Cedar Fair to close Wildwater Kingdom at Geauga Lake permanently

Posted Friday, August 19, 2016 7:04 PM | Contributed by Jeff

Cedar Fair has announced that it will permanently close its Wildwater Kingdom in Ohio. From the statement:

Cedar Fair Entertainment Company has announced that Wildwater Kingdom water park in Aurora, Ohio, will not reopen after the 2016 season. Its final day of operation will be Monday, September 5.

Cedar Fair has been working cooperatively with both Bainbridge Township and the City of Aurora to redevelop the entire property into what will best benefit the surrounding communities. After examining its long-range plans, Cedar Fair has determined that the time is right to begin this transition and will continue to work together with community leadership in the positive future development of the property.

Cedar Fair would like to thank the residents of Northeast Ohio for supporting Wildwater Kingdom each summer.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016 4:48 PM

Instinct and rumors told me to go that last weekend as well, and I am glad I did. Oktoberfest was awesome no matter what era the park was in. And for all the things Worlds of Adventure got wrong, one thing they got right was the amazing job they did with Fright Fest. Some of that stuff was almost on par with Halloween Horror Nights at Universal.

Correct me if I am wrong, but at some point I remember reading something from Kinzel that states he didn't announce the closure prior to the end of the season for safety concerns? I know one of the press releases the day it was announced made mention that the decision hadn't been made until after the last day, but I am sure there was a decent portion of the 2007 season where they knew that was that. I also remember all of the reports that Bill Spehn, Colleen Murphy, and some others took the final ride on Big Dipper after the park closed on the last night, but again, the few ounces of truth that come from the butthurt crowd are hard to pick out. I miss the place as much as they all do, I just am rational and understand life.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016 5:22 PM

As I walked out of the park on that last weekend I felt terrible dread. I remember now I went on Saturday. There was a suit standing on that raised porch by guest relations smiling and surveying the exiting crowd. I went up to her and said "Is this Geauga Lake's last days? Are you closing?" She didn't understand and said "Oh no, we're open tomorrow, too." And I said "No, I mean forever" to which she laughed and said "Oh, heavens no! Of course we'll be here next season too!" Her reaction and honest response told me if it was true that she really didn't know yet. Really. (Or if she did know I hope after she lost her job she went on to be a really good actress somewhere)

I still had the weird feeling as I left that night that I might be leaving for the last time. A week later the announcement came.
I wanted to look that gal up just so I could say "See? I told ya!"
:)

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Sunday, August 21, 2016 5:45 PM
Jeff's avatar

It's funny, I went there a few times in 2007 for lunch, as I was working in Solon. I couldn't talk any of my coworkers into buying passes, because they just weren't interested. I'd go, walk on to a few rides, and sometimes run into Bill, who would show me the latest thing they were working on. But the park was always so empty, save for the water park.

If I didn't work in Solon, I probably never would have gone out there. It was a pain in the ass to get to from the west side, and that was true regardless of owner.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Sunday, August 21, 2016 6:05 PM

^^ Interesting you mention the feeling of dread. I used to have a lot of intuitive feelings like that when I was younger to the point of it almost being creepy. Somewhere along the way I seemed to lose that ability but at least twice this year I had it, both park and ride related, and both times it was right. When I was younger my dad said to always listen to those little feelings because they usually come for a reason. I was clueless my last visit to Geauga Lake. We went with family and were making plans on the way out to come back as a group the next year and then a few weeks later I'm explaining to a 4 year old that the Snoopy park is closing forever.

I'm with Jeff about the driving. I would have probably taken the kids more often if it wasn't such a pain in the ass from the west side. Every time I go there's always a good 5-10 minutes I'm sure I've screwed up the 480/422 exit in either direction and I'm just not a fan of city driving. I actually enjoy the drive to Cedar Point.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016 6:20 PM

2 questions;

  1. Has Six Flags ever closed a park other than Kentucky Kingdom (which they did not own) or New Orleans (which Katrina closed for them)? They've sold some off, all of which are still operating.
  2. What would have happened if CF bought Geauga Lake and sold off the Busch side? I've always felt CF's miscalculation was expanding an amusement park that was profitable enough that Busch wanted to buy it.

When Busch opened it was 2 parks, 2 overheads, 2 admissions.

SF, and subsequently CF, turned the equation to 1 park, 2 overheads, 1 admission.

CF should have sold off the Sea World side and returned to 1 park, 1 overhead, 1 admission. That is how they should have shrunk the park instead of spending $25m on a water park completely separate from the "dry" side. Especially when they already had a water park on the "dry" side.


This Isn't A Hospital--It's An Insane Asylum!

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Sunday, August 21, 2016 7:06 PM

My 2007 visits were actually the best in the Cedar Fair era. Despite the loss of the two coasters, monorail and the observation tower, the park looked decent and even the ride side had some crowds during my visits. I really thought folks were coming back and they were heading in the right direction. The light crowds were downright scary in 2004 and 2005, but I really felt things picking back up in 2007. I obviously was just a guest and have no idea what the numbers were, but that is why I always hoped they would have given it another year or so.

When I walked out on the last day I inquired at guest services about purchasing a GL-only pass for the next year. The guy mentioned pricing was not finalized and they were not available, but I could purchase a platinum pass. At that moment I took a nice long look around, wiped a tear or two from my eyes, and headed out the gates for the last time. I knew.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016 8:37 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

Captain Hawkeye said:

SF, and subsequently CF, turned the equation to 1 park, 2 overheads, 1 admission.

To be fair, Cedar Fair had nothing to do with the two parks being combined: Six Flags did that. Cedar Fair bought an existing property, and instead of simply shutting it down as the GL conspiracy theorists suggest was their intention, invested millions and kept the park(s) open for many years.


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Sunday, August 21, 2016 9:44 PM
birdhombre's avatar

I went to WWK yesterday for the first time in 4 years, and noted the total lack of signs pointing to the park. None on I-480, US-422, or at the exit, and none telling you where to turn on the local roads. I was almost surprised to see one at Squires Road. I can't remember the last time I saw a commercial or billboard for the park, either.

I'm wondering if the issue wasn't the park being unprofitable, but that a plan for redevelopment required use of the entire property with the lake. Previously, they had tried to sell the GL side but keep the lake and WWK. I could see how a developer might want to encircle the entire lake with housing to make it more exclusive, rather than having a water park across the way and requesting an easement for lake access.

Which is to say, I'm guessing they wouldn't have done this if there weren't already a sale in the works. CF sold the other stand-alone water parks to pay for other parks' projects, so this could just be another one. And Big Dipper will probably mysteriously disappear in the middle of the night!

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Sunday, August 21, 2016 9:47 PM

I am still shocked Big Dipper hasn't yet been the target of serious vandalism or arson.

Last edited by BrettV, Sunday, August 21, 2016 9:49 PM
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Sunday, August 21, 2016 10:35 PM
Tommytheduck's avatar

"I drove right past Cedar Point Shores to get to Wildwater Kingdom!"

We took our last visit today, and despite the recent announcement, the park was more dead than ever. (It was much cooler today than recent days, so there's that.) We did have a great time, and will miss the place.

It's easy to see why this park is closing though. There is never a crowd. Driving through the massive empty parking lot to park in the first 5 rows, even though we don't arrive until 2 or 3pm is kinda depressing. Low attendance, which I'm guessing is mostly locals with season passes, just cannot support a park, even one of this small a size. Despite the fact that we've been going once or twice a year, I don't think we've given the park a single penny. Parking and admission is covered by Platinum pass and we're only ever there for 4-5 hours so we just have drinks and snacks in the car. Simply put, the clientele doesn't spend much money. Half the food stands are closed and the premium cabanas are mostly empty.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016 11:07 PM

Since my last visit to Geauga Lake on closing weekend 2007, my only visit in the WWK-only era was in July 2013. I remember driving into the old Sea World parking lot thinking how massive the parking area was and how it just didn't mesh with the small local waterpark that I was about to visit.

99.9% of Coasterbuzzers won't understand this next reference, but between the Wildwater Kingdom closing announcement and the announcement of the closing of Alesci's Italian Market in South Euclid, OH after next week, a major piece of my childhood is gone.

Last edited by BrettV, Sunday, August 21, 2016 11:07 PM
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Sunday, August 21, 2016 11:08 PM

Slither, while CF didn't create 1 park, 2 overheads, 1 admission model, CF can be held responsible for building a new water park on the Sea World side, thus exacerbating the existing model, instead of shrinking to 1 park and 1 overhead.

Not saying they bought it to shut it down, saying they mismanaged it.

BTW, not sure that 4 years is "many years."


This Isn't A Hospital--It's An Insane Asylum!

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Sunday, August 21, 2016 11:12 PM
Jeff's avatar

I think you're grossly overestimating the cost of the new water park. That, and it was totally necessary, as the squished mess that Six Flags perpetuated was, uh, a squished mess.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Sunday, August 21, 2016 11:45 PM

Both Wikipedia and Ultimate Roller Coaster say it cost $26m.

CF mismanaged GL in a different way: SF spent $40m on coasters, CF spent $25m on a waterpark.

Last edited by Captain Hawkeye, Sunday, August 21, 2016 11:54 PM

This Isn't A Hospital--It's An Insane Asylum!

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Monday, August 22, 2016 12:18 AM
birdhombre's avatar

Tommytheduck said:

"I drove right past Cedar Point Shores to get to Wildwater Kingdom!"

Every now and then I search YouTube to try and find that commercial. I never saw it, but I've often heard of it. But I do recall another Six Flags commercial when I was a kid talking about how great SF was because they had parks all over the country, so you didn't need to take your dog to a kennel, unlike that unnamed MOUSE PARK. Rather than making me want to go to Six Flags, it made me think, "Why are they bashing my beloved Disney?"

We took our last visit today, and despite the recent announcement, the park was more dead than ever. (It was much cooler today than recent days, so there's that.)

Maybe it was just the weather. As Paisley said in another thread, the park was quite busy on Saturday. Not wall-to-wall people, but certainly not un-crowded. This wasn't coordinated, but my friend wore a Geauga Lake shirt, and I wore my SeaWorld Cleveland shirt (from the one year it was called that rather than "Ohio"). We got our picture taken in front of the entrance gate and I captioned it, "What the hell is the name of this park again??"

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Monday, August 22, 2016 12:40 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

birdhombre said:

Every now and then I search YouTube to try and find that commercial.

I think it was a radio spot, wasn't it?


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Monday, August 22, 2016 1:53 AM

Some thoughts.

1. Both Geauga Lake, and the latter day rump of the complex that was Wildwater Kingdom, were economically viable entities for much of their 21st century lifespans. Colossal mismanagement by Six Flags; colossal miscalculation by both SF and Cedar Fair; and a dangerously overextended CF chain following the Paramount purchase were all necessary to seal the fate of the dry park. But many potential paths were bypassed and ignored that could have saved Geauga Lake. WWK was itself a victim of a chain that didn't really know what to do with a standalone water park, wasn't particularly interested in running any, and which invested very little in cap ex or marketing to sustain the property. Again, the economics were almost certainly there to make and keep this park operational, it just wasn't a core interest of the company.

2. I agree with Jeff's sentiments that there was no easy way to put the genie that was 21st century SFWoA/GL back into the 1989 modest-sized bottle. I'm not sure there was no way whatsoever to do it, but definitely no easy route existed.

3. The end of Wildwater Kingdom also signifies the end of a waterpark presence in the Cleveland market. The metro area is already underserved in the dry park side of things, with the nearest such park sitting ninety minutes or more away. As Cedar Point is, well, Cedar Point, that distance is much less of an obstacle to snaring NE Ohio business than it would be if the park were on the scale of, say Beech Bend or Coney Island. But there is a moderate void that could someday be filled by an enterprising local FEC. And as far as water parks go, the demise of WWK truly marks an absolute hole in the metro market. People simply, as a rule, don't travel ninety minutes just to go to a water park. Given the less expensive proposition that is launching a water park, I fully expect a chain or independent operator to step in within the next five to ten years and build from scratch.

4. What in the world is Bill Spehn going to do now? Shuffle back to Sandusky...again?

5. Ava and I were there to see the suits on Big Dipper after close on the last day. In fact, we were rushing over to BD to snare one last ride before the season ended, only to find said executives enjoying laps for themselves. This was minorly confusing at the time, but it wasn't long after that it all made sense.

6. I'm not interested in the blame game about Geauga Lake anymore--and I'm certainly not interested in engaging in it over WWK. What's done is done. An important part of my daughter's childhood has ended sadly. I had the duty of holding her hand outside the front gate while she cried on Saturday. Now I'm just tired and a little sad.

7. I increasingly dislike the term, 'butthurt'. Urban Dictionary defines it as 'an inappropriately strong negative response from a perceived personal insult'. What the usage of this adjective asserts is that the 'hurtee' doesn't deserve his or her feelings, that there is no actual affront behind the hurting, and that the user of the term reserves the right to judge the offended person's right to said feelings. It's derogatory and has no place in a serious discussion. Even if I strongly disagree with somebody, I would never disparage or try to deny their right to their feelings.

Last edited by Ensign Smith, Monday, August 22, 2016 6:12 AM

My author website: mgrantroberts.com

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Monday, August 22, 2016 6:30 AM
slithernoggin's avatar

Captain Hawkeye said:

Both Wikipedia and Ultimate Roller Coaster say it cost $26m.

Well, can't argue with those sources.

CF mismanaged GL in a different way: SF spent $40m on coasters, CF spent $25m on a waterpark.

I concede that Cedar Fair, under Kinzel, didn't make the best choices. That said, Six Flags made a mess of the park, and Cedar Fair tried to clean up the mess. They failed; that's different from mis-management.

BTW "many years" was me abbreviating "this park was open for four years and that park was open for twelve years".


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Monday, August 22, 2016 8:25 AM
birdhombre's avatar

I was always surprised they didn't add some new ride to the dry side, to distract from the removal of others. Skyhawk, or a smaller screamin' swing, could've fit in at GL, for example. (Building MaxAir and Skyhawk at CP in back-to-back seasons still mystifies me.) It would've given them something to promote besides cornhole, and given the public the perception they were still in the game. Or even that they were still open. I remember when the dry side closed, my boss remarked, "Didn't they close like 5 years ago?"

Ensign Smith said:

Given the less expensive proposition that is launching a water park, I fully expect a chain or independent operator to step in within the next five to ten years and build from scratch.

A woman behind us in line for a slide remarked how there really wasn't anywhere else to go in the area, not even a splash pad type place ('the area' meaning the exurbia between Cleveland and Akron). About the closest you can get is dinky little Pioneer Waterland in Chardon. There's a lot of open land around them, so I wonder if they might be interested in expansion.

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Monday, August 22, 2016 8:54 AM

Ensign,

My apologies if I upset you with any of my comments. Reading your post, you and I have virtually the same thoughts and sadness regarding Geauga Lake and the way everything was handled. I don't have children, but I grew up at that park with dozens of visits from early childhood through my senior year of college when it closed. There are so many ways it could have worked in any of the eras and with any of the owners, it is just upsetting that none of them were able to, or wanted to do it.

I have only ever seen or used the "butthurt" term here on Coasterbuzz. As much love as I will always have for that park, folks on the other site that used to exist that is now a Facebook group oftentimes make us GL fans look bad with their absolutely ridiculous anti-CF rhetoric that is based 100% on emotions.

Again - I never meant to upset anyone with my comments. I love that park and still miss it.

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