Close Magic Mountain? Residents Aren't Thrilled

CPLady's avatar
This reminds me so much of the Boblo demise years ago...abeit on a much smaller scale. Here we had a park that was a wonderful place for decades, back before Cedar Point proved to be a more "thrilling" alternative within a 2 hour drive (instead of the 30 minute drive to Detroit and the hour boat ride to the island).

Then the rowdy teens began taking over in the 1980's (no season passes that I recall, but parents would drop the kids at the dock, or send them on a city bus and the kids would spend the day alone and unsupervised). Pretty soon, Boblo became known as a teen hangout rather than the family fun park it used to be.

After the Brownings sold the island in 1979, it had various owners, including IBC, the owner of the Ice Capades and Harlem Globetrotters. AAA Michigan also held the island briefly. In the 1980s rowdiness on the boats and on the island caused diminishing crowds. Canadian police and immigration authorities spent a day at Bob-Lo rounding up members of the Outlaws motorcycle gang in 1987. The innocence of earlier times was ebbing away.

The last gasp was when some investors bought the island and tried to bring it back to life. But once the image of the 80's set in, there was no convincing the general public to return. The rides were sold in 1994 and the island is now filled with condos. *** Edited 7/6/2006 8:30:32 PM UTC by CPLady***

I'd rather die living than live like I'm dead

Lord Gonchar said:
So why did Red Zone try so hard to gain control of a sinking ship?

Why? Well, for one thing, the old management was very secretive, which meant that it wasn't entirely clear how much of SF's problems were the result of a bad situation and how much were simply bad management. The only way for Snyder to find out the truth was to get in and get his hands on the real info.

Secondly, Snyder and Shapiro (and the others on their team) have been pretty consistent winners in the business world. I'm absolutely certain that it barely crossed their minds that they might not be able to save the company. These guys have huge egos - and I'm not saying they aren't deserved, just that people who play at their level tend to develop a sense of invincibility. I'm sure they went in thinking that no matter how bad off the company was, they could turn it around.

And on a very basic level, don't forget that Snyder already had a lot of money tied up in SF. At the very worst, he loses less money by overseeing the dismantling of the company than he would watching someone else do the deed.

Really, I hope I'm completely wrong, the banks forgive most of the old loans and the parks flourish under the new management. But every sign I see tells me I'm right.

There are some hopeful signs - the local government seems strongly opposed to the loss of Enchanted Village in Washington, and there are some local rumblings about saving Darien Park, too. In Denver they've pointed out that Elitch Gardens is on a flood plain, which is unsuited for housing or retail development, and not usable for high rises, so any other use of the land is very limited. (Parking garage? Train switching yard?) It's not unthinkable that it could end up as a city park with an antique carousel, a classic woodie and some open space. *** Edited 7/6/2006 8:44:17 PM UTC by GWHayduke***

Maybe Star Parks can come in and pick up some deals here. They bought Six Flags out in Europe and the parks seem to be doing better without SF's involvement.

DBJ said:
Maybe Star Parks can come in and pick up some deals here. They bought Six Flags out in Europe and the parks seem to be doing better without SF's involvement.

I wouldn't count anyone out. CF could still get into the mix for some of the properties before they're all gone. Busch or T-Rex or Joyland could get in. Even Landry's might be a suitor for a couple properties - apparently Tilman Fertita is nuts for trains. Disney appears to be out of the running right now, but a few years back they made inquiries about MM, as a thrill park complement to the family Disneyland. There will probably be a number of players coming into the game.

Canada's working to buy back La Ronde, it appears. *** Edited 7/6/2006 9:03:17 PM UTC by GWHayduke*** *** Edited 7/6/2006 9:05:50 PM UTC by GWHayduke*** *** Edited 7/6/2006 9:07:01 PM UTC by GWHayduke***

I agree that the former management team was secretive enough about the business that it was difficult to tell how bad the situation really was. But I also think those at Redzone thought it would much easier to turn the chain around than it has been. Much of the last conference call spoke to this issue, and Cedar Fair is going through the same thing at Geauga Lake.

Unfortunately, it seems as though it's not as easy as simply fixing the problems that existed under the old management because the damage has already been done. People have been pushed away and they're not coming back. Maybe it's the economy or the gas prices or the fact that people don't want to pay the rising cost to visit the parks. Or maybe it's just that they had an awful time last time and aren't going to come back for a long, long time. This isn't going to be the quick fix that Redzone imagined it would be. And that makes it even more unfortunate that the old management messed up the parks so badly, because some of them may never recover from that.


Lord Gonchar's avatar

GWHayduke said:
Why? Well, for one thing, the old management was very secretive...etc.

Cool. I'm still with you. I just disagree.

I think these guys can pull it out. I think they'll end up with a lean, mean, performing company consisting of maybe 10 or 12 parks that run with optimal efficiency. I wouldn't be surprised if on paper SF looks an awful lot like CF in 5 years.

Regardless of why these parks are being sold off, we both seem to agree it was inevitible. Heck, almost everyone here agrees with that much. I guess we're all debating the outcome. :)

I should note that my post shouldn't be read as an agreement with GWHayduke over the inevitability of the sale of all Six Flags parks. On the contrary, I think Redzone fully intended on keeping most (if not all) of the parks and easily turning them around. That's not happening.

But I still agree with Gonch that Six Flags will still exist years from now. It might be a smaller company with the poor performers sold off, but there are enough parks that are doing well (and have the potential to do really well) that should be able to keep them afloat if they play it wisely.


Like I said, I hope they can pull it out. I'm less optimistic than you, and while we watch to see what happens, I just hope that some things happen around that country so that as few as possible of the parks that SF sells end up as condos and strip malls - two things we need no more of anywhere. Even a stripped down version of most of the parks would be preferable to another Starbucks, Old Navy and Denny's.

For anyone who lives near any SF park, whether it's on the current sale list or not, it would be worthwhile to start planting the idea wherever possible that the park is more valuable as an amusement park than anything that might come from redevelopment of the land. Even if you think the management will succeed, it's not a bad idea to be prepared for whatever may come. Given the state of SF's finances, preparing to lobby whatever appropriate local government officials and private interests to attempt to save your local park is essential, because we all know what could happen. *** Edited 7/6/2006 10:03:30 PM UTC by GWHayduke***

Canada's working to buy back La Ronde, it appears

Can you please explain this?!

La Ronde 2006!


In a really simple world, you could just close a few of the smaller parks and move all their flats to MM. There's one of your major complaints solved. Tah,dah! :)

Canadian Dude said:Can you please explain this?!

Not sure exactly where things stand as of now, but apparently it got started when Montreal Heritage asked SF what happened to the carousel. It is a circa 1880 Belgian machine, elaborate and beautiful, that was brought to Canada for Expo '67 (the grounds of which later became La Ronde). Six Flags had it dismantled and stored 2 or 3 years ago, claiming it needs a restoration costing 1 to 1.2 million. Now, apparently SF either claims it doesn't know where the carousel is, or won't tell anyone where it is, depending on which report is correct. As you can imagine, the historical society folks in Montreal aren't too amused.

Some people suspect the carousel may have been sold and carted away, but that's uncertain.

SF doesn't own the land; it has a long-term lease agreement with the city. SF owns the rides and other park improvements. Given SF's current situation, it shouldn't be too hard to negotiate an end to the agreement and a sale of the improvements. However, Montreal will probably need to find another park operator before they do that.

Yeah, I've got some pretty harsh feelings about SFMM and I'll tell you why. It was always the park I wanted to go to as a kid - but it was "too far away" (i.e. my folks insisted on staying in Anaheim rather than Hollywood). So, in 94, I began what would become an almost quarterly pilgrimage to MM to finally enjoy the park I was denied as a kid... and for awhile, it was good. Then, it started to go all wrong... the only reason for me and my wife to go any longer was the opening of a new coaster... once that was taken care of, it was back in the car and let's head home - to SEATTLE no less.

I used to try and defend the park because on one particularly scary occasion, Del Holland himself came out to help my wife and I off of a ride that had broken down - I thought that took class. He even gave us complimentary passes for another visit AND took us on a personalized tour of Superman's construction site once we mentioned we were civil engineering buffs. But ya know what? It all went downhill and not in a good coaster way over the last seven years or so.

Will I be sad to never ride the rides again? Sure! I still get a thrill every time I watch a trainload of "X" do the circuit and Goliath is still my 2nd favorite steel coaster of all time (Titan is the first). The sheer roar of Superman the Eascape rushing over head? One of the coolest noises I've ever heard. But really, that's about it. It's completely mis-managed, the staff doesn't care one bit about the guests, the food is overpriced and terrible, if rides have more than one train operating at a time the line times actually INCREASE as the clueless ride ops seem at a loss as to how to operate a coaster with more than one train and the complete (or nearly so) lack of any good flats... sigh, the list just goes on and on doesn't it?

My dream? Busch or ANYONE buys it and turns it around. But then I routinely dream of winning the lottery too and that hasn't happened yet. ;)\

As for my own little Enchanted Village up here in Seattle... I'd be VERY surprised to see that remain a park. The neighbors absolutely HATE it - never mind that it exsisted before 90% of the housing around it was built... it's the old move-next-to-an-airport-then-complain-about-the-planes B.S. I'll miss it, but I'll get over it.

-Robert Escher *** Edited 7/6/2006 11:39:07 PM UTC by escher26***

"It's probably in my basement... let me go upstairs and check" -Escher
I mostly agree that Six Flags in ten years PROBABLY will exist as a stripped down entity, but I think 10+ parks is pushing it. If I ran the company, I'd sell off all but these parks:

SFOT - untouchable, the original park in the chain and the only large park in Texas AFAIK. Perennial good performer.

SFoG - the second park in the chain, land is in a crappy area(so not tons of value), good park with a nice balance of rides. Atlanta's gigantic and this is the only major park in the area. Draws from the entire Mid-Atlantic area.

SFGAdv - Great ride selection, huge market, huge upside. The drive-thru safari makes it a natural for the (ugh) family focus. Good performer. Unlike Texas and Georgia, needs quite a bit of work as far as image, but the upside IS huge.

SFGAm - Big market, good park. Perhaps the model for the chain.

SFMM - There's so much untapped potential here that if they can get their heads above water financially, without selling MM, it could and should be a huge asset. I think the turnaround would be easier than Shapiro suspects.

SFStl - That region of the midwest deserves a park, and SFSTL is a good one anyway.

SFMex - Mexico City - not Chicago, New York, or LA - is the largest market in the Six Flags chain. It's a nobrainer.

There, seven parks. I'm aware there are a few parks they're contractually obligated to run - Kentucky Kingdom comes to mind - and I recommend doing so with as little money invested as possible and exploring options as far as getting out of those contracts. Keep the large market parks, get rid of the smaller ones, redistribute the rides among the survivors and you have your new rides for the next year!

I think the one thing that a lot of people have forgotten is that you are dealing with a football owner in Synder. Let's go in the wayback machine, shall we? Robert Irsay gets on t.v. with William Donald Schaefer (then mayor of Baltimore, now Comptroller) to say that the Colts weren't leaving town. The Mayflower moving trucks were already being packed and they left that night for Indianapolis. Art Model moved the Cleaveland Browns to Baltimore and they become the Ravens. Do you think that what is moral enters into their heads? These people are ready to pull up stakes and move if they can't get a new publicly-funded stadium with super-expensive corporate skybox-seating. It's all about business.

Now, onto the debt issue. My computer recently brokedown in the worst way. I've had to replace two hard drives, and I'm still waiting to find out if the second hard drive's information can be recovered, for what I'm told, is the very reasonable price of $350-$550 (the guys says a competitor charges $1500).

I'm still waiting for bills related to a recent emergency room visit (the people at the hospital billed my insurance company when they should've billed the local insurance company). Hopefull, it'll be a lot less than $2,500. I still have to pay off the midwest vacation trip I took. I had to replace one of my electronic locks. That was $178. I have a timing-belt replacement coming up that'll be around $200 or more.

So if I was irresponsible, I could still go and make trips to Gadv., Hersheypark, and King's Dominion OR I could start looking at ways of generating more income. Are there things of value that I could sell off? Sure, I've got posters, out-of-print CDs etc. that could prove of value to me in generating income. I could also get a third job, or replace the piddly part-time job on Fridays.

So, in other words, I have to think like Six Flags right now. What can I sell so I'm not in debt for the rest of my life? What do I need to keep that I still owe money on (like my car)?

Absolutely correct. The question is, does Six Flags own anything (or any group of anythings) that can actually accomplish that for them?
I see the point in reducing the debt load, but they have tried to sell their way out of debt before, and clearly the strategy did not work. After they sold off their parks in Europe, SFWOA, Astro, and others, they still are in debt over 2 billion! There is something seriously wrong with their financials if they can sell all those parks over the past few years and not gain any ground.
Lord Gonchar's avatar

coasterdude318 said:
I should note that my post shouldn't be read as an agreement with GWHayduke over the inevitability of the sale of all Six Flags parks. On the contrary, I think Redzone fully intended on keeping most (if not all) of the parks and easily turning them around.


And I disagree with the real motives behind selling (need fast cash vs isn't worth the effort).

And I think the company will be fine and not too many parks will end up being sold.

But other than that we're kosher. ;)

Just think, they sold off Astroworld, the Europe parks and SFO, and it barely made a dent. Now were talking several additional parks in 2006. Sorry, that doesn't put much confidence in the future of this company. I'm with GWHaydude on that issue.

I've never seen a company more mis-managed. I admire what Shapiro is attempting to do, but boy does he have his work cut out for him. *** Edited 7/7/2006 4:09:55 AM UTC by DWeaver***

Gonch and Coasterdude,

Just want to clarify one thing: I never said that I think Redzone came in with the intent to sell off the parks. I fully agree that they came in with the intent of keeping all or most of them. I also agree that they thought turning them around would be much easier than it's turned out to be. But their inability to renegotiate the debt tells me that they're having a much tougher time than they anticipated; selling parks now, when they're still in a fairly early stage of reorganizing and planning, is too rash to be anything other than a desperate attempt to get the creditors off their backs, at least temporarily.

I think we all agree that a year from now we'll have a much clearer picture of SF's future, if it has one.

rollergator's avatar

DWeaver said:Just think, they sold off Astroworld, the Europe parks and SFO, and it barely made a dent. Now were talking several additional parks in 2006. Sorry, that doesn't put much confidence in the future of this company. I'm with GWHaydude on that issue.

I kinda think this is a different scenario altogether. Under the old management, the European parks thing was along the lines of "we've recoognized too late that we're NOT capable of handling a global amusement empire....and we need some cash to handle the mounting interest payments. Retreat!" (to North America)...hehe. The parks sold in Europe are ALL still running, right? ;)

I've never seen a company more mis-managed. I admire what Shapiro is attempting to do, but boy does he have his work cut out for him.

But we KNEW he had his work cut out for him, and he's recognizing that now? LOL! This is the WRONG industry to try and overcome a really bad reputation in fully half your markets...they're getting that down to a quarter of their markets by selling off the parks that were poorly managed and had *earned* their bad's hoping as many of those as possible are sold to a new operator that will advertise the DAYLIGHTS out of the "under new management" idea, and then PROVE it...they may no longer be Six Flags, but "Darien Lake" for instance, would be easier to turn around than, say, Geauga Lake has proven to be for CF....YMMV.

Couple quick edits: One, SFMM, to be successful, would need to remain contrary to the "family parks" idea. That at least played SOME role in the decision to sell. The price the land could fetch, and the need to have a fairly LARGE amount of cash immediately, coupled with the large expense of the year-round-ish operations and the low income (cheap season passes were nice for US, not for SF), and the park was on the block pretty much immediately after RedZone took control.

Being an "enthusiast", whatever that means to you, I me, it means I don't want parks destroyed. Whoever RUNS them, I could give a rat's arse as long as they're profitable ENOUGH to stay in business with confidence about being secure in their future.

CF buys the Paramount Parks, there's some things *I* may not like about the SPECIFICS of the way they run their parks, but at least I'm pretty sure they'll be around in a few years....that's comforting.

I think I'd need a lobotomy to sit and listen to one of their podcasts...or I'd want one afterwards...

*** Edited 7/7/2006 3:06:17 PM UTC by rollergator***

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