More Problems For Conneaut Lake Park

Monday, January 29, 2007 9:05 PM

Lord Gonchar said:
I suppose that depends on the definition of 'too quick', Rob.

The park did originally close for that 1995 season. That makes 11 years of borrowed time (and money) - when exactly is it 'ok' to throw in the towel? 20 years? 25? 30? 50?

I suppose the flip side to giving up too easily is not knowing when to quit. How much money, time and effort have to be wasted before you just can't waste it anymore?

I'm surprised they've kicked the horse this far.


Wow, i hadn't realized it had been that long. But you are right. 11 - 12 years already. Wow, my youngest daughter was 4 yrs old. (looking in mirror at grey beard.) The horse has been kicked a lot.

Hey, maybe Cedar Fair could buy the Tumble Bug and put it where X-flight use to be. ;)

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Monday, January 29, 2007 9:11 PM
If you go to CLP on an event weekend (Doo-Wop, Polka festival, Pumpkin Festival, etc), the place is rockin'! The problem is, the non-event weekends are much lighter, and weekday crowds are almost non-existant. One of the biggest problems that the park seems to have is not enough advertising and publicity, even for their events. If they advertised in the right markets, had more 'event' weekends (possibly including concerts), expand their group picnic sales, and just plain get the word out that they're open for business (many people who used to enjoy going to the park think that the park closed for good years ago and never reopened!), they might be able to start making ends meet and turn the corner once again.
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Monday, January 29, 2007 11:34 PM

Lord Gonchar said:
Quite frankly, CLP is surrounded by 'better' options (better options that you have to drive right by to get to Conneaut) and have to rely on people in the area - the only problem is people aren't coming to the area like they used to - not even close.

I thought it'd be cool to try to visualize this idea.

So I did a map with a 50 mile radius for each park (or parks) in the area. You can see how CLP is getting the squeeze - so to speak.

Even more telling is if you expand it to 75 miles. Clearly there are closer options for most people in the area...to make it even tougher, Conneaut arguably offers the least of all those parks. (and that's not a slam, I just mean the lowest number of attractions, the least 'polished' feel of all the parks, etc) Also, at the 75 mile mark, CLP's entire radius is eaten up by other parks.

Also consider sliding that red circle to the left just a bit and suddenly you're dealing with three amusement parks and Niagara Falls.

Seems easy to see why the park is having a hard time drawing a significant crowd. Really, who (aside from us hardcore types) is going to choose CLP over another park?

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 1:05 AM
That last paragraph sums it up nicely. That's a big part of why so many of these little places are falling by the wayside. Their attractions lack zip or panache (at least how the casual parkgoer might define them), are aging and often quite badly.

And this is taking place within a context of declining or flat attendance in the industry as a whole (okay, this is not a universal phenomenon, but it applies to a substantial chunk of the industry). A rising tide buoys all ships, and a receding tide strands the shallowest boats first. Amusement parks aren't the only institutions to suffer. Theater, museums, classical music, camping, backpacking, RV travel, all these are losing out in an era when Americans can strap themselves into their iPod/iPhone/iTV/iComputer/iWhatever and dissociate from the rest of reality.... Not that I personally know anybody who does this, but I've heard tell it's huge.

So places like CLP are canaries in our cultural coal mine, if you don't mind another horrid analogy. And I'm probably overstating my case, but I hope the point is given.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 1:10 AM

Rob Ascough said:
Why is it a silly idea? Because you don't agree with it? I like how things that you don't agree with are "silly" or "stupid".
I'm not allowed to think an idea is silly or stupid? Why not?

I think I spelled it out pretty clearly: There's no significant population base to support that. I mean, you might get some county fair talent to a venue out there, but then the county fair probably has a lock on that already!

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 1:12 AM
Industry attendance is not declining if you don't figure in Six Flags. Our most beloved small parks continue to do well, year after year.
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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 8:23 AM
Speaking of county fairs, that's another source of competition for CLP. Sure, the fairs dont have the Blue Streak, but they often have a good collection of flats. Those fairs are everywhere in western PA and NE Ohio and many of them draw big crowds.

One thing going for IB is that there are only two parks of significant size (as opposed to glorified FECs, etc.) in Indiana. As a small park with first-rate attractions (Cornball Express, Den of Lost Thieves, etc.), it provides a nice change from the megaparks such as SFGAm, CP, and KI. It is also very affordable with its choice of half-day and all day ride passes and low general admission. Also, it's another one of those parks with good park food like KW and Knoebels. IB seems to be doing many of the things that a park like KW does and while it is nowhere near the megaparks in attendance, it is one of the more popular smaller parks. They seem to understand what is needed for a small park to be successful just as is the case with Waldameer and DelGrossos.

Speaking of Waldameer, that is another cloud on CLPs horizon. CLP has one thing over Waldameer at present and that is Blue Streak. Waldameer's only wooden coaster is a junior ride. Ravine Flyer II will change that next year.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 8:51 AM
Jeff, I just think it's funny that, more often than not, you refer to something you disagree with as silly (or something to that effect). It's like you need to validate your point of view by insulting someone else's... as if that's going to add strength to what you're getting at. That's all I'm saying.

Thanks for the map, Gonch. The thing is, Conneaut has operated for years with that kind of local competition. In fact, if you go back 25 years, I'm sure you could add another dozen or so circles to that map. The park always operated in a market crowded with amusement parks and I maintain that it would remain a viable entity if it weren't for the debt that weighs the place down. If people really wanted to get things under control, what they'd do is find a way to get the park's debt forgiven so they could start with what amounts to a clean slate. Right now what they're doing is akin to running in quicksand and, not surprisingly, it's not working.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 9:23 AM
Back in the 1960s, CLP was doing well even though there were more parks within those circles. Two of the main competitors that are now gone were West View and Idora. Both of these parks had a good collection of rides including some very good wooden coasters.
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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 10:14 AM

dexter said:
Lakemont Park has a wonderful event during the summer months. They call it "Wing Off", and the event is once a week. This gets tons of people there.

I really think this is what they need to do, get people there with fun events like that. Have a battle of the bands, a happy hour at the bar, allow dogs, have cook offs, craft shows, model train shows, trading card shows etc. Then, if the rides are up, the food stands are up, people will bring their kids and money will flow.

I don't know if that gets them out of debt or not, but its at least a start and seems to me like a better solution than just operating as an amusement park only.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 11:03 AM

Arthur Bahl said:
One thing going for IB is that there are only two parks of significant size (as opposed to glorified FECs, etc.) in Indiana.

Bingo! I made another map for Indiana. Same 50 mile circles. What do I notice first? A population of almost 800,000 people with no real 'local' park. (and that's just the Indianapolis city population, not a full metro area population number)

What's the next thing I notice? Two of the best known, most successful 'small' parks lie immediately in that area around Indianapolis.

Coincidence or another case of location being very important?

(note: I didn't put Fun Spot on that map or any 'smaller' FEC style places and I grouped the Cincinnati parks as one)


Rob Ascough said:
Thanks for the map, Gonch. The thing is, Conneaut has operated for years with that kind of local competition. In fact, if you go back 25 years, I'm sure you could add another dozen or so circles to that map.

You know what'd be neat? Going back 20 or 30 or 40 years and adding those lost parks. Starting with a 25 mile or so radius and doing an animation of those circles growing a little each year. I bet you could literally watch those other parks get squeezed out of the picture. I'm not going to do it. Just an observation.

I dunno. I don't see how CLP can keep up much longer. They're losing money more and more with each passing year. It just doesn't seem possible to run a park that can't turn a profit for very long before you have to throw in the towel. Then add the debt to it and...ugh.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 11:38 AM
Hey Gonch, you forgot Memphis Kiddie Park (which seems to do just fine) in your map ;)
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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 11:48 AM
Heh. You're right, Lori. :)

I was skipping the smaller stuff.

If I'm forced to give an explanation, I see three things:

1. It's situated pretty much in a population base (Cleveland) - a far cry from the rural landscape of the CLP area.

2. Kiddie Park. It's not even an attempt to compete on the larger park level - which probably actually helps them. It's not a 'spend a day at the park' kind of place.

3. Erieview (just outside of that population base) just closed their doors for good.

But yeah, I left Memphis Kiddie Park off the map. :)

*** Edited 1/30/2007 5:01:17 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 12:00 PM
What I'm saying is, what if the park got rid of the debt?
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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 12:04 PM
Then they'd still be screwed because they don't appear to be making a profit.

Unless, of course, the difference between profit and loss is the debt payment. But I don't think it's ever been detailed - at least not for our consumption.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 12:15 PM

Rob Ascough said:
Jeff, I just think it's funny that, more often than not, you refer to something you disagree with as silly (or something to that effect).
Again, which part of that is outside the bounds of me expressing an opinion? It's not like I said you were silly.

There are two simple facts at play here, that supersede any of our opinions: 1) The park isn't generating enough interest to draw customers, and 2) No amount of borrowing has countered that.

That, to me, screams that it's time to pack it in.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 12:18 PM
They came "fairly close", gave us enough to make a decent educated guess.

Sounds to me like they'd be ABOUT at break-even if there were no interest payments. As Gonch would say (but I'mma beat him to it, LOL), break-even is NOT the same as showing a profit...not even CLOSE.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 12:23 PM
But you know what, Gator. Breaking even is enough to buy one thing - time. It's the figurative difference between treading water and drowning.

Breaking even isn't an answer, but it may afford the time to find the answer.

With that said, I have a funny feeling the park still wouldn't break even if the debt was cleared. That's not based in anything but my own suspicions.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 1:54 PM
I don't know the specifics but I'm getting the impression that if the park wasn't obligated to make all those debt payments, they'd be turning a profit.

Think of it as credit card debt. Suppose you net $4000/month. Your mortgage is $2000, car payment is $500, car insurance is $250 and living expenses are another $1000. That means you have $250 to play around with, but if you factor in $500 credit card payments, you're actually losing money.

I know for a fact that attendance is increasing each year (even if its ever-so-slightly) and people that work for the park are saying that they are coming close to turning a profit. To me, it sounds as if the park's debt was gone, they would be turning a profit, which means they could not only pay their bills but also invest in the park itself. Seems pretty black-and-white to me.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 2:03 PM
I get it, Rob. But I think (again, just speculation) that it's closer to this:

Suppose you net $3500. Mortgage is $2000, Car is $500, Insurance is $250, living expense is $1000, credit is $500. At the end you're $750 short. Remove the credit and you're still $250 in the hole.

But who knows? If the park folks are giving the impression that the debt is the deciding factor, then perhaps it is. But where is CLP coming up with a quick $2,000,000?

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