Saturday, March 6, 2021

California Amusement Parks Can Open April 1st With Strict Capacity Limitations

© Disney

California has provided a new plan that will allow amusement and theme parks to open in the state as soon as April 1st, although with strict capacity limitations in place.  Prior to Friday's update the only way to get to reopen a large park was for the county it is located in to reach the yellow or "minimal" rating, which has proven impossible as the pandemic continues.

Now, even parks in counties that are in the 2nd red "substantial" tier can open starting April 1st.  The reason this is important is because the counties that contain the largest parks in the state are expected to move from the purple "widespread" ranking into the red ranking in the next couple of weeks.  I believe that California's Great America is already in a county in the red ranking.

© California Dept of Public Health

In the red ranking parks are limited to 15% capacity, which is a very small amount.  The state wants no groups larger than 10 visiting the parks and no more than 3 household groups together.  Indoor attractions will have a 15% max capacity, with "time restrictions" in place, there will be no indoor dining and quite importantly, no out of state visitors are allowed at the parks.

In the orange or "moderate" ranking the capacity limits increase to 25%, with the other rules still in place, although indoor dining is allowed.  In the least restrictive yellow phase capacity is limited to 35%, but indoor capacity remains at 25%.

© Disney

So this is progress, no doubt, but 15% capacity will be a big issue for parks like Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Knott's Berry Farm and Universal Studios Hollywood.  One has to wonder if when they reopen with those restrictions in place if they will hold expanded versions of the food and retail festivals nearly all of them are already holding.  Knott's has been at this for almost a year now, with Disney and Universal joining them soon.  Adding some rides and attractions to the mix, kind of like what Busch Gardens Williamsburg has been doing, could but a good fit for 15% capacity.

These parks could continue to hold separate cost (or discounted for pass holders) events that will help them more easily stay within the 15% capacity limit, while still charging a higher ticket price that can help things stay positive at the bottom line.   Especially with the popular Disney parks, I can't see them just having it be a free for all with regular daily tickets offered for such a small attendance amount.  Perhaps this could work for parks up North, like California's Great America, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and while not North, even maybe Six Flags Magic Mountain.  Maybe.  I'm not convincing myself fully though.

© Universal Studios Hollywood

I remember last year a lot of parks started out by limiting the amount of season pass holder reservations available each day, but when the crowds didn't materialize those restrictions quickly fell off.  That could come back as a more important issue this year for the California parks.  I guess regardless of the capacity mix of pass holders versus day tickets, I can't image these parks will be able to open all their attractions with a 15% capacity limitation, as keeping costs to a minimum will be a major concern.

Unless, of course, we see daily ticket prices go up to $250 a person or something!  I think Disneyland Resort fans would happy whip out their credit cards, but probably not so viable for the other parks.  One thing is for sure, the parks will get creative and find some way to entertain their guests despite these strict rules.  And that's great news to look forward to!