What makes a park "big"?

Wednesday, October 16, 2002 12:58 PM

I've wondered this for a long time...

In my tenure at Holiday World, we've gone from 300,000 annual attendance to 750,000. And all along the journey, we've been referred to as a "small" park.

At what point are we considered a "big" park? Is there such thing as a "medium" park?

Is it an acreage issue? Number of rides? Attendance numbers?

I'd guess there isn't a definite answer, but I'd be interested in what everyone thinks.

And before the wailing begins, we do intend to keep our "small-park feel" no matter how much we grow!

Thanks, Paula

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Paula Werne
Holiday World PR
JPWerne@holidayworld.com

*** This post was edited by Raven Maven on 10/16/2002. ***

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 1:07 PM
To be honest, I use that label just to distinguish between the really national and international corporate parks (Six Flags, Cedar Fair, Paramount, Universal, Disney, Busch, Kennywood (though not LC)) and family parks. It doesn't have too much to do with numbers for me, although, for me, all "big" parks have to have a relatively large steel coaster (which the chains seem to bring to all their parks).

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You must be this dumb to ride Viper. -SFGAdv.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 1:13 PM

A big park to me means that a park that brings in more then 1.5 million guests a year. Medium would be 750,000-1.5, and small would be under 750,000.

To me its all based on attendance.

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Top 5 Steel: #1 Millenium Force #2 Phantom's Revenge #3 Ice Dragon #4 Incredible Hulk #5 Wild Thing
Top 5 Wood #1 Viper #2 Thunderbolt #3 Timberwolf #4 Outlaw #5 Screaming Eagle

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 1:13 PM

I think it really has more to do with the 'feel' of the park more than numbers.

I still consider Kennywood to be a 'small' park, even though it is actually very corporate in structure.

I'd even say the same for Hershey and Knott's (at least at the time of my visit last February), as they are 'big' parks that have 'small' park vibes.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 1:13 PM

Good question Paula!

Im not sure how to answer but here is my description.

Small-Traditional. Under 5 coasters with the ability to ride almost everything on one daily visit. Affordable, Profits are not totally the bottom line although they are in buisness to make money. Higher percentage of reinvestment into the park. Thoughts go more for what people will enjoy in the long run rather than boosting attendance in the near term for corprate stockholders. Small parks are generally concerned on people enjoying themselves and returning and also spreading the word for it's longterm survival, Something Holiday World EXCELLS AT!

Large-Mega. Owned by corperations stockholders. Offer a large choice of coasters but sometimes defer maintence on the older ones in favor of the new biggest baddest attraction made soley on increasing the parks near term attendance. Sometimes it apears they are just more concerned with getting the people in the park than weather anyone enjoyed themselves or if you ever come back, They still got your $$$.

Resort Parks. Truely amazing to me, Yes the cost is high to enjoy these but they have the best themed, Best thought out attractions for the long term ect. Of course unless your Rollergator, These parks are not in your BACKYARD.

Thanks for the interesting post Paula, It will be interesting reading everyone elses response.

Chuck, Traditional to the core, Nungester

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Charles Nungester.
Is it about coasters or friends? I say both!

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 1:29 PM

Paula, I think you answered your own questions when you said, "...we do intend to keep our 'small-park feel' no matter how much we grow!" IMHO its not about acreage, number of rides, or attendance. I think a small park is defined by how a guest feels while visiting.

Holiday World could be triple its size but so long as you continue to offer clean grounds, a friendly staff, low prices, free amenities, efficient ride operation, and all the other wonderful stuff the park has to offer its going to feel - TO ME - like a "small park."

I'm not sure who has more acreage, HW or Knoebels, but walking around Knoebels I always feel like the park is massive. After three PPP's there are still areas I have yet to explore. And yet I consider Knoebels a "small park" as well because it has that "small park" feel to it.

Conversely SFAW for example, which is probably the smallest Six Flags park in acres, just feels like a big, corporate park with high prices, closed rides, apathetic employees...well, we all know the stereotypical traits of Six Flags, no need to rehash that.

However Kennywood, which I also consider a corporate park, also has that "small park" feel to it.

I think the hands-on approach to managing parks such as Holiday World and Knoebels is a big factor. Just about everyone knows you, Will, and Pat and anyone who has been to your park has met at least one if not all three of you. Dick Knoebels is equally approachable. Yet how many of us know who runs our local big themer, and how accessible are those people?

I guess the best analogy I can make is the difference between eating meatloaf at Denny's and meatloaf your mom makes when you visit home. One is prepared by a stranger interested in their next paycheck, the other....isn't.

Moosh - suddenly hungry for Holiday World....

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Sig under construction - big announcement coming soon!

*** This post was edited by Mamoosh on 10/16/2002. ***

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 1:29 PM

It seems to me that there are a number of factors at work here.

First of all... Cash. To make money, one must typically first spend money. When one makes a certain amount of money, they have a choice. Do they reinvest to in turn make more money, or stuff it in their pockets? Parks which make the most money can spend the most money.

Second of all... Visitors. I suspect that parks who don't attract many visitors don't make much money. Parks closer to large population centers typically attract many visitors. For example, on a good day, I imagine that SFGAm will bring in several tens of thousands of people. (30,000 +). Which brings us back to the first point. At current ticket prices (even assuming that only 20,000 pay the full ticket price), a SFGAm on a good day could make $800,000 in admissions alone.

What attracts visitors? More than good rides, I would expect good experiences. Time and time again, you read in these forums about how people had a good experience, or a bad, and their opinions on the park are based largely on their experience. This is consistent, I suspect with human nature. I suspect that if you go to a 5 star restraunt in New York, and find a hair in your soup, you will be much less likely to return, as you did not get a good return for your investment. Happy people = Returning People = more money. Good rides certainly help the formula, but I would imagine experience plays more of a role.

Parks which have cash, visitors, and reputation can then invest large amounts of capitol in improvements, such as "big steel coasters."

To sum up: I think everything makes a park "big."

I imagine that part of HW's success is the outstanding reputation the park has. Because you have had such a record year, I imagine it makes management a feel a little better about spending money, and moving your park more and more towards "big" park status.

for me, all "big" parks have to have a relatively large steel coaster (which the chains seem to bring to all their parks

Disney is a *Large* park, and they do not have a major roller coaster to speak of. Granted, they have California Screemin' and Rock 'n Roller Coaster, but I don't know if these can be considered "major" coasters. SFoT has some big coasters, and it has a lot of acerage, but it's not considered a "major" player in the SF chain (to my knowledge.)

-d

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"Getting on Iron Wolf is kind of like going in a blender and pressing PUREE"

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 1:39 PM

Forget the 5 star restaraunt senario, If your local tavern offers a large great tasting meal over a high prices small portion establisment, Guess which one Im going to?

Chuck, I'll have the Fried Chicken, Nungester

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Charles Nungester.
Is it about coasters or friends? I say both!

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 1:42 PM

Chuck - is Denny's a 5 star eatery where you live? Yikes! LOL!

Moosh

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Sig under construction - big announcement coming soon!

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 1:53 PM

I would say, Paula, that Holiday World is...

Big, as in big league with 2 world class woodies;

Medium with an incredible increasing attendance and 3 upcoming attractions, and;

Small as in that "small-park feel" that you refer to and I love so much.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 2:01 PM

IB*Dave said:

I would say, Paula, that Holiday World is...

Big, as in big league with 2 world class woodies;

Medium with an incredible increasing attendance and 3 upcoming attractions, and;

Small as in that "small-park feel" that you refer to and I love so much.



Same for the IB feel!

If the four empty seat rule was removed, I would not see any problems there :)

Chuck, who enjoys IB to the max anyway but seen that as a dissapointment having to wait 15 minutes for a couple empty seats.

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Charles Nungester.
Is it about coasters or friends? I say both!

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 2:11 PM

I'm gonna hafta agree with most everyone else. It's not the size it's the atmosphere. Example.... PKI. Everytime I go I feel like I'm at home. I talk to some of the ride ops, Say hi to the PR's, it really makes me happy to know I'm appreciated. Then I get the same exact thing at HW. Everyones so nice and inviting. Makes ya wanna go back! Basically a small park to me is how you are treated. Not the rides, size, or price.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 3:28 PM

PkI FaN's post proves its also about person perspective. To me, PKI does not have that "small park" feel to it at all, but that in no way infers anything negative.

Moosh

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Sig under construction - big announcement coming soon!

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 3:31 PM

I would put parks in 4 catagories.

1) Super Parks - a few parks with over 5,000,000 attendance. 6 or 7 parks in the US, mostly associated with a certain rodent. Generally helped by a year round season.

2) Large Parks - Parks with attendance of say over 2,000,000 to 5,000,000. About 20 parks in this group.

3) Medium Parks - Parks with attendance from a bit under 1,000,000 to 2,000,000. Another 30-40 parks in this group.

4) Small Parks - Parks with attendance of 750,000 or less.

Based on this I would call Holiday World a park which is bordering on becoming a medium size park while so far retaining it's small park feel.

It's an interesting exercise to graph park attendance starting with the largest and working down. There sre some pretty sharp breaks in the numbers.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 4:58 PM
I'm going to have to agree with those who say it's all about the feel of the park. I grew up with Valleyfair, and even though it's a relatively small park, I never really felt at home there. I went, did all the rides, and then went home. If felt very corporate. It had a big park feel.

Since moving to Pittsburgh a few years ago, I have fallen in love with Kennywood (how can you not?). The atmosphere is completely different. Even the first time I went, I felt at home. I could probably spend the day without going on anything and still have a good time, though I'm not sure how I could resist the Phantom (or the woodies for that matter).

Now of course after my experiences at KW, I've been dying to get to Holiday World. I love that small park feel.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 5:16 PM

For me, that is usually determined by what the rides at the park target and how much in each category. Do they excel? The size also accounts for me. Parks like Six Flags New England are quite francily to small for me to consider a "Biggie," despite what rides they have, and even so, SFNE has some great thrills, but is far from being well rounded, complete, or family oriented. I'll use some of my old Northern California parks for this:

Tourist Trap and Road Stops:

Children's Storyland - Their just pulling in hundreds of customers who happen to stop buy during Festival of the Lake, also, the last major addition to the park was in 1998, when they added the Mad Tea Cups.

Knowland Park - Okay, the try, but no one showing up there. The zoo is getting pathetic and cannot compete with the San Fran Zoo, which gets a new animal almost every week thanks to their sponsers. The ride section is expanding slowly, but they lost many customers now that the Snow Building is no longer being used for all the Board Meetings, now they go down to the new African American Heritage Center. I respect our history, but they're taking away history their, the Snow Building has been since 1946, now they just abandon it. Oh well, there goes our Saturday Potlucks :(

Scandia Fun Center & Camelot - Scandia is always adding new things and when they're not doing that, they are tweeking what they have. The only problems is, they never keep things long enough to expand further. They always replace or remove the following season. The Space Dome was a great addition to Camelot, but at the expense of the Lazer Zone? I miss my Glow-in-the-dark lazer tag mazes on inflated floors, just plain awsome. These little places could have a chance if they stopped removing things. Barely even enough to keep the family occupied besides a McDonalds Express.

Family Parks-

Bonfante Gardens-Oh, F-A-B-O-L-O-U-S!!! Holla' back?!! I can't hear you, has anybody seen a more beautiful place? This puts the Botanical Garden to shame and, IMO is the 8th Wonder of the World.

(in Redwood City)Marineworld Africa USA

Small Parks

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Medium Park

Six Flags Marine World

Big Park

Paramount Great America

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Lake Compounce-So Fresh and So Clean Clean

*** This post was edited by Vertigo on 10/16/2002. ***

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 5:19 PM

A "big" park in my opinion is based on ride count. Now of course, with more rides, your attendence is bound to go up (you would think, and in most cases, new rides = more guests).

The more rides you have, the bigger the park. I would say after 5 or 6 roller coasters, your park is "big" if not "really big".

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The top 3 all time cobrarolls.

1)Raptor's
2)Deja Vu's (times 3)
3)Batman Knight Flight's

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 7:41 PM

I'd have to definetely bring it down to the feeling. A small park is a park where the workers feel like friends and you have no trouble talking to them. It is knowing that thought was put in to make your day special, not just to take your money and send you on your way. A samll park is actually having park employees ask you how your day is and not just expecting the reply, "Good." It is also the feeling of cleanliness. A small park is a place that feels like home, where you are comfortable, not tense and stressed. A small park in total is home.

"What is a big park?" you ask. The opposite of the afformentioned ideas, leaving a spot in the middle for those who can only accomplish some of those feats.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002 8:12 PM

To me a parks "size" is a combination of many of these factors. The greatest factor in my mind is the size of the market the park draws from, which will affect attendance, which will affect the capitol from which the park builds rides/attractions, which effects the amount of rides/attractions, which affects the size of the park.

Simply, a small park has a smaller market that they draw from, which causes a smaller attendance, which creates less profit, which decreases the frequency of a new attraction and many times the size, which keeps the attraction count down and reduces the amount of land needed.

Now that's just a generalization. For a park like Kennywood they start with a small amount of land, but the rest holds true.

And when i talk about a market i am just refering to the group that the park targets. For example, Kennywood targets local groups and induviduals from the surrounding Pitts area while WOA will target a much broader range (looking for more corporate accounts and advertise in Pitt where KW won't in Cleve). Clearly to all of us a small park has a smaller market target while a large/mega/resort park will target other regions or even other continents.

Now the "feel" of the park has no indication (to me) of whether or not a park is large or small. There are large parks that "feel" like a small park but that doesn't change whether or not they are large. It seems like people associate small=good and big=bad. But i've seen small parks with terrible atmosphere, as well as the oppisite. It's just that the service is usually much more personal at a smaller park just like any smaller business. Wouldn't you expect better service at a small corner hardware store rather than at the horrible Home Despot.

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Thursday, October 17, 2002 10:03 AM

Thanks to everyone for the input (and the kind words).

In our weekly directors meeting yesterday, we were talking about crossing the 750,000 milestone in attendance and the big question was whether we'd fall into a new category for IAAPA dues. :)

Will had a big grin on his face--he said he *never* minds it when he has to shell out a little more money for dues.

Thanks again, Paula

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Paula Werne
Holiday World PR
JPWerne@holidayworld.com

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