Is Cedar Fair turning into Six Flags?

Thursday, May 17, 2001 3:41 PM
With the Two new parks (Michigan's advanture and Palm Springs), is CF doing what SF does? They are buying all new parks. In my opinion, no, because Six Flags does own some really crappy parks like SFEL, SFDL (other than S:ROS), Fonteir City, and SFAW. Does anybody agree with me?
Thursday, May 17, 2001 3:47 PM
No, they only bought two parks and one is just a water park. Cedar Fair will never be the same as Six Flags.
There are currently 11 coasters with the name Batman, 8 with the name Superman and 22 with the name Boomerang. Batman and Superman: The Ultimate Chiller Knight Flight Krypton Escape Ride. *** This post was edited by PT300 on 5/17/2001. ***
Thursday, May 17, 2001 3:52 PM
Right, Cedar Fair actually cares about the feeling in their parks. You wouldn't even know Knotts was owned by CF if not for the press release.

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Thursday, May 17, 2001 3:54 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar They're not following Six Flags on a customer service level (I hope), but I think they are following their lead in the financial department. Make no mistake about it, the 3 coasters to take the record at SFMM and the constant additions to SFWOA are no accident - it's a pretty obvious one/two punch aimed right at cedar point! I'm one of the few who thinks Six Flags made the right moves financially. Sure they're in the hole right now, but I fully believe you have to spend money to make money - SF has developed a very strong base to build their future on. Now with minor developments year after year, they have the potential effectively OWN the industry. Cedar Fair had better follow suit if they want to survive in the long run and I think they realized this. They've just chosen to do it in a more restrined, conservative manor. What I see here is two companies with similar long term goals approaching the situation with completely different philosophies. It'll be very interesting to see what the market will be like in 10 years...especially if an economy slowdown is a reality because when the money is slow, quality will beat quantity every time. I find it all highly interesting.

To sum it up: If the economy stays strong the next decade, Six Flags is unstoppable. If it slows and people are les willing to part with their $$$ so freely, then Cedar Fair's attention to customer service will prevail and leave SF wishing they had saved some of those dollars. *** This post was edited by Lord Gonchar on 5/17/2001. ***
Thursday, May 17, 2001 4:09 PM
Very well put Lord Gonchar!
Thursday, May 17, 2001 4:34 PM
its PARAMOUNT PARKS turn to buy some parks hehe and BUSCHe GARDENS
Thursday, May 17, 2001 4:38 PM
Hmm LG you make some intersting points and I agree with eveything except your final conclusion. I think that Six Flags is in a *BETTER* position if the economy goes sour. Why? Because let's be honest, for the most part there is no difference between an SF and a CF park. We may think that one treats their guests better than others, but this difference can be neglected. It is clear that the public still enjoys SF parks otherwise their attendance would have fallen (remember SFGAdv is still the biggest drawing seasonal park).

Anyway, since people are obviously not offended by the service @ SFI, as money gets tight, they will only vist the park that is closest to them. For large population centers like Dallas/Ft. Worth, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore-DC, Boston, that would be a Six Flags park NOT a Cedar Fair park.

Most of the visitors to Cedar Point and KBF are visitors who have another park closer to them. But if it becomes too much of an economic cost to go to a father park like CP, many will be persuaded to go to the closer park...which will often be a Six Flags.

Therefore it is my opinion that SFI is in a better position to weather a down turn.
But hey, I guess we'll all just have to wait and see how this plays out :)
--Anybody see a guy with a pumpkin for a head?
Thursday, May 17, 2001 5:12 PM
LG and 2Hostyl you both bring up good points. I think Six Flags could weather a storm better than CF just because they are spread out more. On the the other in a good economy CF I think will do better because they own alot of hotels around their parks. I know the new water park is in a "year round climate" I just don't understand why CF does not try to get into areas where the park can be open more often and generate more cash year round (say Jazzland???). Also, if they wanted to cut or suspend their dividend CF could do a massive one year expansion/buying spree. Just my thoughts... *** This post was edited by Mikeman on 5/17/2001. ***
Thursday, May 17, 2001 5:24 PM
CEDAR FAIR...could ONLY turn into SIX FLAGS if they did the following:

1) Bought TONS of parks....and threw up coasters just to compete with Cedar Fair...

2) Build the EXACT SAME Coasters at MANY of their parks, and call the rides THE EXACT SAME THING...

3) They DID NOT Care AT ALL about the customers or customer service....

4)They abandoned their EXCELLENT R.O.I (return on investment) philosophy that has worked SO WELL...for so long...

Mikey :)
There is currently ONE roller coaster called MILLENNIUM FORCE...and it is the TALLEST, FASTEST, STEEPEST roller coaster in NORTH AMERICA...PERIOD!
Thursday, May 17, 2001 6:06 PM
I think I would rather go to the two-three worst Six Flag(ged)s parks(minus SFEG, a lousy excuse for anything) than to the two-three worst Cedar Fair parks. I'd take SFAW, SFDL, SFStL,... all over Valleyfair, KCS, and Worlds of Fair just by the looks of them. And CF keeps the traditions of the parks because they don't care about theming them. It costs them a lot less and could fool some into thinking they just want to be "traditional". Of course that's just my opinion. I go to the parks for coasters and I could give a rats behind how good the customer service(which I don't think half of you know really notice this, you just pull the SF bad service/CF good service thing out of you butt whether you believe it or not). I could not tell a single difference in service. Some employees are enthusiastic, some lazy, and some just doing their job. Just depends what day you catch them in and you know you can get a little pissed at work sometimes and possibly take it out some on others. Both have their plusses and minuses, but none to the extreme better or worse than the other. The coaster line up, theming, and food is a different story though.

And olympic, ever heard of Woodstock's Express, or Camp Snoopy, or Power Tower, or Boomerang, or Berenstein Bears, or Morgan hypers, or big "bad" woodies, or...

Welcome to Coasterbuzz.T-Shirts are available in the Lobby.Please dispose of all before entering or you will be strapped to the back of Mean Streak for the entire season! Thank you. Enjoy the Site. *** This post was edited by Koaster King on 5/17/2001. ***
Thursday, May 17, 2001 6:16 PM
Cedar Fair seems to take a very low-key approach to managing parks, unlike Six Flags. The most obvious difference ought to be the names: they don't call their parks Cedar Fair Cedar Point, Cedar Fair Knott's, Cedar Fair etc. As was mentioned above, they don't install identical coasters with identical or largely similar names. The parks remain unique and while Cedar Fair does handle the big economic decisions and such, for the most part the parks still operate independently. Six Flags parks do not seem to operate this way. I prefer Cedar Fair since their parks do retain some of their original character and uniqueness -- which we will hopefully witness in the next few seasons with the two newly-acquired parks.

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Thursday, May 17, 2001 7:13 PM
Jeff's avatar Lord Gonchar: I disagree... The improvements to SFMM and SFWoA have absolutely nothing to do with Cedar Point. In SoCal, it has everything to do with Disney and Knott's. In Ohio, the market simply has room for another player. If that weren't true, you wouldn't see attendance increases like we had last year at the big parks, despite crappy weather.

You say, "Cedar Fair had better follow suit if they want to survive." Why would they not survive? Because they have fewer parks? If that were true, how do parks like Holiday World, Kennywood, Knoebels and the like survive?

The difference in philosophy toward acquisition between the two companies has more to do with the immediacy of return on investment. Kinzel said that for an interview on this very site. If they don't see a return within a few years, they don't buy. Six Flags tends to get in it for the long haul, incurring more debt and immediately pouring capital in to the park.

The original question of this topic is too broad in scope. From an acquisition standpoint, no, I don't see Cedar Fair being nearly as aggressive as Six Flags has. As for operation and capital improvements, CF will also take it much slower.

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Thursday, May 17, 2001 7:51 PM
Wow Koaster King. I don't usually argee with most stuff you post, but I think you're dead-on about the customer service thing. The only time I've ever had to deal with custmor service was on a visit to SFOT when the power went out, and they were really cool about giving us free tickets. Other than that, I've never had to deal with any customer service issues. Ride ops are ride ops, people are people. They don't really make a difference to me. It's all about the coasters baby!
Thursday, May 17, 2001 8:02 PM
One minor point Koaster King, FUN doesn't really own KCS. It only manages it. However, I can't think of any completely indoor Six Flags parks that surpass KCS. If I remember right at one point(before PKS), Six Flags did own the power plant in Baltimore, and may have owned Auto World a short time before it was demolished.
Thursday, May 17, 2001 8:36 PM

coastergoose said:
"In my opinion, no, because Six Flags does own some really crappy parks like SFEL, SFDL (other than S:ROS), Fonteir City, and SFAW. Does anybody agree with me?"

I feel... insulted...

How could you say Six Flags Darien Lake is a crappy park? Have you even been to there?

I know you are all entitled to your opinions... but consider this:
* Only Six Flags park with a on-site hotel.
* Has 2000 site campground.
* 900+ total acrage including campground.
* 3 Original World-Class coasters (ok, it's a start... but better than nothing), plus 2 clones.
* Very well situated with possibilities of expansion
* Very nice landscaping w/ good choices of flowers & bushes (just not nearly enough).
Thursday, May 17, 2001 9:44 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar Hmmm, I guess I worded that line all wrong in hindsight, Jeff.

Cedar Fair had better follow suit if they want to compete.

That's better. :)

Granted I don't have half the knowledge of these companies (Cedar Fair especially) as you do Jeff, so I'm just going by what I see. The title of "Most Coasters at one Park" does mean a lot - even to us enthusiasts who pretend to be too cool to care. It's an incredible marketing tagline. Taking that from CP was a huge calculated step. Yes, SFMM has tons of competition in SoCal but one coaster (especially something like X) would have gotten the crowds there. I think SF had all intentions of building three coasters for bragging rights, plus it made good financial sense for their market. SFWOA is the most direct competition CP has possibly ever seen. PKI always just kept pace with CP. Both parks added new rides at a nice pace keeping visitors happy and it worked fine. Geauga Lake was that small park in Eastern Ohio. SF came in and built 5 coasters, added smaller attractions, bought a neighboring park and in the course of two seasons has become a major player in that area.

Enthusiasts may travel at will to see parks and rides, but the (and I hate this term) "General Public" probably won't. I know that this will be the first year since 1994 that I won't be making a stop at CP. I will be going to SFWOA this year (and I'm from FL). The presence of SFWOA has immediately made potential visitors stop and think about which park they will visit on any given day. If you live anywhere east of Ohio and are looking to hit a "big" park - I'd say most folks will cut down on the driving and stop in Aurora. Again, I'm speaking of Joe Public who packs up his wife and kids for the day (or possibly even overnight) to spend a big day at the amusement park. Folks heading west to CP are much more likely to plan for the shorter drive.

Six Flags knows this. Again, I think it's a very calculated move. I wouldn't be surprised if they keep pumping money into that park until it becomes THE place to go in Ohio. With the renovations and purchase of Sea World they have a lot they could do. The next ten years are going to be VERY exciting in that part of amusement park world.

Back to my poorly worded quote:

Parks like Kennywood, Knoebel's and Holiday world survive on a much more local, community level than the SF and CF parks (well cedar point in this case). They also don't exactly add major attractions every other year. Kennywood's getting their first major coaster in ten years and it's a modification of an existing one. (Exterminator isn't exactly "major") Yes, they'll be fine if they just keep doing their own thing. Same with the other small parks. But the majors want to increase capital. The best way to do that is to capture market. Six Flags really took a "balls out" approach to this in the past few years and I think they've decided they want Ohio and I see them with the momentum. The more parks they buy, the more momentum they have behind them. This year their smaller parks (which are in smaller markets that they alone usually control) got next to nothing, they didn't need it. The biggest area of competition (SoCal) got the big guns. SFWOA could've done another great year if nothing changed and they kept the same SFO they had last year, but they opted to buy an adjoining park and add one of the newest style coasters around. That's a hell of a statement..."4 new coasters and park improvements aren't enough. Buy the park beside us and add a cutting edge ride" That just screams of going for the throat. They're out to command that area. CP will be around forever (as long as amusement parks at least) but unless they start generating more revenue somewhere, they'll get passed by. The bigger Six Flags (and SFWOA in particular) get, the more ammo they have to keep chipping away at CP's pie.

That's where I get into the slowing economy thing. Survey's already show people being more conservative this year with their vacations and spending. If this becomes more of a trend and less of a blip like it is now, then SFWOA will certainly take some of CP's business. This comes back to the geographical side of things. I'm from western PA (until 2 years ago) - I know CP considers that a big part of their potential customer base. Yes we have kennywood but you always have to make that trip to the big park. That was always CP for a vast majority of people in that area. 3 hour drive - overnight stay if you wanted any sleep and sanity. This year you have SFWOA a mere hour and a half away - no overnight stay necessary. Tack on the really out of the loop crowd that doesn't give a crap about the industry who just liked taking the family to Sea World. Imagine their surprise when they pull up in the minivan and see this massive park boasting all benefits of Sea World and Geauga Lake for one nice neat ticket price. The only non effect would be for non-entusiasts who are closer to CP than SFWOA (central ohio and west) Enthisiasts will go to where the rides are regardless. But a new ride like X-Flight in the midwest is making more than a few mouths water.

It'll be interesting to see the numbers at the end of this season and even more interesting to have this same conversation in 2011 - no you really can't compare the two companies in any way except that they both thrive in the amusement industry. But this boom in popularity in parks and rides is bound come back down and when it does...I can't wait to see who's on top.

(Maybe I think about this stuff too much, especially as a loyal CP supporter. Why must I play devil's advocate so often in life?)
Thursday, May 17, 2001 10:29 PM
I think that there really is a difference in business philosophy between SFI and CF:LP.

For CF:LP, it's all about ROI. In many interviews, including the one done published by Jeff on this site, CF higher-ups insist that they don't build rides just for the sake of breaking records and the likes. They carefully examine how much revenue can be generated off of each ride, and then they decide to install it if they like what they see projected. If I'm not mistaken, CF:LP also runs each park as a separate entity. The revenue from each park pays for new
improvements and attractions at that park alone, instead of pooling revenues. CF:LP has always appeared to me as an outfit that runs a tight operation that maximizes profit while maintaining a good environment.

SFI, on the other hand, is all about going all out. They build new rides constantly and at record setting paces (which is good right now for us enthusiasts). And I maintain that Six Flags is the undisputed king of marketing. I mean, what they have done is pure genius--taken two simple words and made them synonymous with big time fun and thrills. Go ask a random person on the street what Valleyfair is, and they'll likely be clueless (Heck, someone up above referred to Worlds of Fun as Worlds of Fair. And as for WOF vs. SFSTL or SFAW, well, I won't even get started on that rant). But almost anyone with a brain knows that Six Flags is a theme park chain. And chances are, if on vacation or traveling and looking for something to do, they'll look for a Six Flags park.

I'm not a business tycoon, so I don't know if the cautious spending CF:LP techniques or the big investment and marketing ways of SFI will work out better in the end. What I do seem to think is that CF:LP plans future attractions, expansions, and development direction better than SFI (several have mentioned that SFGL has no long term plan, and the late addition of X-Flight seems to point toward this insight; it has also been reiterated many times that MF was planned well in advance). If I were going to invest money in one of the two, I'd put my money with CF:LP...
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Adam Rentchler
Thursday, May 17, 2001 10:32 PM
Once again, very good points Lord! ;) Your the first poster I have read on this site who has the courage to release himself from "home park" cheerleading long enough to look at this from the public's point of view as well as the enthusiast. As enthusiasts we tend to think we know best, but there is one thing we just can't control, and that is the general public's pocketbook. They'll spend their hard earned money where they darn well please, no matter how many times people bash certain park chains. Six Flags is counting on that.

Too much is simply NOT ENOUGH... *** This post was edited by OutKast on 5/18/2001. ***
Friday, May 18, 2001 4:31 AM
Jeff's avatar LG: Interesting that you bring up the thing about records, and what they mean to people, especially the public at large. I did an interview with a Chicago-area newspaper yesterday who wanted to talk about coasters, in particular the boom of construction. The reporter asked, "Millennium Force was the first coaster taller than Magnum, right?" She asked this despite the fact that SFGAm is her home park, where Raging Bull is a few feet taller and build the year before The Force. Even in the Internet world, word doesn't always travel fast, if at all.

Is "most coasters" a good marketing tool? Yes, of course it is, but only to the area you market to. Did Cedar Point advertise in SoCal last year? I doubt it. Will SFMM advertise in Cleveland or Detroit this year? Nope.

Despite proportionately less capital spending, Cedar Fair does OK in all of their markets. The slowing economy (which I think is largely analyst-generated B.S.) can actually help amusement parks, because it keeps their vacation dollars close to home. If money is tight, are you going to go to Orlando or one of the coasts? Not if you can go to a closer amusement park. I think that's the one thing that the analysts have gotten right about the industry, that the parks are fairly recession resistant.

I could go on a bit about the marketing practices of CP vs. SFWoA this year, but that's the topic for another thread. I think both will do well this year, but one park isn't going to take business away from the other.

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Friday, May 18, 2001 6:30 AM
slithernoggin's avatar Unlike some of those who have posted, and like, I think, a certain share of the public large, I notice how I am treated by employees at parks. At Cedar Point, employees by and large are friendly and courteous. Yes, there are some nasty ones. But for the most part, nice people. To compare: at SFWoA last year, the first employees we met, the season pass people, were, to a person, very curt, and not friendly. With our new season passes, we proceeded to the entrance, where the employee was sitting on one of the turnstiles, waving people through. While there were some friendly people at SFWoA, for the most part they were not particularly friendly. And that has, in my experience, been true at each of the Six Flags parks I've visited: some nice people, but as a whole not a group enthusiastic about their jobs or employer.

Last year, we went to 3 Six Flags parks, WoA, GrAm, and St Louis. This year, we're not buying season passes, and we may go to Great America, or we may not. We will be going to Kennywood and Kings Island, among others. But one part of what has put us off of Six Flags is the customer service skills of their employees at several of their parks.

As for those people surprised by what they'll find at where they expected to find Sea World... do you really think everyone who was looking for Shamu and a pleasant park experience is going to be pleased to find no Shamu, big rides, lots of unsupervised teens, and higher prices? SFWoA has seriously muddled its image to the GP; attendance numbers for SFWoA this year aren't going to be as interesting as say 5 years out, so that we can see whether they track up or down...

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