Great America readies long-term 'master plan' for more rides, 'entertainment district' Mar 30, 2016, 2:48pm PDT The owners of Santa Clara’s Great America have a message for you: Despite rumors to the contrary, the South Bay theme park is here to stay, and it plans to get a lot bigger and better.
Rides up to 250-feet tall, new restaurants, shops and entertainment venues are being planned, though don’t expect specifics just yet. Year-round operations? It could happen. Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet speaks at a press event on Wednesday announcing new plans for Great America to continue as a theme park, but with upgrades. “I’m here today to say that Great America has a great future,” said Matt Ouimet, CEO of publicly traded park owner Cedar Fair Entertainment Co.
The company is touting a rezoning application and “master plan” that has long been working its way through the city’s approval process. (The press event coincides with the release of an environmental impact report.) For the most part, it would give Great America broad entitlements to develop a wide variety of new rides and attractions. Currently, Great America is subject to a 35-foot height limit and has to get city permission for each project it wants to build, such as the 108-foot-tall Gold Striker, which opened in 2013.
In addition, it would provide about 250,000 square feet of commercial development capacity on a part of the park that fronts the main parking lot, which Great America shares with Levi’s Stadium. An environmental impact report states that the actual amount of “net new” development would be 100,000 square feet — and Ouimet told me it would likely be smaller shop and entertainment space, not large-format retail. Nor would hotel or office space be part of the concept. But the idea is to make it available to the general public, not just people paying admission to the park.
Ouimet compared it to a “marketplace” at Knott’s Berry Farm, which Cedar Fair also owns, with 15 shops and restaurants.
“You’ll see some fun restaurants and a little retail, but probably more entertainment retail,” Ouimet said. “We could bring in a partner. We could bring in a joint-venture partner on a specific asset. There’s a number of developers who would be interested in working with us. They key is to make it additive to the park.”
Great America has been a laggard in the Cedar Fair amusement park portfolio, largely because it doesn't have enough critical mass to keep patrons longer and coming back, Ouimet said. The master plan is designed to broaden the park's appeal and attract visitors from a wider area.
"You have to get to a certain level of critical mass," he said. "The park is in the bottom third of attendance today. But it’s one of the smallest footprints we have. If the park is too small, visitors don’t buy dinner, they don’t come back as often."
The larger significance of the Great America press event is to push back against questions over the park’s future. Santa Clara’s Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency is in the process of selling off its real estate holdings — including the land that lies underneath Great America.
Ouimet said Cedar Fair is interested in buying the land itself if the deal makes sense. But even if the company doesn’t exercise its right of first offer, Ouimet said Cedar Fair still intends to run Great America as a theme park for the foreseeable future (its lease runs through 2074).
“Our long-term plans do not change if someone else buys the land,” he said. “Any change of use other than an amusement park and related entertainment district would require Cedar Fair’s approval and the city’s approval.”
Ouimet did not deny that the company has had discussions with various real estate developers, including the Irvine Company, which I reported recently. But he said Cedar Fair does not see Great America shrinking to give way to high-density housing or other commercial development.
The park could also go year-round under the master plan, but officials said it's too early to tell if that was imminent.
Last edited by larrygator on Wed Mar 30, 2016 6:58 pm.
I kinda hope this means they can refurbish/restore the old IMAX building. If they're planning to make an entertainment complex around the front gate, this could be the perfect opportunity bring it back. I recently saw a pic of what the inside currently looks, and the majority of the seats are still intact https://www.instagram.com/p/BDUC-TPjEL5/.
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