Six Flags Exclusive Adventure

Friday, August 17, 2007 3:44 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Here's how I look at it, and assume that others look at it: Disney prices go up because of inflation, while Six Flags prices go up because of greed.

Which is funny because the exact opposite is probably true.

Here's the rate of inflation for the past decade or so. Disney has consistenly raised prices at two-to-three times the rate of inflation. While SF seems to have done one big 'price correction' in that time - right when Red Zone took over.

Back in 1999 when Disney was at $42, SFGAdv was at $38. By 2004 Disney was at $60 and SF was hanging in the mid-40's. IN late 2005, Red Zone took control and did sweeping 'price corrections'. The initial impact is already gone. All the anger and claims that a $60 gate would drive people away never happened and the latest 2nd quarter number have SF attendance up 3% over last year.

I'd be as bold as to say the reason SF got into the mess they're in is because they didn't raise prices enough during that time and forced other cuts to be made to keep up. I fear CF is about to follow in their footsteps.

I've cited the numbers before, but the parks that we seem to like and/or claim offer the best serive are also the ones who've not been afraid to up their prices as needed. In the past 7 or 8 years we've seen:

Disney increase prices 70%
HW increase them 67%
KW increase the RAD by 63%
Knoebels has upped theirs by 60%

In comparison, in that same time frame:

Cedar Point is up just 10%
Kings island is up 15%
Six Flags is up 33%

Coincidence that the parks with the low gate increase have had to bump food, parking and such almost to the breaking point? They're also (accoring to your post) the kind of parks that are considered a lesser experience.

Are their prices not growing as quickly as the others because they're a lesser experience or are they becoming a lesser experience because their prices aren't growing as quickly as the others?

I say the latter is true.


Disney prices keep going up (is anyone else shocked that a one-day admission cost just $42 in 1999?)

Yeah, that seems hilarious in hindsight, huh? We lived in Jax from 1999-2001 so this is when we went to the Orlando parks a lot. I remember in 2001 getting a Florida resident park hopper pass good for four visits within one year for $99. :)


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Friday, August 17, 2007 3:47 PM

millrace said:

It's not envy. It's pity. I have no desire to hang out in a park with a bunch of self-important idiots who think they are too good to rub shoulders with the "commoners". Let them have a day. I won't be envying them, I'll be laughing at them for such a blatant waste of money. *** Edited 8/13/2007 1:55:59 PM UTC by millrace***


That's a pretty gross generalization. Just because somebody spends $300 for a ticket doesn't make them rich. There are few people on this board who don't have $300 in their possession. It's just how they determine true value.

For instance, if somebody can only get to the park every other year and they only have one day and they really want to ride everything, $300 might be a fair price for that. Everybody justifies stuff differently. $300 sounds absurd to me for a park ticket, but there are things I spend my money on that other people could never justify spending money on.


Mildly amused since 2003.
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Friday, August 17, 2007 3:57 PM

Lord Gonchar said:


Which is funny because the exact opposite is probably true.


Which is way I said that's likely only part of the story, although there is definitely a trace of truth in that statement.


I'd be as bold as to say the reason SF got into the mess they're in is because they didn't raise prices enough during that time and forced other cuts to be made to keep up.

Certainly. Wasn't it said that many Six Flags parks have had the same maintenance budgets for years, despite inflation and an increase in rides? I'm sure Six Flags got itself into a lot of trouble because it was trying to get more and more people to the parks by keeping prices in check... obviously a little too much in check.


Coincidence that the parks with the low gate increase have had to bump food, parking and such almost to the breaking point? They're also (accoring to your post) the kind of parks that are considered a lesser experience.

Again, we seem to agree, it's just that we're meeting in the middle as we approach it from two entirely different sides. I don't think it's a coincidence at all. What I'm saying is that people got used to paying a certain price for certain things, and regardless of how "wrong" those prices were, people aren't going to admit that those lesser parks were charging too little. It's not like you go buy an HDTV that's on sale and offer the store more because you know you're getting a deal that's almost too good to be true- you just accept that's the price and use it as a measuring stick when you buy another HDTV at a later date.


Are their prices not growing as quickly as the others because they're a lesser experience or are they becoming a lesser experience because their prices aren't growing as quickly as the others?

I say the latter is true.


As do I.


Yeah, that seems hilarious in hindsight, huh? We lived in Jax from 1999-2001 so this is when we went to the Orlando parks a lot. I remember in 2001 getting a Florida resident park hopper pass good for four visits within one year for $99.

That is hilarious. I'm surprised Eisner let that happen, because even a decade ago, that was a fantastic deal. Or was it? Are we saying it's a fantastic deal because Disney prices have risen much faster than inflation? That's the point I'm trying to make.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007 12:22 AM
Does anyone else find it a little creepy that a few people on here find the possibility that SF could decide to raise the regular admission price to $300 exciting? Or is it just me?

I'm just asking because Gonch is very good at persuasion. He almost has ME excited that I will not be able to afford a day at an amusement park. I don't see it happening, so I am not worried.

Higher admission price means less people visiting. I am okay with that as long as it's not such an exaggerated price. let's look at it another way.

EXAMPLE #1---You presently pay $60 to get into "Six Flags Mega Island". On an *average* day you might get to ride 12 coasters and 12 flat rides. $60 divided by 24 rides is $2.50 per ride.

EXAMPLE #2---The dystopia of the near future...You pay $300 for your one day admission to "Six Flags Mega Island". You get 60 coaster rides and 60 flat rides. $2.50 per ride again, unless of course you don't FEEL LIKE riding 120 rides in one day, then the value price diminishes with every ride not ridden. If you can only ride 60 rides in a day without puking, you'll pay $5 per ride. If you can only get on 30 rides per day, close to the amount of rides you got on days when parks where more affordable, you have handed over a whopping $10 per ride.

$10 per ride might be okay for the circumstance of riding a few rides at Los Vegas, but it's way to much for a whole day amusement park that normal people go to once or twice per year.

"We don't go to Six Flags anymore. They are just way to expensive.", Said one Dad to another. "We go to the beach instead."

"Yes, I know.", The other Dad stated. "We were going to go on Sunday but I looked at the website and figured out it was going to cost me $1,500 just for my wife and I to take my three kids, and that's not counting parking, food, games, toys, and bottled water."

*** Edited 8/19/2007 4:24:33 AM UTC by dexter***

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Sunday, August 19, 2007 2:24 PM

dexter said:
Does anyone else find it a little creepy that a few people on here find the possibility that SF could decide to raise the regular admission price to $300 exciting? Or is it just me?

I find it kind of scary that SF could actually do it. I don't even have a SF season pass despite living 50 minutes from Great Adventure because of the high costs. The pass itself was a minimum of $125 (with parking) and I know I can't expect to visit on a regular basis with little to no waiting like I can at Dorney (longest coaster wait has been 15 minutes for Talon once all season). Add in Q-Bot costs and it gets expensive fast, especially for multiple visits. If this $300 admission is popular, maybe they will start taking most of September including weekends and making them "exclusive adventures" and part of April as well.

I really like the coaster collection at Great Adventure but there is no way I would spend even close to $50 to visit, let alone $300.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007 4:39 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar ^^ 2 things:

1) the $300 would cover all the parking, food, games, etc.

2) When was the last time you got 12 coaster rides and 12 flats in on a regular mildly crowded day? Maybe at a park with decent operations, but I'd say on a reasonably busy day, without doing open to close, I get a total of 8-10 rides on anything at GAdv..

AND more importantly, to get those 8-10 rides I had to have a pretty miserable time and leave before I was ready because I was having a miserable time.

Hell, if I didn't have a season pass, I'd pay a premium just to get the 8-10 rides without having to wait in the hot sun all day (and they could call it q-bot).


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."

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Sunday, August 19, 2007 7:53 PM
I respect that, Andy.

I don't necessarily deny the value in the Exclusive Adventure pricing. As stated before, Coaster Enthusiasts pay for something similar all of the time. I just don't like the idea of $300 becoming a normal admission price and I am finding it disturbing that some people here are liking the idea.

I like this idea much better than so-called "Queue Management". It in no way infringes on anyone else's enjoyment. Everyone attending is equal.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007 9:37 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Dex:
I like this idea much better than so-called "Queue Management". It in no way infringes on anyone else's enjoyment. Everyone attending is equal.

Hmmm. Interesting statement considering the source.

You think it's better to use a pricing plan that limits who can come to the park in the first place rather than one that let's a wider range of people in, but offers upcharge services once inside?

I'm still not 100% convinced that the high upfront price is the better solution, but the end result is mostly the same. (so if it quiets the bitching, then fine. :) )

I guess what it comes down to is where you make someone feel bad - before they even get to the park or once they're inside.


I just don't like the idea of $300 becoming a normal admission price and I am finding it disturbing that some people here are liking the idea.

Still can't grasp the idea that a segment of people can afford things like this and don't mind paying the premium price for the premium experience, huh?

I still say $300 is a little too high for this (assuming an experience similar to the 'exclusive adventure' thing) and that the low $200's are a much better price point. $229 just 'feels' so right.

Truth is, I do think this could fly...but it'd be close. Real close and that only applies to SFGAdv for now. This would never fly in the heartland...yet.

In the meantime, the system is fine as it is. Everyone gets in on cheap gate and season passes and those that want to upgrade their day can do it in a number of ways for a price that works for them.

Kind of like playing all sides at the potential expense of alienating a few vs drawing a definite line in the sand and hoping for the best.

That's exactly why I think this is more than a one time thing. It's a test and we'll probaby have a pretty good indicator of how successful it was based on if we see it again in 2008.


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Monday, August 20, 2007 12:55 AM
I'll rephrase...I don't mind seeing this "Exclusive Adventure" happen once a year for the fact that it allows everyone attending the one night who paid $300 to have the same access to the rides as any other guest who paid $300 to attend the same night. If I could scrape up enough money, I just might go.

"Exclusive Adventure" doesn't allow anyone to infringe on anyone else's place in line during the event. Everyone paid the same to get in and everyone waits the same amount of time to ride. That sounds to me like any other regular priced day except that admission is $300 instead of $60 and lines may be nonexistent.

And the next day the price can go back to normal, and the park can continue having 30-90 minute waits, and people who don't think $300 is a good value can bring their friends and family and ride roller coasters without refinancing their home.

I am not against "EA" at all. I am against the insane idea that everyday should be an "EA". I really don't think "EA" pricing could be sustained everyday. There are not enough people who visit amusement parks who would find $300 (or Gonch's "feels so right" price of $220) per person a good value for SF to be able to make it an everyday price. Remember we're not talking $300, we're talking $1,500 for a family of 5. Does Mr. Dad want to spend over $1,500 on his kids for one day of fun? That's the price of a plasma TV or a new computer for one day of fun.

If the parks HAD to raise their price in order to keep out the crowds, why couldn't they simply build a few more attractions to spread out the crowds instead? More admissions sold means more money that could be spent on more rides and attractions. You can argue that that's what killed SFO, but it has been done that way for a very long time with other parks with no problems. Lost Kennywood comes to mind as a prime example. Also see any other parks we may associate with the phrase "coaster wars".

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Monday, August 20, 2007 2:14 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar We finally reached the point where I'm going to start repeating myself. Seems like 90 posts is usually about where this happens in any given thread. :)


dexter said:
I am not against "EA" at all. I am against the insane idea that everyday should be an "EA". I really don't think "EA" pricing could be sustained everyday. There are not enough people who visit amusement parks who would find $300 (or Gonch's "feels so right" price of $220) per person a good value for SF to be able to make it an everyday price. Remember we're not talking $300, we're talking $1,500 for a family of 5. Does Mr. Dad want to spend over $1,500 on his kids for one day of fun? That's the price of a plasma TV or a new computer for one day of fun.

Again, that's the point. The very idea behind setting the prices in that range is that not too many people can justify the cost. That's not a downside, that's the main feature!

I still think in comparison to other forms of entertainment that amusement parks are underpriced.

Don't break down the cost per ride, break down the cost per hour. $220 for a 10 or 12 hour day. $18-$22 dollars per hour (food, parking, popcorn, cotton candy included) - find me another form of family entertainment that costs significantly less (all things considered).


If the parks HAD to raise their price in order to keep out the crowds, why couldn't they simply build a few more attractions to spread out the crowds instead? More admissions sold means more money that could be spent on more rides and attractions. You can argue that that's what killed SFO, but it has been done that way for a very long time with other parks with no problems. Lost Kennywood comes to mind as a prime example. Also see any other parks we may associate with the phrase "coaster wars".

Yeah, it did work for a very long time. Did. Past tense. It even still works for small parks with lots of growing to do.

"Coaster Wars" parks? You mean the big regional parks, right? You know what? They don't keep adding attendance. All the new attractions do is cost them. This is the 'mature' industry thing that gets mentioned a lot.

The biggest flaw in that logic is that more attractions means more people through the gate. That's as full of holes as the theory that loweringprices magically draws people out of the woodwork and you someohow make more money in the long run.

Your overall business model/argument is to keep adding attractions and lowering prices. Wait! That's sounds a lot like the business plan of a certain failure in eastern Ohio. I hate to bring it up again, but you're wanting to do exactly what Six Flags did at SFWOA. The added WAY more attractions than the park/market could handle and when that inital boom dried up, they lowered prices and when that didn't work they bought Sea World and doubled the size of the park.

They also got the hell out soon after.

CF came in, messed with the numbers, sized the park down and finally are just beginning to get on the right track.

It doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense to double the size of the park for the same number of visitors. Increasing your operating costs twofold with no gain elsewhere gets you a spot in the welfare line - kind of like if you increased your living expenses by a factor of two but left your income the same. I imagine you'd be hurting...bad. I would too. That'd be a stupid move to make. And doing it while cutting your income...sheesh!

The ugly truth is that these large regionals have been underpricing themselves for years now. It's no coincidence that the in-park pricing is higher than ever...almost ridiculous in most areas. You have to get that revenue from somewhere and if it isn't at the gate, it's when you park, when you get a drink, when you play a game, when you buy a souvenir...it's everywhere else.

These parks are finally getting their senses about in the wake of the 'coaster wars' - the old approach isn't going to work any more. It's already not working.


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Monday, August 20, 2007 9:50 AM
I used to think that adding roller coasters to a park would both bring in larger crowds and lessen wait times for existing rides. That didn't seem to happen. Parks that added coaster after coaster saw attendance either remain the same or take a dive after a short-lived increase. Parks like Hersheypark and Cedar Point might have experienced some increases but it seems as rides like Storm Runner and Wicked Twister were added, the lines for Great Bear and Raptor remained the same. I love coasters as much as the next enthusiast but I'm not blind to the fact they're not the answer. At least Hersheypark seems to get things right by adding family-friendly stuff in between major coaster installations, but that's beside the point.

As Gonch said, we're pretty much at that point where we all start going around in circles, so I'll toss my hat into the ring one more time by saying I'm not in favor of different pricing tiers and instead would like to see theme park prices make a moderate jump (10% is too little, $300 is too much) and provide a quality experience for the fewer people that want to pay the money for it. And who knows? If theme parks turn some people away with high pricing, maybe a new market will be established for smaller local parks that offer less but also charge a lot less?

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Monday, August 20, 2007 9:54 AM
You know...there's one small problem using the 'single-day, single park' Disney ticket for comparative purposes.

It's priced that way cuz they really, truly, honestly DON'T want you to buy it.

It's punishment for declining a multi-day, multi-park ticket for far less per day and 'locking' yourself into their theme park(s). In fact, it's generally the second-hardest item to find at the window.

With that apples-to-cinderblocks comparison firmly in mind, proceed.

-'Playa


NOTE: Severe fecal impaction may render the above words highly debatable.

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Monday, August 20, 2007 10:03 AM
No, that's a good point. Disney doesn't want you to visit for one day- in fact, if they could have their way, they'd probably build a glass dome around WDW and only let people out once every week.
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Monday, August 20, 2007 10:06 AM
I don't see this as an either/or sort of thing. Instead, I'm thinking that it makes sense to offer a couple of "exclusive" days throughout the season.

Cedar Point has about 135 operating days, give or take. Their annual draw is about 3M, again give or take. So, their avg. daily attendance is about 22-23K; the chain-wide per-capita is $40.50; figure that CP does a bit better than average, for $45.

So, the average daily take is somewhere around an even million dollars.

At $300 a pop, you need to get about 3000-3500 people in the door to break even with current pricing. You probably aren't going to save *too* much money at smaller scale---all rides still need to run and be staffed; the main costs are mostly fixed. Sure, you can cut some corners; two platform ops at Magnum instead of four, etc., but not much. You'll save a lot in consumables (food, etc.), but that's probably a low percentage of overall costs.

I don't see them able to do this 135 days per year. That means you need to find more than 100,000 families-of-four willing to drop $1200 for a day of exclusive fun.

But, you can do it two, or five, or whatever days during the year. What's even cooler about this idea---you can pick days that traditionally have lower-than-average attendance anyway! You know, a Sunday in August. A Tuesday in June. That sort of thing. That way, that day's take is even better than it would have been. Everybody wins!


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Monday, August 20, 2007 10:17 AM
I'm not talking about an increase to $300/day, I'm talking $90-100/day.
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Monday, August 20, 2007 10:43 AM
Like Gonch, I think a more modest, across-the-board increase in pricing is overdue. Maybe not $90. But, certainly not the currently-standard $40-50 that most day-visit theme parks charge. Such a pricing change could be done on a permanent, every-day basis.

However, I suspect that such a modest increase would have negligible effects on attendance, for two reasons. First, the product is comparatively under-priced next to other family options, and not even on an hourly basis, but on a "let's go do something today" basis. Second, recent evidence seems to show that ~$10 movements in price just don't seem to impact attendance that much.

I was responding more to the supposition that theme parks might be able to move to a $300 per day, exclusive access model as their only price point.

A few parks can do it every day (c.f. Discovery Cove), but only in a market with a LOT of potential guests from which to skim the discretionary cream. Most parks could do it a few times per season (c.f. SFGAdv). But, I just don't think most parks have enough people to draw from to try to get 100K families to pop more than $1000 for a day's entertainment.
*** Edited 8/20/2007 2:45:05 PM UTC by Brian Noble***


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Monday, August 20, 2007 11:40 AM
Nobody knows what is going to happen...and there is no "right and wrong." The only clear evidence is that one park is experimenting. One park in a market that has plenty of dollars to chase within close driving distance.

I personally don't care...but would be interested in anything that might improve the experience.

P.S. I'll bite playa...what is the hardest item to find at the Disney window aas you see it? I'm going to guess the annual pass...? I've always had a tough time finding annual passes or 1-day tickets.

P.P.S. I know Disneyland has many crowded days where you just cannot buy a 1-day ticket. Only the hoppers and annual passes are allowed!

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Monday, August 20, 2007 11:44 AM
The word 'Universal.'
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Monday, August 20, 2007 12:18 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

CoastaPlaya said:
You know...there's one small problem using the 'single-day, single park' Disney ticket for comparative purposes.

It's priced that way cuz they really, truly, honestly DON'T want you to buy it.

It's punishment for declining a multi-day, multi-park ticket for far less per day and 'locking' yourself into their theme park(s). In fact, it's generally the second-hardest item to find at the window.


True, understood and agreed.

But... (I like big buts and I cannot lie)

The brilliance of the whole thing is they've found a way to make people part with $200+ for theme park admission and make it seem like a deal.

Mr. Tourist: "Look at me, I'm so smart! I wasn't going to pay $71 for a ticket! I paid $225 instead!"


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Monday, August 20, 2007 1:18 PM
Buuuuuuuut (since you like those) is your typical SF park a day's drive from home in a position to offer you-saved-up-and-flew-the-family-a-thousand-miles-now-bend-over-and-SMILE packages in the style of a destination park? Discuss.

-'Playa


NOTE: Severe fecal impaction may render the above words highly debatable.

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