Motley Fool: Six Flags turning things around?

Posted Thursday, April 1, 2004 8:13 AM | Contributed by Jeff

In an editorial yesterday, The Motley Fool columnist Rick Aristotle Munarriz says that Six Flags might be heading for a turn around after years of declining attendance. He says success hinges on positive cash flow and obvious operational improvement, such as clean bathrooms and rides running at capacity.

Read more from The Motley Fool.

Thursday, April 1, 2004 9:01 AM
.. and on that note.. I'll delete my forum post... heheh

I just love the fact that pretty much everyone in the industry and even some out, realize you can't run a good park with dirty bathrooms and low capacity.*** This post was edited by Red Garter Rob 4/1/2004 10:15:10 AM ***

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Thursday, April 1, 2004 10:26 AM
Rides running at capacity? Where? Every trip report I've seen from the Mountain in the past few weeks indicates that they are still running business as usual. Same with SFKK. I will believe all this operational improvement when I see it. Don't count on this stock going anywhere but down.
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Thursday, April 1, 2004 10:42 AM
I fully believe they are changing. Prime example - Astroworld. I went opening day. The park was amazingly clean throughout the day, the new paint looked great, the employees were very friendly everywhere I went, and all rides ran with at least two trains (except XLR8). From went I've heard, this is a major change from past years.
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Thursday, April 1, 2004 11:16 AM
Bob, from what I saw at SFoG, the rides on Saturday were running at or near full capacity....plus, I'd imagine the real *push*, so to speak, is to be READY come Memorial Day weekend.

Painting was done during the offseason, trash cans emptied DURING the day (wooohooo!), and the parks was clean and friendly. I may be biased toward SFoG in particular, but I'm seeing things that sound promising...yes, EVEN from "The Mountain". I'm sticking with my earlier stock price predictions...Miss Cleo said I should....:)

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Thursday, April 1, 2004 11:38 AM
"Rides running at capacity? Where? Every trip report I've seen from the Mountain in the past few weeks indicates that they are still running business as usual."

Kick - you have to realize SFMM is open year-round. They have to perform maintenance sometime. The real test will come during the upcoming Spring Break and this summer.

mOOSH

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Thursday, April 1, 2004 1:19 PM
Aren't we pretty much in the "upcoming Spring Break" right now ?
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Thursday, April 1, 2004 1:39 PM
I agree totally Shy one !

Astroworld is doing an amazing turn about. It's thrilling to see what they can do when funded. Six Flags is making a huge change. I hope the season does well, so they keep it up.

Unfortunately I think it will take a couple of years for this new image to pay off, and I am afraid they are looking for instant gratification, but time will tell.

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Thursday, April 1, 2004 2:00 PM
Yes, Spring Break started Sunday. On Sunday the only coaster at SFMM running one train was Deja Vu. All flats were open, too.
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Thursday, April 1, 2004 2:15 PM
"Kick" you should really look at Six Flags stock before talking about it going down. I'll agree that it is more or less like a wild coaster ride but I've already seen more than a 50% return on my investment BEFORE they started these grand changes. I've put my money on the stock not going anywhere but UP much like an awesome rollercoaster. It's even UP today.
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Thursday, April 1, 2004 3:07 PM
It might be up for your short, but don't forget it was around $40 a couple of years ago.

I suspect that the renewed focus will vary in effectiveness from park to park in the short term. I don't pretend to know the inner-workings of the corporate culture, but I've said for years that a lot of the parks still retain a certain degree of culture and standards from their previous owners. That's the only way I can account for SFGAm being much better off than the other parks I've been to.

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Thursday, April 1, 2004 3:17 PM
From my *admittedly* limited perspective, it seems that the best-run SF parks simply have the best GMs...sure, the corporate offices TELL the GMs how they should run their parks *in general*, but the specific implementations vary WIDELY from park to park...

As for Jeff's concept of a "local culture", undoubtedly there's also a *persistence of operational policies* even when the management changes..."this is how we've ALWAYS done it"...;)

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Thursday, April 1, 2004 3:26 PM
I know one park in the Six Flags chain that will start to go downhill, Six Flags Great Adventure. Why, well lets see how the season goes there, but I am guessing major budget cuts are on the way. Just keep an eye on trip reports from that park, it shoulwd be interesting. The problem with Six Flags is and will always be their corporate offices, people that don't care and love the amusement park business, but people who just want to see bottom line.
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Thursday, April 1, 2004 5:38 PM
I always have to manage saying every year that you have to remember that it's just the begining of the season... things might seem to change, and they might have a fresh start, but they always seem to when they first open up -- once time goes on in the season we will see how they hold up...

... i forgot exactly what park i remember saying this speech for last year, but i know they didn't "change" in the end -- i mean, this IS the perfect oppurtunity for six flags, but judging on saying the park was clean on the first day is not saying much (in my opinion), hopefully it CONTINUES...

-- alan

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Thursday, April 1, 2004 5:44 PM

Here is the situation as I see it and as a new member to the board. I was a long time park goer at SWOA (well the four seasons it was open). I liked it and thought they had a ton to offer, but you could tell things weren't being done correctly. Staffing was low and the kids that were nice (and there were many) always seemed overwhelmed. I would have to agree with LCA246 on this one. Six Flags is run by business school elites who don't have a passion for the business like lets say Cedar Fair people do. Six Flags will continue to fail until they give their parks bigger operating budgets and allow park management to staff the park fully. All they care about is making money and they think they can do it with minimal staff.

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Thursday, April 1, 2004 9:54 PM

LCA246 said:
I know one park in the Six Flags chain that will start to go downhill, Six Flags Great Adventure. Why, well lets see how the season goes there, but I am guessing major budget cuts are on the way.

Where is that coming from? The only budget that seems to have been cut this year is the budget for new rides chain-wide. On the other hand, Six Flags is spending a lot of money on internal improvements (and employee training) across the chain. So why is their most popular park, of all places, going to be seeing cuts?

FYI, although Gary Story has left his COO position, he was frequently hated on by enthusiasts all over. But he wasn't some "business school elite" in it for the bottom line; he worked in the industry all his life, starting at SFStL when he was just 16.

-Nate
*** This post was edited by coasterdude318 4/1/2004 9:57:26 PM ***

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Friday, April 2, 2004 2:55 AM
/\ Responding to the first part, exactly nate. And not only that, but SFI is spending ca$h on advertising with their new commercials to give the parks a "look at us now" & "come have fun" look. I think the best thing SFI has done in recent years is not add major rides this year. If the company as a whole took a year and didn't add any rides/attractions, but made improvements in the parks(painting, renovating buildings/bathrooms, adding trashcans, fixing paths/dead ends, training, maintainence, staffing, infostructure, etc.), I would be a happy camper.

Make the places look new, warm, and inviting, and keep that image up when peeps enter the park, and attendance would go up. As for selling anymore parks, Will they? Who knows? I sure don't, and if they do, it could be a good thing for them.

Looks to me like SFI is starting to make the right decisions for all the parks across the board.

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Friday, April 2, 2004 3:52 AM
I say this because word on the street is that the manager from SWOA is going to Great Adventure. This man is known as corporate's best freind. I am of the opinion he was to operate SWOA at minimal status until it was drove into the ground and they could sell it. While trying to sell it SF INC. could tell potential buyers, look at how cheap you an run this place. He slashed budgets and from what employees told me, was hated. This gentleman may be at Great Advenutre to "clean up" the park. I would guess less staff operating the place and more unhappy employees. I think he was promised this park if he could help "pull off" the SWOA sale.
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Friday, April 2, 2004 6:12 AM
Commish,

that makes no sense at all! Why would SixFlags put $200 million into a park and then INTENTIONALLY drive it into the ground? And in doing so only get back $140 million when they sell it...

I don't know what street you're on, but I'm glad I'm not there...

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Friday, April 2, 2004 2:01 PM
No, Commish, that's 100% incorrect.

The new GM of SFGAdv is Bill Muirhead. Muirhead was GM of SFGAdv from 1998-2001, then left for an Executive VP of the Eurpean Parks position. Since the European parks are out, however, he's returning to SFGAdv. When the change in GM's was announced, Muirhead said of SFGAdv, "I plan to take this property through its landmark 30th anniversary, and into exciting new directions in the years to come."

I don't know where SFWoA's former GM is going, but I'm guessing he's leaving the company. I can't blame him entirely for SFWoA's failure, as it was an extremely complicated situation, but I don't think he did what he should have for that park to succeed. As for your conspiracy theory about driving the park into the ground, that's laughable at best. Who buys four coasters in one year with the intention of losing money on that huge investment??

-Nate

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