Six Flags to explore "strategic options" for six properties

Posted Thursday, June 22, 2006 8:48 PM | Contributed by coasterguts

Following a comprehensive review of the Company's assets, Six Flags, Inc. today announced its decision to explore potential strategic options with respect to six of its properties. The properties are: Six Flags Darien Lake (outside Buffalo, New York); Six Flags Waterworld (Concord, California); Six Flags Elitch Gardens (Denver, Colorado); Wild Waves and Enchanted Village (outside Seattle, Washington); Six Flags Splashtown (Houston, Texas); and Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor (near Los Angeles, California).

Although the Company cannot predict when, or if, any specific transaction will occur with respect to these properties, potential options include a sale of the parks as going concerns in a single transaction or a series of transactions, dismantling and re-utilizing certain rides and attractions and selling the underlying land for real estate development purposes, as well as other potential alternatives.

Read the press release from Six Flags.

Thursday, June 22, 2006 8:58 PM
SFMM???!!!???

Seems like the West just isn't good enough for them.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006 8:58 PM
I can assume right away that Darien Lake and Magic Mountain won't be sold off completely, but Darien Lake will probably go the route of having most (if not all) excess/underdeveloped property sold.

I see Wild Waters and Enchanted Waves along with Six Flags Waterworld sold off completely.

Magic Mountain will probably go the option in which in the article was described "dismantling and re-utilizing certain rides and attractions and selling the underlying land for real estate and development purposes." Because all the land surrounding the park already belongs to Newhall Land Development, so they do not have any immediate excess property to sell.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006 9:00 PM
^ ^
Not when you consider it once was the chain's highest attendant park, and now second most attended. I find it hard to believe Magic Mountain's case will take the "strategic option" of being sold off completely. There are just so many reasons why it would be highly unlikely.
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Thursday, June 22, 2006 9:35 PM
I can't understand why they would sell SFMM, it has alot of potential and seems to be improving.

Darien Lake is very underdeveloped, occupying only 100 acres of the 1000 acres the park owns. However, over the years they have sort of 'landlocked' themselves in with the position new additions.

If Darien Lake's operations improve and they get a new management team, add Batman next season, and hopefully a drop tower of some sort, there is no reason why the park shouldn't do well. The concerts bring a lot of people to the park and it attracts a decent amount of people each year, and it has a good variety of coasters.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006 10:15 PM
Granted, I've never been to SFMM, but hasn't it always been considered one of their flagship parks? I could see them looking into dismantling and re-utilizing certain rides, (as mentioned above), but selling off the park? I can't see that!

All the other parks listed...I could see that as reality however. I hope they don't do anything too drastic. I hear a lot from other people and it does always seem that SFMM is on the right track and is trying to improve. Especially since there is always quite a bit of negative talk about other parks in the area, (PGA, Knotts, SFMW), at least IMO.

Plus, since they have been working so hard over the past few years on that park, and they continue build attractions, (such as Tatsu), and remodel the property, (such as the skytower for one this season), it would seem a bit premature to dump it.

But this sounds like traditional SF logic, even under new ownership!

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Thursday, June 22, 2006 10:50 PM
I could see them removing some coasters from MM and making it a little more family friendly, but I think it would be silly to sell it outright.
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Thursday, June 22, 2006 11:06 PM
Looks like if I want to get to Magic Mountain, I better be looking to get there this year....this might get expensive.
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Thursday, June 22, 2006 11:17 PM
...And there were people who said the thought of selling SFMM was "absurd". SFMM represents everything Shapiro *does not* want any longer for the company. Lots of coasters, teenagers and lack of families. And nothing short of removing half the coaster count will change that.

On the other hand, this park needs a fresh start with a new owner. It has suffered the most under SF's poor management, and would take MUCH too long to fix under Shapiro. While I don't want to jump the gun too much, SFMM's situation is similar to SF Ohio, where they just seem over their head with this park.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006 11:47 PM
I see Elitch Gardens has a LOT of land-value... being located in Denver (just outside of downtown)... I can see the land value really great, despite being landlocked by other obstacles. They could benefit from either selling off the assets & having the park sold for real-estate development... OR an investor that will keep the park operational.

For Darien Lake... I can almost guarantee you that they will NOT sell off their assets & close up shop only to sell the land for real-estate development. Why? Because nobody would want it! You're in the middle of nowhere for at least 8 miles in either direction (Batavia, NY being the closest)... who would be your target? Condos? Wal-Mart? Not when your population of people is beaten by the cows. Who wants to live in the middle of no-where except farmers? Well, farmers won't be paying the big-bucks on that land.

That's why Darien Lake, the land would be best kept the same as it's a cash-cow (no pun intended). The concerts, events, campground, & hotel would benefit from an owner who can put a little TLC into the park. This owner could be Kennywood, Cedar Fair, or an independant investor who'll bring the park back to its glory days.

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Friday, June 23, 2006 12:11 AM
Magic Mountain is not a true SF park. It was purchased. Henceforth, it would command the most $$$ on the open market. Only a Universal caliber company would or could buy. There is lots of changes needed to make that park profitable all 12 months.I had the privledge to work there for a weekend several years ago, and my first thought was what is the payroll to open this place every weekend. KBF and Disney have a better go at it with daily operation.

Elitch Gardens was ruined by the move. We in the industry all know that. Its like putting Kennywood in the South Side of Pittsburgh by Station Square. That land is highly valuable.Do not be surprised to see Lakeside Park take on an equity partner, clear the park, relocate Twister 2, the waterpark, and some other majors, then sell off the land and excess rides. One theory. That would move Lakeside from a Conneaut Lake sized park to a Lake Compounce sized operation. They would have 95% of the groups, leaving only Fat City to compete for groups.

The waterparks. All stinkers. Dave Bush sold those California flops to Premier Parks. Suckers. Those parks are outgunned severely by the Knott's Soak Cities, the Schlitterbahn's. ect.

Enchanted Forest is again, an unspectacular park in an unspectacular location. It will go for cents on the dollar.

Darien Lake already has a suitor. Remember, that park was as put earlier a 'cash cow' for Funtime. They had new rides, new campgrounds, a concert venue, and no competition. SF misinterpeted Martin's (Mr Carney) Fantasy Island as competition, and beefed the park up beyond the capabilites of its operating budget. Now, you see a former tightly operated park with only 70-80% of its capacity in use, neglected rides, and its focus blurred. It was designed to be a major camping resort that feeds the mid sized themer and water park, with concerts to keep people around at night.

Now, you have hypers, cookie cutter coasters, and other under utalized projects. What happened to Barracuda Bay? What about the fierce reputation of the Viper and Predator?

You will see Kentucky Kingdom added to the list also by the fall. Maybe also Marine World. Both share leased land and parking. Bad combination. Look at Liberty Land. Travesty.

Darien needs an indoor waterpark, Magic Mountain needs to clear out the older rides, add a concert venue, and build a hotel on site for solid weekend packages. *** This post was edited by Agent Johnson 6/23/2006 12:23:59 AM ***
*** This post was edited by Agent Johnson 6/23/2006 12:25:59 AM ***

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Friday, June 23, 2006 1:13 AM
Interesting.

In the past several days I have been to both Six Flags St. Louis and Elitch Gardens. The comparison between the two parks is striking. Six Flags St. Louis is everything that Six Flags was supposed to be. Elitch Gardens, on the other hand, is a nice park, but it isn't even in the same league as St. Louis. My observation was that Six Flags really needs to examine parks like Elitch Gardens and decide if those parks...and I would include Darien Lake, Enchanted Village and Kentucky Kingdom in the list at least; not sure about the rest of the chain...really represent what Six Flags is supposed to stand for. Do those parks actually look like, work like, and draw like Six Flags parks? If not, then why not? Is it something that can be fixed, or is it something structural? What does it mean to be a Six Flags park, anyway? Six Flags wouldn't even have to sell off those parks. Why not consider operating them as apparently-independent family amusement parks, quality establishments that don't happen to be Six Flags parks? What I am basically suggesting is that Six Flags ought to operate two groups of parks: the Six Flags parks, and the ...oh, let's call them Premier Parks for the sake of argument. One of the problems they have with Elitch Gardens, and that they had with Geauga Lake, is that they were promising Six Flags and delivering something else. That diluted the Six Flags brand for the major parks, and destroyed the reputations of the smaller parks. They promised Six Flags and delivered Geauga Lake. They promised Six Flags and delivered Elitch Gardens. Either way, it would have been fine if they had promised what they were delivering. Geauga Lake was not a bad park. Elitch Gardens is not a bad park. Darien Lake is not a bad park. Even Kentucky Kingdom was really nice. They should have capitalized on that instead of wasting the Six Flags brand name.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Friday, June 23, 2006 1:40 AM
Hail CBuzz Warriors!

In my opinion, WWEV may not be quite the gonner this article suggests. It wouldn't take a whole lot more to really improve this park.

There are no other parks in the region, thus WWEV has a HUGE customer/park ratio.

I had heard several times, that WWEV is the most profitable per expenditure park that SF owns.

And, of course, Bill Gates and family have (in the past) spent play-time in the park.

All this park needs is something other then "ChickenDuck" for a new coaster. They spent the money on a horrible ride, when they could have had so much better.

A REALLY good steel or woody, and a second fun/good coaster, along with a few updated flats, would REALLY make the park a full day adventure. There IS enough space, but maybe not enough parking.

If "I" were Shapiro I wouldn't give up this park quite so fast as the article is suggesting.

And, there is NO WAY that Shapiro is STUPID enough to sell of SFMM. It IS their flagship park. From my reading of the article, it seems the pricing and demographics of this park are creating problems with his model. What Shapiro needs to do is spend some major bucks on advertising in the greater LA area the positive changes to SFMM.

Possibly, but I can't believe that sentiment has changed a "whole lot" since I grew up there; kids know (some now becoming adults), that Disney is fun, Knotts is just to small, but all the REALLY COOL coasters that they saw on their 11PM TV news as breaking all the records were at SFMM.

It is going to take a HUGE shift to get people in the LA area to think of SFMM as a "family" park.

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Friday, June 23, 2006 5:08 AM
I certainly hope SFMM isn't sold. It really is one of my favorite coaster parks, though I haven't been since they first built Goliath and Riddler's Revenge. They've added more coasters since.

Sure, they aren't getting the family draw at SFMM, but who cares? They are making a profit and that is what counts. Changing it to a family park would only serve to hurt the park. And, FWIW, even the best family parks in the country (like Knotts, Kennywood, Holiday World) have some great coasters. In fact, Knotts has shed some of its family fare in favor of thrills. That has helped make Knotts one of the better parks in the region. Heck, even Disney is shooting for thrills -- if not in Anaheim, certainly in Orlando and Japan. There is room for a mix.

I also would be interested in how Cedar Point handles things. In many ways SFMM is pretty much Cedar Point West -- when it comes to coasters.

I'm not sure how they could get it past antitrust, but Cedar Fair might actually match up well with SFMM. Cedar Fair will soon have three parks in Ohio, so why not three parks in California?

Perhaps another option would be for Six Flags to take down the barrier between the theme park and water park -- offering the double admission deal that caters towards families. They could possibly couple that with tearing out some of the coasters and relocating them to other parks.

However, it sounds like the new boss is bent on going family only and he is going to have a tough go at it in some areas. He certainly isn't going to pass Disney. And, he also isn't going to pass Knotts in SoCal. The beauty of SFMM is that there isn't anything else like it in SoCal. Heck, SFMM is even better than SFMW and PGA (soon just GA).

Selling SFMW seems logical, until you realize that they can't sell the land. The land itself is owned by the City of Vallejo. The city hired Premier to manage the parks and Six Flags now leases the land from the City. So, in the end, Six Flags could not renew the lease ... however, they couldn't do much more than that. The park could be shuttered, but it's doubtful the city would allow it. FWIW Marine World has been part of the Bay Area for a very, very long time -- long before Six Flags ever arrived and long before the thought of building coasters there.

As for waterparks, I'm not sure what Six Flags is thinking. Northern California doesn't have much choice for waterslides. The "world famous" Manteca Waterslides are no more (oddly enough, sold to real estate developers). Waterworld USA at CalExpo will close, but could reopen (it is leased by Six Flags, with the fair owning the waterpark). Not sure if Concord is leased or not, but don't think so. In the end, that leaves Sunsplash in Roseville and that's fairly minor stuff. There is talk that other waterparks (California Splash in Pleasanton) are on the way, but I'm not holding my breath.

Sad to say, but I think that the new brass at Six Flags is going to screw things up ... much like Paul Pressler did at Disneyland.

IMHO ... if unruly teens are the problem -- kick 'em out. Put a sign up that states "We reserve the right to refuse admission to anyone." and go from there. Simple as that.

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Friday, June 23, 2006 6:49 AM
Gee Dave, Kinda sounds like what Paramount did to kings parks.

You gotta watered down version of a THEME PARK. Visit Universal FL and you can't even call PP holiwood theme parks.

IMHO the only SF park I've been too that seemed faimly friendly was SF:STL, I hear GA and texas are nice as well.

I would however like to have a bit more to do at SFSTL.
Chuck

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Friday, June 23, 2006 7:01 AM
I'm a bit surprised that SFA isn't one of the parks on the block. The negative image of the park, high property values in the Washington area, and the willingness of many Washington area people to travel to PKD or HP are all considerations here.

As for SFMM, it all comes down to money. SFAW went even though it left Houston without a major park. EV is in a region that lacks a really big park. The Northwest really needs a major park and there is some question regarding whether EV could be transformed into such a park. SFDL will probably be sold and remain intact.

What about SFEG? The Lakeside proposition mentioned earlier would be interesting. Expand Lakeside, add more rides (some from a now-closed SFEG) and make it a park with both thrill rides and family rides. Preserve the historic feel but spruce the park up by painting things and getting rid of the SBNO rides. What would you have? The Kennywood of the West! Also, why not put an indoor waterpark into part of that mall next to the park that has seen better days?

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Friday, June 23, 2006 9:19 AM
The article does say potential alternatives though, so in the case of MM, there are several other options. For example, the removal of Flashback, Freefall, Psyclone would actually benefit the park and make room for more family friendly attractions. Having a coaster record is pretty immaterial to the overall guest experience. Strategically, the park could use a on site hotel for the tourists, and if it was a combo indoor waterpark as well, a first for the so cal region. So I would be highly surprised if MM was being considered for sale, there is only a handful of parks in the chain that generate as much money as MM and this company needs all the money it can.
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Friday, June 23, 2006 9:40 AM
I too was suprised that SFA dodged a potential bullet for now. But, the one thing that SFA has over some other parks is a huge amount of land to work with even if you sell some of it off. If you were to relocate some family-oriented rides (or even some thrillrides), you could get get this park up to snuff.

Hopefully if they did put in new stuff-like a Bugs Bunny National Forest-they would also invest in more infrastructure like more bathrooms and also increase the capacity of some existing bathrooms. For example, the Southwest Territory, the Movietown kiddie area, and the restaurant are all served by one bathroom with one stall for the men. To me that's simply unacceptable.

While I love the Hurricane Harbor remodel and additions of last year, they need to go a lot further with it. The HH I visited at SFGAm last week should be the model to achieve at some point, even if it isn't as big.

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Friday, June 23, 2006 9:42 AM
I don't think they should sell MM, that would be a bad thing IMO. Plus I bet we would lose some of the steel coasters since they are build on hills/terrian... Correct? I mean the wooden coasters would just be demolished. I just hope if they sell it that they give people time to go one last time. I'd Def. make a trip there to go to the park.
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Friday, June 23, 2006 10:24 AM
SFDL: I hope that Cedar Fair can scrape up enough cash to pick up this park. The campground/hotel operations have synergies with CF. The park itself likely draws about $30-$50 million in annual revenues, on par with many CF parks. CF does not have to invest much on attractions here, instead, it should insert an accountable management system and focus on promoting on-site accomodation.

SFMM: The only reason I can see dropping this park is that Shapiro wants the entire chain to attract families, and the Disneyland / Knott's competition in Southern California is virtually impossible to beat. SFMM will always be a thrill-seeker's park. I'm very curious to see who might buy it up. If anything, I think that SFMM might partner with a hotel developer to establish a more profitable on-site accomodation business operation.

I'm surprised SFGE isn't on the list. I guess Shapiro wants to wait a full year to see if the Great Escape Lodge and Indoor Waterpark attract enough revenue to sustain the park.
*** This post was edited by greatwhitenorth 6/23/2006 10:27:13 AM ***

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