New Ohio Parking Pass Offered by Cedar Fair

Lord Gonchar's avatar
There's a sleazebag or three in every bunch. :)

Oops, I need to edit this to reflect the addition of more responses while I was typing...

Brian Noble said:

I suspect this (and other things like it) are a result of too much to do to integrate the two systems, and too little time to get all the i's dotted and t's crossed.

To which Gonch replied:

I'd also subscribe to that line of thought.

Oh, absolutely. A lot of decisions are being made by Cedar Fair which demonstrate some of the limitations to the company's mostly decentralized operating philosophy, combined with the technical differences between the old Cedar Fair parks and the former CBS parks. This whole parking pass debacle came about in the first place because Cedar Fair's mindset prevents them from seeing the *whole* picture with regard to their combined operation.

Cedar Fair likes to think of itself as a collection of separate, regionally diverse parks. With the exception of Cedar Point/Geauga Lake, that has worked for them. They initially had some problems coming to grips with the fact that Cedar Point and Geauga Lake have overlapping markets, and the fact that they would have customers who want to visit both. It took a year before they figured out how to handle that with the 2-park passes and such. The fact of the matter is that now in at least one significant area of the country, Cedar Fair isn't so geographically diverse anymore. They now operate the two most heavily attended seasonal parks in the United States, and the three most heavily attended seasonal parks in North America.

To executives sitting in their cinder block palaces in Sandusky, this is all about numbers on a ledger. It's more parks, it's more customers, it's strategically a good move. Looking at things from their perspective, trying to standardize parking on the 'least common denominator' between parks seems like an obvious choice. But they are still thinking like Cedar Fair, which means they are not thinking about how their company integrates. They see that they have two major amusement parks in Ohio, but it doesn't immediately occur to them that both parks share a lot of customers...and will continue to share a lot of customers so long as they don't screw up too badly at either park. They see three million at Kings Island and three million at Cedar Point, and don't consider that many of those three million people are the same people in both parks.

To enthusiasts, though, our view is quite different. We spotted the integration immediately because we don't need gate surveys and credit card reports to tell us that the two most heavily attended seasonal amusement parks in the country are drawing many of the same customers. In addition, because we are customers of Cedar Fair, CBS, and Six Flags parks, we have at least a superficial view of the cultures of all three (plus a few more) park operators, and we can already see "the big picture" in ways that the Sandusky people may not have even had time to think about.

Of course the complicating factor is that each park offered its own combination of deals on season passes, and because we are enthusiasts who must work out the best possible deal for us in order to afford this hobby, we've already bought our passes and taken advantage of the available discounts. That just makes it that much more complicated for the bean counters in Sandusky to figure out how to respond to the resulting mess. Ultimately they will work it out. I still think that by the time the winter is over we're going to end up with a MAXX pass design that has seven slots on the front for parking endorsements (with the Ohio pass a triple-wide decal) and a bar code on the back that may or may not be valid for parking at the Paramount parks. But that will only happen once they come to grips with the fact that the reason some of their most obsessed customers don't come to their #1 park every weekend is because those customers sometimes go to their #2-#12 parks instead.

(Incidentally, in 2006, I visited 1 Paramount park, 5 Six Flags parks, and 4 Cedar Fair parks.)

Personally, I think Cedar Fair is going to find the MAXX pass utilization numbers to be very interesting at the end of next season. I predict that while (other than CP/GL) they don't have a whole lot of cross-park attendance right now, next year with the additon of the Paramount parks they will have more cross-park attendance than ever before. And I think it will be higher than they were expecting.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.
*** Edited 11/22/2006 7:36:01 PM UTC by RideMan***

rollergator's avatar
VERY well done, Dave...

I guess my thinking was that the acquisition of the Paramount Parks should have set the wheels in motion for ALL kinds of changes that are still being debated at corporate...(and sometimes prematurely decided at individual parks, LOL). Thinking that what you have is geographically-diverse independently-run parks should have been MOSTLY abandoned with the GL acquisition....and I guess I was figuring that some of the more *previously-decentralized* functions would have at least had SOME of the "corporate decision-making process" underway....or would that be called "autonomy-reduction"? ;)

*** Edited 11/22/2006 7:46:13 PM UTC by rollergator***

Lord Gonchar's avatar
Hmmm, a park chain with tons of potential that doesn't quite know what to do with itself?

Let's hope they figure it out quicker than the SF guys. :)

boblogone's avatar
Where is this New Ohio the thread title speaks of? ;)

Does anyone know if Knott's will have their Maxx pass pricinig figured out before Solace 2007? At least I don't need a parking pass. :)

Gemini's avatar
If only those crazy amusement park operators in Sandusky had the intelligence and experience of the enthusiast community!

Walt Schmidt - Co-Publisher, PointBuzz

Do ya know the last time Disney DROPPED the gate?

It's not about the gate. It's about the profit. And no one wrings profit out of an amusement park quite like CF. They have the highest margins of any of the major players.

Furthermore, you could argue that the MYW ticket structure represented a drop in average gate price compared to the old Parkhopper/Parkhopper Plus structure. It certainly was for me. It would be interesting to see how the per-cap admission revenue changed under the new pricing scheme.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Gemini said:
If only those crazy amusement park operators in Sandusky had the intelligence and experience of the enthusiast community!

Right!? ;)

Jeff's avatar
The irony is that with most mergers and acquisitions, the first thing on their mind is how to consolidate and save. They did this already in terms of management, which was a no-brainer anyway since duplicate VP's of [your department here] is obviously not good.

There are two things that Cedar Fair now has they didn't have before. The first is much bigger buying power, and I suspect they already know this and probably exercise it. The second thing they have but aren't sure what to do with is tremendous IT infrastructure. Paramount Parks seemed to get really savvy on that front in recent years, and didn't object to the up front investment because they could see long-term financial benefit. That's still a hard sell in Sandusky where they've done things essentially the same for decades, and they're slow to change.

But if the press releases are for real, and the integration really is a two-way street, then I think things will get better sooner or later. Right now I think the biggest concern is still to maintain the distribution while paying off their new properties.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

RideMan said:Cedar Fair likes to think of itself as a collection of separate, regionally diverse parks.

They seem to have figured out how to make all of their logos, trashcans, maps, websites, resorts, restaurants, etc... look alike. Wonder why its taken them so long to figure out (or try to figure out) how to merge parking and gate passes together?

$75 is a bit expensive for me really. i'm in school most the year, so I'd only be able to visit the parks maybe.. 10 times at most, and with parking around $7-8, i wouldnt even save any money!!!

Remember when a parking pass was like.. $30?

Lord Gonchar's avatar
Not even that it's too expensive, but shouldn't the payoff for the park passes and parking passes be equivalent?

Like the Maxx Pass pays for itself in 3 or 4 visits (depending on which parks you visit), but the parking pass doesn't pay for itself until the 6th, 7th or 8th visit.

Seems a little weird to me, but whatever. Honestly looking ahead to 2007, I'm definitely in for Maxx Passes for all, but don't think I'd get the value of the parking pass.

Gonch, that's the whole thing.. for parking, they don't want to make it a 'no brainer'. They want to keep you guessing, so that you either pay the $75 and go 5 times (and in essence get charged like it was a six flags park!) or you figure "8 times, I'm not gonna go that often!" and then between hanging out with friends and family you go 10 times, and they've gotten $80-$90 out of you.

Also, another thing to consider is that the sticker is for the car.. so let's say you have the sticker and Maxx Passes for the family...

  • You go with Fam (1 visit on each, 1 on car)
  • You go w/ Gonchlings, Ms. Gonch stays home for whatever reason (2 on yours & the kids, 1 on Ms. Gonch, 2 on car)
  • Ms. Gonch goes w/ Gonchlings, you have to work(2 on yours & Ms. Gonch, 3 on the Gonchlings, 3 on car)
  • I visit from PA, with my Maxx Pass from Dorney, but you & the fam are busy and you let me take your car since it has the sticker (4 on the car)
  • To repay you, I babysit the Gonchlings before heading back to PA so you can have a day at a park alone w/ Ms. Gonch (Gonch family at 3 visits apiece, car is at 5, dannerman at 1 visit)

In a family, especially with driving-age-teens, it can actually work out that the sticker is paid for at or before the maxx pass.

Another thought that just crossed my mind as I'm typing this email, (which sounds more logical to me.. lol).. They may be figuring on friends "buddying up" when it comes to the parking anyway. So instead of me & my best friend each getting $40 parking stickers for each of our cars separately, we each chip in 37.50 for a sticker for my car. Whenever we go to the park, we take my car. At that rate, we're *EACH* breaking even (in the sense of my paying 37.50 vs. if I paid for my car separately) at about 4-5 visits.. almost the same as a Maxx Pass. The impact is even greater on a group of 3 friends who each front $25 so they don't have to pay parking all season. By having it at $75, it minimizes that impact. If it were only $30 for a parking pass, that would still happen but they'd chip in $10 each instead of $25 each.

Edit: (unable to complete thoughts at 5am before turkey!) *** Edited 11/23/2006 10:07:44 AM UTC by dannerman***

"Life's What You Make It, So Let's Make It Rock!"

halltd said:

RideMan said:Cedar Fair likes to think of itself as a collection of separate, regionally diverse parks.

They seem to have figured out how to make all of their logos, trashcans, maps, websites, resorts, restaurants, etc... look alike. Wonder why its taken them so long to figure out (or try to figure out) how to merge parking and gate passes together?

They DID have that figured out, but ONLY at Cedar Point and Geauga Lake. Because the parks are operated independently on the 'daily operation' level, Cedar Fair has never had common admission and parking systems. They don't even have their email systems connected together. This is not a company known for spending money on technology, or integrations at the daily operations level. Cedar Fair's integration has traditionally been at a much higher level, and that has worked fine for them until they started working in overlapping markets. Now they have customers who *expect* a tighter integration between properties, where Cedar Fair never really worked in that way. To put it bluntly, my comments about the area around Mamba aside, Worlds of Fun is NOT Cedar Point Midwest. The parks don't claim to have anything at all in common other than Snoopy himself.

Traditionally, within the parks, Cedar Fair has always downplayed the fact that they are a multiple-park operator. There is a reason that the Cedar Fair parks are not co-branded the way the Six Flags and Paramount parks are.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

rollergator's avatar
"There is a reason that the Cedar Fair parks are not co-branded the way the Six Flags and Paramount parks are."

See, I guess now that I've had a chance to think about it more, I can see where CF does, and is better off for, keeping a "park-centered approach" OUTWARDLY. For evidence, look no further than the renaming of SFOWoAGL (aka, the park in Aurora) - back to what the locals ALWAYS knew it as, Geauga Lake. Worlds of Fun is Worlds of Fun, ValleyFair is ValleyFair, Dorney is Dorney, Knotts is Knotts...other than the little "A Cedar Fair Park" logos on the trash cans, you'd hardly know your local park was now *owned*.

But facing INWARD, towards their own management structure, toward corporate policy-making, toward an understanding that the big bully in the "regional amusement park" business, (which *had* previously been SF) is now YOU....that I guess was a little surprising to CF, and has taken a little longer than it might have....

To their *customers*, CF has, is, and should remain focused on each individual park. To their park GMs and regional managers, it may take a while before everything is clear in terms of *who* makes which decisions....and in the bureaucracy, a lot of times the bigger question isn't WHO, but WHEN... ;)

Has anyone mentiond the possibility of a coupon system similar to what was once offered at certain Six Flags Parks.

At Geauga Lake I once purchased 10 parking coupons for a set price.

It would be nice if cedar fair offered a similar option. 10 coupons good for parking at any cedar fair park for, lets say, $75.

Or Something like that.

Guess who's back? Back Again? James K's back. Tell a friend.

Jeff's avatar
To me, there's no way you can slice parking as a "good deal." I mean, what benefit do you get by paying for parking, something you do no matter where you go? You get nothing. It's pissing away money. There is no value proposition. You don't get charged for parking at movies, mini-golf, the mall, restaurants, etc., so why do it at an amusement park? Saying they charge you at sporting events doesn't make it OK either.

Is anyone paying attention to Holiday World and Schlitterbahn? (Yeah, I realize they "get you" in other ways, but again, perception is reality.)

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

The difference is that at the movies, they don't pay parking attendants to help guide cars on busier days. Or security officers to patrol the parking lot and prevent/catch vandalism.

Also, the last time I went to the movies the parking lot was such a madhouse I literally had no choice but to spend 20 minutes looking for *A* parking space (I didn't care how close/far it was from the theater!)

Every time I go to an amusement park, after I'm through the toll booth paying my parking, I've never spent more than a minute or 2 to park my car.

At the movies, I would have gladly paid $5 or so just so I could have parked right away. Heck, I probably spent more in gas circling with the other vultures waiting until a space opened up.

Further, do you also criticise parking meters, and parking decks/lots in places like Philadelphia and New York City whose sole business is merely offering a spot to park your car... often to a tune of $5-$10 PER HOUR!

"Life's What You Make It, So Let's Make It Rock!"
Lets say... 5,000 cars per day average. Put parking at $5 (WAY low for most parks), and you've got $25,000 a day. Split that between the... 20 employees who work during the day and you're paying each employee $1,250 a day to work?

Now, lets make this more realistic. 20 employees making $7.00 an hour (which is probably about right). Each employee works 8 hours, so... $56 per day per employee. Times that by 20 = $1,120 for all employees in one day. That's 224 cars at $5 per car. And trust me, Kings Island does not take THAT good of care of their parking lot to distribute the other 23,000 bucks towards upkeep. Pure profits my friends.

Which would be OK if KI would put in a new coaster (or ANYTHING new next year).

Jeff's avatar
Please, that's an exception to the rule. One bad experience at a movie theater makes not a trend. And besides, the theaters here in the burbs pay the local police departments to patrol their lots. If you'd pay $5 to park at a movie theater, then $16 (at least) for two tickets, then another $15 (at least) for two sodas and popcorn, then you're about as opposite of most people as you can get.

Parking costs money in big cities because the real estate is expensive. These parks are not charging simply to make their property tax payments.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

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