Cedar Point closes roads for first time in history as the park reaches capacity

Posted Sunday, October 20, 2019 10:06 AM | Contributed by Jeff

For the first time in its history, Cedar Point turned away visitors Saturday afternoon because the park got so crowded. Just before 4 p.m., the park announced that the two roads leading into Cedar Point — Cedar Point Road and Cedar Point Drive — were temporarily closed due to standstill traffic.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019 9:27 PM

The only thing that was "promised" is that resort guests and platinum get in an hour early on all standard operating days. There is nothing to keep them from letting more people in early. It's just an example of bad customer service to do things one way for 12 years then change the way you do it only after you've taken everyone's money.

Last edited by 0g, Tuesday, October 22, 2019 9:29 PM
Wednesday, October 23, 2019 8:25 AM
Jeff's avatar

GoBucks89 said:

Does Disney follow the Gonch/Iger model? From what I have seen and heard, Disney no longer has empty/light crowd days. Just crowded days and very crowded days. Try as they might, thinning the herd with higher prices hasn't worked.

I think you spoke too soon...


Overall theme park revenue climbed by 7% to $6.6 billion in the third quarter, while operating income rose by 4% to $1.7 billion. Attendance was down, but the entertainment giant got the people who did come to spend more money -- and it explained how in its Q3 earnings release.

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 10:00 AM

Wasn't at least some of the decrease in attendance the result of people delaying visits until the opening of the Star Wars lands and/or until after the expected crush of visitors right after opening waned at least a little? To the extent it was, higher prices thinning crowds wasn't in play.

Per the earnings release, revenues and operating income for the domestic Disney parks decreased for the quarter. That isn't the Gonch/Iger model. Though ultimately, I don't see that continuing at Disney. Looking at Disney Paris, they did follow the Iger model: higher operating income resulting from higher average ticket prices offset somewhat by lower attendance (and higher labor costs). But that is consistent with what we said in that you can find pockets here and there where the Iger model may be working.

If you look at Disney, Six Flags and Cedar Fair and the various prices (for tickets, passes, meal plans, etc), Disney has much more room to increase prices with revenue increases and lower attendance (though in the US its not clear we have actually seen increased prices result in lower attendance) but increased income than do either Six Flags or Cedar Fair. And the risks of getting pricing wrong are greater with the regional park chains. And the stability of that model during economic downturns is not as high for the regional parks.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 10:16 AM
Jeff's avatar

All of the attributing of attendance trends to Star Wars has been driven by bloggers and nutty fan types. We don't really know. Higher pass prices has definitely changed the dynamic for passholders in Florida. I've seen it first hand in my circles. With occupancy up, I think it's safe to say that higher prices are thinning crowds. Let's also not forget that the they've had to staff an entirely new land (1,500 people is what I recall reading) and the first round of pay increases went into effect, so higher operating costs sound viable to me.

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 10:17 AM

Given how little the average guest knows about what's in the theme parks, let alone what future plans are, I suspect the delayed RotR opening had a pretty small effect on attendance.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 12:52 PM

I don't know any Disney families who changed park visitation plans for any of the various lands that have opened up recently (other than Star Wars land). Seems to me Star Wars is a different animal for a lot of people. And the people who changed plans didn't go so based on delayed opening of Star Wars land/attractions but rather the opening of the project itself (ie, we would go for spring break this year but Star Wars land will be open so we are going next spring break). Though no doubt all of that is just anecdotal.

I will concede the point of Disney actually following the Iger approach. It was a small point in passing (all of the conversations we have had over the years about the various articles arguing Disney has priced the middle class out have been about how prices go up but the crowds still continue) talking about whether the approach would work for Cedar Fair.

Other Cedar Fair parks offer season passes for about $100, no? Are those parks giving away the gate? Do they have the crowd issues that Cedar Point had this year? Are those parks super crowded every day of the operating year (like many people believe Cedar Point will be next season)? I have only been to Kings Island (multiple times) and Valley Fair (once). Valley Fair was a ghost town (though it was a July day with nice weather). Kings Island has been crowded but manageable when I visited. I have no idea if that is unusual or what the other CF parks see in terms of crowds with similarly priced passes.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 6:14 PM

Go Bucks- Yeah the other CF parks have a Gold Pass in the $99 price range. But it isn’t apples to apples...

Picture if Kings Island or Canada’s Wonderland discounted their season pass 30% (CP Pass was previously $139), promised you $20 every time you parked your car (CP added free parking), threw in admission to a separately gated waterpark (CP Shores wasn’t included before), and gave new passholders 3 months to use their pass this year (CP previously only gave one fall visit to new passholders)... Think they would get slammed with guests, possibly more than they could reasonably handle? It’s not just the $99 price point, although I do think there is a psychological selling point being less than $100...

But then again, what do I know?

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 9:17 PM

Pricing the Cedar Point gold pass at $139 like the previous park pass would have been an amazing deal. Taking it all the way down to $99 with such a large window of time to purchase at that price was overkill.

Thursday, October 24, 2019 3:19 PM
Raven-Phile's avatar

Everyone is overlooking the fact that KI and the other parks have had Gold Passes for many, many years. This is shiny and new at CP - it's something we've never seen before, and it's an amazing deal that people are jumping on like crazy.

I considered downgrading to Gold, but I'll likely hit up KI and Winterfest next year, at least once or twice, and I feel like Platinum is already a steal.

R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
Thursday, October 24, 2019 4:21 PM

As best as I can tell, passes at KI have been consistently priced at around $99 going back to at least 2015. As such, most people who were interested in a pass at that price point would have already had one, so the introduction of unlimited same-year visits probably didn't pull in a significant amount of new pass purchases.

In CP's case, the price went down substantially and they added free parking and they added unlimited visits and they added a second gate, so it was clearly enticing to people who previously weren't interested in being a passholder.

Thursday, October 24, 2019 9:34 PM

The last time Cedar Point sold their standard pass for under $100 was buying a 2012 pass at the end of 2011. Even then, it was $99.99. They used this price for buying next year's pass from 2009 to 2011. The gold pass is the cheapest Cedar Point has offered their pass in the last decade, and it offers considerably more than the standard (early renewal) pass it replaces. The furthest back I could find is buying a 2006 pass in 2005, which was $89. Adjusting this for inflation, it would be $117. The gold pass is truly an unprecedented deal for a Cedar Point pass.

Friday, October 25, 2019 8:17 AM

Brian Noble said:

Given how little the average guest knows about what's in the theme parks, let alone what future plans are, I suspect the delayed RotR opening had a pretty small effect on attendance.

in any other scenario I would agree with you but Disneyland is a locals park. Everyone knew that RotR wasn't going to open with SW:GE. As such, there were a large number of people who decided that "my pass is going to expire in March, GE won't open until May, with (assumed) massive crowds and reservation requirements, and if RotR doesn't open until Dec (at best), when blackouts happen again until Jan 6, I might as well wait and not renew my pass. Add to that another double digit price increase this spring, on top of two increases last year, and the elimination of free parking. The $800 annual pass is not good most of the summer (no weekends from May 2-Aug 16, and totally blocked Jun 19-Aug 16, and doesn't include parking. You have to jump to the $1,149 pass to get summer and parking.

I'm an example. I've had the top of the line, or recently the next to top of the line (wouldn't go during xmas anyway) pass for the last 9 years. I let mine expire.

I know I'm not the only one, how, because on Tuesday of this week I get a Disney survey, not uncommon, but it was SPECIFICALLY targeted at why I didn't renew my pass, and which other parks I have passes for (CF and SF). Lots of questions about perceived value, appreciation of AP member only items (events, merch sales, and buttons!!!), etc. The fact that they have such a targeted survey makes me wonder if they overshot the mark.

I think these two options out of 5 (pick as many that apply) are the tell. Asked why non-renewal, options were "Too expensive" and "couldn't afford it". I suspect they're going to get lots of just "too expensive", without the "couldn't afford it". usual demographic questions followed AFTER that question, including household income.

Last edited by CreditWh0re, Friday, October 25, 2019 8:23 AM
Friday, October 25, 2019 10:58 PM

OMG I've just read this thread, and I I have some insight. It's the new managers, Tim Fisher and Bob White. They're new to Cedar Fair (formally of Paramount Parks), but just finished a stint at Village Roadshow Theme Parks in Australia. The exact same thing happened here;

Around a decade ago they took over a small chain of parks which had positioned themselves as a premium experience, I guess most comparable to Busch. They owned Australia's Sea World, Wet 'n' Wild and Warner Brothers Movie World park, all within about a 30min drive of each other. A year pass to a single one of those parks would go for $120, while a year pass to all 3 was around $250. A day ticket at the time was $70-$80. All 3 parks have year round operations.

When they started they introduced a season ticket, it was $99 and included all 3 parks, and it expired on June 30 (which exactly is in the middle of local winter school holidays which had the affect of making the first week of the holidays stupidly busy and the second week of the holidays just feel like a normal attendance day).

As you can imagine the sugar hit the first year was insane, massive attendance jump, over flowing parks, and record revenue. The jump was so dramatic that the owners started thinking of theme parks as growth businesses, but as time went on they needed to do more and more to keep that hit up. They introduced a 'Buy 3 get 1 free' deal, and they started selling the passes earlier and earlier in the year to get people to buy (I think they started selling tickets in May that would last 14months), reduced the price for locals. They tried one year to do a tiered structure that included half an hour early entry to one ride at one of the parks on weekends but it didn't really work and they only did it one year.

Margins got slimmer, so they cut back a tonne, 2 of the 3 parks got neglected to the point that the new management has to spend $50million on one of the parks to turn it around, and the other (Wet 'n' Wild) hasn't seen a proper new attraction for 7 years. They did add a hyper coaster to the studio park, which makes sense as it was right when Cedar Fair were adding Hypers to all the old Paramount Parks.

Meanwhile of course the parent company after the first succesful year saw theme parks as a growth company and began expanding by opening new water parks. They bought a water park in Hawaii and rebranded it Wet 'n' Wild, and built water parks on Phoenix, Vegas and Sydney. Predictably though, their business model was cheap passes and stupid high one day tickets, so they became hang out places for locals rather than places you go to once or twice a year as a treat and spend money. Phoenix and Sydney both got slammed by general park goers for being both too expensive and over crowded. They ended up selling the Sydney park for a massive loss and as far as I know never had a season where they made money. What's striking about that is there is no competition in Sydney.

It carried on for a bunch more years with each year atteandance dropping and revenues dropping and the public started expecting cheaper and cheaper tickets.

Unfortunately their only competitor on the Gold Coast also had to get in on the cheap tickets game. They still made money but had to cut things to preserve margins. One of the things they cut was maintenance, and 3 years ago almost to the day of typing a ride malfunctioned and 4 people died, bringing an industry that was already struggling to the absolute brink. The only saving grace is that one of parks was committed to building a Hyper by that point, and it opened a year or so afterwards, which did a lot to normalize theme park visits again.

The parent company got rid of Tim and Bob not long after, and raised ticket prices, as well as being way more guest focused. Compulsory paid lockers became free on the rides that had them, and shops stayed open longer etc. This year the parks had their best result in a long time.

Either last year or this year Tim & Bob started at Cedar Fair. Welcome to the sugar hit phase. Hopefully they do better this time around 👍🏻

Joz - Power, in tune with nature!
Saturday, October 26, 2019 9:59 AM
Jeff's avatar

Fisher became COO almost two years ago. I've never met the guy, but his bio brags about record attendance and EBITDA in Australia, which is interesting in the context of your recounting of his time there.

We've all seen this movie before... it's what led to Six Flags' bankruptcy. It's not sustainable. I have a hard time believing that they don't know this, and with Matt Ouimet as executive chair, I would be shocked if this were indicative of any long-term trend. His experience and success is all with premium entertainment and leisure travel, none of which involved giving it away to fuel growth.

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

Saturday, October 26, 2019 2:06 PM

As a Limited Partner™ do you get a private line to complain to management when they make a mistake? ;)

Saturday, October 26, 2019 5:47 PM

Jeff said:

His experience and success is all with premium entertainment and leisure travel, none of which involved giving it away to fuel growth.

is perhaps the "executive chair" more figurehead than we have thought?

Saturday, October 26, 2019 6:32 PM
Jeff's avatar

It is not.

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

Saturday, October 26, 2019 8:37 PM

Some board members on some companies are more of figureheads than anything substantive. But those are typically at-large/independent directors. Often times local business leaders or sometimes big national names. Some people look for bragging rights based on the number of boards on which they sit. But that isn't the role for the executive chairman of the board. And given his past position at Cedar Fair and his experience over his career, I would expect Ouimet to be active.

That being said, the board isn't involved in the day to day operations of the parks. Would the gold pass have risen to the level of the board? Not so sure.

I would be surprised if the gold pass was an idea that was created in the past couple of months. May well have been something that was discussed over a period of time. Ouimet may have been CEO when it was discussed/considered.

Sunday, October 27, 2019 12:20 AM
Jeff's avatar

For sure. Executive chairs, in companies of various sizes that I've been associated with, are a bit more hands on. Certainly, I have no idea if something like this would rise to board-level attention, but I would lean toward probably not. The outcomes, if extreme, would certainly get some attention though, so I would imagine it's on his radar, though there's no way I could know.

I consider Ouimet something of an occasional and infrequent mentor. I feel privileged that he'll respond to my general questions about leadership and running a company (I've quoted him to my own team), but I intentionally avoid any questions about Cedar Fair, because I know he can't answer them anyway. I will say that I hold him in the highest regard among business leaders, and I can count those people on one hand. I have great respect and admiration for him. He's legit.

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

Sunday, October 27, 2019 6:20 AM

To go for another angle, I wonder if this was about standardizing the prices across the chain. If I remember right, CP was the last park without a gold pass, and it’s regular season pass has always been much more expensive then other Cedar Fair parks. Perhaps they thought homogenizing prices across the chain was a good strategy, I personally don’t see why they would do this but then again this is the same company who insists that Knotts offers season passes instead of annual passes which is not what locals there expect (thanks to Disney and Sea World.). I think the low price was a mistake and I bet they course correct after the “sale” ends next week.

Another thing that they may do to mitigate crowds next year is not allowing regular passholders entry after Labor Day, I believe some Cedar Fair parks do that already.

2020 Trips: Canceled by Corona


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