Amusement Park Turnaround Stories

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 9:54 PM

In the last decade and a half we have seen many parks struggle, with some closing or coming very close to closing, while other, once family owned parks have gone "corporate." I was curious if there are any recent examples of down in the dumps parks that have made a comeback, and either re-opened, or were rescued from being relegated to the history books.

-Sam

Last edited by Avalanche Sam, Saturday, June 20, 2015 3:41 PM
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Tuesday, June 16, 2015 10:19 PM

I went to Cedar Point on July 4th once. Saw how full the parking lot was, and turned around. Is that what you mean?

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015 10:49 PM

No, it isn't. Any why would you turn around with a full parking lot on July 4th? On days when it is too busy to ride, one can always people watch, and on a day like Independence Day, the park usually puts on a fireworks show.

Back on topic,

I am talking about parks resurrected or brought back from the brink. I have heard of rides being rescued, like some of the rides at Knoebel's, but not of parks. Here in Alabama, we have a great little park that is at the start (first full year) of a major turnaround project. And I am lucky to play a tiny roll in that.

The entertainment/amusement business isn't easy, and many have failed. I've seen many stories of failure in this industry on this site. I am curious about stories of success.

-Sam

Last edited by Jeff, Saturday, June 20, 2015 7:42 PM
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Tuesday, June 16, 2015 10:50 PM

There was a time when Cedar Point was on the verge of closure. The only reason Roose and Legros didn't turn the place into a housing development is that certain legal developments threatened to destroy their investment in the property. They decided instead to develop the amusement park, and, as they say, the rest is history.

(ref: "Cedar Point: The Queen of American Watering Places")

Could we say the same for Luna Park and the general decline and renaissance of Coney Island?

Speaking of Coney Island, look what has happened to that park since their parent company divested itself of Kings Island! They even have a roller coaster now!

Kentucky Kingdom wend bankrupt once, recovered, fell into ruin, closed, and is now operating again.

The odds are against Conneaut Lake having this kind of a story, which is why we should not be too terribly shocked if it does actually happen.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015 10:52 PM

Thanks for the examples Dave. I wasn't even thinking of Cedar Point.

-Sam

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015 11:46 PM

From what I've heard from people who have been there, the Alabama park is a long way from a successful turnaround.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015 11:48 PM

So Sam, since you've mentioned it twice now, I'm curious to know what your role is at Alabama Splash Adventure.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015 11:49 PM

Jeff,

Specifically, what have you heard?

I'm curious.

-Sam

Last edited by Jeff, Saturday, June 20, 2015 7:42 PM
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Tuesday, June 16, 2015 11:53 PM

RCMAC, my biggest roles are fan and friend.

I helped out a little at the park during preseason, and operated the Rampage during the Coasterthon.

I don't work full time at the park, but the family has been like a second family to me since I came to Alabama. I try to help in any way I can.

-Sam

Last edited by Jeff, Saturday, June 20, 2015 7:42 PM
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Wednesday, June 17, 2015 7:23 AM

It was twenty years ago that Lake Compounce ran a full schedule after a few years of extremely limited operations and that park has long re-established itself.

From 1992-1994 the park opened for just one weekend each year with limited rides and entertainment. I think it was 1994 they didn't open any rides that weekend at all and just had concerts. Then Funtime took over management of the park in 1995 and Kennywood bought it in 1996 and the rest is history.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015 8:19 AM

Avalanche Sam said:

No, it isn't. Any why would you turn around with a full parking lot on July 4th? On days when it is too busy to ride, one can always people watch, and on a day like Independence Day, the park usually puts on a fireworks show.



Boy, that went right over your head, didn't it?

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015 1:09 PM

Sam, why did you delete your post about your role at the park/ I thought it was especially great that you're excited when you don't have any skin in the game there except as an enthusiast/volunteer!

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015 3:28 PM

Uncle Coaster said:
It was twenty years ago that Lake Compounce ran a full schedule after a few years of extremely limited operations and that park has long re-established itself.

From 1992-1994 the park opened for just one weekend each year with limited rides and entertainment...

I had forgotten about that. And that limited operation was in the interest of holding on to the title of Nation's Oldest Continuously Operating Amusement Park. Open for a weekend and it counts, I guess.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015 4:27 PM

Having been to Quassy before and after the installation of Wooden Warrior, I'd say that park brought itself back from "mostly dead" to pretty vibrant.

Beech Bend may not have been in as terrible shape as Quassy was, but it certainly wasn't what it is now before they bet the farm (actually, the owner's home) on Kentucky Rumbler.

Given the success stories of these (and how about Cliff's in Albuquerque, NM)...certainly makes me very hopeful for ZDT's and their awesome new Switchback...which wouldn't be a turnaround story as much as one of emergence.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015 5:28 PM

You *might* say the same about Holiday World. Not that it wasn't successful or needed a turn around, but once a world class wooden coaster was added, then another, and another, and throw in a great waterpark.... All these things turned what was essentially a kiddie park into a place we'd all like to go anytime.

It's interesting to think of parks that could use a turnaround, and I guess Conneaut tops the list. Camden also come to mind as well as Lakeside. How does the song go? "If I had a hundred million dollars..."

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015 8:05 PM

When I was a teenager (okay, I still have the fantasy), I dreamed of buying Camden Park and making it better. I would buy surrounding land around the park, add a decent waterpark, and expand the rides park. I had an elaborate plan for all of this, and a hand-drawn park map to show the additions.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015 8:36 PM

GDdashROM said:

Sam, why did you delete your post about your role at the park/ I thought it was especially great that you're excited when you don't have any skin in the game there except as an enthusiast/volunteer!

My apologies for taking so long to replace my prior post. To answer RCMAC's question, I would say my biggest role at the park is as a fan and friend. I technically am on the payroll, but as a seasonal part time employee. The work schedule at my day job keeps me from being able to assist at the park as much as I would like, so I try to help in any way I can.

Raven-Phile,

I just chose to ignore your joke and treat it like a serious statement, as I didn't find it funny. I tell some pretty terrible jokes myself, so please don't be offended by my statement.

Jeff,

I was curious as to what you have "heard from people who have been there?" I don't remember seeing you in Alabama this year (though I did see you at a couple of other parks). Do you have any good observations that I can pass along to park management? Have you accepted Dan's Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot challenge yet?

I came to Alabama to be close to family, and having a front row seat to the rebuilding of a park ended up being a huge added bonus. I had fun working at Geauga Lake, and I never would have thought that ten years later, I would be witness to a park trying to recover from a situation not too dissimilar to what happen at Geauga Lake only a few years after my time there.

I came across this interesting article today. So many parks lost in our lifetimes, that it is great to see examples of success, and of parks working hard to try to attain that success.

-Sam

Last edited by Jeff, Saturday, June 20, 2015 7:42 PM
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Wednesday, June 17, 2015 8:42 PM

Avalanche Sam said:
Jeff,

I was curious as to what you have "heard from people who have been there?" I don't remember seeing you in Alabama this year (though I did see you at a couple of other parks). Do you have any good observations that I can pass along to park management? Have you accepted Dan's Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot challenge yet?

That's creepy. And I'm not really interested in anything that big box of crazy has to say.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015 9:12 PM

I'm sorry. What is creepy? That I saw you at a couple of parks? Am I supposed to run away and hide from you if I see you? You and I have mutual friends, and we both go to amusement parks. Am I supposed to stay away from you because I don't personally know you, yet know who you are?

Anyway, back on topic,

I remember back in 2004 when we thought Geauga Lake was going to be a big turnaround story with the purchase by Cedar Fair. A lot of money was pumped into the park that year, and one of the top people from Cedar Point was tapped to run it. Unfortunately, I don't think Cedar Fair seemed to have a long term plan for the park, and with the purchase of CBS's amusement/theme park division, the company had to cut its losses and let Geauga Lake go.

-Sam

Last edited by Jeff, Saturday, June 20, 2015 7:42 PM
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Wednesday, June 17, 2015 11:09 PM

Or maybe Cedar Fair did the best it could and Geauga's problems were simply too big to overcome....

I saw Dan Savage outside the Congress Hotel during IML, but I didn't run up to him and say "I know who you are and we have mutual friends!"

Last edited by slithernoggin, Wednesday, June 17, 2015 11:41 PM
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Closed topic.

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