Six Flags Charts Course, But Skies Aren't Clear Yet

Lord Gonchar's avatar
Very interesting read from the Star-Telegram.

Point of interest from the article (to me, at least):

Shapiro mapped out a three-year plan to turn the chain around. The first year was to clean up the parks, the second was to offer more family rides and the third was to bring back thrill rides that would appeal to teens and ’tweens.

He appears on target to meet his goals. He raised $312 million in cash by shedding seven parks, and customer-satisfaction ratings have reached new highs, with more families visiting Six Flags and spending 20 percent to 30 percent more than before.

That's the first I've read/heard about an actual plan and time frame. Quite interesting. Especially when later in the article you find this:

And Shapiro acknowledges that with 2008 the final year in his turnaround plan, he must have better attendance numbers regardless of whether it rains in Texas or anywhere else.

“It’s put-up-or-shut-up year for us, and we aim to deliver,” Shapiro said.

Suddenly it seem obvious as to why the passes are still selling so cheaply, huh?

How hard did the attendance get hit because of the accident in Kentucky? Yikes:

Before that day, attendance across the theme park chain was up 300,000 guests compared with a year earlier. Three weeks later, attendance was down 300,000 guests, a swing of 600,000 in less than a month, he said.

Also, intersting to see some real numbers on how much the weather really can affect things:

The accident was coupled with persistent rainy weather in Texas, where Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags Fiesta Texas each bring in almost 50,000 visitors on summer weekends. The effects of the wet weather are continuing to linger. On Dec. 7, for example, more than 25,000 people showed up at Six Flags Over Texas for Holiday in the Park when it was a record 84 degrees. The wet weather returned the following weekend, when Shapiro stopped by Arlington for a visit, and only 500 people showed up. “There is no telling what they would have done [in terms of attendance] if they had had good weather,” Shapiro said.

Definitely a good read with lots of info that we've never seen hard numbers on before. :)

I'm still sticking with this guy, I think he has a clear head on his shoulders (and he's head and shoulders better than the last group). But he's right about one thing, patience is running thin. He's got *maybe* another year to show much improvement or his job may be in trouble unfortunately.

I will say this. Say what you will about the guy, he has taken action. While I did read some rather negative reports from the parks this year, it was nowhere near the nastiness from a year or two before. There are improvements being made, but is it too late?

Interesting to see Shapiro talking about all the stuff he is envisioning with the media again. It reminds me of when we would see articles like this all the time in year one of the 3 year turn around. Perhaps he is trying to stir up attention again to help close out year 3. It will be interesting to see where the parks are in a year from now and what the plan is from there. It is always fun to hear Shapiro talk because he is pretty honest in what he has to say.

Nice to hear that SFOT is getting a new "3D ride" with all the rumors of various Six Flags parks closing their "3D rides" next year. Perhaps some rumors are untrue or perhaps plans have changed. Then again this new movie could have no effect on any of that.

The put-up-or-shut-up policy for 2008 helps show where that drive comes from to get those season passes moving. At the same time its still a wonder if it is just to help manipulate the numbers for stock holders, or something to get more guests seeing what has occurred at the parks and what the experience is now.

Good article Gonch

Agreed. That article gave me a ton of information. I am very excited to see what 2008 will bring, especially if the parks pull out all the stops to make the market see that Shapiro can do it.

I was especially please to hear of the new improvements including the new surprise 3D show to replace Spongebob for Six Flags over Texas.

Vater's avatar
Could this mean the end of all the whining about Six Flags not adding any big coasters and thrill rides? Oh wait, that's right...the Dark Knight coasters aren't big and thrilly enough. Nevermind.

I'd really like to see them hit their attendence targets next year, for Shapiro's sake and for the sake of the whole company. The guy really has put forth a hell of an effort, in my opinion.

Keep the rides with the 90 degree facedown drops from 180 feet if you're planning on pleasing the teens, Mark.

^ Rides that don't work please no one.

2012 SFGAm Visits: 26 2012 Season Whizzer Rides: 84 X Flight Rides: 91

Pleased me fine when they were operating every time I visited the park last year.
After all of the progress made in the park experience category in my opinion were overshadowed by the Kentucky Kingdom incident but I hope that all the coaster additions and other changes set for next year might be enough to see Six Flags to greatness.

Bolliger/Mabillard for President in '08 NOT Dinn/Summers

Kevin Max said:
Pleased me fine when they were operating every time I visited the park last year.

So, didn't visit SFGAm until mid-June this year, then.

2012 SFGAm Visits: 26 2012 Season Whizzer Rides: 84 X Flight Rides: 91

matt.'s avatar

Kevin Max said:
Keep the rides with the 90 degree facedown drops from 180 feet if you're planning on pleasing the teens, Mark.

Is there an echo in here?

Here's another point of interest.

"And although Six Flags restructured its debt in April and has an untapped $300 million line of credit, the company still spends more money on operations than it makes and will post a loss in 2007."

The problem seems to be that whatever the company gains is offset in another area. They increase per cap, but lose attendance so that revenue stays nearly flat. If season pass sales go up by 12 percent or whatever, but the cost per pass is slashed, again net revenue doesn't increase accordingly. What else could the company do to increase per cap this year? Another increase in parking? More in park cost hikes?

Maybe I'm wrong, but I get the feeling that the company intends to give away the gate again, and soak people once they're inside the park.

matt.'s avatar
^Slash the hell out of rides that cost a lot of money to run, rides that cost a lot of money to maintain (relative to their value within in the park), rides that are redundant, rides with low ridership, and rides that never work and are a drain would be a good start to get costs down.

They've taken some baby steps in the right direction at some parks but I can't help but think there are plenty of SF parks that could cut some fat, easily, and use that money from operations running the remaining rides more efficiently.

ApolloAndy's avatar

Kevin Max said:
Keep the rides with the 90 degree facedown drops from 180 feet if you're planning on pleasing the teens, Mark.

As everyone has mentioned a billion times before, how much can a teen spend in a park in one day compared to a family of four? At most...dun da da quarter.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

^^ I guess that's what the company started to do with moves like the removal of Chiller.

Take a park like Great Adventure. They could probably get rid of GASM and Rolling Thunder and further cut costs (I'm not in support of wood coaster demolition but right now it supports my point.) There are a lot of Six Flags parks that have older, not-so-popular rides that could be removed in order to cut costs. I like what SFStL is doing by adding a small GCII wood coaster- relatively inexpensive, good for families, well-built and not likely to need a lot of work- that seems like a good plan to me.

^Remember, this is the "teen" and "tween" year. That's why they have more family friendly roller coasters like Dark Knights / Tony Hawks instead of what they said because they are cheaper.

SFFT just got that roller coaster because it needed somewhere to go, and SFStL might be the only roller coaster that actually fits into that category of "teen" and "tween".

What does it matter if attendance is up or down if they can't make any money? Spending 7 million at SFGAm alone last year is the reason why they aren't making money. Maybe you can say that SFGAm is a profitable park, but by how much?

I keep track of six flags stock price
and the latest quote has related stories

the related story is businesses going bankrupt

Do they know know something we do not yet know?

here is the link

I really can't endorse, as a coaster enthusiast, the direction Six Flags is taking. They take Deja and then give us Thomas Town in the same region. Like you couldn't yank down the Black Belt of Rollercoasters (beating you like Chuck Norris) over the lake. If it makes rich men like Dan Snyder money that's super and everything but I really don't care about that. I would like a trip to SFOG less than last year. I love Freefall.
And, you're entitled to your opinion. But, we know exactly how well catering to coaster enthusiasts works for Six Flags, because the past regime already tried that.

^^ I think it's a case of Deja Vu being a maintenance and capacity nightmare and Ninja being a relatively simple ride that's dependable and good at moving crowds.

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