Written by Russell Meyer
Published: August 24, 2005 at 8:29 PM
You know something is big news when a major network mentions it on its nightly newscast. As part of Jim Axelrod’s trek across the country comparing record shattering gas prices and their affect on the country, an amazing thing was uncovered. Apparently, Cedar Point’s attendance numbers have been worse than most of us thought, and in order to try to salvage some success out of the season, they have decided to offer admission discounts. Cedar Point’s CEO Dick Kinzel believes that attendance has been severely affected by the high gas prices, and in true Cedar Fair style, he also attributes the poor performance to the weather. It’s not rain this time, but it seems that the heat with nearly 20 days of 90+ degrees is keeping the crowds away. The last time I checked, half the summer in Orlando and Anaheim is over 90 degrees, and those parks don’t seem to have too much trouble with attendance. Kinzel does have a point about the gas prices, and it seems that Cedar Point is advertising the discounts as a way to compensate park guests for driving all the way up to Sandusky. As Axelrod found on his drive to the park, he did note a number of people who have changed their driving habits, particularly those who travel for long vacations in motor homes. The discount programs are primarily targeted at seniors and kids, but even the average guest can now get a ticket to the park for an unheard of $29.95. Maybe it’s right to note that Cedar Point and Six Flags are headed in two different directions. This discount program is great for guests, except those who have already shelled out for season passes, but it can’t be great for the park. Price slashing may get more guests into the park, but these discounts may be too little too late. There’s only a week and a half left until the unofficial end of summer, and the end of Cedar Point’s daily park schedule. These discounts will probably get people to drive up to Sandusky, assuming it’s not raining, snowing, too hot, too cold, too windy, or too cloudy. However, as Six Flags has demonstrated, cutting prices, does not necessarily mean better profits. Hopefully Cedar Point has a huge new attraction, or some ingenious strategy to improve attendance, or we may see another repeat of this season, assuming the weather holds.
Six Flags Over Georgia is preparing for a HUGE announcement next Thursday, September, 1, 2005. Details are still not official, but in a mailing to local media, Six Flags seems to have released the name of its new roller coaster, and it’s called Goliath. So grab your slingshots, and get ready to conquer Six Flags Over Georgia’s first new coaster since 2002’s Superman: Ultimate Flight. The coaster is rumored to be a B&M hypercoaster, which would be the third built at a Six Flags park (Nitro at Six Flags Great Adventure and Raging Bull and Six Flags America), and only the fourth in the United States (Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg). It’s unlikely that this coaster will break any records, but the likely choice of a B&M hypercoaster means that the coaster will probably be a big hit. We’ll have to wait until next week to get all of the details, but at trip to Atlanta may be in my future next summer.
Busch Gardens 7/28/05
I stumbled upon this press release the other day, and was stunned. I wasn’t stunned by the fact the one of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s most popular shows was ending its 4-year run on September 18, 2005. I was stunned by the fact that over those four years, Irish Thunder has entertained over 1.5 million guests, rivaling the popularity of Alpengeist and Apollo’s Chariot. Who said shows couldn’t make a difference on park attendance? As stated in the press release, Irish Thunder will be replaced by a new “Irish-themed show” in 2006. It’s hard for me to think of an Irish-themed show that does not include singing and step-dancing. Maybe I’m so used to Irish Thunder that I cannot imagine anything replacing it. At any rate, the curtain is coming down slowly on what I would consider one of the best theme park shows outside of Orlando or L.A., and time is running out to see this amazing production one last time.
I do agree that Kinzel has the chutzpah to stand up to the media and say they screwed up on a number of key descisions, particularly with Geauga Lake, but it doesn't change the mistakes that were made. By drawing attention to them makes people uneasy about future decisions and shakes the confidence of those who have an interest in the success of the company (shareholders), which is why most CEOs will never admit publicly that they made a mistake without fixing it.
People in Anaheim don't stay away from parks because of heat, it's hot in the winter there and in all of LA. But in Ohio where the weather is very unpredictable, 20 days of 90+ degress could kill a park's attendance.
Actually, the skinny on Cedar Point is this...attendance is down, but spending per guest is up, and profit is stable. The price of gas has indeed kept some people away from many theme parks this year, but I would venture to say that this is across the board, not just Cedar Point. Cedar Point's decline in attendance is mostlly attributed (in my eyes anyway) to lack of a big new ride this year. MaXair was a nice addition, but it doesn't bring people to the gates like a new coaster does.
In spite of Cedar Fair's recent issues, I'm not convinced that they are headed for a decline just yet. People seem to be quick to assume around here that Six Flags is going up and Cedar Fair is going down. Except for slightly lower attendance at their parks this year, there's no reason to believe that the company is sliding down...just like there's really no reason to believe just yet that Six Flags is going up. Profits are stable at Cedar Fair, and spending per guest is up. I'll give this much to Dick Kinzel...At least the guy admits on the record the mistakes and missteps of the company. He's not shy about blaming the weather, but also not shy to say that he misjudged the situation with Geauga Lake, or to admit that Disaster Transport was a disaster. You won't hear Kieran Burke at Six Flags, or anyone at Disney admitting that they screwed up even a little bit. Once that new big ride comes, their attendance will be back up.
The last week of the regular season is the best time to visit Cedar Point. I'll be there for a couple of those days....all the kids are back in school and crowds are thin, not to mention that they practically give away park passes and hotel rooms. If you've got the time, there's no better oppurtunity to enjoy a crowd free day at Cedar Point than that last week.