spike tower that will deplete the trains of energy, allowing them to roll back through the ride's layout - this is the dark blue path.  The trains will eventually creep up the first drop, then reverse direction again - green path - then stop for a track switch to take place that will allow them to return to the station.

© ZDT's Amusement Park
So for those of you playing along at home, as this reminded you yet of the Switchback coaster at Texas' ZDT's Amusement Park?  It certainly has for me.  This coaster, opened in 2015 was built by The Gravity Group and has similar features to the ride proposed for Dorney Park.  There is a lift hill and drop, end spike, switch track and very tight radius turns.  Switchback stands 64 feet tall with a 56 foot drop, so the proposed Dorney ride is a significantly larger version at 106 feet in height.

Switchback also uses steel supports, and that plays into another large hint that can be gathered from the plans.  The proposed concrete sections are rather large, which is exactly how The Gravity Group has been building rides for some time now.  They employ large cement slabs that the footings attach to, here is an example of the footings for the Kentucky Flyer.  That style of construction perfectly matches the proposed Dorney ride.

To make the tight turns on Switchback the ride uses two 4 car trains, so one might expect to maybe double that size to two 8 car trains for Dorney's project.  The switch track allows two trains even though the ride is a shuttle, improving capacity.

© NewsPlusNotes
For those familiar with the park, here is a rough look at the proposed plans on top of the park's current layout.  One old grove, located next to the Urgent Scare building will be demolished for the ride's lift hill and drop.  The Zephyr track will also be slightly reconfigured in this area to make room for the ride.  The new coaster will cross the Zephyr track and come very close to the Dorney Park Road, the property's entrance road.

© NewsPlusNotes
The elephant in the room.  The agenda details mention that the park proposes to "remove an existing attraction."  If you look close at these plans everything existing at the park is shown... except for Possessed.  There is new concrete to be poured right where the ride's logo sign is located, and where the ride extended there are no footings shown.  The mechanical building stands, but no other traces of the ride can be found on here.  The coaster opened at Geauga Lake in 2000 before coming to Dorney in 2008, meaning the 2020 season will be the coaster's 21st season of operations.  There could be a variety of reasons for the ride to be leaving the park, but we'll leave it at that for now.

One final note on this very exciting development - no where in the agenda does it say for sure that this ride is planned for 2021.  While it feels safe to assume it is, we have to remember that the world is in the middle of a pandemic and things are pretty uncertain everywhere.  I'd exercise caution when getting exciting to ride this next season at Dorney, just in case.  Stay tuned for more possible details from next week's planning meeting!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Six Flags Posts Company Updates + Possible Cancelled 2020 Attractions?

© Six Flags
Six Flags Entertainment has sent out a press release that gives updates on a variety of topics, including their corporate response to the pandemic, capital spending and their financial health.

First up, like most companies, Six Flags is using their revolving credit loans with banks for survival, and they have increased their lines from $350 million to $481 million.  They estimate that they will be able to handle their bigger debt payments until the 4th quarter of this year, even if worst case the parks do not open until September.  They have also recalled their EBITDA forecast for the year and cancelled their investor day which was scheduled for late May.

They have cancelled the dividend payment for the second quarter as well (and going forward until they pay back and cancel the additional credit lines).  That's on top of reducing seasonal labor to nearly zero, having full time staff take a 25% pay cut and suspending all marketing programs for the time being.

They also will cancel or defer $30 - $40 million of "discretionary capital projects" planned for 2020.  These "increased investments" were "announced in its fourth quarter 2019 earnings release to improve the guest experiences."  Understandable, but this is a bummer as that money was probably mostly to improve aesthetics, food, operations, etc.

© Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
They also will defer or eliminate $40 - $50 million of capital projects for the 2020 season.  That's where things get dicey.  This means items already announced as new for 2020 will be pushed back a year, or never happen at all.  No details on this were revealed as of yet, but browsing around Six Flag's websites I noticed some oddities.

For starters, the page on Six Flags Discovery Kingdom's website for their new coaster, the Sidewinder Safari, is now Access Denied.  The What's New page now links to the Batman coaster, so it seems like Sidewinder Safari is maybe not happening any longer?  Somewhat similarly, Six Flags Darien Lake still has a page up for their new slide, Wahoo Wave, but when you click on What's New it links to last year's SkyScreamer and Six Flags Fiesta Texas also still has a page for Dare Devil Dive, but the What's New page links to 2019's Joker pendulum ride.  These could just be sloppy website maintenance, or something more - I can't confirm either way.

I expect this to be the first of many updates from all theme park operators as tough decisions are made to preserve the parks for the future.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Revolving Door Continues to Turn at SeaWorld Entertainment

© SeaWorld Entertainment
SeaWorld Entertainment is once again making headlines for having yet another CEO suddenly quit their position.  This past weekend the latest CEO, Serge Rivera told the company they were leaving immediately.  Mr. Rivera was only in the role for about 5 months, and in a filing with the SEC, SeaWorld noted that he left due to disagreements with decision making influence of the company's board of directors.  This is the exact same reason the prior CEO left as well.

The board of directors is led by Scott Ross, who's personal investment company owns about 35% of SeaWorld Entertainment overall.  His involvement in any decisions made for the company are substantial, it is reported, which continues to cause rifts with leadership.  Fans of the parks and their animals are concerned that the company's future could be in doubt due to the current method of operations, with open letters asking for Mr. Ross to be removed now circulating social media.

For the time being, SeaWorld Entertainment has made Marc Swason the Interim CEO once again.  They state that they will not be pursuing a new CEO until they reevaluate the position when the parks are open again.

Additionally, the leadership team will take a 20% pay cut for the time being, which comes after they furloughed 90% of the company's employees April 1st, giving them no pay and cancelling their health benefits.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

From The Vault: Wildwater Kingdom 2011 Brochure

© Wildwater Kingdom
Let the good time flow!  This is Wildwater Kingdom's 2011 brochure, and while small it's still interesting to see a relic from a now closed park.  And not virus closed, really totally closed.  Wildwater Kingdom survived after the demise of Geauga Lake until the end of the 2016 season, when it joined Geauga in amusement and water park heaven.

The park opened on the former SeaWorld Ohio land in 2005, and was expanded in 2006.  With the lack of tourism to the area from Geauga Lake closing after 2007, it seemed the timer was ticking on the water park's life.  And indeed it was.

© Wildwater Kingdom
But while it was operating the water park offered some unique features, such as the extremely tall water slide complex Thunder Falls, and a lazy river/activity pool combination that utilized some of the rockwork from a former dolphin exhibit!  The park also offered a large wave pool, water fun house structure, tornado water slide and extensive lounging areas.

© Bing Maps
Here is what the park looked like when it was last operating.  I did not visit the park when it was Wildwater Kingdom (I did as SeaWorld Ohio though), but it looked like a nice property.  The fact that it was once a SeaWorld park probably had a lot to do with that.

© Google Maps
Here is the park in more recent times.  Everything has been removed as the park waits for its chance to be redeveloped into a housing complex, or maybe big box stores or who knows what.  Depressing! Speaking of that, here's a great video with an updates on the redevelopment plans for the park that have yet to materialize.

Friday, April 3, 2020

From The Vault: Adventureland 1996 Map + Brochure

© Adventureland
Hopefully you guys like when we share some older stuff here, because it is looking like there will be plenty more time for me to be digging through the archives...  Today we take a look at Adventureland (Iowa) in 1996, with the park's general brochure and park map.

It's nice to see some smaller and independent parks featured here as well, since they're really (probably really, really) going to need their fans to support them this summer whenever they can open.  The big companies will have an easier time staying afloat during these extended closures.  Just something to keep in mind.

© Adventureland
Anywho, in 1996 Adventureland debuted The Underground, a wildly unique wooden roller coaster that's more of a slow moving dark ride than a coaster.  It was built by Custom Coasters International and lets riders enter the dark former hangout of some western themed bad guys.  Not a very scary ride, as there are really no drops or anything of that sort, but a fun attraction for the kiddos.  If you're looking for thrills, as this brochure suggests, the park's Dragon, Tornado and Outlaw coasters are where the real fun is at!

© Adventureland
The park's map didn't change much through the years.  In fact, it still looks similar (though with an awful lot of additions) in 2020!  Since the park's big new ride of the year took place indoors it was pretty hard to draw it on the map - so I guess in that sense a big black spot worked to help draw attention.  These days it looks like some rocks, grass trees and a cave opening.  Arguably better, but not as attractive as the Monster, a large Gerstlauer Infinity coaster added in 2016!