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Could some parks close for good because of the pandemic?


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It makes me wonder if some parks will close for good as a result of this pandemic. All parks are loosing a ton of money. I can see Six Flags for instance closing a park or two and send the rides to other parks.

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No one knows more about the state of the theme park industry than the people who work in it themselves, I'm one of them. There's really not much left of this dead horse to beat.

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Yes, absolutely they will. Even ignoring the money they're hemorrhaging now, a lot of parks rely on being busy to survive and there is a lot working against them even once they reopen; loss of visitor confidence, decimated international tourism, capacity limits, difficulty in putting on seasonal events, loss of corporate events and functions being just a few examples. Many smaller parks will struggle, and many chains will have to make difficult decisions.

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^ Yep, the live entertainment industry is in the same boat. 15+ years being a stage pro, now I'm looking at Orkin and plumbing jobs.

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This is not a short term problem. Even if we somehow beat the virus in the next six months and give permission for everything to open back up the damage has been done. I expect to see at least a few small parks close and probably one or two decent size ones.

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We're already seeing the negative impacts in the short term. Any expansion project that wasn't already far along in construction is, generally, either put off until the 2021 season or shelved indefinitely. So parks aren't just dealing with capacity limits now - once those limits are lifted they won't have anything new or exciting to draw guests back in. No one is more aware of this than those in the design / planning business like myself - I've seen a lot of my own work drop off with no idea when (and if) it will start up again.

 

The themed entertainment industry (which includes live entertainment) and the cinema industry were already facing trouble from the rise of at-home entertainment such as streaming media, and now that problem has become a whole lot worse because more people than back in 2008 are suddenly having to make hard choices about how they spend their money. The point about loss of consumer confidence in themed entertainment is a big one. The parks that succeed are going to be the ones that can prove to their guests that a day or two of entertainment is worth the cost of an entire year of Netflix, and that they do not have to be afraid of going to what used to be their favorite places.

 

As for particular closures... I don't think we'll see any right away from the five big chains (Six Flags, Cedar Fair, SeaWorld, Disney, and Universal) as each chain doesn't have much geographical overlap within the chain. Indie parks are a different story - off the top of my head I would think that both Denver parks are in trouble, along with Lakemont in Pennsylvania, maybe Playland in New York too. I'd also keep an eye on Funtown Splashtown in Maine and Delgrosso's in Pennsylvania, who will both me missing the 2020 season in its entirety.

 

This is also a pessimistic thought but I fear that destination theme park prices are going to go way up in an attempt to recoup profits - so much so that a week's vacation at a park is going to become a luxury item.

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^I agree with most of your points, but the point you made about parks struggling before the pandemic is not true. Most public attendance figures have shown that the theme park industry has actually been growing over the past few years. 2020 was supposed to be a great year for new rides until all this happened. The rise of at home entertainment is not killing the theme park industry, and in some ways is actually benefiting it. Malls are dying because people can shop online. Theaters are dying because people can watch movies online. But theme park rides? You can watch a POV online, but that's not the same as actually riding it. Other adrenaline based hobbies, like skiing or watersports, are very expensive, so theme parks are still the best option for most people looking for thrills and will likely remain that way for a long time. Social media also provides free advertising which has caused in increase in travel, allowing theme parks to grow their popularity with young adults.

 

The industry is in for a rough couple years, and I wouldn't be surprised if a few small parks can't make it. But the theme park industry as a whole is not going anywhere anytime soon.

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This might be a controversial opinion, but this just proves that there are people out there that want the lockdown to end for a very legitimate reason. How are people supposed to live if they can't make any money?

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^I agree with most of your points, but the point you made about parks struggling before the pandemic is not true. Most public attendance figures have shown that the theme park industry has actually been growing over the past few years.

Never said that they were struggling. They weren't then, they weren't up until this point, and I believe they will eventually bounce back. And you're right! Themed entertainment was in a growth period!

 

I said that they were facing trouble, to be clearer, that the threat was looming, as at-home media has grown in popularity.

 

Theme parks have always gotten and will still always get those people looking for that specific type of experience, whether it be a roller coaster or a character greeting. But for the folks who are just looking for blanket forms of "entertainment", the destination theme park, and all its logistics and fanfare, just became a much harder proposition. Whether it's the financial stress from the cost, or the mental stress of all that planning... That kind of stuff is probably the last thing that the general park-goer wants to even think about right now and into the near future.

 

Local stuff, well, that's still to be determined. Just going off of my own experience, there are a lot of people from my hometown (small city in central rural Pennsyl-tucky) that only ever go to Knoebels, Hersheypark, and / or Dutch Wonderland on a regular basis because they're satisfied by those places.

 

And themed entertainment goes beyond theme parks - it includes stuff like museums, escape rooms, and the like. Those have issues of their own that good people in the business attempting to work their way around.

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This might be a controversial opinion, but this just proves that there are people out there that want the lockdown to end for a very legitimate reason. How are people supposed to live if they can't make any money?

 

 

It’s a catch 22, don’t open and can’t make money, you’ll likely go under. Open too soon and get sued because an outbreak happens at your facility, and go under.

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And themed entertainment goes beyond theme parks - it includes stuff like museums, escape rooms, and the like. Those have issues of their own that good people in the business attempting to work their way around.

 

There are a bunch that are actually doing virtual escape rooms now. Some are an in-browser recreation, some have an actor livestreaming from the location and your group directs him on what to do. I think the one with the actor is genius! Next-level video gaming! Think about it. Between this and the rise of VR we could be looking at the groundwork for the world of Gamer.

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This might be a controversial opinion, but this just proves that there are people out there that want the lockdown to end for a very legitimate reason. How are people supposed to live if they can't make any money?

I don't think it's necessarily controversial, I think most people would agree we can't just keep everything closed while the virus exists as the best case scenario says it's going to be around for at least the rest of the year and worst case that it will be around in some form for ever.

 

But likewise there's a lot of concern that if you rush reopening, it could cause a second wave and mean things have to close down for even longer, causing even more economic impact. It's such a fine line.

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Reopening soon is essential but at what cost? With low capacity, sanitazition etc... It's going to be horrible moneywise at the end of the year. Everything is changing in a big way in the amusement industry. I think most smaller parks that were doing good and turning some profits before all this will come out okay. But unfortunetly the ones that were struggling might not make it. It makes me sad to think that we will probably lose historical parks and rides. And for some reason I fear Six Flags might close a park eventually. They have done it in the past when they were struggling financially. The experience at any reopened parks makes me think it will never be the same. But we will have to get used to it because there will be big changes. I hope we will see new rides popping up in the near future but for sure it will slow down. I also hope that we don't lose some manufacturers and design firms. The next couple years will be hard financially for everyone involved in this industry.

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And for some reason I fear Six Flags might close a park eventually. They have done it in the past when they were struggling financially.

Six Flags is in a very awkward position right now after having bought back the parks it dumped before the previous recession, much like Disney's awkward position having just purchased 20th Century Fox.

 

Six Flags has no reason to consolidate their parks right now. They have very little regional overlap between parks. Parks like Over Texas / Fiesta Texas, Great Escape / Darien Lake, and America / Great Adventure are certainly within a day's drive of each other, but I don't believe they overlap enough for Six Flags to want to dump one over the other - despite the lack of investment in a few of those mentioned. A normal park-goer considers even a three-hour drive to a park to be a bit of a stretch.

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Yes you are probably right but it makes me wonder about La Ronde in Canada! They have not flagged that park yet and they only own the rides not the land. I cannot see Six Flags having too much money in the years to come. And having bought back a park like Darien Lake recently before that pandemic cannot do them any good financially!

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I'm wondering if Knoebel's will survive?

 

As for the big chains; well I could see the smaller scale parks (Michigan's Adventure for CF; Great Escape/La Ronde/America for SF) having issues but no closures.

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Posted (edited)

^^ If La Ronde closes forever then I’m changing my tune on this shutdown. It was totally worth it.

 

I'm wondering if Knoebel's will survive?

They’ll be fine.

Edited by coasterbill
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Yes you are probably right but it makes me wonder about La Ronde in Canada! They have not flagged that park yet and they only own the rides not the land. I cannot see Six Flags having too much money in the years to come. And having bought back a park like Darien Lake recently before that pandemic cannot do them any good financially!

 

Darien Lake is leased by SF. If SF cuts DL then the owner (probably) finds a new operator.

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I think it's sadly trashy, that some here are gladly

welcoming the demise of certain parks, due to this pandemic.

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You know what’s sadly trashy? La Ronde

(I also don’t think that it’s in any danger of closing whatsoever but a man can dream)

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I don't think it's a matter of "could some close?" but more a matter of "which ones?" Major retail companies are going under because of this and parks are even more restricted than retail because of the necessity of in-person business and shorter operating schedules.

 

I think some of the smaller, summer-only parks will close but I have no idea which ones. I could also see some of the larger chains ditching their less-profitable parks, especially parks that can't operate year-round due to winter weather. I have no idea which parks will go under and I just hope that when they do, some of the larger parks can acquire the rides rather than let them rot away somewhere.

 

Side note: I could also see some of the larger parks running partial-operation of their rides (like they do for some of the Christmas events) to save money until attendance gets back up, or am I incorrect in assuming they could save money this way? Or if parks do wish to hire less staff, maybe they'll run some sort of rotating schedule for ride operation. I'm not sure if that would be worth it at all, since they would still have to pay to maintain all the rides.

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Running rides less will definitely save money, both in terms of staffing and maintenance. Things like shorter days, closing certain days of the week (like Seaworld appear to be doing) and shortening the season will all help achieve this. Likewise, operating with fewer trains will help.

 

Alton Towers has run a masterclass in money saving over the last few years by mothballing some rides for a season (Hex), removing others that require lots of staff (Nemesis: Sub Terra), replacing others with upcharge attractions (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and removing maintenance money pits (Ripsaw), so we can expect to see a few things like this too.

 

Other things include closing less-popular food locations, simplifying menus and cutting the entertainment budget (particularly roaming characters etc).

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I'm curious to see if Magic Mountain continues 365-day operation once they re-open or if they'll go back to weekends only at the end of summer.

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I'm curious to see if Magic Mountain continues 365-day operation once they re-open or if they'll go back to weekends only at the end of summer.

 

I think they'll go weekends only for a while then go back to 365 when the virus is eradicated.

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I'm curious to see if Magic Mountain continues 365-day operation once they re-open or if they'll go back to weekends only at the end of summer.

Another angle to this is we might see some parks like SFoG or SFStl actually add to their calendars with year-round weekend ops in an attempt to boost attendance figures. After all, closed parks do not make any money and these two SF parks would be the next logical choices within the chain to go year round after the Texas properties did it.

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