Sunday, May 31, 2020

Busch Gardens Tampa to Open June 11th

© Busch Gardens Tampa
After receiving approval from the state over this weekend, Busch Gardens Tampa has been cleared to reopen on June 11th.  That will come after a preview day for employees on June 10th, which is similar to what SeaWorld Orlando is planning.

Fingers crossed that Iron Gwazi will be able to open soon!  We know the park was testing it before the pandemic closure, so construction of the ride was very far along.  There were also some billboards put up right as the park closed advertising that the ride was open, so obviously we were really, really close to seeing that coaster open to guests.

The park got its final approval over this weekend so the park's website hasn't really been updated yet, so we will have to wait for more information on Iron Gwazi.  It's certainly one of the most anticipated new coasters of 2020, advertised as the North America's tallest and the world's fastest and steeped hybrid roller coaster.

As for changes to the park, it appears as though at least initially all SeaWorld Entertainment parks will have the same COVID-19 practices in place.  That means Busch Gardens Tampa will be the same as SeaWorld Orlando, more information on their plans can be found here.

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.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Round-Up of Recently Announced Park Reopenings

© Lagoon Amusement Park
Lagoon Amusement Park, located in Utah, announced that they will be reopening today, May 23rd.  They received notification from local authorities that they were allowed to open, and wasted no time in doing just that.  The park's water park, Lagoon-A-Beach, is also open.

The park has implemented a reservation system that must be used before visiting, in order to limit attendance.  The system only allows for reservations for the week following the current day, and season pass holders are limited to visits per week.

The park will be requiring visitors to wear a face mask at all times, and they will also ask everyone to sanitize their hands when they enter a ride queue.  Right now the park is following hours of 10 am until 8 pm on Saturdays, and 11 am until 8 pm other days.

© Gatorland
Another long time Orlando area attraction, Gatorland, has also reopened as of today.  The park is heavily promoting their Social Distancing Skunk Ape, a famed "Florida Cryptid" who is cousins with Bigfoot.  He feels very strongly about everyone keeping an appropriate distance and also keeping things clean, and I love it.  If you haven't seen it yet, make sure to learn more about him on this page.

The park is not requiring visitors to wear face masks, just encouraging them to do so.  The park's CEO has written a great deal about the measures they have taken in response to COVID-19.

Gatorland has also very smartly extended their Florida resident half off sale, which should help them attract some curious folks looking to get out of the house.

© Alabama Adventure
Alabama Adventure amusement park and Splash Adventure water park are planning to open on May 30th, if all goes well.  After announcing that opening date the county they are located in passed their own extension of stay at home orders, however as of today it seems the park has clarified that they can open and as such is back to planning to reopen on the 30th.  Regardless, the stay at home was only extended by one week so worse case is an opening around June 6th.

There isn't a lot on the park's website about specific changes that will take place in response to COVID-19, though as a small family run park we hope that they will double down on the safety of their workers and guests.

© Magic Springs
Magic Springs Theme and Water Park, located in Arkansas, has announced their reopening for June 1st.  The park will be limiting attendance to 30% of maximum occupancy for the theme park, and 50% of the maximum occupancy for the water park.

As a benefit the park will be offering season pass holders some extras, including $10 to spend in the park, extra bring a friend free passes and monthly discounts via coupons.

Magic Springs will not require reservations to visit the park, and they do encourage guests to purchase tickets online ahead of time.  It sounds like tickets can be purchased at the gate as well.  The park will not require face masks for outdoor parts of the property, but they are required to enter indoor food and retail locations.

The park is also asking guests to be patient as social distancing initiatives will create longer lines, all in the name of safety.

© Quassy Amusement P ark
Connecticut, home of Quassy Amusement Park and Waterpark, has announced that amusement parks will be able to open on June 20th.  As such, the park is already diving into hiring for the park's summer season, which is expected to start on that day.

Since this is a very recent development and the opening is still several weeks away, the park's website does not yet reflect much in the way of changes related to COVID-19.  I'm sure that as the official opening date draws closer the park will have more information to share.

© Indiana Beach
It wasn't long ago that we found out that Indiana Beach was being saved, and now we know that the park is planning to open for the 2020 season on June 27th.

The park is still hard at work building a new website, so we don't have any specifics yet related to COVID-19 changes that may be required.  Between trying to actually get the gates open again and all the work that comes with it, the new owners are probably about as busy as they can be these days.

Also of note, if you're interested in getting into Indiana Beach one day early the park is having a VIP Party on June 26th.  You'll have to purchase a VIP ticket along with a brick paver that will be installed at the park.  More information on that is available here.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Several Florida Parks & Attractions Announce Reopening Plans and Dates

© Universal Orlando Resort
Some of the biggest news in the reopening of parks in the U.S. just broke, and that is that the Universal Orlando Resort will be reopening on June 5th.

The plan includes the two theme parks and one water park reopening, and details on the hotel resorts reopening will be announced soon.  Technically, the parks will open on June 1st already.  Both the 1st and 2nd will be for employees only to get used to new policies and procedures.  Then the 3rd and 4th will be invited guests only, to control attendance.  The 5th is open to the general public.

The resort will focus on "screening, spacing and sanitization."  Visitor will pass through a temperature check area after arriving, and are required to wear a face mask.  The park will reduce attendance, but not use a reservation system.  Obviously there will be full social distancing in place, along with strict cleaning standards including asking visitors to use hand sanitizer before entering ride vehicles.

Initially, the two theme parks will operate from 9 am to 6 pm daily, the water park from 10 am to 5 pm and CityWalk from 8 am to 10 pm.

© Fun Spot America
Elsewhere in Orlando, Fun Spot America just got approval to reopen and then did exactly that, today at 2 pm.

At this point most of the social distancing and cleaning standards at parks that are reopening are just that... standards, so no need to list them all individually each time.  However, it is worth noting that Fun Spot American is only doing temperature checks on employees each day, and they do not require a face mask while visiting the park - just encourage it.

Fun Spot America will update on their property in Kissimmee at a later date.  For now, the Orlando park will be open daily from noon until 10 pm.

© Legoland Florida
The Legoland Florida Resort has also revealed that they will welcome back guests starting on June 1st.  Both the theme park and water park will open, along with the existing hotel and the brand new Pirate Island Hotel.

The property will not require face masks, will do temperature checks, and is advertising that they will go entire cashless, accepting payments with cards only.  On their FAQ page for their reopening, they do say that they will limit attendance, but it does not appear that any type of reservation is needed.

With this momentum now going, I'm sure that we will hear from the other big Orlando Players - Disney and SeaWorld - next week.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Six Flags Great Adventure's Wild Safari Drive Thru Adventure to Open May 30th

© Six Flags Great Adventure
Six Flags Great Adventure's Wild Safari Drive-Thru Adventure will officially open to guests on May 30th, the New Jersey theme park has announced.  Active members, Season Pass holders and employees can experience the Wild Safari Drive-Thru Adventure on a preview day, May 29th.

The experience will be open daily from 9 am to 4 pm, weather permitting.  As announced previously, the attraction will require reservations and is designed to offer a contact-free experience.  Tickets must be purchased online ahead of time and are not available at the gate.

To prevent over crowding and respect social distancing, reservations must be made at the park's website using Six Flags' new online reservation system.  Active members, season pass holders and single day ticket purchasers can begin making reservations on May 27th at 10 am.

© Six Flags Great Adventure
According to the park, the "Wild Safari Drive-Thru Adventure will take guests on a self-guided journey through 1,200 exotic animals from six continents.  From the safety and privacy of their own vehicles, guests will slowly wind through 350 acres and 11 simulated natural habitats seeing animals such as giraffes, elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, bears and baboons.  While most animals roam freely in the safari, predators are kept safely behind fences."  Further, the park encourages guests to learn more about the Safari's inhabitants before their visit via the park's website.

The Safari will take all precautions to keep guests safe during their visit, including administering temperature and health screenings for employees each day, and providing them with masks and gloves where appropriate.  With the theme park still closed per State regulations, the Safari cannot provide any other services at this time.  As such, the park "encourages guests to plan accordingly for restroom breaks, gasoline, and food," noting that portable toilets will only be available at the entrance and exit.

It has been many years since we've driven through the Safari, and it's wonderful to see the park making the best of a tough time!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Looks Like Adventureland's Dragon Coaster has been Vanquished by 2021 New Ride

© Adventureland
Adventureland has started to tease a new attraction coming to the park for 2021, and it looks to be at the cost of one of the park's current roller coasters.  The park posted the above image on Facebook with no further clues other than text stating "Coming in 2021..."

The image is of a knight slaying a dragon, and Adventureland is home to a steel looping roller coaster named The Dragon, probably not a coincidence there.

Much more importantly, there are photos floating around the internet of the coaster being taken apart.  There is one on Reddit, if you zoom in you can just see that track pieces are piled on the ground.  So with that happening and the above image, it is pretty clear that the park is replacing The Dragon with some sort of new attraction in 2021.

© Google Maps
The Dragon opened at Adventureland in 1990, manufactured by Hopkins.  Hopkins didn't make too many coasters in the U.S., and they're not really known for having aged well.  The ride featured a 90 foot lift and a drop into a pair of vertical loops, followed by several helices.  The ride's station (as seen above) is located on an island with two parts of the ride traveling over water.

With no real lead on what could be replacing the Dragon, we do know that there is a lot of real estate available for the park to play with, encouraging for sure.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

DelGrosso's Amusement Park + Laguna Splash Staying Closed for 2020 Season

© DelGrosso's Amusement Park
Unfortunately we have the announcement of another park that will not open for the 2020 season.  Tipton, Pennsylvania's DelGrosso's Amusement Park and Laguna Splash water park have made the difficult decision to sit out this operating season.

In a letter posted by the park, they state that the first and foremost reason for staying closed is for the safety of their employees and guests.  They also cite necessary social distancing measures, supply chain issues, capacity limitations and the uncertainty around when the park could actually open.

Pennsylvania is using a red, yellow and green phased opening system, as determined by PA officials.  DelGrosso's sits in Blair county, which was moved into the yellow phase on May 15th, however the exact path to the green phase, when the park could reopen, is not clear.  No part of Pennsylvania has reached the green phase yet.

As a smaller, family owned park it is discouraging to see them feel that they have no choice but to stay closed for the year.  With less resources than the larger park chains that is understandable, but still disappointing.  

The property spent a considerable amount on a large renovation and expansion a few years ago to create Laguna Splash.  It is also home to a spinning wild mouse coaster and a variety of classic flat rides.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Six Flags Great Adventure to Soon Reopen Safari as Drive Through Experience

Six Flags Great Adventure has announced that they will soon reopen their Safari adventure as an individual drive-through experience.  While the theme and water park remain closed due to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's orders, he recently made an executive order that allows drive through events so long as they implement social distancing.

An exact date of the Safari reopening has not been announced.

© Six Flags Great Adventure
Six Flags Great Adventure's expansive Safari operated as a self drive through experience from 1974 through 2012.  In 2013 the park folded the Safari into the theme park's list of offerings, offering trips through it on guided safari trucks.  The park is happy to now again be able to allow visitors to explore the Safari and its 1,200 exotic animals from the safety of their own vehicles.

The park is currently reviewing and finalizing new safety procedures to further protect guests, employees and animals as the Safari reopens.

© Six Flags Great Adventure
Six Flags Great Adventure will utilize a reservation only system for the Safari's reopening, to prevent overcrowding.  As soon as a final opening date is confirmed the park's reservation system will go live at this website.  Season pass holders, members and single day ticket holders will be able to make reservations at that location, after purchasing tickets online in the case of non-pass holders.

Anyone who arrives without a reservation will not be allowed to enter, as there are no ticket sales on site.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Six Flags Entertainment Details New Reservation System for Park Visits

© Six Flags
In an effort to manage attendance in order to keep workers and guests safe, Six Flags Entertainment has announced details of a new reservation system that will be employed when the chain of theme parks reopen.

In a press release from the company, they state that the 'user-friendly process will allow parks to manage daily attendance levels and avoid overcrowding in accordance with Centers for Disease Control recommendations on social distancing."

Any visitor with a single day ticket, group ticket, Membership or Season Pass will have to reserve their visit on Six Flags' website.  Six Flags says the entire process will only take 5 to 7 minutes.  Visitors will enter a number from their ticket or pass, then select the date and approximate time they want to arrive.  They will then see a brief video regarding social distancing and sanitization processes at the parks, acknowledge the company's health policy and pay for parking, if applicable.

This process is required to visit, as those who do not complete the process cannot enter the park.  However, it is noted that if guests show up and there is room and a reservation can be completed at that time, they may be able to enter.

© Six Flags
If a date is full guests can also sign up for a waitlist in case of cancellations or additional inventory becoming available.  Six Flags will send online visit reminders prior to the visit date.  Also of note, Diamond and Diamond Elite Members will get added to a "priority waitlist," followed by regular members and passholders, all above single day tickets.

There are a ton of details on the reservation website.  Here are some other interesting notes:

• Initially when parks reopen for a short period only Members and Passholders will be able to visit the parks, after that time all ticket holders may reserve.

• When reservations begin the entire 2020 season for each park will be open to be booked, however, additional inventory will be added to the calendars over time on purpose.

• A reservation can be made for a 'party,' or all guests visiting together.  Different order numbers, pass numbers, ticket numbers, etc., can be added to one reservation.

• Using the online system there can only be on reservation at a time per pass.  Six Flags customer service can be contacted for additional reservations to be manually made.

© Six Flags
• You can join waitlists for multiple days, but as soon as you're granted access to one you're removed from the other days' waitlist that you signed up for.

• If you arrive early for your reservation you may have to wait for your time, and if you're late they will let you in at an appropriate time that you can fit, so as not to cause crowding in the entrance facilities.

• Regarding guests who do not cancel their reservation and do not show up, Six Flags states that they "are subject to penalties such as reduced system priority and blockout periods."

This is the first information we've got for a reservation system for park-visiting in the U.S., and I expect there to be many more such systems for chains such as Cedar Fair, SeaWorld Entertainment, Universal and Disney in the future.  I'm sure there will be a huge amount of test and adjust to learn how it will work off-paper with actual, unpredictable, and always complicated humans, but it's certainly a smart and safe approach to dealing with the pandemic fallout.

Silverwood Theme Park + Boulder Beach To Open May 30th + June 6th

© Silverwood Theme Park
Silverwood Theme Park will open its gates for the 2020 season on May 30th, and its water park, Boulder Beach, will open on June 6th, the property has announced.  The parks have been cleared to open by the state, and its owners have planned "extensive social distancing and cleaning protocols" to keep guests safe while visiting.

To control guest capacity, Silverwood Theme Park will require tickets purchased online to be for a specific date.  They will also offer guests a mask upon entry if they want to wear one and do not have any.

© Silverwood Theme Park
The park will utilize social distancing in ride queue areas, and also sanitize ride vehicles between dispatches.  To that end the park is letting visitors know that lines may appear longer and it will take a bit of extra time to board some attractions.  Understandable given the world now.

The park's total list of precautions is extensive, but also include promoting cashless transactions, social distancing while dining, single use items for food service, open door policies on indoor areas for further ventilation, upgraded filtration systems, and more.

Good luck to the park on their opening, as one of the first in North American we will be watching to see how it goes!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Mt. Olympus Theme + Water Park Only Open to Resort Guests in 2020

© Mt. Olympus
Mt. Olympus Theme and Water Park has started to advertise on their website that the parks will only be open to guests staying in their resort hotels during 2020.  It is not immediately clear if this is in reaction to the pandemic, though one might assume that it at least partially is.

The property has purchased many area hotels in recent years, and now advertise that they offer more than 1,700 rooms and host 1.3 million visitors per year.  They have an indoor water park, indoor family entertainment center, outdoor water park and an outdoor amusement park for guests to utilize.

© Mt. Olympus
The change, if in part due to the pandemic, will certainly make managing their guests easier and also reduce the number of them overall.  The property appears to have had their indoor water park and indoor family entertainment center open this whole time, with the outdoor parks usually opening on Memorial Day.  I don't see any notice of them delaying that opening on their site.

In other news about the park, it seems that a lot of customers who cancelled reservations due to the pandemic have been denied refunds.  The local news reports that they've been contacted by many visitors with the issue, and while there are always two sides to a story it certainly isn't the kind of press you want these days.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Palace Entertainment Parks Extend Season Passes to 2021 + Venus Vortex Delayed

© Palace Entertainment
Palace Entertainment, which owns and operates six amusement parks in North America and many water park and family entertainment centers, has provided some updates on their parks 2020 seasons.

While no opening days have been announced, the company has revealed that they are following the lead of Cedar Fair and extending all season passes for 2020 through the end of 2021.  This includes Dutch Wonderland, Idlewild, Kennywood, Lake Compounce and StorylandCastle Park, which is located in California, will extend their season passes for as long as the park remains closed.

The extension of season passes is sure to sit nicely with fans of these parks in these uncertain times, as they wait to see when the parks are able to open for 2020.

© Lake Compounce
Lake Compounce was scheduled to open a giant new water slide in 2020, named Venus Vortex.  The towering thrill slide would send family rafts around a course and then down a steep plunge into a giant half pipe that's themed as a large venus flytrap.

Due to construction delays experienced by the park during the pandemic, they have made the tough decision to delay the opening of Venus Vortex until the park's 2021 season.  While it's sad to see the ride have to be pushed back, it is sure to still be enjoyed by thousands of visitors come next year.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Heard On... SeaWorld Entertainment's 1st Quarter 2020 Earnings Call

© SeaWorld Entertainment
Rounding out our normal trio of amusement and theme park earnings reports that we like to cover here is SeaWorld Entertainment, which had their announcement and conference call late last week.  Here are some tidbits from the earnings call that I found interesting.

• For the full quarter revenues were $153.6 million, down $67 million.  EBITDA was a loss of $30.9 million, a decrease of $47.3 million.  Attendance decreased by 1 million visitors for a total of 2.3 million.  These figures, of course, include the parks closing mid-March.

• For the first two months of the year results were promising.  Attendance was up 200k guests, or 9%, to a record 1.9 million visitors.  Revenues for that period was up $13 million, or 12%, to a record $120.6 million.
© SeaWorld Entertainment
• Before the parks closed the company had finished about 90% of all of their new for 2020 rides and attractions.  This also includes two rides in Texas that actually opened before the parks had to close.  The company will evaluate whether to finish and open the remaining rides in 2020 or push them to 2021 depending on the timing of the parks reopening.

• SeaWorld Entertainment has completed a private offering of $227.5 million, which now gives them just over $400 million in cash and cash equivalents.  They will be spending about $20 to $25 million per month, which means they can survive into late 2021.

• At the end of February the company's season pass base was up 2% over the prior year.  By the end of March the base was down 9%, which is similar to what we've seen with Six Flags but not Cedar Fair.  Current passholders have been given a free tier upgrade for their loyalty.

© SeaWorld Entertainment
• SeaWorld leaders are positive about the parks being visited when they reopen.  They note that 85% of their visitors come from within driving distance to the parks, and even the Orlando parks have more than 50% of attendance from visitors living within driving distance.  The parks have significant "excess capacity" that will allow people to safely distance themselves when they are ready to visit.  They will also long term focus on "execution, enhancing marketing initiatives, pricing strategies and new rides, attractions, events and offerings in every park, every year."

• When asked about what attendance is needed to operate the parks profitably, they said SeaWorld Orlando is an example where some days have 30k visitors, but others in off season have 5k and they still know how to run things cost-wise to keep it profitable.  But it sounds like they've stripped down their costs to a point where there will be no 'fluff' left when the parks reopen.  That's to offset costs that will come on board from the pandemic.

© SeaWorld Entertainment
• When pushed, the company seems to believe that the Texas parks will open first, probably followed by Florida.  That also aligns with what we've heard from other operators, such as Six Flags.  In additional to what is now seemingly common disinfecting, reduced capacity, employee masks and temperature checks, they are also looking at a reservation system and more in-park app features.

• The process of converting Aquatica San Diego into Sesame Place for 2021 is currently paused due to State requirements.  They're waiting to see when they can restart work and that will determine whether the park still opens in 2021 or if it is pushed back.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

From The Vault: Dorney Park's 1993 Brochure

© Dorney Park
I got my hands on another classic Dorney Park brochure, so of course it is time to share it here on NewsPlusNotes!

This is the park's general brochure for the 1993 season, which was its first full year under Cedar Fair ownership.  So the style of the brochure differs greatly from the years prior to it, as the park was now part of a larger corporation and no longer an independent property.

1993 was the start of many changes and much growth for the park.  Hours had changed and while there were some different ticket options you could still visit only Dorney Park or Wildwater Kingdom separately.

© Dorney Park
As the first full year of owning the park, that also means that Cedar Fair had the chance to start to expand it how they wanted.  The big new attraction was White Water Landing, a "world record holder" (along with its twin at Cedar Point) waterfall plunge ride.  The park also added the Red Garter Saloon, though it really didn't open until 1994, and also the Cedar Creek Cannonball train ride.

© Dorney Park
The rest of the brochure is a tribute to all that both Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom offered to visitors.  The text here mentions the expansive amount of children's attractions, including Chester Cheetah's Playland, which was sponsored by Frito-Lay.

© Dorney Park
Hello there Hercules.  I miss this ride!  Perhaps not because of the experience it provided in its later years, but mostly because of what could have been had the ride survived to the times when Rocky Mountain Construction existed.  Wildwater Kingdom was also one of the dominant water parks in the country at the time, and the still-pretty-new Pepsi Aquabast was one of the slides to beat.

© Dorney Park
The marketing push here is direct, take a read of the text on this spread.  That message has long been true, and certainly is today.  Probably why amusement parks have thrived for such a long time - offering a much needed break from normal life!