CoasterEXT Q&A - Cutbacks and Cost Cutting is the Future

Saturday, June 16, 2007 6:36 PM
I stopped by the park this afternoon with my wife and daughter and was surprised to see the place pretty busy. I didn’t attend any of the actual CoasterEXT “activities” but I did stop by the group pavilions at 3:00 to hear the Q&A with Bill Sphen. I was really hoping to hear positive comments about the park and its future, but ultimately I walked away disappointed.

The first few questions had to do with Geauga Lake’s future development, and as expected, very few details were disclosed. As much as Sphen tried to dance around it, he ultimately dropped the ball that Geauga Lake is not profitable and cutbacks are happening because his goal for 2007 is to return the park to profitability. When asked about Skyscraper, he hinted at the ride not opening ever again, claiming that the parts needed for it are rare and “it is a 40 year old ride.” That line made me chuckle since there are many many rides older than 40 years that are still operating and in great shape.

When someone asked why the park doesn’t have any billboards even though Kennywood does, Sphen answered by saying that billboard money had been re-invested in a different area. Assuming he meant re-invested in another form of advertising media, the enthusiast asked what advertisements the billboard money was used for and the response was that the money was invested in an area outside of advertising (no indication where). I think the low point of the Q&A happened when Sphen tried to belittle Kennywood’s aggressive advertising campaign in Cleveland by saying that “you don’t see any of those commercials around here anymore.” Of course, several enthusiasts were quick to jump all over that one.

What I took away from the Q&A was that the park has pretty much conceded that attendance will stay flat at 700,000 and the road to profitability is bringing costs down in order to meet the breakeven point. At some point Spehn even said that Dick Kinzel does not think Geauga Lake’s poor attendance justifies a park of its size; to me this means that the park either needs to increase attendance or downsize, and unfortunately I think cost-cutting and cutbacks will continue into the future.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007 7:19 PM
I believe in a previous thread I had found that World's of Fun does around 800,000 year.

Point being even if the park stayed flat at 700,000 (and I bet it won't) it's still a shame so many people are jumping all over the Geauga-Lake-deathbed bandwagon. There's so many great things you can do with a park in that kind of attendance bracket, but having a bajillion coasters isn't one of them.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007 8:11 PM
I wonder what else they can do to cut operations at the park? Since they just repainted Head Spin, that suggests it will be staying at GL for a few more years, anyway. As far as major attractions go on the dry side, it just doesn't seem like there's that much fat left to trim. Big Dipper isn't going anywhere, and RWB probably wouldn't be a good candidate for a relocation either. Maybe Dominator or Thunderhawk, but isn't the former somewhat of a 'terrain' coaster -- in the sense that it's built with supports to accomodate the lay of the land to a minor degree?

Just playing the hypotheticals, I could see CF yanking out Villain and sending it to an underserved market. As a steel structure woodie, it ought to be fairly amenable to the process. Then they could just leave Double Loop SBNO (and protestors to the contrary that CF doesn't engage in the practice can go take a ride on Skyscraper) and close off that back corner of the park. Even then, I don't know how much that would help their budget.

In no way am I advocating any of the above moves, merely playing devil's advocate. I love GL and am looking forward to my third trip there next week.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007 10:05 PM
I don't get the "there's not much left on the rides side" that people say, because most of my life they only had 3-4 coasters and we had a GREAT time. The place still has way more rides/coasters than it has had for most of it's existence.
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Saturday, June 16, 2007 10:30 PM
Bill Spehn might not be a great public speaker and might not even always "say the right things" like a PR person might, but I suspect you were hearing his honest thoughts about what is obviously a very tough situation. I'd rather hear that than a bunch of sugar coated BS. I commend the guy for even getting up in front of a bunch of know it all enthusiasts. That ought to show you something right there.

I still think if anyone can turn that place around, it will be him. His absence at Cedar Point has been noticeable as operations have taken a downward turn and having worked there a few years when he was around, I know that he is one who won't accept mediocrity. He was always around talking to people and prodding them a little bit to do even better as far as efficiency and guest service.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007 10:31 PM
It was great to see the park busy today.

Ensign, I believe you're referring to Thunderhawk getting the new paint. Head Spin was supposed to but it was cancelled, probably due to them still removing Steel Venom, which is completely gone now.

Umm, I don't get the Skyscraper remark. CP's Space Spiral is older and is a Von Roll, which is no longer in business, whereas GL's is an Intamin. It just sounds like they don't want to invest in it anymore.

I guess it's safe to say that the front half of the park is basically a flatliner. I would have never thought that Cedar Fair would just give up that easy. It's a shame.

X Factor

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Saturday, June 16, 2007 10:59 PM
I don't think it's about giving up, I think it's about readjusting, becoming profitable, and then working from there.
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Saturday, June 16, 2007 11:17 PM
The park was busy, but what dregs of Cleveland did it attract? The crews were doing their jobs just fine, but we consistently saw idiots in the Dominator station who couldn't figure out that "Exit to your left" was directed at them, kids line jumping in the middle of a one-train wait, all sorts of absolutely frustrating craptacular behavior that sent me home after an hour.
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Saturday, June 16, 2007 11:37 PM

X Factor said:


Umm, I don't get the Skyscraper remark. CP's Space Spiral is older and is a Von Roll, which is no longer in business, whereas GL's is an Intamin. It just sounds like they don't want to invest in it anymore.


Really?? I could have sworn CP's is an Intamin. I've never even heard of Von Roll.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007 11:39 PM
Raging Wolfbobs had a major incident today apparently. Anyone see what happened? The last I heard the train is under a tarp- stopped short of the high turnaround.
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Sunday, June 17, 2007 12:07 AM
I was there today, and left with a more positive attitude than the original poster. For anyone that was there, I was the one Mr. Sphen was referring to that had to leave for a graduation party. I got there to hear him speak, and had to leave afterwards. Just got home from that even. Wow, busy day last two days, with Coastermania yesterday, and the other two today...

At any rate, He commented on how his job this year was to return Geauga Lake to prophet ability. He mentioned Mr. Kinzel saying that the place did have to big of a footprint for the numbers it draws. I came away believing that in a few years, Geauga Lake will be a pretty nice place.

As Peabody mentioned, Geauga Lake was fine in the 70s and 80s with 3 or 4 coasters. Hell, I remember in 77(???) when Double Loop opened! That was their second (or was it third?) coaster!! Then came Corkscrew. Geauga Lake brings back so many memories from my childhood. I still remember riding the Dodgems with a girl from Junior High (field trip), and she would get the biggest kick out of ramming in to me. I will be 40 in less than a month, so it was more than a couple of years ago.

I still miss the old Shooting Gallery in the center of the park. The old piano player who sat in there, head down waiting to be shot to start playing the piano for years and years and years. I still miss the Caterpillar, and the Rocket ships! Dont get me started on the rocket ships! What about the blue building that housed the arcade, where Shipwreck Falls is now? I spent more than a few quarters in that place in the eighties! The log flume is timeless! Has not changed since I was a kid. The antique cars have gotten a little commercialized, but hay, if it helps pay the bills, and brings money into the park, I say do it.

I also wish they would bring back the paddleboat ride, and the ski lift chairs. I realize they were removed for Thunderhawk, and Dominator, but I still miss them.

I got to get to sleep (and dream about Geauga Lake past and future!!). I really think they can return it to its glory days. It might take a few years, but I have faith in Bill, and the rest of the powers that be. I have spoken to him on many occasions, and I really feel if anyone can do it, he is the man!

Tell your friends to give the park a try, and what a good time you have had when you have visted the park. Lets get this thing going! We do not want GL to be another Euclid Beack, Puritas Springs, Chippewa Lake or Idora Park. Lord knows there are ENOUGH defunct parks in North East Ohio.

1EJ


1EJ

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Sunday, June 17, 2007 12:25 AM

Peabody said:Really?? I could have sworn CP's is an Intamin. I've never even heard of Von Roll.

Back in the day Von Roll did towers and sky rides. The trademark of a Von Roll tower is the double decker cabin. Intamin has always had the single cabin.

So something happened to RWB. I figured maybe it was a maintenance issue, not an actual incident.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007 1:04 AM
I was at the event today. From what little 'hearsay' I heard about the incident, there was some bad wood that failed. This caused/allowed the rear of the train to jump the track. I heard nothing about any injuries. It happened before I got there, which was at about 1pm. A friend who is familiar with the trains says that even though it's covered, he is certain it's the legend train. You can see the front of the train is square. Versus the other train which is rounded. I just had to take his word on that one because I didn't even know there were 2 different trains.

Because RWB was supposed to be part of ERT, they gave us ERT on Big Dipper instead. It was running great.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007 1:13 AM

1EyedJack said:
At any rate, He commented on how his job this year was to return Geauga Lake to prophet ability.

Wow! If GL gets prophet ability then we're in for something special! ;)

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Sunday, June 17, 2007 2:03 PM

X Factor said:

Peabody said:Really?? I could have sworn CP's is an Intamin. I've never even heard of Von Roll.

Back in the day Von Roll did towers and sky rides. The trademark of a Von Roll tower is the double decker cabin. Intamin has always had the single cabin.


Yeah, Von Roll actually primarily made chairlifts for ski resorts, doing some work at amusement parks, but much like ride manufacturers was either bought ought or went out of business.

That aerial lift industry as a whole has been hurting though and has really downsized. In fact there are only two remaining lift companies in the world, Doppelmayr-CTEC and Poma-Leitner.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007 2:55 PM

Peabody said:I don't get the "there's not much left on the rides side" that people say, because most of my life they only had 3-4 coasters and we had a GREAT time. The place still has way more rides/coasters than it has had for most of it's existence.

In the course of the past ten to fifteen years the park has lost a few flat rides, many that had filled up what is currently empty space:

Musik Express
Tilt-A-Whirl
Rotor
Silver Bullet (Huss Enterprise)
Flying Scooters
Rocket Ships

The best thing they could do if they aren't going to add anything is move the Happy Harbor flats to the rides side.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007 3:19 PM

Paul Blackstone said:
That line made me chuckle since there are many many rides older than 40 years that are still operating and in great shape.
And that makes you chuckle based on your many years of experience maintaining old rides, right?


matt. said:
...it's still a shame so many people are jumping all over the Geauga-Lake-deathbed bandwagon. There's so many great things you can do with a park in that kind of attendance bracket, but having a bajillion coasters isn't one of them.
Well put. It reminds me of all the bitching and moaning by enthusiasts who criticized (your park here) because they kept adding water slides and wave pools instead of roller coasters. The original post in this thread demonstrates the complete lack of understanding that this is a business, and one that Six Flags failed to understand.
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Sunday, June 17, 2007 6:14 PM
Reports of GL's death are greatly exaggerated.

My six year old son and I spend a day and a half there two weeks ago, and had an absolute blast. We rode precisely one coaster---double loop, as he's newly conquered inversions, that's all he wanted to do. Several trips on the shoot-the-chutes. Saw the magic show, which was cool. He LOVED the Lego Racers 3D show; we must have seen that 3-4 times. We spent easily 3/4 of our time on the waterpark side, where the proslide tornado kept our attention.

We had a really fun weekend. And, we weren't the only ones. It's never going to compete with Cedar Point, but it doesn't need to; it fills a different niche, and does it passably well. As time goes on, it seems like it will only get better. It won't be on any enthusiasts' must-visit lists, but frankly, we're pretty poor customers anyway...

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Sunday, June 17, 2007 8:40 PM
^ What? There are customers besides enthusiasts? That's Crazy Talk! ;)
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Sunday, June 17, 2007 9:45 PM
(in response to Brian)

Plus the park is really a bargan at only $26.99.

Wyandot Lake was $27.99 and had very little, but was also in a less-saturated market.

Growing up, we could NOT afford a trip to Cedar Point, nor could my dad imagine driving the 1.5 hours from Chesterland. For a one-day trip. We couldn't afford a hotle, either. That hour and a half is no time nowadays for me, but as a struggling business owner, he did what he could for us. And you know what? Geauga Lake was a blast then for me! *** Edited 6/18/2007 1:47:59 AM UTC by john peck***

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