Admission Costs

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 11:08 AM
In the Great American Family Parks, Inc thread, Impulse-ive said " parks are starting to have to charge so much for admission that they're getting beyond the reach of a lot of families. "

No doubt there. Using Hersheypark as an example, with no discounts used, this past season a family of 4 would have spent $154.00 (+ tax) just to park and get in the gate. When you are talking the themers in the Orlando area, you are talking even more... $200+.

Even my wife and I notice this. She loves Knoebels because she is not as much of a rider as I am. I buy the wrist band, she buys tickets.

Not counting any "Bonus or Bargain" nights, and not counting weekends in the height of the season, Knoebels has 3 plans at 3 different prices... Tickets (you don't ride, you don't pay), Wrist Band, Wrist Band with Wood Coaster Option.

Another example is SeaBreeze (at least in the summer of 2003... not sure if it is still like this). You could buy a wrist band to ride, or you could pay basically a small cover charge (around 5 or 7 bucks) go enter and not ride (They gave you tickets I think for 3 rides).

With climbing park admission prices, anyone ever think we will see the day when more parks drift away from strictly POP plans and follow the lead of places like Knoebels and Seabreeze and other parks that offer a variety of plans?

I realize that the true theme parks could not probably do this since just being in the park is the true experience... but ever think that other parks may look into this if admission prices start affecting the attendance.

(note... I don't think this will be soon though. Prices seem to be climbing, but yet the parks steem to be just as full if not fuller, and lines seem to be as long, if not longer, as ever)

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 11:11 AM
I've wondered how long parks can continue to raise prices faster than incomes grow, on a percentage basis. It would seem that it couldn't go on forever, but I don't see it stopping anytime soon.
Tuesday, October 5, 2004 11:23 AM
Not sure why you're using Hershey as an example. Family of 4 and parking at GADV = $210
Tuesday, October 5, 2004 11:36 AM
But why use an example with no discounts? No park doesn't offer discounts, and anyone who takes his family of four to a park without $10 coupons or the like is a fool (or rich).

Besides, a day at an amusement park is still cheap compared to other forms of entertainment. Try taking your family of four to a hockey game (which will be over in 3 hours), or to a 90-minute movie.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 11:38 AM
Aside from Six Flags, what parks are struggling? None of them due to admission prices, that's for sure. They charge what the market will bare. Disney, the king of non-discounts, is on a rebound in Orlando, so clearly the pricing isn't keeping people away.
Tuesday, October 5, 2004 11:40 AM
Interesting topic. There may be a day when parks go back to pay-per-ride or wristband meathods. Park prices may be going up, but when's the last time you paid full price for a ticket? I can't remember. In fact, I don't think I ever have. With multi-day discounts, soda can promos, Half price admission with SoCal driver's license (my favorite;) ) yadda yadda, there are still plenty of deals to be had.
Tuesday, October 5, 2004 11:47 AM
What both Jeff & Den said.

Parks aren't exactly stuck in a huge downward spiral. Someone (everyone?) is ok with paying the current prices, so I wouldn't expect much to change or even see it as a problem.

Then compared to other forms of entertainment, the value is still there. We'll stick with the SFGAdv example:

$210 for a family of 4 gets you 12 hours of entertainment. That's only 4.37 per person per hour to spend a full day at the park paying full price.

That's be like paying under $9 for a two hour movie or paying less than $15 for a NFL game or paying less than $10 to see your favorite musician or band or $5 to take the kids to see Blue's Clue's live.

You aren't touching those events/shows for those prices (with the possible exception of movies depending on where you live) - still seems like a solid deal to me.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 12:01 PM
If the average SF season pass costs $80 and a person spends just 20 hours total at the park in one year, the "per hour" cost is just $4. I know people that go to their home parks more often than they go to the bathroom so I can imagine the "per hour" cost for them is literally pennies.

However, I do feel that some major theme parks should offer some kind of "non-rider" admission. If a family wants to go to the park with grandparents or friends that just want something to do but care not to ride anything, those people should have a way of getting into the park without dropping serious coin. By charging some people minimal admission prices, there might be more people willing full admission prices.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 12:28 PM

Rob Ascough said:
I know people that go to their home parks more often than they go to the bathroom so I can imagine the "per hour" cost for them is literally pennies.


Thanks for the laugh Rob. For some reason , that statement almost made me spit my Diet Coke onto my monitor.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 12:36 PM
Or they should make sure their "non-ride" entertainment line-up is worth the admission alone Rob... I don't think it would hurt any of the major parks to have at least 5 or 6 high quality shows that people would actually be interested in seeing. I think Dollywood does an excellent job with this in also have the craftsman valley and Eagle santuary as well. Having "light rides" like a skyway, dark ride, carousel, ferris wheel, train, antique cars, etc. is nice too.


Tuesday, October 5, 2004 12:51 PM
I think that including some sort of General Admission a-la Kennywood (with the same 19 and up rule) would be a great benefit for parks that have a lot of non-ride entertainment. Not only does this get more people in when their group includes a non-rider, but it leaves more money from that non-rider (typically older folks who enjoy spoiling the grandkids, spoil = $$$) which would then be spent on souveniers, food, drinks and all the other *real* money makers in the park.

And while all of your hourly price analogies make perfect sense and make a day at the park still seem like a steal, again, it all comes down to public perception - to them, they're only doing one thing: going to the amusement park. They'll put that on-par with watching a hockey game, going to a concert or watching a movie, even though there's a radical time difference there. Hockey is in it's current crisis because prices got out of hand for a family to come to the rink (among vast amounts of other factors, but that's a biggie), concerts took a huge hit this summer and some had to be cancelled because no one was willing to pay the exorbadent prices (although there was still an abundance of $10-$15 ska and punk shows - buck the trend, save a few bucks ;) ), and everyone always complains about how much it costs to take a family to the movies.

But again, all of these things are based on the perception that it's just *one* activity. $50 for a hockey ticket seems to be the "market limit" right now - $8.50 for a movie, the same, and I'm just guessing something like $35-$45 for a "popular" band concert, although I wouldn't know ;). That means that for that family of 4, the parks are right now on the high end of what's considered "appropriate". Send those prices any higher, and I think it's just asking for trouble.

And while the discounts are out there, many people don't want to bother looking, after planning the hotel, planning the route, getting the kids settled down, etc. etc. etc. -they just want to go in and have fun and not worry about it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 12:52 PM

Rob Ascough said:
However, I do feel that some major theme parks should offer some kind of "non-rider" admission.
Why? I can't remember the last time that I went to a park that didn't have a lot of non-ride entertainment. Cedar Point, Kennywood, PKI, Holiday World, etc., all have plenty for the non-rider to do. Why should they pay less?
Tuesday, October 5, 2004 1:00 PM
Continuing the sports comparisons - same reason you don't pay your 3rd line center the same as your 1st line center (in most situations). Again, public perception: coasters and thrill rides are the reason the park exists. Kiddie rides and tamer rides are your "2nd line" and the shows, scenery, and other non-rider activities are the "3rd line". While each is equally important, and you really can't survive without all 3 (although you can survive with a weak 2nd and 3rd - heck you can even be the #1 amusement park in the world, what, 7 years running?) you're not going to "pay" as much for your 2nd and 3rd line as your front line.

At a park that features predominantly non-rider activities, a general admission makes no sense because everyone gets somewhat the same experience. But, at a park with a really strong "1st line", the people that want no part of that feel they shouldn't have to pay as much for their "2nd" or "3rd" line entertainment as the people gorging themselves on the "1st" line.

Did that make any sense?

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 1:35 PM

Jeff said:
Why should they pay less?

Why not?

The way I see it, amusement parks are about two things: Rides and shows. And while show actors, props and the stage all require some kind of maintenance, it's obvious that rides cost more to run. They are more costly to staff (especially the larger ones like coasters). More costly to maintain. And more costly to repair if they break down.

A general admission to a park buys you access to all of the rides and shows you can possibly fit into the period of a day. Unlimited rides and shows... that sounds like a good deal to many. Like Impulse-ive said, it's all about perception. If people perceive something as being worth the cost, they won't hesitate spending the money. But what if you have someone that choses not to ride the rides and just wants to go along for the sake of going along? With a greater ratio of rides to shows, not to mention the fact that shows are usually limited to a half dozen or so performances a day, the perceived value of an amusement park admission isn't as great to someone that just wants shows and not rides. Why should someone pay a huge admission fee when they are not going to take advantage of all the things that admission buys them?

When you go to McDonalds for fries, do you buy the entire value meal or just fries?

I can see why parks would want to see a full-price admission to non-riders- it's pretty much pure profit. The ticket takes into account the cost of running the rides yet that person won't be riding those rides. But bringing up another good point that Impulse-ive makes- if someone spends less on admission, they might be more inclined to spend money within the park. Things like a cup of soda or a hot dog are pretty much pure profit as well.

*** Edited 10/5/2004 5:36:09 PM UTC by Rob Ascough***

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 1:52 PM
Lets take a concert for example. You pay X price to see 4 bands. What if you want to only see one and leave? You still pay X price. What if you buy your tickets late? You will pay at least X price, if not more.

How about a movie. You will be X price, unless you go early, are a student or senior citizen. You will not get a discount for being late.

At an amusement park things are a little different. You may pay X price if you are a certain age or height. You may pay less if you are younger or older than certain ages. You may pay less if you arrive late, rather than more.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 2:00 PM
Concerts are a bit different though because even though there are four bands (or however many you want to use for an example), they are all bands and therefore are all the same kind of entertainment. But if you take a look at something such as Ozzfest where there is other stuff going on, then it comes closer to the amusement park example I just gave.

I haven't been to Ozzfest in a few years but suppose there are things such as exhibits, bungee jumping and a rock-climbing wall all included in admission (yeah, I'm going out on a limb here). If someone wants to go just for the bands, why should they pay an outrageous ticket price that includes a bunch of stuff they have no interest in? Its not fair from a consumer's point-of-view and I'd bet the people that feel overcharged are among the least likely to pay for the event again. Why would it be any different with amusement parks?

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 2:02 PM
That's not true at all. The show at Red Garter at CP, with 13 performers and one stage manager, will spend more on people than a coaster crew of eight, working 15 hours a day, seven days a week. Only Dragster and MF would be more, and even that's assuming a July/August week where they don't send anyone home (ask the crews if that ever actually happens). A show like Snoopy Rocks, with a lot more people on and off stage, is even more expensive.

As for maintenance, yeah, a ride requires more, but in CP's case, I know that they also rent most of their equipment for the season's shows. Those lighting packages cost tens of thousands of dollars. I don't know what the maintenance budget for individual rides are, but when compared to the cost of staffing them, it's a smaller component.

I'm not suggesting that live entertainment costs more than ride operations, but to suggest people are entitled to see the shows for less money doesn't make a bit of business sense.

But assuming none of that was true for a moment, if someone "just wants to go along," are they going to stay home or pay the admission? Judging by all of the elderly and obese folks that can't ride I see in any given park visit, I'm guessing that they'll pay the admission.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 2:11 PM

If someone wants to go just for the bands, why should they pay an outrageous ticket price that includes a bunch of stuff they have no interest in? Its not fair from a consumer's point-of-view

See, this is where the logic loses me.

Either the price to attend (for whatever your personal reasons) is worth it, or it's not.

The world doesn't need to be à la carte - it gets silly after a while.

It all comes down to, is it worth it to you to go to the park or not? (this is starting to sound like the "GL raised the parking price" thread)

The whole "pay for what you use" thing gets silly.

I'm going to the park. I don't ride many flats but do kiddies with my children. My daughter rides everything but she's not 54 inches yet, so she can't ride all the 'big' rides. My son rides just kiddies. My wife rides a few coasters and a few flats.

So we need:

1 "coasters and kiddies"
1 "short people's general admission"
1 "kiddies only"
1 "everything but kiddies"

We'll have four different wristbands and ride-ops will have to distinguish between the dozen or so admission options as we enter each ride.

My only question is can we upgrade to the "shows included" admission if we see something we'd like to check out?

When does breaking it down become more of a hassle and just plain silly?

Current record holder for using the word 'silly' in one post

*** Edited 10/5/2004 6:13:30 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 2:13 PM
I agree that the costs of a show CAN be more than a coaster but, more often that not, I would say that's not the case. A show like the one at the Red Garter or a Batman Stunt Show probably cost quite a bit to stage but what about a simple musical revue or a small band traveling the midways? There is no way those things cost more than the average coaster to operate, especially when you factor in things such as electricity and regular maintenance.

While you're talking about it not making business sense to allow show-goers to enter the park at a cost lower than that of riders, I'm speaking about a hypothetical increase in business... one that really can't be measured unless the idea was actually implemented.

While there are surely plenty of non-riders willing to pay the regular admission fee to get themselves into the park, how do you measure the number of people that would go if some kind of reduced admission fee was offered? I can think of at least two dozen people off the top of my head that want to go to parks to be part of the "group" but can't see spending the money to do so. If they could get in cheaper just to enjoy the atmosphere, catch the occasional show and be part of the group, I know I could get at least 18 of them to go during the course of the year.

Also, consider this- the costs of a show are fixed while the costs of operating a coaster are somewhat volitile. A ride will not operate, use electricity and be subjected to wear and tear unless there are riders (to an extent). A show will be staged whether there are five people watching or five hundred. If a park could charge someone $15.00 to get them into the park and enjoy the shows, what harm is there in doing that? Why not make a quick couple of bucks and get them into the park where they may be inclined to spend even more?

Sounds like a good way to achieve ROI to me.

Gonch- Good point... too many choices are confusing but I think this is one that would help. It works for Knoebels... they seem to have had a lot of success with the "Wood Coaster Option". Makes a standard POP wristband seem worth it to people that want to ride everything but the coasters!

*** Edited 10/5/2004 6:16:50 PM UTC by Rob Ascough***

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 2:22 PM
People going into the park for little or no money 'just to go into the park' is not a good idea. Anyone, including people that would discourage families from showing up, could just park there all day and drive their business away. You don't want the riff raff in your park just cuz they have nothing better to do. It was a major cause of the downfall of Euclid Beach Park. I'd hate to see that happen to a bigger amusement park.

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