Theme parks cost cutting = lower quality experience

Monday, April 23, 2007 10:25 AM
After looking at operating hours for several theme parks, it appears that the majority have cut back their hours from the 10a to 10p hours that used to be theme park standard.

Some examples:

Carowinds closes at 8 most of the summer

Kings Dominion at 9

Six Flags over GA closes at 8 or 9.

It is a shame, because the night time experience at a park is one of the best. And for these southern parks, it is blazing hot all day long and night time is a chance to enjoy the park in a better climate.

Corporate america is great isnt it? Give the consumer less so a manager can get a big bonus! *** Edited 4/23/2007 7:27:11 PM UTC by super7****

Monday, April 23, 2007 11:02 AM
Yea, that is a shame. While KD closing at 9 isn't too bad, SFoG and Carowinds should be ashamed of those hours.

Actually, when I went to Carowinds 2-3 summers ago, I was surprised that they closed at 7 on a Thursday night in the summer, so this may not be too much of a new thing for them. What's with those 2 southern parks? IMO, all major parks should be open until at least 9PM during the summer months.

coastin' since 1985

Monday, April 23, 2007 11:31 AM
7pm in summer? That seems crazy to me. Are they that slow?

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Monday, April 23, 2007 11:41 AM
matt.'s avatar Seems like most enthusiasts would be sad about that, while it seems like the GP just isn't. Otherwise they'd be sticking around and spending money, right?

Harsh side effect of marketing to families with small children. 6 year olds don't want to stay 'til 10.

Monday, April 23, 2007 11:48 AM
^I guess a lot has changed over the years. When my sisters and I were kids, mom and dad would have at the parks til they closed.
They always wanted us to see the rides at night.
Geauga Lake use to be packed at closing. (it would take us over 40 mins just to exit the parking lot.)

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Monday, April 23, 2007 11:56 AM
Well it is very true that some of the slowest hours are the last 2 or 3 hours that the park is open, it does seem that some of the most memorable and enjoyable times do occur at those last hours. I am not sure if the people reducing their operating hours from say 10pm to 8pm, realize that although they might be operating the park at a loss for those 2 hours, the future benefits might outweight those short term losses.

For example, the majority of amusement park attendance is repeat business. A memorable last few hours at a park, where they maybe have a really good nightride, watch some fireworks, etc, might encourage the person to visit the park again. It seems to lack any long term vision when a park makes short term cost cutting measures without the impact it might have on long term attendance and revenue. I can undertand early closings before peak season, during april-may and after august. Those months it is typically much colder and is darker earlier.

Of course families with small children leave earlier, but some of the parks known for their kids areas are operating later than kd, sfog, and carrowinds. Kings Island for example during the summer is open till 10pm everyday. Also the Magic Kingdom at Disney World, is open till 11pm for the summer.

Monday, April 23, 2007 12:07 PM
The funny thing I find about parks closing earlier. The last 2 - 3 hours of the night is typically when I spend money, buying things in the shops, getting an ice cream cone or elephant ear, etc. If the parks close at 7:00 or 8:00, I'm barely done with dinner and have no appetite.
Monday, April 23, 2007 12:42 PM
Jeff's avatar Think about it... they know precisely how many people are in the park every hour of the day. If there aren't enough people in the park during certain hours to justify the operating expense, why be open?

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Monday, April 23, 2007 1:27 PM
What I don't understand is why parks, especially local, urban parks, insist on cutting their hours at the end of the day. My persistent example is (now defunct) Wyandot Lake. It's just far enough out of town that it takes some effort to go there, but just barely. But when Six Flags wanted to cut costs, they trimmed the operating hours...from the end of the day. Open at 10:00am and instead of closing at 9pm, close at 7pm. To me, it would have made a lot more sense for them to delay opening until Noon, and stay open until 9pm. The early close made it so that going there after work simply wasn't an option anymore. With the later close, I could literally go to the park for dinner and a coaster ride (or swim or whatever). I can't be the only person who thinks this way...!

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Monday, April 23, 2007 1:40 PM
But then you have Hershey.

10 to 10 operating hours.

Free admission after 7:30 if you have a ticket for the next day. They actually boost their concession-buying crowd in the evening hours with this promotion.

Good quality experience and value for the customers. While Cedar Fair and Six Flags choose to downsize the product.

Monday, April 23, 2007 1:43 PM
i absolutely agree!

I wish parks were open later, as I love the night experience. I also come from a childhood where if my parents were going to pay to get in, we were going to be running around like idiots getting every possible ride in.
Personally, I wish the parks were open later. I can see the point that parks know when people are in the park, and when they are not making enough money to stay open...BUT I think it should be a guest service to stay open those hours. Even if the park doesnt make as much money from 7-10pm, as long as they make money on the day, all should be well

gary b
Monday, April 23, 2007 2:06 PM
rollergator's avatar

Jeff said:Think about it... they know precisely how many people are in the park every hour of the day. If there aren't enough people in the park during certain hours to justify the operating expense, why be open?

I think the *answer* (maybe just more questions, LOL) comes from the possibility/likelihood that the *fewer* people who stay later just MIGHT be those who keep your cap-ex nice and high.

The lights are beautiful, and once again I'm flying without instruments (or data), but I tend to believe that the night-time guests spend considerably more than their early-morning counterparts. Maybe I just WANT to believe it? Maybe it's true from my own experience? What's the going rate for "anecdotal evidence" anyway? ;)

Monday, April 23, 2007 2:19 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

rollergator said:
I think the *answer* (maybe just more questions, LOL) comes from the possibility/likelihood that the *fewer* people who stay later just MIGHT be those who keep your cap-ex nice and high.

You know how we talk about the balance and guesswork to the whole pricing thing and in turn talk about how the parks themselves have an advantage over us armchair CEO's because they have access to the numbers?

Well this is one place that I imagine no guesswork is involved. They know how much money is being spent - on both sides of the fence.

My guess is that even if the the remaining number of guests are the types who spend at the end of the day, that it's still not enough to make up for the money saved.

Just think of one thing - like employee wages alone. How many people are working in the park for those last two hours? Tons!

And I often wonder how much the cost of running the park increase once the place lights up. That's a lot of electricity! :)

With that said, let me play hypocrite.

Do I enjoy the parks at night? Of course!

Do I often stay until close? Not so much anymore.

Do I stay until after dark? Ehhh, sometimes.

Does it make business sense to cut hours at the end of the day? I can see how it could and apparently so can the parks.

Monday, April 23, 2007 2:25 PM

Jeff said:
Think about it... they know precisely how many people are in the park every hour of the day. If there aren't enough people in the park during certain hours to justify the operating expense, why be open?

I don't buy that at all. There are probably enough people in a park from 8 to 10 at night on a summer day to jusify keeping it open, it's likely more a matter of wanting to cut more costs to make more money. Charge people more and give them less- that's the way things go nowadays. It's like a rubber band- see how far the customer can be stretched before they snap and take their business elsewhere. Maybe this will be it... who knows?

I think it sucks. My most "productive" hours at a park are the later hours- less people = more rides. And maybe there is less profit to be realized from fewer people, but I've never been to a theme park that is SO empty in the later hours that I could see it actually losing money.

Monday, April 23, 2007 2:38 PM
I remember leaving Idlewild one time at around 10:45 and the park was still busy and showed no signs of closing (posted closing hour was 9).

Contrast that with certain parks that shut everything down the exact second the closing time is reached and have guards literally kicking people out the gates.

Maybe some people (majority even) are happy to pay a premium price for the giant theme park experience even though the quality of the experience is continually reduced. But I'm not one of them and I know which parks will get my business and which ones I'll gladly pass over.

Monday, April 23, 2007 3:03 PM
Many business decisions tend to be short minded. Cut costs now so short term profits are increased. But in the long term, if the quality of product is reduced, then it means less repeat business.

I noticed these hours in trying to plan this year's trips. It was alarming how little night-time park hours are available now. We will be going back to Hershey again this year because overall they provide a great park, longer hours, nighttime riding and more fair pricing.

Little ol' Knoebels, a park known for high-quality, also features 10-10 hours during their peak season. We will be going there also.

Like i noted above, I am still surprised that these southern parks have focused on daytime hours. Amusement parks tend to be hot asphalt frying pans. It can be miserable during the afternoon in the summer. And Cedar Fair parks lead the way when it comes to tree-less frying pans lol.

But i guess they figure if they can make the guest suffer in the heat, they will sell a lot more overpriced soft drinks lol........which is absolutely true. Too many businesses have lost their focus on quality over turning a quick buck it seems....... *** Edited 4/23/2007 7:06:38 PM UTC by super7****

Monday, April 23, 2007 3:08 PM
SFOG closes at 9 in July. A couple days (Saturdays) it is open to 10.
Monday, April 23, 2007 3:26 PM
matt.'s avatar

Lord Gonchar said:
Just think of one thing - like employee wages alone. How many people are working in the park for those last two hours? Tons!

It also saves more than you think. A huge amount of people who work at parks are under 18, and can only work 8 hours a day.

Say you have a rapids ride that opens at noon and closes at park closing. It requires 1 ride op over 18, 2 attendants in the station any age, and 3 spotters out in towers to observe the ride any age.

The one ride op can work the full day, minus breaks, not considering rotating to other rides but even if it's a few people running the ride it's still just a single position.

If the park closes at 8 your attendants can rotate positions, and the ones under 18 can work the full shift. If the park closes at 10, you suddenly need a second under-18 for every other under-18 you have to complete the 10 hour window the ride is open.

Of course I'm over simplifying here but you see what I'm saying. I'm not saying that closing early is the right or wrong thing to do, but staffing rides over 10 and 12 and 14 hour periods is a lot more involved and expensive than, say, 8 hours.


Monday, April 23, 2007 3:32 PM
We’ll, I’d chalk it up to perceived value. While the majority of people might leave by 7 or 8 because they are tired or done with the park, some might be there banking their visit on the value of a 12 hour day. People looking at paying a premium admission for just 9 hour day might not see a value in this, even if it’s more than likely the majority will leave early.

It seems it’s trial and error in figuring this out. CP cut back hours in early June one year and Friday night Halloweekends another. Business must have not been good for that whole day because the following year the hours were bumped back up. On the other hand one year they cut hours on Saturday, but that seems to have no I’ll affect on attendance those days so it stayed. It will be interesting to see what the cut does in May this year.

Lord Gonchar said:

Just think of one thing - like employee wages alone. How many people are working in the park for those last two hours? Tons!

While working at CP, it seemed the only department which ran fully staffed on a set open to close schedule was rides. Cleaning crews, games, food, merchandise, etc would show up later and leave early depending on crowd levels in that area in the park. Food managers roam the midways, and if the crowd level drops they close the stand for the night. Plus all of the show times seem to fall in that 11-8 range. It’s a good way to look open and give more apparent value, even though the park is saving money on staff.

On the other hand if it's busy, some food and merch places in the front of the park will stay open an hour after the park closes because they are raking it in still.

Monday, April 23, 2007 3:34 PM
janfrederick's avatar I think the trend is caused by the introduction of the season pass. When I was a kid and we went, we squeezed every hour out of our visit and like FLYINGSCOOTER mentioned. After the season pass, 3-4 hour pop-ins became the norm. So perhaps Rollergator has a point there.

On the other side of things, when we went to Legoland recently, we only stayed 5-6 hours because our son is too young to last longer. Although I must confess, we were wiped out too.

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza

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