Burke and Snyder come from two different cultures in battle for Six Flags

Posted Monday, September 12, 2005 12:38 PM | Contributed by Jeff

College drop-out and Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder has little in common with pedigreed Six Flags chairman and chief executive Kieran E. Burke. This culture divide may have a lot to do with the pending stand-off between the theme park boss and its largest shareholder.

Read more from The Washington Post.

Monday, September 12, 2005 12:45 PM
Burke needs to go, and we all know this. However, Snyder's plan is still the wrong plan. Six Flags' problem is not a marketing problem. You can't fix it with marketing. You can get away with making a ton of money with a crappy football team because you're the only game in town, and only need to fill a stadium a dozen times a year. In the theme park world, if your product sucks, people will go elsewhere, either to other parks, or oddly enough, sporting events (and movies, theater, museums, zoos, etc.).

Snyder would do himself a lot of good if he roamed around his neighborhood first. Go to Six Flags Great Adventure and Six Flags America, then wander around to Dorney Park, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and even Paramount's Kings Dominion. Look at the differences in the experience and the product. Movie tie-ins at PKD aside, these other properties' success have very little to do with marketing. They're just fun, clean and exciting places to bring the family!

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Monday, September 12, 2005 1:26 PM
I agree. You can get on more than 4 rides in 8 hours(even on a busy day) at DP, Busch, and PKI/PKD or just about anywhere that isn't owned by SF.
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Monday, September 12, 2005 1:29 PM
Sounds like another good quote to be used in a future article Jeff.

On a technical note, does anyone know why Washingtonpost.com articles come in as a single skinny column on the right side of my page (it's so bad that some lines contain one word), and not as a regular looking article? It's very hard to read the way that it is right now.

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Monday, September 12, 2005 4:20 PM
Maybe I've had good days at Six Flags Great Adventure, but the longest wait was 45 minutes for Superman and The Chiller and Nitro, Medusa, and BTR were 15 minutes. The rest were near walk-ons. Dorney had some of the worst park employees I've ever seen who had no idea what they were doing nor did they know where things were located in the park. Everything was a walk-on, but nothing even stood out compared to GAdv the day before. Talon and Steel Force were nice diversions in the couple hours we spent there.

Cedar Point is a park that has excessive waits per worth of the ride. I've been to plenty of SF parks where I didn't have to wait much at all, so I have no idea where that complaint comes from. BGW is one of my favorite parks and I've never been to PKD, so no comment there. Everything I've heard about SFA this year says that service has been improving, guests are being well behaved, and the Tornado is bringing up attendance. Good for them if all's true. SFDL and SFNE were both running two trains on everything that could last weekend and I was very pleasantly surprised. SFNE made a really good impression on me this time and the only thing missing at SFDL is more rides to fill the day out. Great Escape was excellent, Comet was running two trains, and everything was beautiful, clean, and well-maintained.

There are few places that park employees have stood out to me. One was the obnoxious and annoying at Lake Compounce, one was the enthusiastic and pleasant at Dollywood, HW, Knoebel's, and Disney, and one was the ignorance and stupidity at Dorney and times at a couple other CF parks. Speaking of Knott's and marketing, they need a little help with that and their website.

That being said, they need someone new, but Snyder isn't that person and I doubt the new owner alone could fix whatever problems everyone has over so many parks. I don't see the issues.

+Danny

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Monday, September 12, 2005 4:38 PM
What you say is true Jeff, but Snyder may realize that saying they want to spend more money to operate the parks better is not a great selling point to investors. He's citing a money making scheme as the motivation behind his interest; which is the right thing to say. Right now he should be convincing people he will make them richer, and it's alot easier to swallow the marketing angle than an operations angle, to those who don't really know much about amusement parks.
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Monday, September 12, 2005 6:08 PM
Yeah well guess what Six flags astroworld is shuting down for good at the end of the season it my home town park that where i first rode any rollercoaster it will be miss!
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Monday, September 12, 2005 6:43 PM
Let's be careful how we generalize one employee as being the entire work force, beings that dorney and busch have two of the best employee staffs in the nation. There's always at least one in every batch and they are going to tick somebody off, but that is NOT the entire work force. Just be glad if you weren't at SFGA when an incident happened, their employees don't stay at the same ride all year, so there is no way they can know the rides as intricately as busch's and dorney's do. If something unusual happens there at least those employees can confidently ensure your safety.

R-

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Monday, September 12, 2005 7:40 PM
I'm not generalizing. There were 5 different employees at Dorney, not one. There's a difference in having one run-in with someone having a bad day, but not when there's a widespread ignorance in one day about the park's features they should know about and then being rude for asking questions about it.

+Danny*** This post was edited by +Danny 9/12/2005 8:35:57 PM ***

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005 12:46 AM
5 is hardly anywhere close to widespread, and as unfortunate as that experience was, I'd rather have that then be at SFGA where they are unaware of procedures for emergency situations.
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Tuesday, September 13, 2005 10:01 AM
What I still don't like about Snyder is the fact that right after he became owner of the Redskins, he talked of having another site near Fed-Ex Field where he could host tailgating parties, have some sort of pavillion where games could be shown on a large screen and if slots were ever approved in Maryland, some sort of casino. With SFA location, I'm afraid that this is where he would try to locate this type of venue instead of a theme park.

But I do agree, sponsorship alone will not fix SF's woes. There has to be improvents in other areas as well.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005 10:50 AM
I have to say I whole heartily agree with Jeff. Executives have lost touch on what is fun about parks because they sit in board rooms instead of experiencing the parks for themselves. The parks that provide the best customer service and fun environments have park owners who really enjoy parks and are invested in the public's positive experience.

A PBS special on Hershey Park talked about how Mr. Hershey spent his days wondering the park anonymously, hanging out with the people, and wondering how he could improve the park experience. I have met the people who run Knobels and Kennywood and they are some of the biggest amusement park fans you will find anywhere. Holiday World is always in touch with their fan base.

In sports, why would you want an owner who is not a fan, and not interested in watching their own teams play? Burke will not be found at the parks he runs. He spends his days doing the things he is interested in, which does not include hanging out at parks. I would imagine for him parks are a lot of work. The people don't function in the way the crunched numbers suggest they would, they complain, and they don't always flock to the new coaster like they did 62 times before in the past. Completely detached from the realities on the ground, while not paying to much attention to the opinions that could make a difference, like the fans.

If you have been to one Six Flags park, you've been to them all, (with a few exceptions). Same rides, same theme strategy, same names; they are the Mc Donalds of amusement parks. How do SF parks stand out and compete with this sameness strategy when there are parks like Hershey, BGW and PKI doing everything they can to offer a unique park experience for the same price? There is so much potential at SF and it wouldn't take much to turn things around because the infrastructure is so huge. My guess is Burke is SF's competition's best ally. They would hate to see him leave.

And by the way, after having been to all the Six Flags parks is the country I can tell you the youngest and most consistently inexperienced staff is found at Six Flags. Cedar Fair maybe a close second, but their customer service is better.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005 2:07 PM
Absolutely what he said to the letter.
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