Monday, February 28, 2022

Cedar Point Details Changes + Additions for 2022 Season

© Cedar Point
Cedar Point has detailed all the changes and additions they have in store for the park's 2022 season, which will kick off on Saturday May 7th.  The park's season will be highlighted by the transformation of two of its resort properties, additional food and beverage offerings and a host of special events that extend throughout the year.

© Cedar Point
A large new addition to the park's food and beverage operations is The Farmhouse Kitchen & Grill, which will open in the center of the park's Frontier Town themed area.  According to Cedar Point, the Farmhouse Kitchen & Grill will offer "a variety of hand-made options, including roasted corn ribs, house-made chili, char-roasted flank steak with chimichurri, roasted seasonal vegetables, hushpuppies, cast iron brownie a-la-mode and more."  It will also offer special creations on a rotating basis crafted by the park's culinary team.

Concept art for the new addition was released, and can be seen above.  The building appears to follow the same model Cedar Fair has used recently in many parks, with a high capacity serving area inside the building and plentiful seating outside.  There will also be a stage for live entertainment to perform throughout the season.

Elsewhere in the park the Derby Dogs stand, located near the Cedar Downs, will offer unique hot dog creations.  The park's Coasters Drive-In will be heavily renovated inside to allow for more capacity and speed of service, and also offer new items in addition to old favorites.

© Cedar Point
Cedar Point's resort side will be heavily improved this year with complete renovations of both Castaway Bay and Sawmill Creek.  Castaway bay will feature top to bottom changes, including a new exterior look and all new furnishings inside the resort.  The resort's dining offerings will also be improved and changed, and new family friendly activities like mini-bowling installed.  Of course, the indoor water park will still be offered giving families weather-protected fun.

© Cedar Point
Sawmill Creek will debut after an enormous amount of changes and improvements, located just a ten minute drive from Cedar Point.  With more than 200 guest rooms, a meeting space, several food options, private marina and golf course, the changes greatly improve Cedar Point's resort offerings with amenities not previously offered at the Point.  

Cedar Point will offer many special events throughout the 2022 season, including the Celebrate Cedar Point Parade and Spectacular, a modified return of the park's 150th anniversary offerings.  Frontier Festival will return in the spring, and during the summer Cedar Point Nights will again take place along the beach located next to the park.  Plus, Snoopy fans will be happy to see the park's Snoopy Boutique renovated into Peanuts @ The Point, and all new store themed around the Peanuts characters and offering exclusive merchandise.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Hersheypark to Retheme Coaster + Build New Ride for 2022

© Hersheypark
Jolly Ranchers are very 'in' this year at Hersheypark, as the popular theme park has announced two new attractions themed on the famous candies.  Seen above, the park will totally repaint and retheme their 1991 Vekoma Boomerang coaster, formerly known as Sidewinder, into the Jolly Rancher Remix.  The ride will still invert passengers a total of six times during the 90 second ride, but the coaster has received some interesting upgrades.


Aside from the bright new paint job, which features the colors of the Jolly Rancher candies including bright green track, the coaster will also have a new tunnel installed with special effects.  According to Hersheypark, "each ride is different with five randomized flavor rides like Watermelon or Green Apple, complete with different music, lights and scents for an only-in-Hershey sensory experience."  Sounds like a sweet-smelling take on one of the park's coasters!


© Hersheypark
Located under the boomerang element of the Jolly Rancher Remix coaster, a new family flat ride will also debut, named Mix'd Flavored by Jolly Rancher.  I'm sure most guests will just call the ride Mix'd, as that's a great description of the ride's visuals.  The attraction is one of Zamperla's Nebulaz rides, which the manufacturer describes as a "visual riddle." 

© Hersheypark
Mix'd has four arms that seat riders at the end of each, and the arms "swing about horizontal axes in a circular motion while the central tower rotates around itself," as described by Zamperla.  It's a mesmerizing ride to look at, but still family friendly as passengers do not invert during the ride.  The seats at the end of the arms face back-to-back and the ride spins both forwards and backwards, so no matter where you sit you get both directional experiences.

Both Jolly Rancher Remix and Mix'd Flavored by Jolly Rancher are set to open this summer at Hersheypark.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Heard On... Cedar Fair's Q4 2021 Conference Call

© Cedar Fair
Cedar Fair recently held their Q4 and year end 2021 conference call after their earnings report came out.  You can check out the company's full press release at this link.  As in the past the conference call is used to go over their figures, but there are always some other tidbits in there too - some notes from which are below.

•  On a high level view of financials, revenues in 2021 were $1.34 billion, compared to $1.47 billion in 2019 - the last pre-pandemic year.  Attendance was 19.5 million guests, down 8.4 million from 2019.  Out of park revenues of $168 million was comparable to 2019.  Per capita spending hit a new record of $62.03, 28% higher than 2019.  Full year EBITDA was $325 million in 2021, compared to $505 million in 2019.  Net income, however, in 2021 was a loss of $49 million compared to a gain of $172 million in 2019.

•  Digging into attendance a bit more, in 2019 the parks had a total of 2,224 operating days, in 2021 they did 1,765.  Overall totals in 2021 were about 70% of 2019 attendance, but on a day to day comparison closer to 85%.  In the 4th quarter of 2021 there were actually 21 more operating days in total than in 2019, as Cedar Fair extended park schedules "where appropriate."  They expect to increase operating days 35% in 2022, to almost 2,400 days (more than in 2019) and operating hours will be nearly 60% higher than in 2021.

© Cedar Fair
•  With regard to the record per capita spending, they note that all revenue channels saw increases - especially admissions, food and beverage and extra charge attractions.  Cedar Fair points out that while consumer spending was strong this year, they also credit the food and beverage lift to "building a more robust culinary infrastructure capable of delivering higher quality" offerings over the last 5 years.  


•  Looking just at Q4 of 2021 when compared to 2019, the results were good.  Revenues were up 36% or $94 million over 2019, attendance increased 5% or 246,000 visits and out of park revenues were up $6 million to $34 million.  Per capita spending for the quarter was up 34% as well.  EBITDA for the quarter was $73 million, a record, up $19 million over 2019.


•  At the end of the year the company's cash was at $61 million with $359 available on credit.  The revolver credit had no balance at year end, and no large maturities are due until 2024. 

© Cedar Fair
•  The labor market situation is still evolving and they expect to see higher labor costs again this year, mostly due to having more days and operating hours.  They do see the return of visas for international workers, which can help with staffing.  Having return employees from 2021 will also help, as 2020 was so fragmented there were much less returning workers in 2021.

•  Going cashless has helped guests to utilize apps to pay and also reduced lines in the parks.  It has also increased the number of sales per hour which is meaningful for the company.  They are also leaning on technology to continue to market to guests better and to help with labor costs.


•  Cedar Fair again confirmed that SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment made and offer to purchase the company, starting at $60 a unit.  They said they then "informally" upped the offer to $63 a share, however after due diligence that still wasn't an offer that was deemed "in the best interest of the company and its unitholders."  

© Cedar Fair
•  Due to the performance in the 2nd half of 2021, Cedar Fair anticipates returning the quarterly distribution to unitholders as soon as Q3 2022, possibly sooner.  No work yet on at what level it will return, but they want to make sure it is sustainable and able to grow over time.

•  Capital spending plans for 2022 include between $170 to $175 million on "new rides, attractions and other park improvements to support future growth at our parks."  That's a sizable number, which is good news for park fans.  Considering timing, a lot of that is probably to start projects for 2023.  They will also spend another $40 million to complete renovations at Sawmill Creek Resort and Castaway Bay.

•  The company will also continue to pay down long term debt until they are below $2 billion.  In December they redeemed bonds due in 2024 using $450 million cash on had, removing close to half of the debt taken on during the pandemic in 2020.

•  2022 season pass sales are strong, with a 8% increase in average season pass price and "higher penetration rates" for all-season add-ons.  Deferred revenues at year end, which is mostly from season passes, was at $198 million, up $37 million from 2019.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Cedar Point to Keep Top Thrill Dragster Closed in 2022

© Cedar Point
Cedar Point has confirmed that they will not open Top Thrill Dragster in 2022, updating their website to reflect the news (seen above).  The ride was closed in mid-August 2021 after an accident took place that injured a guest in line.  The news of the ride staying closed this season comes after a full report on the incident was released by the Ohio Department of Agriculture which did not find any fault in the park's maintenance of the ride.

Fans of the towering 420 foot tall ride, which is capable of launching trains at 120 miles per hour, will be understandably disappointed when they visit The Point this year.  Cedar Point has not said any further detail on what their plan is for the ride.  An obvious choice would be reconfiguring the ride's queue to keep guests further away from the ride's path while it is in operation.  

However, we all know that Top Thrill Dragster has given the park its fair share of operational troubles through the years since it opened in 2003.  It is a premier ride at the park no doubt, but it also feels legitimate to wonder if the coaster will be viable as a part of the park's line up come 2023. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

SeaWorld Entertainment's Offer to Purchase Cedar Fair is Dead

© Cedar Fair
SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment has confirmed via their investor relations website that their offer to purchase Cedar Fair has not been accepted and the deal is now dead.  The statement released is short and to the point:

"In response to inquiries from various stakeholders, we confirm that our offer to acquire Cedar Fair was rejected.  Unfortunately, we do not see a path to a transaction."


© SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
Occasionally statements like these can be a part of a plan to make a better offer, or get some additional attention of stock/unit holders, however in this case I do trust that things are not going to be moving forward.  

Many aren't surprised that the deal is not going through, especially because Cedar Fair requires a unit holder approval of at least two thirds on items such as this proposed sale - not easy to achieve.  The original deal was reported to have been for $60 a unit, and in Cedar Fair's earnings release conference call today they confirmed that SeaWorld eventually did up it to $63 a unit.  Still, that wasn't enough to move the needle it appears.  We will take a larger look at those earnings in a Heard On... post soon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Sesame Place San Diego to Hold Grand Opening March 26th 2022

© Sesame Place San Diego
The newest, and only second of its kind in the U.S., Sesame Place theme park will open in San Diego on March 26th, the park has announced.  Sesame Place San Diego will be the West coast's first Sesame themed park, joining Sesame Place Philadelphia which has been operating since 1980.  The new park is aimed at visitors of all ages, but with a decidedly kid-friendly atmosphere.  The park is a transformation of Aquatica San Diego, which operated as a water park only by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.

Sesame Place San Diego will be previewed first by season pass holders, and those grand opening events will offer fun "filled with character meet-and-greets, photo opportunities, collector items and more."  The park is now selling season passes ahead of their grand opening at a special discounted rate.

© Sesame Place San Diego
The new park will retain most of the previous property's water attractions, including an interactive play area, giant wave pool, family water slides and more.  There will also be a selection of new rides and attractions that have been added for the park's debut as well.  Visitors will find a recreation of the Sesame Street Neighborhood, complete with interactive elements that are sure to amaze young guests.  A festive parade and other live entertainment will also be offered.  The park will open as a Certified Autism Center, with team members receiving special training to ensure a comfortable visit for all guests.

© Sesame Place San Diego
There will be plenty of rides and slides that families can enjoy while at the park.  There will be a new family friendly roller coaster named Super Grover's Box Car Derby.  Other new rides added include the Sunny Day Carousel, Rub-A-Dub Sub, Abby's Fairy Flight, Cookie Climb, and Elmo's Rockin' Rockets.  Rethemed water attractions include Big Bird's Beach, Cookie's Monster Mixer, Oscar's Rotten Rafts, Bert's Topsy Turvy Tunnels, Big Bird's Rambling River and Snuffy's Spaghetti Slides.

Sesame Place San Diego is already planning on holding two large special events in the 2022 season.  These include The Count's Halloween Spooktacular and A Very Furry Christmas.  For more information on the park, check out the official website.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Schwarzkopf Shuttle Loop Coaster Planned to Open at Niagara Amusement Park

© Niagara Amusement Park
We just recently posted about the reopening of Niagara Amusement Park, and soon after the park confirmed that they plan to reopen one of Schwarzkopf's Shuttle Loop roller coasters at the property.  The announcement was made on social media, and notes that they plan to "begin construction as soon as the weather cooperates."

The coaster is one of the flywheel launch models, and most recently was located at La Feria Chapultepec Magico in Mexico.  Prior to that, the ride originated at Kennywood as Laser Loop where it gained much notoriety with fans of the park.  The coaster operated at Kennywood from 1980 until 1990, then in Mexico from 1994 to 2019.

© Niagara Amusement Park
The ride at Niagara Amusement Park will join another flywheel launched Shuttle Loop coaster at Knott's Berry Farm, Montezooma's Revenge, as the only two of their kind in the U.S.  However the Knott's ride has just entered a year long refurbishment that is rumored to possibly change the launch method... meaning the ride at Niagara Amusement Park may be even more unique than expected.

The amusement park confirmed their plans to start construction as soon as they can, but that does not necessairly mean a 2022 opening date.  We will stay tuned for more information from the park about the ride's opening plans.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Holidays In The Sky Drone + Fireworks Show Coming to Holiday World in 2022

© Holiday World
This upcoming season Holiday World will give visitors yet another way to celebrate the holidays they cherish so much with an all-new drone and fireworks show called Holidays In The Sky.  Featuring 300 LED lit drones, the show will run each night from June 18th through July 31st.  The production will feature Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween and the Fourth of July and conclude with a fireworks display.

© Holiday World
“This is an experience you truly have to see to believe,” says Fourth Generation Owner and Director of Entertainment & Special Events Lauren Crosby. “When the drones first take flight and the lights start to turn into a rotating Christmas tree or a waving American flag–it’s indescribable.  This is a custom show–you won’t be able to find anything like this in the world!” adds Crosby.  “Holidays in the Sky” is going to be a huge hit with families, and we can’t wait for the spectacle to start!”


The drone displays will feature images that are up to 700 feet across, truly taking over the sky above visitors.  Before the show park guests can party in the German American Bank Party Plaza (in the Thanksgiving section), complete with a live DJ.  In 2022 Holiday World will feature other new live entertainment as well, such as a stunt dog show, magician, juggler, ventriloquist, and more.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Niagara Amusement Park Planning Memorial Day Opening

© Niagara Amusement Park
Niagara Amusement Park & Splash World is planning to open around Memorial Day Weekend, the park has announced.  The amusement park was formerly run by Apex Parks and known as Fantasy Island, and announced that it would not open again in early 2020.  The amusement park has been closed since that time, with only Splash World, the park's water park, opening for a little bit of the late season in 2021.

Niagara Amusement Park was saved by IB Parks & Entertainment, the same company that resurrected Indiana Beach and is also working to reestablish Clementon Park & Splash World.  

© Niagara Amusement Park
While a Memorial Day Weekend opening date is set, there are not much additional details at this time on what rides and attractions will be offered in the amusement park this year.  The park's website is still showing information from last year's abbreviated Splash World season, without many clues at to the dry park just yet.  Scrolling though social media, however, we can at least see that the park has confirmed that a Scrambler and Mack Caterpillar will be joining for 2022.  The park is basically starting over as Apex Parks sold nearly every ride at the park when they closed it in 2020.


The park is home to the Silver Comet, a Custom Coasters wooden ride that was not demolished when the park closed as Fantasy Island.  Hopefully the park will be able to get the coaster refurbished and back up and running for the 2022 season as it is one of the park's largest attractions.  

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Makes Bid to Acquire Cedar Fair

© Cedar Fair
Cedar Fair has confirmed market reports that SeaWorld Entertainment has made a "proposal" that they will be reviewing.  The company's official statement does not include details on the acquisition offer, not even calling it that specifically, however the greater financial market is reporting more details.  Bloomberg reports that people with "knowledge" of the proposal mark the offer at around $60 a unit or a total of $3.4 billion.  Cedar Fair units have traded between $40 and $50 or so over the past year. 

Cedar Fair's brief statement calls the proposal "unsolicited" and "non-binding," and notes that "consistent with its fiduciary duties, and in consultation with its independent legal and financial advisors, the Cedar Fair Board of Directors will carefully review and consider the proposal to determine the course of action that it believes is in the best interest of the Company and its unitholders."


Saying this would be an acquisition might not even be the best word, perhaps a merger is really what could take place.  Both companies are of somewhat similar size in several key regards.  Their parks only overlap in a few markets, but do differ to a larger degree in size and offerings.  SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has an obvious animal focus at many of their larger properties, something Cedar Fair does not focus on.  On the other hand, the latest SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment leaders in recent years seem to be leaning heavily on the addition of thrill rides that are Cedar Fair's bread and butter.  The potentially combined companies would offer a large footprint of parks that would be geographically diverse.

© SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
There are a ton of speculative changes that could also occur with a merger of this size, not limited to renaming, intellectual property changes, potentially new Sesame Place parks popping up, potential park sales, resort expansion and more.  It's far too early to dig into those, at least on this blog - we will quietly ponder those for now.

Cedar Fair has had acquisition and merger attempts happen before, most notably a very messy one with Apollo Management that fell apart in 2010 due to unitholder displeasure.  Just a few years ago it was rumored that Six Flags also made a bid to purchase Cedar Fair, said to be worth $4 billion but never confirmed that I'm aware of, but Cedar Fair found the offer too low.

Obviously one might think that if a 2019 offer of $4 billion from Six Flags was too low that a 2022 offer of $3.4 billion from SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment would be laughed off by the board.  However, things are quite different now than three years ago, with regard to the pandemic and how both companies have rebounded from it.  I wouldn't label this offer dead in the water just yet, as there could be more to this story in the future.