Merlin says it's not talking to SeaWorld, Parques Reunidos the latest rumored suitor

Posted Thursday, October 12, 2017 11:43 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Merlin Entertainments Plc isn’t talking to SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. about an acquisition of the U.S. company or a deal for any of its parts, the U.K. owner of Legoland theme parks said. Merlin, which has been seeking to expand overseas to offset a slide in day trippers visiting London, previously approached SeaWorld about a potential transaction, people familiar with the matter said last week.

Read more from Bloomberg.

Thursday, October 12, 2017 11:58 AM

Parques’ US subsidiary, Palace Entertainment, has made a **** show out of Kennywood and especially Idlewild. I sincerely hope this isn’t true.

Edit: people are probably going to call me out for this vague comment, so here's some of my reasoning:

Before being acquired, Kennywood was adding a new attraction every couple of years. Under Palace the last major attraction was Black Widow which opened 5 years ago, and if we're lucky rumors suggest that something will replace the Log Jammer in 2019. Idlewild hasn't added anything except for a lazy river several years ago and a cheap Mr Rogers' Neighborhood renovation. In addition, Idlewild has lost several attractions: they removed the Caterpillar due to safety concerns, the Whip hasn't operated in years, and the Wild Mouse is down to only three cars because that's all they sent to Vekome to be renovated.

Kennywood was rotating out mazes for Phantom Fright Nights every couple of years. Since Palace took over nothing new has been added and the event is extremely stale.

While staffing is a challenge for many parks (see Cedar Fair's quarterly report), Idlewild is in extremely bad shape. I went to the park over labor day weekend a few years ago and more than half of the water park and a third of the dry rides were closed due to lack of staffing.

I worked in rides at Kennywood when I was in college before Palace took over. All team members who started the day were required to come in an hour early to clean. Palace has substantially cut back in the number of employees who come in early and you can tell -- the rides and park itself are fairly dirty.

Idlewild's budget for landscaping has been cut substantially and some years there are hardly any flowers to be seen.

The operations are pretty sad as well -- if crowds aren't big enough and it starts raining, even only for half an hour, they'll close the park. Last year they even closed Kennywood in the middle of the afternoon on a sunny day simply because the crowd was too light. They give out rainchecks but I think this is extremely unfortunate for people who took off work or traveled from a distance to visit.

Edit 2: After the accident on Rollo Coaster in which a child was severely injured, the state released a report that was pretty damning in terms of both training and ride maintenance. The state found that the operators were inadequately trained and may have been signed off on operations for which they were not trained. In addition, they found several major issues with the ride including worn hitches, structural and footer deterioration, and track gauge issues. (Source) Obviously I cannot directly pin this on Palace but it seems to go with my own observations as a frequent visitor to their parks that employees are no longer motivated.

Last edited by PhantomTails, Thursday, October 12, 2017 12:33 PM
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Friday, October 13, 2017 11:29 AM

I'd hate to see Busch Gardens sink to that description. From what I've seen of Dollywood, maybe I'd want Herschend to take over the Busch Gardens parks, keep that homely feel.

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Friday, October 13, 2017 5:31 PM

Did I miss something and Sea World is being sold for sure? It's been a long time since I have been to a Busch park, but not THAT long where I can imagine a significant downturn in the crowds that would force them to sell.


"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

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Saturday, October 14, 2017 8:51 AM

For fiscal quarter ending in March, attendance dropped 14.9% or roughly 500,000 visitors from same quarter 2016. Some is attributed to the Blackfish documentary and animal rights protests, some to the late Spring Break 2017 which fell in April this year. With April thrown in (to account for numbers usually seen in March with Easter/Spring break) attendance #'s were flat.

However Seaworld saw 61.4 million dollar net revenue loss due to those numbers. Not a small chunk of change. I figure the average attendee spends around $100 each time they pass through the turnstiles (park entrance fee, souvenirs, food and beverage, parking, etc). Now some spend less if they average each visit out with a season pass, but the vast majority of visitors skew to the opposite spectrum, and buy daily or multi day tickets. So $100 is a conservative estimate. But $100 times 500,000 is 50 million in lost revenue for the quarter.

I'm just hoping that if they are sold, or more likely pieced off; they aren't sold to Cedar Fair or Six Flags (or any similar conglomerate amusement operators. Busch Gardens has a unique approach to operations, and general feel to the parks. While I love Cedar Fair properties, I think if they acquired Busch Gardens, they'd convert it to the Cedar Fair template, and it'd lose a lot of its charm.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017 11:10 AM
Jeff's avatar

Per capita spending at regional parks is nowhere near $100. San Diego and Orlando aside, I think they're biggest issue is that they're weak with big flashy cap ex projects. Somewhere along the line they stopped building new and big attractions. (Mako apparently stopped the bleeding in Orlando, but they can't seem to get the pricing right.)


Jeff - Webmaster/Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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Sunday, October 15, 2017 1:58 PM

Busch Gardens Williamsburg a regional park? Situated as it is in the historic triangle, I’d be apt to believe that out of state visitors make up a healthy portion of their gate. I haven,t been able to find demographics on their attendance figures, if you have any please feel free to share them. Cedar Point is another park that is definitely not a regional park, its a destination park with an abundance of out of state dollars. Parks like Six Flags and most of the Cedar Fair chain generate 5heir revenue through repeat visits/season pass bringing per trip cost down for average patron, but Busch Gardens and Cedar Point don,t . Average patron pays 60 jst to get in the door, factor in fast passes/quick queues, meals and parking and $100 is easily attained.

Edit***best I could find was 2009 revenue numbers which was 1.1 billion, and included attendance figures of 4.4 million. That comes out to $241 of revenue per guest. But thats 8 years ago, so the data wouldn,t translate to todays climate. But it gives a rough outline.

Last edited by Tbone's chop, Sunday, October 15, 2017 3:37 PM
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Sunday, October 15, 2017 3:18 PM
Jeff's avatar

Per capita spending is $66 as of last May. Outside of Disney, average admission is well below gate price, because of passes, online discounts and groups sales. BGW is seasonal and does less than 3 million guests per year, less than Cedar Point. That's regional.


Jeff - Webmaster/Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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Sunday, October 15, 2017 3:47 PM

No that per capita spending is $66 as of March, these are first quarter numbers, they don,t include attendance figures from April on, it also doesn’t cite the demographics of those visits (out of state vs in state visitors)) it does cite that Latin America visits declined by 24,000, while this in itself proves nothing it does suggest they rely on out of state tourism.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017 4:19 PM

Tbone's chop said:

No that per capita spending is $66 as of March, these are first quarter numbers, they don,t include attendance figures from April on, it also doesn’t cite the demographics of those visits (out of state vs in state visitors)) it does cite that Latin America visits declined by 24,000, while this in itself proves nothing it does suggest they rely on out of state tourism.

The 2nd quarter results are not relevant in any way to what Jeff reported.

Per capita spending in the 2nd quarter was down to $61.05. That was $36.74 admission per cap and $24.31 in-park spending per cap.

The Latin America tourism primarily benefits the parks in Florida.

I absolutely do not understand why SeaWorld Entertainment would consider selling off the Busch Gardens parks, especially Tampa. It seems like the combination of Busch Gardens Tampa and SeaWorld Orlando would be a marketable part of selling passes to locals in the Orlando and Tampa markets.

Parques Reunidos is a terrible operator. They're cheap to the point that they may be endangering guests. They don't care about the guest experience. They don't care about investing in their parks. Additional parks they've destroyed- Lake Compounce and Castle Park in Riverside, California too.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017 4:23 PM

Disney theme park division showed revenues of 14.4 billion for 2016, while seeing attendance figures of 139 million. But then again Im not sure on the landscape of Disney tourism at their parks like Paris, Shangai etc. Orlando is defintely a HUGE destination for Out of Staters, and most visits to the Orlando parks are multi consecutive days. I’m not sure how true that holds for their other parks (including Annaheim DL/CA)

DL/CA had combined attendance in 2016 of 27 million; while the four main parks at DW generated attendance figures of 53.7 million; I would attribute alot to the park hopper feature, multiple park visits in the same day which will decrease the Avg revenue per guest figures while also inflating the attendance figures. But if you were able to see the actual numbers per park, itd bet the avg $$$ spent at the Orlando parks greatly outweighs the Cali parks by a wide margin. With BGW, we’re applying the companywide revenues to BGW. I just don’t believe BGW generates the same as say Seaworld San Antonio, or BGT for that matter.

Last edited by Tbone's chop, Sunday, October 15, 2017 5:01 PM
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Sunday, October 15, 2017 4:57 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

Disneyland Resort has a large number of locals as part of its customer base, many of whom have passes, whereas WDW attracts many more guests making a vacation visit. WDW is also a huge draw for international visitors.

egieszl: It may be that SeaWorld Entertainment is not so much considering selling off the Busch Gardens parks as realizing they would be the assets easiest to sell.


Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. -- Groucho Marx

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Sunday, October 15, 2017 5:46 PM

I’m of the thought that a regional park is one in which the average patron you meet is from that state or its contiguous states; whereas a destination park is one where you get a collection of out of staters and international travelers. Carowinds, Kings Island, Holiday World, Kennywood, Six Flags Great America are all parks where if I ask someone where they’re from, it’s a rarity if they’ve travelled more than 200 miles; whereas parks like WDW and (from my experiences) Cedar point and Busch Gardens, its anyones guess where someone came from. Moreso at DW than anywhere else Ive travelled, but it does apply to Cedar Point and BGW in my experiences also (CP because its a coaster destination on the lake with ALOT of lodging options, BGW because it lies within the historic triangle. It may be hyperbole; but I can’t remember talking to anyone from Virginia, Maryland or The Carolinas while I visited, but met a ton of folks from Ohio, Illinois and Nebraska.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017 6:28 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

Yes, but...

....both Busch parks are located near significant attractions. They're not destination resorts.

People who are going to Cedar Point are going there because of Cedar Point. There's not much there there, otherwise.

On the other hand, both Busch parks are near other tourist attractions ( Colonial Williamsburg, WDW), and can piggyback on proximity.

And sorry, but the few (out of the thousands visiting the park), the people you speak with on your visits don't constitute a viable consensus.


Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. -- Groucho Marx

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Sunday, October 15, 2017 7:44 PM

slithernoggin said:
Yes, but...

....both Busch parks are located near significant attractions. They're not destination resorts.

People who are going to Cedar Point are going there because of Cedar Point. There's not much there there, otherwise.

On the other hand, both Busch parks are near other tourist attractions ( Colonial Williamsburg, WDW), and can piggyback

With BGW; I absolutely agree, I pointed out they're in the historic triangle, Jamestown is a 7 minute drive, and Yorktown took me 20 from Williamsburg. (Of course Colonial Williamsburg is two minutes outside park gates).

I disagree that Busch Gardens Tampa sees any significant piggyback/proximity boost from Disney. Universal sees some, but with a Disney vacation more often than not, it's all Disney. Seaworld Orlando is a different story, don't know if you meant to say SWO and just mentioned both Busch Parks.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017 9:01 PM

egieszl said:

Parques Reunidos is a terrible operator. They're cheap to the point that they may be endangering guests....Additional parks they've destroyed- Lake Compounce and Castle Park in Riverside, California too.

What they have done to Castle Park is a crime. We should all hope that they don't get their hands on any of the BG/SEA parks if their past performance is any guide.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017 10:46 PM

I really can't believe we are arguing about what a "Regional" park is. I thought that industry classification was readily understood.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017 10:46 PM
Jeff's avatar

Tbone's chop said:

No that per capita spending is $66 as of March, these are first quarter numbers, they don,t include attendance figures from April on...

Not sure I see your point. Per cap is average, not cumulative. It's still never anywhere close to the $100 you were suggesting.

egieszl said:
I absolutely do not understand why SeaWorld Entertainment would consider selling off the Busch Gardens parks, especially Tampa. It seems like the combination of Busch Gardens Tampa and SeaWorld Orlando would be a marketable part of selling passes to locals in the Orlando and Tampa markets.

I don't get it either, and as a local, I rarely see any cross promotion of BGT and SW. I believe it's mentioned for online pass sales, but I don't see anything more. For national roller coaster day, which apparently is a thing, they did a promo to ride all of the coasters at both parks. Not sure how that went. The big local push seems to be for SWO and Aquatica.


Jeff - Webmaster/Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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Sunday, October 15, 2017 10:57 PM

Jeff said:

Tbone's chop said:

No that per capita spending is $66 as of March, these are first quarter numbers, they don,t include attendance figures from April on...

Not sure I see your point. Per cap is average, not cumulative. It's still never anywhere close to the $100 you were suggesting.

That number is cumulative for Seaworld; youre gonna have certain parks trend higher and some lower. Example would be Valleyfair and Cedar Point. Cedar Fair averages $51 per capita across the chain, but I’m confident Valleyfair trends lower (being an inconveniently located park) whereas Cedar Point trends higher. Of course individual revenue numbers are needed as well as individual park attendance.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017 11:06 PM

Tbone's chop said:

some gibberish that proves the fact that he has no grasp of the definition of certain words.

Dude, being an inconveniently located park has no real bearing on avg per cap. It might be the only thing around in a cold ass climate, and thus for the few days that it's open, people may go all crazy and spend that money. They may not have to discount as heavily as other parks that have competition (looking at you Magic Mountain).

No correlation.

Last edited by CreditWh0re, Monday, October 16, 2017 12:35 AM
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