The saddest October fest ever...

Tekwardo's avatar

Neat article on the end of Geauga Lake and their Octoberfest.

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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Jeff's avatar

I went to GL a bunch of times on lunch during 2007, as I was working in Solon at the time for a dotcom that would begin to fail the very next year. On a number of occasions, I ran into the park's GM, and he would point out what they were doing to clean up and improve the park. I would roll over to Batinator, er, Dominator, and enjoy a front seat ride on what I still think is one of the best floorless coasters (now at Kings Dominion). But there simply weren't any bodies there. As I've said a hundred times, this wasn't some silly conspiracy by Cedar Fair to kill the park... there simply weren't any people going there. The writing was on the wall. The park from the 80's was long gone, and you could mostly thank Six Flags for that. Combining the gates was colossally stupid. There was no coming back from that.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

LJEdge's avatar

I thought the decision to close came a few weeks later after Oktoberfest?

What's the real story?

They announced the closure a few days after the last day of operation. Although the PR spin was that they voted to close the day before the announcement, enough former employees have said they knew by the time the last weekend rolled around that the closure was coming.

Also - the interview from "Kevin" is more than a bit of fake news. Two of ten coasters were taken out, not half. The ride side was not filled with peeling paint and abandoned rides. And for some reason I just am not buying the music story.

Raven-Phile's avatar

Moving the water park to the other side of the lake was the 2nd biggest mistake, after combining gates. The original water park location was prime, right next to the shore.

Actually, Six Flags building the kids’ area on the site of the former wave, and putting. Wave pool at the front of the park, next to the road, may have actually been even worse. Just a whole lot of stupid decisions going on there.

Well, ya can’t get the “World’s Largest Theme Park” unless you do. And striving for that in the first place may have been the fatal mistake.

I had a not-so-sneaky feeling the park was closing sans-announcement so on that last weekend I drove up. It was pretty busy there, but not like it might’ve been. I went all around and rode rides for what I was sure was the last time and had delicious Oktoberfest food. At closing time I wasn’t the last through the gate, but close. There was a manager in a suit standing on the porch steps by guest relations. I went up to her and I said “So, is this it?” And she said “Yes, this is our last day.” “Forever?” “Oh, heavens no! We’ll be here next year and we’ll see you then!” She didn’t seem to be holding back tears over the park’s closing or the prospect of losing her good job, and I kind of half-wanted to believe her. But the sad announcement came shortly after, and I was so glad I made the trip.

I thought this article was terrible, and more like a creative writing project than investigative reporting with ‘anonymous’ sources. The use of the before/after map is accurate but at the same time misleading. And I can personally attest to the fact that while the park was re-arranged it wasn’t empty, or crumbling. The writing may have been on the wall, but not quite the way it was represented by the author.

birdhombre's avatar

Yeah, I was there on what ended up being the final operating day, and had friends there the day before. The park was FAR from a ghost town during Oktoberfest. I literally laughed out loud when the author said "silent rides," because I distinctly remember choosing between Villain and Big Dipper for our last ride of the day due to long lines. (And before you say it should be an obvious choice, Villain had been freshly retracked and actually ran well that last year, I thought.)

RCMAC said:

. There was a manager in a suit standing on the porch steps by guest relations. I went up to her and I said “So, is this it?” And she said “Yes, this is our last day.” “Forever?” “Oh, heavens no! We’ll be here next year and we’ll see you then!”

Either she has some pretty low expectations from her guests, or she was flustered and distracted when you asked the question. I'd think that if it was the last day of the season, you'd have known and it wouldn't have been a big deal, and wouldn't be saying something like "So, is this it?" I also don't know why she would lie to your face. Who cares if they spill the beans? There's a certain value in not lying directly to another human being's face.

Because if Cedar Fair had not made the information public yet - there would not be a reason to share it with a park guest. There are *plenty* of times we lie/don't share facts with the public at my job for a variety of reasons.

I have no doubt Bill Spehn knew about the closure heading into that final weekend. As did most of the full timers who took the last ride on Big Dipper. Yet when I spoke with him he said the rumors were just that and there were no plans at all to close. At that stage of the game, there were obviously plans, but that information was not public so I don't blame him for not sharing with me, a random park guest.

I recall GL last operating year (07) which to me was a bit of an odd year.
Villain was re-tracked and ran great, almost as good as 2000.
Attended July 4th and no one was there, place was dead empty. You would have never know it was a Holiday.
Wolf Bobs cable snapped causing a slight derail also wasn't this the year that they sent the train on DL without locking the restraints?
I think, this was the first year that they had moved Cleveland Clinic's picnic day(s) to CP

I was able to attend Oktoberfest, which in turn was the 2nd last operating day and we had a great time. Loved / miss Oktoberfest, especially right when they would tap all of the kegs like an hour into the day.

I live just west of CLE so I used to attend SF/GL a lot and I always felt it was SF that killed the place. I really enjoyed going there when CF took over (hated the SF years). It was nice to see the park being staffed correctly and I thought they had a neat selection of rides. It was sad to see it go but they never turned profit, I had a couple of friends who worked on the finance side and they said that each night when they closed the books for the day there was no profit besides several days here and there. Spread that over 4 operating seasons and how could they keep the place going.

GL will always be missed but I blame the locals more than anything else, and ultimately in the end I think most of them got what they wanted.

There is no such thing as a terrible Coaster just ones that haven't been taken care of

Trackmaster said:

Either she has some pretty low expectations from her guests, or she was flustered and distracted when you asked the question.

Or she didn’t know. I’m going with she didn’t know.

A few thoughts...I worked at the park 2004-2005. The park was dead. It was awful as an employee to see the park day after day, it was a literal ghost town. We would run Dominator with one train, and rarely were the trains full. Bill Spehn was a fantastic leader. As the article suggests, he did everything in his power to make the park work, despite very little money thrown his way because of poor attendance. I do not believe the park was purchased to close it, but I do think there was a whole lot of Dick Kinzel ego in regards to purchasing it to begin with.

Dick Kinzel said in his memoir about how in the mid 1990's he should've purchased the park. I think that at that time Geauga Lake would've fit perfectly in the Cedar Fair portfolio. From my understanding, it was too close to the purchase of Worlds of Fun. This is what I wish would've happened. I think that if Cedar Fair would've purchased the park pre-Six Flags, we may still have a park in Aurora. The biggest question I have, is what would've happened to SeaWorld in Ohio amidst the Blackfish drama... I worked for SeaWorld Orlando 2010-2013 and many in upper brass claimed the Ohio park certainly turned a profit, I think Six Flags just provided them a way out of dealing with the constant moving of the animals each winter- but the park was not losing money.

For attendance to drop 74% between 2001-2004, there was more than just a lack of interest in the park... even the SeaWorld parks in the wake of Blackfish didn't see a drop that severe. People got burned. They showed up to a highly marketed Six Flags product that had essentially destroyed the SeaWorld side, and the rides side was in disarray. By the time Cedar Fair showed up, the image had already been destroyed. The underestimation of the animals certainly hurt Cedar Fair, and moving the waterpark was also short sighted and just a waste of money. It's probably the saddest Amusement Park story of the century. I have spent a few nights watching old park videos with a scotch in one hand and reminiscing on the sweet memories of Geauga Lake.

Last edited by Tilt-A-Whirl,

Wow, it's been that long? I remember being quite vocal with my opinions about this, and that was probably the last time I was very active around here.

Looking back with ten years' worth of insight and wisdom, I'm certain some of my assumptions were inaccurate. Then again, the only people that know all the answers probably aren't ever going to reveal them, so I don't believe anyone here really knew more or less than anyone else. Outside of the Cedar Fair offices, it was all speculation.

Maybe Cedar Fair put everything they could into making Geauga Lake work. I will agree that combining the two parks into one gate was a horrible decision, and likely the biggest reason why it all fell apart. But the idea that the park was purchased with the belief that it could be closed down? I still don't see that as unreasonable.

What did CF pay for GL? Maybe 70 or 80 mil? They moved a few coasters to other parks- Michigan's Adventure got an SLC, Dorney Park got an Impulse, and Kings Island got a flying coaster. Had those rides been purchased new, they would have been between $10 to 15 mil at the time, right? For a fraction of that, the company added "new" rides to their other parks, because they pulled them from GL. Combine that with the elimination of area competition for the company's nearby flagship property, and the financial part starts to make sense to me. It's at least not outside the realm of possibility.

A decade later, my issue continues to be the silly notion that the decision was made to close to park after the season ended. The very next morning? I don't buy that, and never will... especially when people I know that worked in the industry at the time knew it was closing... especially when people in the Cleveland/Akron area knew it was closing. If anything, it was a missed opportunity for the company. Had everyone known it was going to be the last season, more visitors would have showed up with the money to spend at the place. At least it could have been celebrated, and with a benefit for CF.

^ They actually paid $145 million... that's not cheap. I don't think you pay $145 million to close a park, the attendance of both parks really were never effected by each other. Cedar Point had record attendance in 1994, and at the same time Geauga Lake and Sea World Ohio were in their prime as well.

I think that everyone agrees the one major mistake Cedar Fair made is that they should've announced in August the park would close to give the region one last time to visit. I don't think anyone argues this.

Last edited by Tilt-A-Whirl,

Tilt-A-Whirl said:

I think that everyone agrees the one major mistake Cedar Fair made is that they should've announced in August the park would close to give the region one last time to visit. I don't think anyone argues this.

While I agree with you 100% and personally wish that they would have gone this route. I have wondered / speculated as to why they didn't. From a coaster enthusiasts standpoint I loved how SF handled the closing of Astorworld. Wouldn't it have been cool to make an event out of it? Picture ERT for Dipper after closing, last day / last ride. Now that would have been neat.

However, I don't blame the park for avoiding all of the attention. Perhaps they didn't want to put their staff through that? Perhaps there would have been security concerns had a capacity crowd been on hands at close?
Again just speculation on my side

There is no such thing as a terrible Coaster just ones that haven't been taken care of

Jeff's avatar

One can argue that they overpaid for GL, much as they did for Paramount Parks. That was Kinzel's ego, because he couldn't let someone else get them. The board wouldn't dispute him either. Whatever due diligence they did, it was half-assed.

Six Flags killed it when they combined the gates. There is no math where that makes sense. Would you buy a neighboring business and give away its product for free?

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

The attendance drop from 2003 Worlds of Adventure to 2004 Geauga Lake was bad. I don't think Cedar Fair went in with the intention to close. But I think most of the 2007 season was spent planning for the closure, rather than planning for any future seasons.

jkpark's avatar

When Sea World was purchased, it should've remained a separate park. However, if Sea World felt the animal park was still a viable business, they never would've sold it. The entire complex could've been called Worlds of Adventure, marketing the two parks together for a two-day destination (just like it was under separate owners). If Six Flags did it right, maybe a new water park would've opened separate from the two existing parks, creating a third gate. Should've, could've, would've. A lot of money left on the table. Oh, well.

I visited the ride park several times in 2007, and had the same experience of riding the front row of major attractions with little to no wait. That included some Saturday visits.

The only business model that worked was separately owned Geauga Lake and Sea World, where both sides helped each other offering different entertainment. But that was a different time, with both parks hitting their peak about 25 years ago. If I remember correctly, Sea World offered season passes for about the same price of a single day admission ticket by the late 1990s.

Last edited by jkpark,
LJEdge's avatar

I would like to know if Cedar Fair entertained offers for selling the park? If they thought it offered nothing of competition, why not try to sell it to someone else?

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