Cedar Point in the Fall: Is It Worth It?

Monday, October 14, 2019 9:45 AM

Alright it's time for my gold pass rant. I thought about a trip to CP next weekend. Looked online what crowd levels were like this past weekend. On Saturday SV and valravn got up to 3.5 hrs. 2 hrs for MF and maverick and blue streak. You read that right. 2 hr wait for blue freaking streak. Even corkscrew was an hour. Been going there since the early eighties and I've never seen an hr wait for corkscrew. Is this the tipping point for cedar point? Who in their right mind would deal with a crowd like that? Is this what we can expect for next year because of the gold pass?

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Monday, October 14, 2019 10:37 AM

This was Columbus Day (can we still call it that?) weekend. Still is I suppose if you are off work today. In recent years, crowds at Cedar Point have been crazy large. Like super crazy. Preceded the Gold Pass. Was a good weather weekend as well. Not sure if this year's crowd was worse than in recent years. Thought we would see posts about it on Pointbuzz but I have not seen any (maybe people are still stuck in the parking lot trying to get home -- and I know if you check the webcams you will see the parking lot is empty -- statement of being stuck in the parking lot is just a joke).

My guess is the next two weekends will be less crowded than this past one. Though still crowded (especially on Saturdays). Weather will be a factor as well.

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Monday, October 14, 2019 11:37 AM
jkpark's avatar

I noticed at the Resort Gate for early entry this past Friday and Saturday, everyone was let in and directed behind the typical barricade as always. A couple of employees announced that you are required to show your Platinum Pass or resort slip to be let through for the 1 hour early entry. But after the national anthem, everyone was let in with the usual stampede.

I suspect the Platinum/Resort 1 hour early entry will be strictly enforced starting next season, with working in the Gold Pass holders a half hour later.

Last edited by jkpark, Monday, October 14, 2019 12:50 PM
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Monday, October 14, 2019 11:58 AM

^ My experience was just the opposite. On Friday for early entry only Platinum Pass holders were allowed past the barricade. Any Gold Pass holders were directed to a separate line on the right side of the midway, next to Johnny Rockets. Not to say that no Gold Pass holders got in, but it was not specifically allowed.

I would guess that next year PP holders will be allowed in through one set of gates (left side of midway) and GP holders will be allowed in through a different set of gates (right side of midway) with barriers down the entire length of the midway to separate the lines.

Edit: I just noticed you said resort gate. My bad. I have heard that they let everyone through the resort gate. It was supposed to be addressed by CP.

Last edited by Bozman, Monday, October 14, 2019 1:57 PM
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Monday, October 14, 2019 12:05 PM

GoBucks89 said:

Preceded the Gold Pass. Was a good weather weekend as well. Not sure if this year's crowd was worse than in recent years.

From what I saw on social media it was crazy. I took some screenshots from queue-times.com showing a 135 minute wait for Blue Streak, Mine Ride, and Magnum, 100 for Corkscrew, and 240 for both Steel Vengeance and Millennium Force. There was a video of the Maverick FL+ line stretched all the way to the regular standby entrance as well. Just from social media reports and a few checks of the webcams, I've never seen anything quite like it since my first visit to the park in 1998. It seems like this weekend was the type of weekend that future legends and outrageous claims with partial truths will stem from.

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Monday, October 14, 2019 12:22 PM

I think it's accurate to say that Columbus Day Saturday has been the busiest day of the season in years past. It is not accurate to include Friday night and Sunday along with that. While they might be a bit busier than typical, what we saw this year on Friday and Sunday this year was not typical. On the webcam I saw a close to full parking lot Friday night and a full parking lot (including waterpark lot) on Sunday. That is not something we've seen on a Sunday in past years that I can think of.

I know it's like the cool thing to do to make fun of people for complaining about gold passes, but I do think they've taken some risk with what they've done here. They'll probably have record third quarter numbers and they've obviously gained some new (or long lost) customers with this deal. But how many old ones have they put off? How many people in Detroit, Cleveland and Columbus have gotten a gold pass instead of a platinum pass? How many people will see the crowds and stop going as much or at all? Also, what happens next year when they price this at $129 or $149? Will those new customers pony up and pay? I don't really have a problem with a cheaper pass aimed at locals that includes the waterpark and parking. It seems 20 bucks to park every time is going to be a big turn off and I suspect they haven't sold many CP only passes in some time. They could have done something like blacked out Saturdays in July, August, and Halloweekends with the gold pass. That would limit it somewhat to locals. But they've marketed this in Meijer stores at least as far as West Michigan. Sucks to be Michigan's Adventure (and probably to some degree Kings Island although I suspect Orion will help mitigate people from dropping from platinum to gold). The deal is so good and so successful, it seems like it will likely backfire at some point. They've spent the past several years making CP into "A Place Like No Other" to the point where it was starting to feel worthy of a higher price point and now they price it the same as Worlds of Fun or Valleyfair. The offerings aren't even comparable. Why should the price be? I didn't find my $189 platinum pass to be a bad value because I had a reasonable expectation of a decent time whenever I went. But there's also a lot of cost to a trip for me besides the passes. I spend far more on hotels and gas going to CP in a typical summer than the passes. If I feel there's a good chance my trip is going to not be much fun, I might go less or not at all. I love CP and want to see them be successful. I know its better for them to be operating with a full park vs an empty park. I just think they've given it away too much with this deal and they might regret it in time.


-Matt

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Monday, October 14, 2019 1:38 PM

Impacts of the gold pass at this point are not known. There is a lot of speculation as to what may happen but we don't know. And much of that speculation is based on extrapolating what the impact will/may/could be on you. But its not that simple.

Some people who bought platinum passes in the past may well drop down to the gold pass. And any increased crowds may result in some pass holders going less or not at all. Those are considerations factored into pricing decisions (which is what gold pass is).

Cedar Fair/Cedar Point has a lot more data on all of the considerations than any of us do. Even with that though they may get it wrong. We shall see.

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Monday, October 14, 2019 2:40 PM
Jeff's avatar

There's a lot of "OMG TEH GOLD PASS" on the Internet right now, but people seem to forget that any Halloweekends Saturday that has nice weather may very likely be a complete zoo. There has been at least one almost every year.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Music: The Modern Gen-X - Video

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Monday, October 14, 2019 4:03 PM

The few HalloWeekend Fridays and Sundays I've been able to go to this year have been pretty crazy. The forecast for next weekend looks nice and honestly I think we need a good cold front with some drizzle. I'm hoping for some iffy weather these last two weekends. I'm cool with dressing in layers and wearing a poncho but not so much with waiting over an hour for Blue Streak. My last couple visits have been more spending time with the younger extended family members than riding every time I tried to sneak away for a quick ride on anything the lines were nuts. I waited way longer than I ever intended to in my life for Tiki Twirl last week only because it's the great nephew's favorite. I'm hoping for at least one day of shorter lines before the park closes. I'm hoping after this initial promotion the gold Pass is priced at a more "normal" sort of rate for what it is. The pass itself is a great idea, I would have bought it myself for years had it been available since we rarely get to travel but pricing it under the cost of the regular park pass I think is going to affect attendance for the next season. Hope I'm wrong but I'm mentally preparing myself for possible disappointment. Initially everyone I knew that bought the Gold Pass had previously had a pass of some sort now I'm running into a ton of people who've bought it that haven't been to the park in years or normally only go once just because it is so cheap.

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Monday, October 14, 2019 4:46 PM
jkpark's avatar

As a unit holder, if the Gold Pass business strategy works, I’m all for it.

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Monday, October 14, 2019 5:14 PM

The thing to keep in mind is everyone got their Gold Pass and wants to use it before a long, depressing Ohio winter. Next year the crowds will (hopefully) be spread out over a full season. And I could see many of the more casual fans being content with 2-3 visits per year.

Also, someone is doing what has sadly become the presidential thing to do

https://twitter.com/fastlameplus

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Monday, October 14, 2019 5:20 PM

Jeff said:

any Halloweekends Saturday that has nice weather may very likely be a complete zoo.

Agreed there, but we saw the Sunday be a complete zoo too and the Friday night a near zoo. The weather probably looked good from inside of a window because there was some sun, but the temperature was in the 40's Saturday morning and windy enough to keep at least Raptor and Gatekeeper down most of the weekend.

I expect the next quarterly report for CF to be a home run. It's what happens after that I'd be nervous about.


-Matt

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Monday, October 14, 2019 7:16 PM

Maybe the Gold Pass is just a one off year promotion. A 150-Thank you plus a way to make an untouchable record shattering attendance # for the historic year? I bought one even though I live 500 miles away.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019 1:10 AM

This is where I’d really like to see individual park numbers. I bet CP has big attendance numbers but per capita in-park spending drops, maybe overall revenue drops as well.


But then again, what do I know?

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019 10:23 AM

At the end of 2018, Cedar Fair advanced commitments/season passes were up more than 25% over the same time in the prior year. From financial numbers released to date, numbers for 2019 are up. Higher net revenues (on same park basis and including Schlitterbahn) and per caps are up. As well as out of park revenues. So we don't know what effect the gold passes will have next year. Though presumably CF management expects net income to increase.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019 12:06 PM
Jeff's avatar

What is the accepted accounting practice? Do they recognize that revenue this year or next? Can they split it?


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Music: The Modern Gen-X - Video

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019 1:00 PM

I am no longer an accountant (not a practicing one anyway). I would expect they would defer at least some of it. Its deferred revenue for next season. On its 2018 balance sheet, CF has a line item for Deferred Revenue. About $107 million. Seems like it would be easier to deal with on an annual basis. Certainly for someone who renews their pass year after year. What they pay to renew is revenue for the next season (or current season if they renew after the first of the year).

Tougher for new passholders who buy say a 2020 pass that also gets them in the park for the rest of 2019 and all of 2020. Presumably you would recognize a portion of what they paid in 2019 revenues. Not sure how they would allocate that though.

Also tougher to account for passes on quarterly basis. Would make sense to recognize a portion of the pass revenue over the operating season. But how? Look at average number of visits per passholder per year and per quarter (historically) and recognize pro rata revenue for each quarter? Use that formula on a chain wide basis or park by park? I would think they have formulas/rules for doing that which get tweaked from time to time.

Back in the day the idea was recognizing revenues when it was earned not collected. We were adding things with 10-keys and looking at paper general ledgers though too back then.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019 1:40 PM

Take the revenue, divide it by the number of months from purchase to expiration, and pro-rate it; purchase 10/01/19 and it expires 12/31/20, then you've got 14 months. Two months worth of the revenue goes for 2019 year, the rest 2020. It's possible they look at seasonality and only count the months of operation (so you get 12 months rather than 14, with $0 revenue in January and February). GAAP only allows the accrual method, so everything's based on when earned, which is what makes this a fun exercise.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019 1:46 PM

yawetag said:

Take the revenue, divide it by the number of months from purchase to expiration, and pro-rate it; purchase 10/01/19 and it expires 12/31/20, then you've got 14 months. Two months worth of the revenue goes for 2019 year, the rest 2020. It's possible they look at seasonality and only count the months of operation (so you get 12 months rather than 14, with $0 revenue in January and February). GAAP only allows the accrual method, so everything's based on when earned, which is what makes this a fun exercise.

And this is exactly why the accrual method and GAAP exist. Think of this as a real world example that could be applied to other industries. Exec for Cedar Fair tries to spike income by offering a great deal on gold passes. Give us a lot of money now, and come for free for a season and a third. If it wasn't for the accrual method, he would look like a genius that just got the company tons of new revenue. But given that the accountants have to divide that into something more like $15-20, he doesn't look as great.

One thing I wanted to point out: its one thing to have a season pass with parking that's barely more than admission, but giving away a free Fast Lane that costs more than the gold pass itself...? OK...? And you probably had people who paid full price that day who waited in 4 hour stand-by lines, as the Gold pass people got high priority access against them. I think anybody who actually paid for admission that day would be justified in getting their money back. Not only did the Gold pass make the park jam packed, it also put free Fast Lanes in the hands of almost everyone who went.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019 1:57 PM

I believe the free Fast Lane Plus was only for renewing passholders, not for new purchases.

I am curious to see whether the price for the Gold Pass does in fact go up after Halloweekends, or if the $99 dollar price is extended, like CP normally does with pass sale pricing.

If the pass price goes up on October 28th, is that an admission the price was too low? If the sale is extended, does that indicate that the sale did not meet expectations? Or something in the middle?

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