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would a park from the golden era survive survive now?


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What has kept some parks from the "golden era" or "golden age" alive today is generally what several have said already. Smart management, adaptability, and offering a different product, not still being a "park from the golden era." Old large parks like Cedar Point focus on being fresh, innovative, and thrilling which keeps the turnstiles clicking. The small parks being mentioned in this thread may not have seen many huge changes like constructing multiple large coasters or multi-ride expansions, but have made smart changes to remain viable and offer a different product which keeps them very popular with the locals and humming along nicely.

 

Knoebels is a great textbook example of smart change. They have maintained a respect for their history, but continue to move forward with new additions and upgrades. As an outsider, if I were to evaluate Knoebels strategy, I would say they are successful park because they operate on a lean budget (see unpaved pathways, low-cost ride installations, limited theme) which allows them to offer affordable options for families with young children who can choose how much they want to spend with perks of free parking, admission, and the choice of attraction admission ranging from a-la-carte to all-inclusive. Their offering of mostly family rides reinforces this strategy. If Knoebels were to rest on their historic laurels of the golden era and hardly change, the park would be pushing up laurels and exist only in photographs. If they tried to be like their neighbors, they would meet a similar fate.

 

Waldameer is another great example. In the early 1980s, Waldameer was actually ready to close for good, but the owner had a change of mind and decided to change strategy from being the tiny local "picnic park" to a regional family amusement and water park instead of retirement. Mr. Nelson, now well into his 80s, is always looking for new ideas and is not afraid to remove something "old and historic" if removal can leverage future improvements (ex: he financed the water park by selling a hand-carved carousel). He is committed to offering an experience for families with young children similar to that of Knoebels. He also seems to have a firm grasp on his "competition," because he does not want to be Cedar Point, Darien Lake, or in some ways Kennywood. Waldameer from the "golden era" would be a subdivision or shopping plaza of the millennium. Waldameer trying to go ride for ride with any of the current or former competitors (Geauga Lake) would've had that subdivision built even sooner.

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Lagoon also is a successful park from the golden ages. The beginning success is the move they did only ten years into the park's life which made it be the only park in Utah. The rest stayed on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, meeting a demise except for Saltair becoming a stage for traveling raves and bands.

 

The move helped Lagoon expand on it's own terms, and once the fire broke out in 1953(4?) it created a new lease on the park. From that moment forward, the phrase, "new attraction every year" was made and created a surge in attractions that kept going as tradition until 2010. Dal Freeman played a key role in this since working with Lagoon in the 90's starting with Rattlesnake Rapids and forward from there. With his work in every addition since then, he made Lagoon a destination park with locals, then striking oil with Cannibal. It's debatable to say, but I can see Lagoon become as popular as Silver Dollar City within the next 10 years if additions play to that favor.

 

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Knoebels' strategy is an outlier right now among parks of that size because they're highly decentralized. Many of the food options in the park aren't run by the park, but rather by outside vendors for whom operation in Knoebels is their business and which they are responsible to staff/operate. I believe that some of the rides are too (Roll-O-Plane being one I've specifically heard) are also owned/operated by these vendors rather than Knoebels. The huge campground serves as their "on site hotel" with the park, pool, and golf course being the amenities to try and lure people in. For the locals, which is a comparatively sparse population and not necessarily high income, the park has no gate or parking fees to entice them to show up as much as possible and spend money. They're traded the advance purchase income that Six Flags, Cedar Fair, and SeaWorld are chasing with their business models for something that is far friendlier to a wider swath of people. It seems to be working.

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One thing to note is that many of the major parks in the Northeast are from the Golden Era, but they have had to adapt to the new era to some extent. Cedar Point, Kennywood, Knoebels, Hersheypark, Waldameer, Dorney Park, Lake Compunce, SFNE, and more. Most of these have adapted to more modern full day parks, but some of the parks on this list have done a much better job than others at maintaining the tradition. (Knoebels, Kennywood, Hershey vs Cedar Point, Dorney, SFNE).

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I didn't know about that either, though I've heard of other small parks doing similar things. I know Rye Playland has been known to do things like this. Here's an old New York Times article about the Wild Wind coaster that was set up and never ended up opening. It's an interesting article, but keep in mind when reading it that it's now 17 years old. I've always been fascinated by these Wild Wind rides because I remember being at Playland as a kid and seeing the ride under construction.

 

Here's an excerpt about the agreement with Zamperla and eventual demise of the ride.

 

Wild Wind was a roller coaster looking for a home after its original buyer, an amusement park in Korea, failed. Zamperla, Inc., an Italian company, which had acquired the ride, offered to set it up without charge at Playland in Rye. In exchange, the county would split the ride's operating profits with Zamperla.

 

The deal ''looked like a win-win,'' said Salvatore A. DeSantis, Westchester's commissioner for parks, recreation and conservation.

 

But months before Playland reopens for the season, the Wild Wind has come and gone without ever carrying a paying passenger.

 

Engineers discovered that the ride's twists and turns generated lateral force equivalent to four times the earth's gravitational pull. And even though neither the state nor the federal government limit the gravitational forces on rides -- in Europe, the limit is 2Gs -- the decision was made to dismantle Wild Wind.

 

Once that fell through, it was replaced with another coaster (ugh) with a slightly different (but still odd) type of profit sharing plan.

 

The company is sending another ride in its place, although as Mr. DeSantis said, ''It's not the same deal.'' The county will rent the new ride and share some profits with Zamperla.
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Heh, that's funny, because my first thought about a park from the Golden Era opening now was "yeah, it'd be fine, unless all their rides injured or killed people, then it would go out of business promptly."

 

I do think they could work, especially if small and in certain locations. My local "Golden Era" park is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and really by far the big draws there are the carousel and the Giant Dipper. A park appropriately themed, probably on a pay-per-ride basis, with one big wooden coaster I think would have no problem doing OK, especially in a location like the boardwalk where there are other attractions around (I'm thinking like if a city redeveloped their beachfront or riverfront it could work).

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Rye's been doing it forever and a day, and honestly, most of the moves they made were terrible and led to their current situation. I've heard the log flume is a situation where whoever originally owned it was basically just stacking money. Not sure if they ever got around to buying it out. Coney Island is another example where the land is leased to Zamperla to do their thing. Kentucky Kingdom is basically a vendor operation. Indiana Beach's Fascination and Taco stands aren't run by Indiana Beach - they're leased to the operators. Why else do you think the same asian woman runs the Fascination parlor literally every single day of the season?

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^^ Yea when I think of "Golden era" park I think of the old school amusement park with the ton of old school flat rides and the one or two main Wooden coaster/coasters. Clearly there is a few of those around. I find it interesting how old school parks focuses more on flat rides where as modern day ones focus more on coasters. But I have no issue with that as coasters are where its at! Of course thrill flats are what make an really thrilling park too. Traditional flats are nice too though however just not as fun as many other rides. Then again sometimes traditional flats can be more intense like Rock-o-Planes. That Skydiver thrill Ferris Wheel looks fun as well although i never been on one. I think it be cool to try one out.

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