Conneaut Lake Park extends its season

Posted Friday, September 7, 2012 9:23 AM | Contributed by Jason Hammond

Conneaut Lake Park had its traditional last day of the season on Saturday, with the exception of Pumpkinfest and Ghost Lake. But given the success of the park this year, Adams and Jack Moyers, chairman of the board of Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, announced the park would remain open Saturday and Sunday through the end of the month.

Read more from The Meadville Tribune.

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Friday, September 7, 2012 10:15 AM

Conneaut Lake is open?

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Friday, September 7, 2012 10:15 AM

“Little bit by little bit we’re getting things put back together and getting the right players in place,” Moyers said. “It’s showing in the numbers of people coming in.”

Moyers said it’s difficult to come up with an attendance figure for the season because there is no gate charge and patrons can come into the park from various areas like the Beach Club, Hotel Conneaut and the Dockside.

“There really is no way to count,” Moyers said. “We have several access points for people coming in. I don’t really have a good count. But I would say our crowds in general this year have been larger than last year.”

The crowd Saturday was a decent one and those who came out had a variety of events to enjoy. What seemed to be the largest attraction was the ’50s on the Lake Car Show and Beach Party, which kicked off Friday night with DJ Lee Martel.

All of my concerns can really be wrapped up in these four paragraphs from the article. They claim to have large numbers coming in and then concede they have no mechanism for measuring that observation. And the majority crowd, at least this past Saturday, can be attributed to activities at the beach...the same place that I witnessed all of the activity when I last visited.

It's kind of hard for me to take this leadership group seriously, when they don't seem to recognize the need to track attendance. Yes, there are various access points. But put a turnstile in and filter the people through it. I even remember seeing an extra one laying on the ground by the entrance when I was there last! Seriously, though, that would be one of the first things I would consider doing in order to assess success.

It's encouraging to hear they are breaking even, I guess. But I wonder if that is due in any part to the fundraising that has continued on behalf of the park. Obviously, that can't be a foundational pillar to the business model moving forward.

Beyond all of that, I went to their website. Did you all know they sell season passes for $85? I'm amazed! I'm wondering how many they sold. It's hard to imagine anyone seeing a financial value in that. And again... if people were buying them in an effort to help the park out financially...then it's just another form of fundraising that can't sustain a revenue flow over time. Interesting.

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Friday, September 7, 2012 10:16 AM

kpjb said: Conneaut Lake is open?

That's funny! That was the first thing I said to myself when I saw the article.

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Friday, September 7, 2012 10:32 AM

I agree with Carrie. How exactly do you budget for and get a handle on your operating expenses?

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Friday, September 7, 2012 10:35 AM

If it was open next Friday, I'd probably stop in before reaching my brother's place. I've never been, but I'd be going in with low expectations..I've read it's pretty sad. I'll take my chances with ANOTHER Blue Streak that weekend.

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Friday, September 7, 2012 10:47 AM

Knoebels and Waldameer don't have a way of tracking attendance either. You can walk in and out as you please from a number of entrances.

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Friday, September 7, 2012 10:51 AM

Carrie J. said:

But put a turnstile in and filter the people through it.

Short of putting up a fence around the property, you can't, and if you did that you'd lose the casual visitors from the beach. The entire park is wide open.

I was there this summer and had a chat with the new owner, who's treating the place as a labour of love and supporting it using the profits from his other businesses. I'd really love to see him succeed.

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Friday, September 7, 2012 10:53 AM

eightdotthree said: Knoebels and Waldameer don't have a way of tracking attendance either. You can walk in and out as you please from a number of entrances.

That's very true. The difference is that neither is in the midst of trying to make a comeback where you would really need every ounce of data you can find, I would think.

I wonder if asked, if either of those parks would respond with a shrug and an explanation that they have no way to measure attendance. Or if they have a handle on it in other ways like tickets sales and turnstiles at rides, etc.

CLP has a distinct draw in the beach. How will they assess if that is where their investment should be rather than in rides?

Last edited by Carrie J., Friday, September 7, 2012 10:56 AM
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Friday, September 7, 2012 10:55 AM

You can love your business and still run it effectively. See: Koch family.

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Friday, September 7, 2012 10:57 AM

Richard Bannister said:

I was there this summer and had a chat with the new owner, who's treating the place as a labour of love and supporting it using the profits from his other businesses. I'd really love to see him succeed.

All emotions aside, how can it be sustained that way?

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Friday, September 7, 2012 11:02 AM

We had this same discussion about Fun Spot in Angola, IN a few years back. "Labour of love" says a lot of great things about the person taking on such an endeavour. It also tends to say that there's a business model that is unsupportable without some sort of "patronage." Those tend to last as long as the person driving the train can keep it on the tracks...usually until the funds run dry, or the parents try to pass the albatross on to their kids.

I'm not happy about saying those things, but reality doesn't always fit our wants...

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Friday, September 7, 2012 11:30 AM

Even without turnstiles on every access point, the park could still gauge attendance with turnstiles on the individual rides. Although this would not give a complete picture, it would show the general ebb and flow. It would surely be more accurate than simply looking out onto the midways and guessing.

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Friday, September 7, 2012 11:56 AM

Waldameer doesn't track attendance in terms of number of people in the park, but we track tons of data up to the minute. At any point of the day, we can tell which rides are getting the most ridership (the list is surprising), which games are most popular, and which food item is selling like hotcakes. Also, we can see how many wristbands have been sold, and if the sale was through a promotion, group sale, or walk-in. Part of going cashless meant that management will have a better picture of what is exactly going on in the park.

Of course, no one expects CLP to go to this extent in tracking data at this point, but I hope they are trying to sort out their income to gain some insights about their business . Even a turnstile Blue Streak would be a start. However, my outlook on the park has been negative since the park pleaded for funding to reopen Blue Streak. Attendance didn't respond to reopening the ride. I really think the park just doesn't get it in terms of understanding their place in the market. Blue Streak is fine and dandy, but it is not the main draw of the park (gasp). Let's look at the big picture. The park needs to rebuild the cozy family atmosphere, and rid themselves of the stingy, carny, and zombie-like appearance.

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Friday, September 7, 2012 11:59 AM

Jeff said:

I agree with Carrie. How exactly do you budget for and get a handle on your operating expenses?

Multiple ways:

1) As JW notes, with turnstiles on each ride.

2) Revenue. From a profit/loss perspective, $X in revenue is $X, no matter how many people are in the park.

3) # of tickets sold.

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Friday, September 7, 2012 12:03 PM

The question was rhetorical, as compared to guessing, as they currently do.

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Friday, September 7, 2012 12:25 PM

AJFelice said:
I really think the park just doesn't get it in terms of understanding their place in the market. Blue Streak is fine and dandy, but it is not the main draw of the park (gasp). Let's look at the big picture. The park needs to rebuild the cozy family atmosphere, and rid themselves of the stingy, carny, and zombie-like appearance.

I think that's what they are working on. The Blue Streak is a very important piece of the puzzle but they are also getting people to the park using car and motorcycle cruises, concerts, etc. They aren't relying on the rides.

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Friday, September 7, 2012 12:29 PM

Carrie J. said:
All emotions aside, how can it be sustained that way?

It doesn't have to be, longer term. It just has to be built up to the point that it's self sustaining. There's absolutely no reason why it couldn't be turned into another Knoebels in time.

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Friday, September 7, 2012 12:42 PM

It would actually be a lot of fun to project daily attendance at the place using various ridership counts. Data nerd central.

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Friday, September 7, 2012 12:44 PM

Richard Bannister said: It doesn't have to be, longer term. It just has to be built up to the point that it's self sustaining. There's absolutely no reason why it couldn't be turned into another Knoebels in time.

But aren't these folks one of several who have tried that model and failed? Forgive me for not looking up the history, but trying to go from memory. But I was thinking that others have attempted this very thing (supplementing revenue from other sources to get a start up) and were not successful because the long-term revenue plan was never truly formed.

What makes this attempt different?

Last edited by Carrie J., Friday, September 7, 2012 12:45 PM
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