Sunday, August 30, 2020

Legoland New York Showing Off Innovative Lego Factory Adventure Ride

© Legoland New York
When the Legoland New York Resort opens in 2021 one of its premier attractions will be the Lego Factory Adventure Ride, a brand new trackless dark ride that will feature first of its kind technology.  Using on-ride tracking technology, the attraction will identify the attributes of riders and map their position in virtual space in order to transform them into Lego Minifigures - allowing them to become a part of the ride!

The attraction is being created through a partnership between Legoland, Holovis (technology provider) and ETF (trackless ride system).  While on the ride visitors will join Professor Brick on a "thrilling and unpredictable adventure through the incredible LEGO Factory, meeting many whimsical characters along the way."


© Legoland New York
In the middle of the ride the vehicles will spin toward a screen when the big reveal happens, allowing them to see the Lego Minifigure version of each person in the car.  The Minifigures will even move just as the riders in the car do - I can imagine what an amazing experience that will be, especially for younger passengers.  Holovis' technology allows for facial detection that creates the images in less than half a second.

The images in this article were recently released by Legoland New York, showing off what some of the interiors of the Lego Factory Adventure Ride will look like.  For even more of what the attraction will be like, check out the animated video below shared by Attractions Magazine.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Busch Gardens Williamsburg to Keep the Fun Going with Taste of Busch Gardens Event

© Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Busch Gardens Williamsburg may have some strict capacity limitations during the pandemic, however they have found success in opening just a part of the park for special events.  Their latest is Taste of Busch Gardens, which will see an expanded offering of food, beverage and attractions starting on September 2nd.

The park will be opening up again for a "delicious culinary fusion of Food & Wine Festival fan favorites, new twists on traditional park entrées, plus wine tastings and specialty beverages not normally served in the park."  During the event there a total of 15 new food items to try, including many other beverages like beers, wines and specialty drinks.

© Busch Gardens Williamsburg
During Taste of Busch Gardens, the park will open six of their themed areas including Oktoberfest, Rhinefeld, Ireland, Scotland, France and New France.  This means that more of the park will be open to explore than during their first (and current) special event, Coasters & Craft Brews.

Those looking for rides will be happy to see some new attractions on the list for this event.  Scheduled to be operating will be Verbolten, Alpengeist, Griffon, InvadR, Der Wirblewind, Kinder Karussel, Le Scoot, Finnegan’s Flyer and Der Roto Baron.

Taste of Busch Gardens will also expanded operating days, running Wednesday through Sunday each week with the last day being September 27th.  Wednesdays and Thursdays will have one block open for reservations, from 5 pm until 9 pm, Friday - Sunday (plus Labor Day) will also have an 11 am through 3 pm block as well.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Wild Adventures Replaces Terror In The Wild with Pumpkin Spice Festival for 2020

© Wild Adventures
The pumpkin spice takeover of the world continues, this time at Georgia's Wild Adventures Theme Park.  I kid, though that flavor/scent is continuing to dominate again this year as summer comes to an end.

The park typically holds a scary Terror In The Wild Halloween event in the fall, but has confirmed that they have "made the difficult decision to cancel our Terror in the Wild event this year.  Due to the unique nature of the event, we cannot operate Terror in the Wild while maintaining recommended guidelines from the State of Georgia and the CDC."

Instead, the park will offer up a new event, called the Pumpkin Spice Festival.  Starting on September 26th and running through November 1st, the event will offer up "fall flavors and fun galore" for those who visit.

The park will feature special food treats during the event, themed to the season, including a Pumpkin Spice Funnel Cake, Pumpkin Maple Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Squares and plenty more.

A selection of other family friendly acitivities will be offered, all carefully crafted to respect health and safety concerns surrounding COVD-19.  There will be trick-or-treating, pumpkin painting and Mr. Bones' Glow Experience, plus more.

For more information on the park's new Pumpkin Spice Festival, check out their official website.

Monday, August 24, 2020

SeaWorld San Diego to Reopen for Zoo Special Event + SeaWorld Orlando Adds Operating Days

© SeaWorld San Diego
SeaWorld San Diego has been granted permission to reopen as a zoo only, following the footsteps of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom which reopened earlier this summer as the Marine World Experience.  No rides or indoor attractions are able to open, so the park has put together a new event called Zoo Days: Bayside BBQ & Brews.

The special event requires a special ticket to enter, and is a mixture of the park's outdoor zoo facilities (a partial selection) along with a food and beer event spread over 40 of the parks acres.  Season pass holders still are required to purchase a separate ticket to the event, though they will receive a steep discount off of the regular admission.  The event ticket comes with a special lanyard that allows for six tastings of the park's special BBQ themed food options, or a variety of beers, wines and cocktails.

The park will have several of their open-air exhibits open to visitors, including Sea Lion Point, Otter Outlook, Dolphin Point and Explorer's Reef Touch Pools.  There will be several animal presentations as well, such as the Dolphin, Sea Lion and the educational Orca Encounter.  All will feature proper socially distanced seating.


The park will also offer Sesame Street character meet and greets - distanced for safety - while the park is open.


Reservations for the event are required as the capacity for each day is limited.  The park will also follow all health and safety guidelines already in place at other SeaWorld Entertainment parks, including mandatory face masks, increased sanitization and social distancing throughout the park.

Zoo Days: Bayside BBQ & Brews will starting this Friday, August 28th, and take place each Friday through Sunday (plus Labor Day) until September 27th.

© SeaWorld Orlando
SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica Orlando have also both shared good news, the parks are now going to be open 7 days a week through October 4th.  Plus, SeaWorld Orlando will now stay open until 10 pm on Friday through Sunday through Labor Day weekend.

SeaWorld Orlando is also extending their craft beer festival to Fridays (in addition to the weekend) with operating hours of 3 pm until 10 pm.  The park is currently presenting Electric Ocean Remix on weekend days through September 6th.  It's great to see the park having enough demand to open for additional days and hours!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

New Stranger Things - The Drive-Into Experience Coming to Los Angeles Area This Fall

© Stranger Things The Drive-Into Experience
If there ever were a year to be extra creative in the Halloween haunt industry, 2020 would be it.  With most parks and stand-alone events staying closed this year due to COVID-19, a brand new drive-through experience based on the popular Stranger Things series will open in downtown Los Angeles, specific location is still a secret.


While not described as a 'haunt' or 'scary' per say, the Stranger Things - The Drive-Into Experience does include "unforeseen and unusual occurrences," which does fit in with the feel of Stranger Things.  More of a creepy feel rather than outright scares, at least that is how I am interpreting.  The event is being produced by Secret Cinema, which has a long history of creating immersive, limited-run theatrical performances that allow people to live the movies, quite literally.  Their work is amazing and they recently ended a Casino Royale run that grossed more than $10 million in London - they really know what they're doing.


From the safety of their personal vehicle, visitors will travel "travel back in time to 1985 and become a Hawkins resident - in real life."  Setting out on an adventure guests will "unlock the untold story of Hawkins in this unique format event - all from the safety of your car."  It sounds like they are building many locations from the series, including Starcourt Mall, and the trip includes "mind-blowing audio and visual effects."


And yes, from the hinting on the event's official website, it definitely sounds like there will be a chance to head into the uʍop ǝpᴉsdn!

The event will start in October and tickets per car start at $59.  The event is recommended for ages 12 and older and will take more than one hour to complete.  More details will be released shortly, and ticket sales will begin on August 12th.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Several Palace Entertainment Parks to Close For the Season after Labor Day

© Kennywood
A number of Palace Entertainment parks in the U.S. have announced that they have decided to end their 2020 seasons when Labor Day weekend is over.  The announcements mean that the park's seasons will be cut short, with no Fall or Christmas events planned for this year.


Kennywood sent out an update that shows that the park's last operating day in 2020 will be September 7th.  This means that there will be no Phantom Fright Nights or Holiday Lights this year, but they hope to bring those events back in 2021.  They also updated that next year will see the full completion of Steelers Country, including the interactive features and other elements.  The park has also decided to extend their 2020 season pass products to be valid in 2021.

Sandcastle water park, located not far from Kennywood, will also end their season on September 7th.

Idlewild and Soak Zone will also close up shop early this year, with their last day of operations also September 7th.  The park will extend their Summer Saver Season Passes to be valid through Labor Day, 2021.  Looking forward to next year, the park is planning "exciting new events, plus a variety of surprises" they plan to reveal during this extra-long off season.

© Lake Compounce
Lake Compounce will also close on September 7th, meaning that this year there will be no Haunted Graveyard and Holiday Lights events.  Both are planned to return next year.  2021 will see the opening of the delayed Venus Vortex water slide and the park's 175th birthday.  Wow that's a lot of years!  The park has also extended their season pass products to be valid for 2021.

Story Land, located in New Hampshire, will follow suit and close at the end of Labor Day weekend.  The park has extended their season passes for next year like the other parks, and anyone who purchased a day ticket for a date past Labor Day will get an automatic refund.

Last, but not least, Pennsylvania's Dutch Wonderland is also closing out their 2020 season on September 7th.  This means that both Happy Hauntings and Dutch Winter Wonderland will not take place in 2020.  Almost all of the park's season pass programs will be extended into 2021, when the park hopes to be able to offer a full season.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Dorney Park 2020 Mid-Summer Update

© NewsPlusNotes
A little late on posting this, but this past weekend we found some time to take a stroll through Dorney Park to see how this unusual season is progressing.  The park was busier than I've seen it so far, even considering it was a Saturday.  Granted we're still talking nowhere near prior years, but it looks like plenty of people were looking for a day out in the sun an on the rides.

© NewsPlusNotes
With a decent crowd at the park it looked like many of the rides and attractions had long lines, but that was mostly just because of the social distancing taking place in the queues.  It is quite interesting to see how the crowds flow through the park without Wildwater Kingdom open, it's a new pattern that I've not really experienced before... not even during Haunt.

© NewsPlusNotes
Talon was running great though, using every other row with an offset built in so both the front and last rows are available to visitors.  Since attendants assign the rows (yes, you can ask for which one you want though) it makes front row rides an easier choice since there is no additional line in the station.  When we look back at this crazy time hopefully everyone can tell their story of riding a roller coaster with a face mask on!

© NewsPlusNotes
I'm not sure if this Relax Zone was moved from another location or if it was an addition since I visited earlier this year, but it's a great location for it.  Located in the large plaza outside Hydra, it gives people plenty of room to rest and recharge.  You can also see that Meteor's ride carriages are wrapped up, as the ride did not open this season.

© NewsPlusNotes

Another item I'm not quite sure if I missed earlier, but there's a big sign in the main entrance plaza celebrating Thunderhawk's addition as an ACE Roller Coaster Landmark.  The park has always been great at celebrating its rich history, and it's nice to see that tradition continuing.

© NewsPlusNotes
If you're not familiar with the park and visit, make sure to check out this old fountain by Demon Drop that's been at the park a lot longer than I've been alive.  Plus, there's a lot of hungry fish that live in here each year and they'll be really happy if you toss them some fish food!

© NewsPlusNotes
If you've been to Knoebels then you've surely seen the signs they have up showing flood levels at the park through the years.  Dorney Park has joined that unfortunate club, marking the high water level that rushed through the park a couple weeks ago during a major storm.  The small blue sign shows how high the water was, but this video that the park shared really makes that crystal clear.  It's amazing how quickly they were able to clean up!

© NewsPlusNotes
We've known for a while that Possessed wasn't going to open this year, but if you look closely you can see that about half of the coaster's train is already off the track.  Looks like it has been a slow process, since there really is no rush, but a lot of the train is already somewhere in storage. 


© NewsPlusNotes
I thought there was a bit of news to be found in the lower part of the park when I noticed this big brown box on the corner of where Stinger was and the bridge that leads over the creek toward Steel Force.   

© NewsPlusNotes
However, if you go behind on the bridge you can see that's just a big electrical box... which might have taken a lot of damage in the recent flood.  Maybe not, I can't be sure but my gut tells me it is not something new.  I know I don't recall the brown walls around it, but it's not really a spot I pay attention to!

© NewsPlusNotes
One thing is for sure, and that is that a lot of nothing is going on in Stinger Field.  Just grass for now!  I know we're all hopeful, but there's just nothing going on right now.

© NewsPlusNotes
That's all for now!  It is very strange to say considering it is just past mid-August, but there are only three more operating weekends in Dorney Park's 2020 season - so make sure to get there soon if you haven't!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Six Flags Parks to Debut Hallofest This Fall

© Six Flags
Six Flags Entertainment has announced that this fall many of their parks will feature Hallofest, a new version of their popular late-season scare fest that has been adjusted in light of COVID-19.  The new event temporarily replaces Fright Fest, which traditionally takes place at the parks in the fall.


The company made it clear not long ago that they intended to have a Halloween celebration this year, however in order to acknowledge that many of the usual scare tactics are off limits right now the event has been rebranded as Hallofest. 


© Six Flags Great Adventure
The event is currently planed to open at Frontier City on October 2nd,  Six Flags Over Georgia on September 19th, Six Flags America on October 3rd, Six Flags St. Louis on October 3rd, Six Flags Great Adventure on September 18th, Six Flags Fiesta Texas on September 19th, and Six Flags Over Texas on September 26th.  Hours and dates vary by park, but all are offering family friendly fun during the day, and a spooky park at night.

None of the Hallowfest events will feature any indoor haunted houses, due to safety restrictions.  Instead they will all feature a number of fully outdoor scare zones (also called terror trails at some parks) with actors staying a safe distance from guests.  There will be live entertainment along with plenty of fun things to do during the day, such a trick or treating, hay bale mazes and special food and retail offerings.  Each park's offerings vary slightly and fit with their local markets.

© Six Flags Great Adventure
“Our annual Fright Fest celebration is one of the most anticipated Halloween events of the season. Given the current environment, we are taking special precautions this year and offering our guests a version that is still scary, provides lots of thrilling rides and Halloween fun, and most importantly, is safe for our guests and team members,” said Six Flags President and CEO Mike Spanos. “We will operate HALLOWFEST the same way we have operated our parks all summer, with daily temperature checks and face masks required for guests and team members prior to entry, social distancing, and enhanced sanitization measures.”

Reservations are required for a visit to Hallofest, and are expected to fill quickly.  They will be available for each park soon, keep an eye out on Six Flags' reservation site for more information.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Knott's Berry Farm's New Taste of Knott's Event Starts This Friday

© Knott's Berry Farm
Knott's Berry Farm has had to get creative with ways to entertain their guests while the traditional theme park remains closed.  They recently held a Taste of Calico dining and retail special event and it was a smash success, so much that they extended it a weekend.

It wasn't long until they announced an all new dining and retail event, this time called Taste of Knott's.  The event is set to be larger than the Taste of Calico event, opening up new sections of the theme park (while the rides remain closed).  These areas include Ghost Town, the Boardwalk and Fiesta Village.  The event will use tasting cards, available for $30 for adult, that allow visitors to sample some of the special foods that are offered at the event.

Just in time for the event to take place, the Knott's Berry Farm Hotel will also reopen to guests.  The hotel is currently offering a special package that includes a Taste of Knott's tasting card for each registered guest, along with discount coupons for two of the property's restaurants.

Taste of Knott's will offer "over 35 food and drink items to choose from," including "Mexican-inspired cuisine, Knott’s famous BBQ offerings and classic Knott’s dishes pulled from the pages of the celebrated Knott’s Berry Farm Cookbook."  There will also be 14 artisan booths and Knott's retail stores open to offer special limited event merchandise.

The Taste of Knott's event will run Friday through Sunday (plus Labor Day) starting this Friday August 21st though September 13th.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Busch Gardens Tampa to Scare Up a Modified Version of Howl-O-Scream this Fall

© Busch Gardens
Busch Gardens Tampa has announced that they will hold their annual Halloween event, Howl-O-Scream, this year running the event on certain nights from September 25th to November 1st.  The park is making it quite clear up front that this year's event will be a "modified production" and "will be unlike any other, including significantly enhanced safety and health measures at the core of the event."


Many parks have already cancelled their annual Halloween events in light of COVID-19 concerns, and Busch Gardens Tampa is stressing that their event will be safe and respect all current health and safety guidelines.

The event will feature only "open-air scare zones," no haunted houses, along with entertainment all with strictly limited capacity and reservations required.  Howl-O-Scream will run 18 nights this year, still as a separately ticked event, each Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

© Busch Gardens Tampa
The park is only advertising the popular Fiends show right now and has no details up on scare zones.  The Fiends show will be moved to the expansive outdoor Festival Field Stage, with socially distanced seating for guests.

Browsing the frequently asked questions page, we can also see that the park plans to only offer "physically distant" scares this year, so no ghouls will be in your face.  Busch Gardens Tampa will also have employees making sure that face mask wearing is taking place properly.  As for the scare actors, they will indeed be wearing face coverings.

This is the first large theme park Halloween event we've seen moving forward so far, though it appears that the Six Flags parks that are operating will be holding some version of their event.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Heard On... SeaWorld Entertainment's 2nd Quarter 2020 Earnings Call

© SeaWorld Entertainment

This week it was SeaWorld Entertainment's turn to report their 2nd quarter 2020 earnings, their full press release is available at this link.  It seemed like the market was anticipating these results even more than Six Flags or Cedar Fair, as they (along with Disney and Universal) give some insight to what's been happening in the all-important Orlando market.  The 2nd quarter still had very limited operations for SeaWorld Entertainment, with more 'guts' to be found in the 3rd quarter announcement this fall, but here are some notes from their earnings call:


• Attendance April through June was 300,000, 6.2 million visitors lower than last year.  Revenue was $18 million, down from $388 million last year.  The company's net loss was $131 million, and EBITDA for the quarter was a loss of $53.8 million.  Per capita spending was up 5.5% and in park per capita spending was up 10%.


• Deferred revenue from passes and other products was down almost 16% from a year ago.  The total pass base is down 31%.  However, parks that have been open in the quarter the pass base grew more than 10%.

SeaWorld San Diego

• As we saw with the other operators cash burn is a hot topic here too, and SeaWorld spent about $12 million a month in the quarter when all was said and done.


• As of the date of the earnings release they have reopened 9 of their 12 parks, with only SeaWorld San Diego, Aquatica San Diego and Water Country USA in Virginia not open (and those two water parks will not open at all in 2020 they confirmed).  In the second quarter they only got to have 7 parks open, and those parks had only 98 operating days total compared to last year with 12 parks and 861 operating days.

• Right now they are seeing positive cash flow at their operating parks.  They also are seeing positive trends as they reintroduce events and entertainment to draw visitors.  They are even adding more operating days and longer park hours at some properties.  There is also some small growth in season pass sales, and Discovery Cove bookings for 2021 are up over this time last year (quite a bit, 176% higher).


• More on increasing attendance - for parks that have been open at least 30 days so far they are seeing around a 15% increase in attendance from the week ended June 28th to the week ended August 2nd.  Both Sesame Place and Busch Gardens Williamsburg have had high demand since they reopened (both at the end of July) and are both adding more operating days.  It sounds like Busch Gardens Williamsburg will continue to do special events this year to keep the gates open, even with very limited capacity.


© Busch Gardens Tampa

• For operating parks overall they have been seeing attendance vary from 10-15% of last year's attendance on some days, all the way up to 50% on others.


• The company plans to hold both Halloween and winter Holiday events this year as they have in the past.  The events will be different to address safety concerns around COVID-19, but they are confident they and operate the events profitably.


• Due to selling notes and receiving a large sum from them, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment appears to be on the lookout for parks that will be for sale due to their operators not being able to withstand these tough times.  What they're looking at are things like water parks, hotels or other small parks that could be converted into a Sesame Place.


• It was also noted that they believe they need to hit a out 40% of last year's revenue figures in order to be profitable overall for the year.


• Regarding capital expenditures.  They are about 87% complete with all the new rides that were supposed to be for 2020 but did not open, all of which have been pushed to 2021.  It will take another $15 million to finish those rides, but they still owe another $40 to $50 million on them as well - still to be paid.  No update was given on the conversion of Aquatica San Diego into Sesame Place San Diego.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Several Prominent Ride Manufacturers to Cancel Exhibition at IAAPA 2020

More tough decisions for 2020 have had to be made, this time in relation to several prominent U.S. ride manufacturers which have decided to cancel their appearances at this year's IAAPA Expo.

As of right now the 2020 IAAPA Expo is still scheduled to be held in Orlando, Florida from November 17th through November 20th, 2020.  That may change however, as many events across all industries have been pushing back a year or going virtual.

One thing is for sure, Premier Rides, Great Coasters International, Chance Rides and Larson International will not be at the Expo if it does take place in person.

The below letter spells out the thought process wonderfully, and also note that these great companies are taking the opportunity to make donations to wonderful charities at a time when they're no doubt hurting themselves.  Bravo!


August 6, 2020

To our Valued Customers,

The IAAPA Expo in Orlando is the most important annual gathering of amusement industry professionals and enthusiasts and is truly the epicenter of attractions innovation and business.  In 2019, a record-setting 42,000 attendees including CEOs, global leaders, visionary designers, sales people, and technical experts gathered to conduct business, educate, and network at the industry’s gold standard conference and trade show.  The 2019 show was a confirmation of the strength of the attractions industry which this past year set all-time records globally for attendance.  Business had never been better.

2020 will not be the same.  The companies listed below represent well over 100 years of continuous exhibiting at the IAAPA Expo.  We are competitors, yet we work together closely to ensure amusement ride safety.  We put our heart and soul into this industry with the like goal of creating lifetime memories for millions of people around the globe.  And we all look forward to the opportunity each year to gather in Orlando and to be with colleagues and friends from nearly every country in the globe.  There are no better words to describe the show environment than “one big family”.  With that in mind, we are deeply saddened to share the news with you that we will not be exhibiting at the 2020 IAAPA Expo.  We know this news will come as a great disappointment to many of you, and we have made this hard decision with great angst and with significant consideration of several factors.  

First, the industry is hurting on all levels.  Even with a global effort lead by IAAPA to establish very safe facility operations, our guests have not come back to the parks in the numbers for which we had all hoped.  As suppliers to the industry, we know that successful business for us requires successful business for our valued clients.  We get it.  We understand there is a right time to sell and this is not the right time.  Parks and attractions need to focus all their attention on keeping their facilities healthy and well-maintained so they can open strong in 2021.  We are here to help you in any way possible, whether it be service or technical support and we will be here when the time is right to talk about new innovative attractions. 

Additionally, and understandably, the ability to travel from both a global and a domestic standpoint has been so greatly diminished to the point it is impractical.  Each day the news brings additional quarantines and restrictions.  Flying from around the globe to Florida is almost impossible, and even in the US with its myriad of quarantine rules it would presently require 28 days of quarantine to visit the show from New York.  Again, impractical.

And finally, and most importantly, we need to prioritize the health of our employees who have dedicated themselves to making our companies successful and who are what make visiting our booths so great and so welcoming.  We understand all the precautions that are being taken for the IAAPA Expo, and we are grateful for that significant effort.  There is indeed hope for the near future with rapid global achievements in the medical field.  But for this show, with just over three months to go, the clock has run out.
We have each reached out to our valued clients around the globe and also here in the United States.  The message has been the same.  For all the reasons above, “we can’t come” is what we are being told.  We understand and respect the situation and for the same reasons we will not be at the show either.  We will dearly miss you.

The show is a major investment and we have already spent significantly on the show; funds that can never be recovered.  We will use the savings from not exhibiting to maintain our company’s operations in order to be ready when you are.  In addition, our industry is known for giving and we are all making some generous donations with part of our savings.

We will be giving to:
- Give Kids The World to help make up for the annual IAAPA Expo Harley Davidson fundraiser.
- Doctors Without Borders in recognition that we are indeed a global industry that positively impacts people arounds the world.
- Heart of Florida United Way because we care deeply about the people of Orlando, the home of IAAPA and the IAAPA Expo.

We encourage everyone who reads this to also consider contributing to one of more of these organizations, even if the amount is small.

We work in an industry that is extremely resilient.  Through wars, through recessions, and yes, even through pandemics, our industry has survived.  People have a basic need to smile, to have fun.  And in tough times, amusement parks are a place where families can enjoy themselves.

The show must go on and will go on!  Just not this year.

We will see you again in 2021.  And yes, we will once again smile.

Thank you for your understanding.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Heard On... Cedar Fair's 2nd Quarter 2020 Earnings Call

Cedar Fair had their 2nd quarter 2020 earnings release and subsequent call last week, just after Six Flags Entertainment released theirs.  As was found in Six Flags' numbers, things weren't especially great for Cedar Fair - all of which is expected in these troubled times.  Here are some of our notes from the call:

• 2nd Quarter results include only Worlds of Fun and the two Schlitterbahn parks in Texas.  Net revenues were $7 million, which comes from a decrease in attendance of 8 million and a $44 million decrease in out of park revenues.  The operating loss for the quarter was $142 million, and the EBITDA loss was $85 million.

• With regard to liquidity, Cedar Fair is using about $30-$40 million per month through the end of 2020.  They also reaffirmed that they have enough liquidity to last until the end of 2021 even if all parks are forced to close until then.

© Kings Island

• The company is trying to keep its brand reputation strong by staying engaged with visitors and employees, using this season to base future investment decisions, operating strategies and park programming in the future, revising marketing to be as efficient as possible, using scalable technology based initiatives to improve safety, maintaining a disciplined approach to cash use and investing in new capabilities to capitalize on changes in consumer behavior and preferences.

• Overall season pass sales for the year are down more than 30% or 900,000 passes.

• For the rest of the season that the parks are open the company expects them to have 20% - 25% of historical attendance (which translates to 15% of theoretical capacity).  On some good days some of the bigger parks have seen attendance hit closer to 40% of historical attendance.  These rates have been affected by COVID-19 case spikes in markets.  The 7 parks that have been able to open so far this year represent 40% of historical attendance and revenues.

• The company has proceeded to "defer or eliminate" 2020 capital expenditures as they move into 2021.  They reduced 2020 capital expansion by $75 to $100 million.  While the call did not say this, I think a big part of that was cancelling many special limit time entertainment events and festivals.

• Regarding 2021 capital expenditures, the company is "reactivating certain capital projects to ensure the properties that should be fully operational for the 2021 season are prepared and ready to maximize revenue opportunities."  They promise to provide more visibility into those plans and their outlook on the 2021 capital program later in the year.  This sounds encouraging.  They also mention that they still believe strongly in experience based additions, like Grand Carnivale and other similar attractions that will help differentiate the parks from the competition.

© Canada's Wonderland

• There is still a chance that we could see Winterfest celebrations this year, but if so they will be at Knott's Berry Farm and Canada's Wonderland... if those parks are able to open.  Those are the two most profitable parks during winter so if they are able to open it sounds like Cedar Fair might jump at the chance to operate this winter.

• Operators are dedicated to keeping parks that couldn't open this year in the minds of visitors, including the use of social media and getting feedback on a variety of topics.  They want to continue to grow the consumer loyalty while they can't open.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Knoebels to Offer Joy Through The Grove Drive-Through Christmas Experience This Winter

© Knoebels

Knoebels has served up some nice news during this challenging summer - the park will host a new event this winter called Joy Through The Grove.  A drive-through Christmas light display, the new event will begin on November 27th.

These types of attractions are already popular in many towns, but the Knoebels version will take guests right through the center of the classic amusement park.  Joy Through The Grove will "begin near Impulse roller coaster, travel down the park’s main boulevard, and throughout much of the campground.  There will be over 15 miles of string lights, and over 400 light up pieces."

A lot of the details of the event are not yet finalized, but it sounds like it will be a great way to get to enjoy Knoebels during a festive time of the year.  

Right now the park plans to open the display nightly and its run will conclude the first week of January, 2021.  Keep a watch out on the park's official website for more details as they are decided.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Cedar Fair Updates on 2020 Operations + Looking Ahead at 2021

© Cedar Fair
Cedar Fair has given an update on their parks with regard to 2020 operations, clearing up which parks will remain open, which will close, and when the season will end for others.  The impact that COVID-19 has had on the industry is obvious, and the operator is having to make hard decisions on the rest of this year.

Of the seven parks that Cedar Fair has been able to reopen in 2020, 5 of them will close after Labor Day weekend on Monday September 7th.  That includes Worlds of Fun, Dorney Park, the two Schlitterbahn parks in Texas and Michigan's Adventure.  The remaining two, Cedar Point and Kings Islands, will continue to operate until November 1st.  They will not hold a traditional Halloween Haunt event, instead having a Tricks and Treats Fall Fest.  No parks will hold Winterfest this year.

At the same time of the announcement, Cedar Fair also clarified that Valleyfair, Kings Dominion, Carowinds, California's Great America and Gilroy Gardens (which they manage, not own) will not open in 2020.  The parks that will not open will give existing season passholders a Pass Perks Loyalty Reward to be used next year (sounds like more details to come on that one).

Canada's Wonderland is still in talks about possibly opening this year, so no final decision has been made there yet.  Knott's Berry Farm is opening again soon for a special food and retail event, and waiting on guidance for the future.

Each park has also posted an individual update, which has some more details worth sharing:

© Cedar Point

• Cedar Point's new Tricks and Treats Fall Fest will features special food tastings, special merchandise, family friendly activities and more - all based around the park's stringent COVID-19 safety measures.  The park is still planning on having their 150th celebration next year, with all the additions originally planned for 2020.

• Kings Island will also hold Tricks and Treats Fall Fest, and is expecting to bring back special events like Grand Carnivale in 2021.

• Valleyfair's update still lists the changes they prepared for 2020 such as restroom renovations, a new event space and Corn Feast, and also lists the Peanuts Celebration for 2021.  Gone are mentions of Grand Carnivale and Monster Jam Thunder Alley, which were to be new this year.

• Carowinds is listing Grand Carnivale as opening in 2021, along with their new Boogie Board Racer waterslide.  The park did not mention Carolina Summer Nights or Monster Jam Thunder Alley for 2021.

• California's Great America will open their newly renovated water park, South Bay Shores in 2021, but no longer mentions Monster Jam Thunder Alley.

• Worlds of Fun will open Riptide Raceway next year, but no longer makes mention of Grand Carnivale and Summer Nights as special events.

• Dorney Park did not get to open Seaside Splashworks in their water park this year, so it will debut next year.  No mention of the return of Grand Carnival or their Summer Nights promotion.

• Kings Dominon will open their new water park expansion, Coconut Shores, in 2021 and does mention Grand Carnivale returning as well.

• Last but not least, Knott's Berry Farm will not hold their popular Haunt event this year.  Their adjacent hotel will open toward the end of this month as well.

In summary it looks like as with Six Flags and SeaWorld Entertainment, 2020 attractions will become 2021 attractions across the board.  It's probably too early to tell if more special events could take place, as much of that is depending on the progression of the pandemic between now and then.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Heard On... Six Flags Entertainment's 2nd Quarter 2020 Earnings Call

Six Flags Entertainment has released their 2nd quarter 2020 earnings, and as everyone expected they weren't good.  Here is the full press release detailing their numbers.  But that doesn't mean that all the news that they shared was bad.  As always, the company had their earnings call and here are some notes worth highlighting.

• Revenue in the quarter was $19 million, with attendance of 433,000 - both a decrease of 96% over 2019.  That led to a net loss in the quarter of $137 million, a decrease of $216 million over 2019.  EBITDA was a loss of $96 million, a decrease of $276 million from 2019. Guest spending was also down 15% over 2019 levels - but half of the attendance in this period came from the drive through safari at Great Adventure, which skewed things quite a bit.

© Six Flags
• Part of many companies survival these days depends on how much cash they have to spend each month.  Six Flags is proud to report that they have reduced their monthly cash spend to $25 million, down from the $30 to $35 million they estimated when the pandemic began.  Six Flags feels they have "adequate liquidity" to survive to the end of 2021 even if they have to close all the parks for some reason.

• Six Flags is currently testing a new virtual queue system that will allow visitors to reserve a spot on a ride from their phone, and not have to stand in a line.  This is a plus not only in terms of social distancing, but also to remove something that visitors always hated even during normal operations.  If the test is a success they will roll it out to all parks.

• When parks started to reopen they saw very strong demand for visits, however in recent days/weeks with COVID-19 cases increasing in many States they are starting to see softer demand.  The company expects to see daily attendance at 25-30% of previous levels for the "foreseeable future."  To further adapt, Six Flags has limited operating days and hours at its parks.

• The only international development that Six Flags still has on the books and earns revenue from is the park in Saudi Arabia. 

• Right now Six Flags has 14 of their 26 parks open.  Those 14 parks accounted for more than 50% of overall attendance in 2019.  In July those parks are seeing around 30% of 2019 daily attendance levels.  Parks in areas where COVID0-19 cases are not increasing are doing better than those where cases are high.  There is no way to know if they will be able to open any additional parks this year that are still closed.

• Some more details on attendance, in areas where the virus is not surging like New Jersey, they're seeing some days where they 45%+ of 2019 attendance levels.  They specifically mention Great Adventure and St. Louis.

© Six Flags
• The Active Pass hoder base was down 38% at the end of the quarter to 2.1 million people, they had 2.6 million at the end of calendar 2019.

• They have further reduced capital expenditure amounts for 2020 - they have pushed off or eliminated $50-$60 million of additions for this year so far.  They now expect to have 2020 capital expenditures come in between $80 and $90 million, $10 million lower than they first said.  Going forward they will be conservative with capital expenditures, adding only attractions with a "good return on investment."

• Six Flags has embarked on a mission to make themselves "a more agile, commercially driven and technology-savvy organization."  This will improve guest experience, help is growing the pass base and reduce operating costs.

• Changes include continuing to go after single-day visitors, redesign their websites to make them more user friendly, create better value in food and beverage offerings, restructure the company to make sure there are no duplicated efforts in the corporate office and at the parks but also reduce costs without reducing staffing.  They are also making a diversity and inclusion council within the company to guide things as training, addressing biases, building a diverse team and community outreach.

© Six Flags
• The company's COVID-19 changes are sitting very well with guests in regard to getting in the park quickly and easily.  They plan to keep many changes in the long run, such as advanced ticket sales and paying for parking ahead of time.  The reservation system is being monitored and it is not clear if they would keep it post-pandemic.

• Regarding Fright Fest and Holiday in the Park, both events are being planned but they are questioning best safety practices, how to make sure they are cash flow positive, and how to protect the Fright Fest image if they can't put on a traditional event... not to tarnish its reputation.  While they didn't go into details, social distancing does not work well with haunted houses, so things will have to be very different this Halloween.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Elitch Gardens to Stay Closed in 2020 + Michigan's Adventure Update

© Elitch Gardens
Elitch Gardens has decided to keep the park closed for the 2020 season, it has announced.  Not an easy call to make, but with Colorado not providing an estimate for when they may be allowed to operate, too much of the year has already slipped away.

The park's full explanation of their decision is below, and I think you can tell from it that they feel pretty disappointed about how things have progressed in the state.

"Even though about 85% of the theme and water parks are open and operating safely around the U.S., and almost all other attractions in our Denver area community and throughout Colorado have been given permission to re-open, Elitch Gardens continues to be denied that opportunity.  We have held out hope for so long that our park would be treated fairly as we watched the Denver Zoo, Botanical Gardens, Aquarium, the Museum of Science & Nature open in various stages,  the casinos welcome back players, the ski resorts’ summertime attractions go into full swing, and even Red Rocks re-open this month for concerts. Park management has spent months consulting with industry experts and government officials to develop a comprehensive plan, including new sanitation and social distancing protocols, that would allow the Park to operate safely. We have also spent a considerable amount of resources training employees, inspecting rides, filling pools, and sprucing up the property, all in anticipation of opening day. Unfortunately, despite management’s substantial efforts, we have been unable to obtain government approval to open. As a result, Elitch Gardens will remain closed in 2020."

The park will transfer all guests who purchased a 2020 season pass into a new 2021 season pass VIP program.  Benefits include free admission, free parking, free souvenir cup with $0.99 refills, one free meal pass, one free skip the line pass, early ride times and plenty more.  The park estimates that their VIP program is worth $500 per pass.

© Michigan's Adventure
A curious thing happened at the end of this past week to Michigan's Adventure.  According to local news sources, the park was told they have to close once again due to an executive order from the State that calls for Michigan amusement and water parks to close.  The state is still mitigating COVID-19 cases and the order covers many outdoor recreational activities.

According to this article local health officials have confirmed that the park has to close, but there was a lot of confusion about the wording of the order and whether or not Michigan's Adventure, which is operating right now only as a water park, has to close.  There was another article that appears to make it perfectly clear that the park has to close again.

However, the amusement park posted on their social media yesterday evening that they will continue to be open throughout the month as scheduled, ending their season on September 7th. 

Either the park has some information that others do not, or perhaps they are digging their feet into the sand on the issue... not totally clear yet.  The park still has their hours listed on their website for the rest of the season.