Could the DelGrossos concept work in other smaller metro areas?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 6:38 PM
You keep hearing about it: Small amusement parks in the smaller metropolitan areas closing. Many such areas are without a park. And then there is Altoona, PA. It has not one, but two local amusement parks and one of them, DelGrossos, appears to be a great model for how to run a successful park in a small metropolitan area.

What is their formula? Have a good mix of about 15 traditional park rides and about 10 kiddie rides. Add a small waterpark and some FEC style upcharge attractions. Throw in good food and picnic areas. Keep the prices low and offer free admission and parking so casual visitors can stop in to do one or two things. Above all, keep the park clean, attractive, and well maintained and focus on attracting families.

Could this way of doing things work elsewhere in small metropolitan areas? Where do you believe this approach could be successful?


Arthur Bahl

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007 6:46 PM
i think that's the same formula that Canobie lake park's been using for YEARS!!!

Yeah, i'd say that's a winner, as long as the people who run it are in it for the love and not for the $$$$ (Six Flags?)

It might work in say, Scranton, PA, and Syracuse, NY, for starters.


Coaster Junkie from NH
I drive in & out of Boston, so I ride coasters to relax!

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007 7:01 PM
Canobie Lake is successful largely because it draws many people from the Boston area. Most people in Pittsburgh (the nearest major city) have never even heard of DelGrossos Park let alone been there.

There are some other small metro parks that do well. Waldameer in Erie and Seabreeze in Rochester are two examples.


Arthur Bahl

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007 8:35 PM
I think DelGrossos does alot of company picnics as well. I think picnics are where the smaller parks make a majority of their money. If a place has 100 employees and they all bring their family that could easily be 300 people. Figure in the price per catered meal and either a handstamp or book of tickets per person.

Knoebels always has those pavillions behind the giant wheel booked just about everyweekend in the summer and a majority of them booked weekdays. Walk by the pavillions on any weekend and there are probably as many people in them as in the park.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007 9:06 PM
DelGrosso's is actually in Tipton, which is about 15 minutes from Altoona, where Lakemont is located.

Lakemont has a few more rides than DelGrosso's, is less expensive to visit, and is probably 4 times the size, but always seems a lot less busy than DelGrosso's.

DelGrosso's is more innovative than Lakemont. They have newer rides, more popular concert events, and cleaner and better landscaped grounds. People in the area just love DelGroso's. Kids beg their parents to take them often.

I would attribute their success to how well the park is run. They have something for every member of the family; concerts, food, larger thrills, moderate thrills, kiddy rides, water attractions, Go Carts, Mini Golf. For the most part, the employees are friendly. They really know how to please.

So yes, if a park was as well operated as DelGrosso's, I believe it would work almost anywhere. It works in Blair County, PA, which really isn't highly populated.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007 9:09 PM
Many parks in smaller markets indeed depended heavily upon company picnics. That's a big reason why Idora Park went down. When the local industry in Youngstown declined, there were fewer picnics to keep the park going. Meanwhile, more people that went to the park on their own started going to GL and CP instead. The fire that destroyed part of the Wildcat was the last straw that put the park over the brink. *** Edited 3/15/2007 1:12:32 AM UTC by Arthur Bahl***

Arthur Bahl

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007 9:18 PM
Wouldn't some people in the State College area go to DelGrossos if they are looking for a park that is closer than Hershey or Knoebels?

Arthur Bahl

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007 9:46 PM
State College is less then an hour from DelGrossos, so yea.

My uncles company has picnics at DelGrossos and they live in Williamsport probably about an hour and a half from there and Knoebels is only about an hour away.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007 11:21 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar I'm not sure DelGrossos is a 'concept' so to speak. It's an old park that's been there almost 100 years. Where's the concept?

What is their formula? We've been here for a century and we're coasting right along. We offer low prices and free admission because we really don't offer much ride-wise and we're in the middle of nowhere.

Could it be successful elsewhere? Sure, there are lots of really old, small parks in out of the way places that do just fine.

Successful as a new build? No idea, but they're not exactly springing up left and right, are they?

---

I hate to sound so sh!tty, but man, these parks are the exceptions. In fact, that's the definition of exceptional. They are exceptional parks!

These smaller, 'charming' or 'traditional' parks generally sit in the middle of nowhere (relatively speaking), offer a lackluster line-up of thrills (especially to the average schmoe who thinks the phallic symbols littering the skyline in Jackson, NJ and Sandusky, OH are the pinnacle of coasters) and exist as an out of the way local attraction of sorts.

Isn't this the same post you always make with DelGrossos slipped in instead of Kennywood? (or Waldameer or Conneaut :) )


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Wednesday, March 14, 2007 11:22 PM
I lived in State college, and one strange thing I found is that a lot of people who live there don't even know about DelGrosso's. I'd tell people about the park all of the time.

...Maybe it had something to do with a lot of them being College Students not familiar with the area.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007 1:21 AM
Good point, Gang! There are a few other traditional and mid-sized parks that are GREAT examples of proper and prosperous operation.

Corporate outings can be BIG business. When Hillcrest Park closed a few years ago, we benefitted by attracting some of their corporate clientele to our Joliet location. These outings are ALOT of fun to host! There are many parks can could benefit with more attention to this sector.

Case in point was "Old Indiana". (Now we're going into the vault!) Even after their accident, this park would've survived had the numerous corporate outings not cancelled. Their BIGGEST companies were scheduled in the last 4-6 weeks of the season. Even Santa's Village was losing its client base in final years.

I wish Americana would reopen as I think there is enough trade there to support it. I also hope other parks like Conneaut, Stricker's and Fun Spot (IN) can further benefit from this niche.

In closing, kudos and congrats to DelGrosso's and Lakemont for bucking trends and showing the big boys how to survive and succeed out there!

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Thursday, March 15, 2007 2:20 AM
CastleKing, good idea. I'm thinking specifically of Conneaut Lake. The more I think of it, it seems like the perfect 'picnic' park for corporate outings and families. Cheap, pretty, free parking, lots of character, a nice lake that is probably under-utilized. I'm sure the good folks at CLP have thought this through many times, but it sure seems like a direction to explore. Targeted mass mailings on a regional basis could really pay off handsomely by bringing in folks who don't even realize this gem is in their back yard (metaphorically speaking). Now if they could only clean up the place a little bit more, and especially paint Blue Streak, they might have an opportunity for a lot of repeat (and highly profitable) business.
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Thursday, March 15, 2007 3:00 AM
When I began this thread, I was thinking about those areas off the beaten path. There are lots of small to mid-sized cities (and a few large ones) that lack a decent amusement park.

Does anyone remember the other Lakeside Park (near Roanoke VA)? I did mention Idora and there used to be Whalom Park in Massachusetts.

Of course there are other succcessful parks away from the big cities or top vacation areas. Parks like Silverwood (near Spokane), Lake Winnie (near Chattanooga) and Adventureland (near Des Moines). Other such parks like Camden and Beech Bend once were in danger but have turned around.

But what about those other park challenged cities? Places like Scranton and Rochester and others like Columbia, SC and Jackson MS, and Omaha. Does everyone there really want to scamper off to the big (and expensive) megaparks all of the time?

Then there are the larger cities that are lacking here since their local parks closed. Cities like Houston, Memphis, and Detroit.

They said in a certain movie, "Build it and they will come". Often it is just important to have the right kind of park and to promote it in the proper way. Too many parks learned this the hard way and are now gone. Others are gone because the owners were more interested in a quick buck than in preserving tradition. The ones that survive in the small markets generally have one thing in common. Their owners really care about the parks and the local community. Sure, they make a decent profit in many cases and use most of it to keep making their parks better.


Arthur Bahl

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Thursday, March 15, 2007 5:05 AM
Of course being in PA, There were a few smaller parks around my area, my dad used to work at one. At the McDonalds near my work in Royersford, there are pictures of Lakeview. I think my dad just worked at one of the stands as a kid or something. It's a shame because at least as of not too long ago, some of the structures were still there. I would love for that to have stuck around, this place could definitely use a small park like that again IMO.

Actually, heres a list of defunct parks in PA.
http://tinyurl.com/yqzknw
The ones that were closest to where I live now are in Montgomery county and there was:

Chestnut Hill Park, Chestnut Hill
Lakeview Park, Royersford
Oak Park, Landsdale
Ringing Rocks, Pottstown
Sanatoga Park, Sanatoga (Pottstown)
Six Gun Territory, Willow Grove
West Point Park, West Point
White City, near Chest Nut Hill
Willow Grove Park, Willow Grove

9 Parks!! All that were in MY county, a single county in PA! Out of all of them, not ONE survived :( I wish at least one did though. I'm not sure the size of all of them, but most look to have been nice parks from older pictures. I sigh every time I look at that site, it would be great to have a park around here even if a small one. It doesn't have to be a Dorney or Knoebels, just a small DelGrossos type place to go on a summer afternoon for a quick ride or to take in the atmosphere in between summer drives to Dorney, Knoebels, or Wildwood.


*** Edited 3/15/2007 9:18:18 AM UTC by P18***

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Thursday, March 15, 2007 5:59 AM
If I remember correctly, Willow Grove was the big one, the main park for the Philly area years ago. Of course a city that large would have had several major parks not to mention a number of smaller ones. Six Gun Territory was later on the Willow Grove Site.

At the other end of the state, there were several parks in the Pittsburgh area that disappeared as well. Among those that went during my lifetime are West View, Rainbow Gardens and White Swan. Cascade park in New Castle was another one that is no more (although it is now a normal city park).

The big megaparks did indeed have their impact. On the other hand, some formerly small parks like Hershey and Dorney in "small" markets started to grow into major parks and attract people from other areas such as Philadelphia.


Arthur Bahl

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Thursday, March 15, 2007 8:52 AM

Lord Gonchar said:

What is their formula? We've been here for a century and we're coasting right along. We offer low prices and free admission because we really don't offer much ride-wise and we're in the middle of nowhere.


The problem I have with that thought is that it implies that the park is lame and only exists because it is in the middle of nowhere where people are either too stupid to know any better or lack the means to travel someplace "better". (and I would hestitate to call Altoona the "middle of nowhere."

I think a Delgrosso's-type park could be very sucessful almost anywhere if it wasn't for one problem. Land values in many large metropolitan areas are so insanely high that it is unfortunately more profitable to build condos than to build or maintain something unique and fun. There are many examples of neat old things that closed, not because they didn't make money but because a developer came along and made an offer the owner couldn't refuse.

For me, it is a quality of life issue. I'm not interested in an area that has nothing but miles of strip malls and condos. That's boring. I'm sure those suburban soccer moms in those endless subdivisions would love to take their kids someplace different, unique, and inexpensive. But you have to have somebody who is satisfied with making a modest income instead of selling out to become an instant millionaire.

If Wyandot Lake wasn't located on land owned by the zoo, I doubt it would still be around. Yet as far as I know, the park has always been profitable.

I'm betting that Delgrosso's doesn't face such intense development pressure. They've also had the forsight to upgrade their facilities to provide a bright, clean, modern park, while still maintaining the traditional charm.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007 9:34 AM

Hopman said:


It might work in say, Scranton, PA, and Syracuse, NY, for starters.


Unfortunately the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area had a number of small parks at one point in time, and the closest one left operating is Knoebels. Nay Aug park closed in 1987, Rocky Glen in 1988. Closer to Wilke-Barre you had Sans Souci which closed in 1970 and Angela Park which closed in 1987. I've actually been on the Angela Park site and my wife remembers going to both Angela and Rocky Glen when she was younger. I'm guessing the areas economic downturn is what caused these parks to go under.

This link contains a lot of info on defunct PA parks as well as many with pictures:

http://www.defunctparks.com/parks/PA/indexPA.htm

Tom


You have disturbed the forbidden temple, now-you-will-pay!!!

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Thursday, March 15, 2007 9:47 AM
Ugh, you guys are killing me. This is the second time in as many days that I have to agree with both of you (Gonch and millrace, that is).

I'm not sure if DelGrosso's is a concept, it's not the owners of the place had a brainstorming session and came up with an idea of monumental scope. They have a small park that works in the Altoona metro area, they realize what works and they build upon that. And in many ways, the park IS a product of it's environment. Altoona is a small market so it makes sense that they are served by small amusement parks with relatively mild rides- hence the reason why the theme park concept never would have worked for Lakemont when they tried to turn it into Boyertown U.S.A.

But I maintain my stance on small amusement parks such as DelGrosso's- many larger markets would benefit from places like those. While the rides aren't in the same league as Kingda Krap, I wouldn't refer to them as rides that appeal to just backwoods people that "don't know any better". I know of those spectacular state-of-the-art coasters yet I'm still amused by Paratroopers and Scramblers, and plenty of church carnivals and state fairs prove that is the case with many people.

The problem with large metro areas (like northern NJ) is that land values are so ridiculous, they eventually default to developers because they end up being the only ones that can afford them. There is no room in these market for "fun" things like amusement parks, bowling alleys and skating rinks- you have housing developments and malls on the good land and industrial parks on the less-desirable land bordering highways and flooding rivers. But there should be room, because I guarantee that if I were to find a way to toss a small amusement park like DelGrosso's into the middle of northern NJ, it would take off like you wouldn't believe.

A novel concept? Hardly. But a good one that appeals to more than just the average backwoods redneck? Absolutely.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007 11:19 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar Ok guys (millrace & Rob), I was hoping I clarified a bit with my next to last paragraph, but I still must've given the wrong impression.

It's not a slam on the locals at all. In fact, it wasn't even a slam in general. The average, GP park visitor (read: anyone who doesn't view parks as a hobby or interest, but rather an occasion diversion) WILL see DelGrossos ride offerings as inferior.

Given the choice of visiting DelGrossos rather than Hershey or mybe even Kennywood requires indicitive pricing. Hence, the free admission and low prices. If it cost the same $30 or $40 as those other parks, then who would visit rather than just drive down the road and get a lot more for their money? As it is I'd suggest that people still the the 'higher cost, more to do, better rides' parks as the preferrable deal based on sheer attendance.

Couple that with the location. Where do you think you're more likely to get $10 for parking, $40 at the gate and $3 a drink? Fifteen miles north of Altoona or adjacent to a major metropolitan or tourist area?

DelGrossos offers what they do because they have to. Their location and product require them to do things that way.

Regardless of the reasons (land values, interest, competition, whatever), if it were a sound business decision, people would be jumping on it and these parks would pop up all over the place. But rather people seem to be jumping out of it.

Again, these types of parks are the exception in the big scheme of things. They're few and far between.

*** Edited 3/15/2007 3:19:55 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***


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Thursday, March 15, 2007 11:31 AM
All amusement parks are few and far between when compared to the plethora of other ways people have to part with money. I think amusement parks compete more with the mall than they do with each other.

I don't see large theme parks with $10 parking popping all over the place either. The majority of new parks that have opened over the last 1/2 dozen years or so have been smaller parks.

And look at New York City. You have Great Adventure and Dorney Park as "major" parks within a few hours drive, but very close to the city are a number of smaller parks that all seem to do quite well: the Coney parks, Long Island Adventureland, Rye Playland, Bowcraft, Quassy, Lake Compounce, whatever Nellie Bly is going to turn into, etc. *** Edited 3/15/2007 3:35:25 PM UTC by millrace***

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