Why Geauga Lake Cannot Survive as Part of Cedar Fair

Saturday, May 26, 2007 7:15 PM
I went to opening day at Geauga Lake today and I think it is very difficult to be optimistic about this park anymore. Attendance was well… pretty bad. Very few cars in the parking lot, empty midways, and roller coasters with two riders per train seemed to be the norm throughout the day. Cost cutting seems to have really hit the park hard. Without X-Flight, Steel Venom, and the monorail that entire corner of the park felt lifeless. Based on the shows they advertised in the park guide, it looks like the Lumberjack show has been cancelled and replaced with nothing; and the strolling marching band got the boot as well, replaced with nothing. The only thing that really seemed “new” in the park was a cornhole game over by the Texas Twister.

In the first three years Cedar Fair has owned Geauga Lake they have been unable to break the 700,000 annual attendance mark. It really feels like Cedar Fair is giving up on the park and letting it die a slow and painful death. Two popular roller coasters were removed because Geauga Lake is doing poorly and operating those two rides puts them deeper and deeper into the red. Cost cutting like this is likely to decrease per-cap operating expenses, but it also worsens the guest experience. The reality is: poor attendance at GL begets cost cutting; cost cutting ruins the guest experience and begets more cost cutting. This vicious cycle is the reason Geauga Lake cannot and will not survive in the long term as long as Cedar Fair owns it.

The best hope for Geauga Lake is for the park to be spun off and taken private. The private owner of the park has to focus on long-term results instead of annual or quarterly results. The private owner needs to pay competitive wages (which I understand from some of the park sweepers is bare minimum wage) to get better employees, improve the park’s marketing (which is extremely poor this year), correct the removal of live shows, and generally do whatever it takes to get people in the door. If that means lowering in-park prices, getting rid of the parking fee, or adding a new ride (I don’t think Cedar Fair has added a single one), the private owner needs to accept lower per-cap numbers in the short term.

With the massive debt that Cedar Fair has taken on, shareholders will put the company under pressure to get rid of Geauga Lake for two reasons: 1) Geauga Lake has turned into a money bleeding liability for Cedar Fair and 2) selling the park will generate quick cash which can be used to pay down the debt.

I know it may be difficult to accept, but Geauga Lake cannot survive as part of a public company, and if opening day attendance is any indicator, Geauga Lake will perform poorly again this summer. The parent company obviously isn’t giving Geauga Lake the resources it needs to make the improvements that will actually bring people into the park. If Geauga Lake is taken private and given the resources it needs to succeed, it can. This park has been popular and profitable in the past and the place is definitely not hopeless. The watermark is extremely nice and there is enough land around that lake for years and years of growth. The primary problem with Geauga Lake is that Cedar Fair will not let the park succeed. For those of you looking for the “big turnaround,” you’re going to have to wait until Geauga Lake goes private.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007 8:42 PM
I've always felt they should rip everything out and send it to the other CF parks, then sell the property to realestate developers.

I still stand by that statement.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007 8:47 PM
Poor Big Dipper. What a beautiful great classic ride. Too bad it's there.

Feel the same about the Great America Viper, too bad such a great woodie is in such a lame park.

I really think advertising free parking and free pop would do wonders for ANY park - any park that doesn't already have em of course.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007 8:55 PM
^How on Earth is SFGAm lame?

Anyway, I also feel that Geauga Lake is doomed, so to speak. It's a shame, but It really all goes back to Six Flags trying to turn it into a Super Park, which it was clearly never meant to be.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007 8:57 PM
Too bad attendance wasn't very good. Although the weather did seem a bit crummy....
PROUD- on Scream! over a parking lot. Top 10 Coasters: 1.) Millennium Force 2.) Maverick 3.) Goliath (SFoG) 4.) Raptor 5.) Déjà Vu 6.) Scream! 7.) Top Thrill Dragster 8.) X 9.) Magnum XL 200 10.) Viper (SFGAm) -- Thrills Around the Corner!
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Saturday, May 26, 2007 8:59 PM
They want to advertise it as a family traditional park without treating you like your in one.

The park could make it and make it big IMHO they just won't do whats needed like get rid of a big parking fee and high priced food.

Chuck, who likes Geauga but also feels that the waterpark isn't worth the 4hour drive. The animal side combined with the park was.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007 9:00 PM
Cedar Point, which pretty much calls the shots with GL, operates the park with a different business model than SF or Funtime.

GL did just fine from 1888-1996. Its tough to change a park that old's direction in so little time.

The Funtime model was to book groups from the NE Ohio area, while getting weekend traffic from Sea World. Being that Pittsburgh made up 50% of the SWO market, GL grabbed all the overnight business.

GL is too close to the Point to 'compete', so they are trying to create a different experience. It was a similar story on how Kennywood took Idlewild in a different direction.

However, GL was a more 'popular' park, that has more assets. In the right managements hands, GL could use the weapons of rides, shows, whales, penguins, 2 parking lots, and group pavillions that can seat over 10,000 at once for catering.

SF, however, missed the target on every attempt. Would GL be batter in Kennywoods hands? Knoebels? Probably. GL needs to return to a classic park. Cleveland's Park. Group picnics. The Wave. Octoberfest. Geauga Dog. These are big wounds that waterslides and cabanas can't cure for some time.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007 9:03 PM
The rides and midways may have seemed dead for most of the day but what is forgotten is that just like last year, opening day's weather wasn't really all that great with off and on bouts of rain, which did help Villain and Wolf Bobs as those two were badly squealing during the dry period between rain.

Unlike the past three opening days, Wildwater Kingdom opened today and even though it wasn't seriously crowded like it can get there were quite a few people over there.

That first hour before the water park opened the guests were flocking to the rides. Dominator's station was quite busy with trains going pretty full. Head Spin even had a full train when I got in line for it. So there's interest in the rides but just like Holiday World and Dorney Park, the lines for rides die out when the water park opens.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007 9:15 PM

Starchaser said:
^How on Earth is SFGAm lame?.

Parking is $15, a large coke is $4.06, rides are usually closed and or understaffed/not run to capacity. Basically, it's six flags. Ok, I was a bit harsh. I'm glad that my home six flags park is Great America, and not one of the other parks.

It's lame compared to the amount of fun I personally have at Indiana Beach (thank the maker that it's only 2 hrs away) or Holidayworld (or Hershey or Kennywood or Mt. Olympus, etc...)

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Saturday, May 26, 2007 9:35 PM
My take of the park is a Knoebles like park run by a big corporation, kind of like Gilmore Gardens has that same feel to it.

Bolliger/Mabillard for President in '08 NOT Dinn/Summers

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Saturday, May 26, 2007 9:38 PM
If you think Great America is lame, then dang, don't set foot at any of the other big Six Flags parks....they're far worse.

Fate is the path of least resistance.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007 9:40 PM
^ Yea, I think you were a bit harsh. If you were talking about SFGAdv, SFMM, or SFA, I could understand a bit more, but SFGAm? Please. This is definitely one of the best-operated in the chain. I thought they were running fairly well on opening day this year, as most rides did seem to be open, and, as far as I know, most coasters were operating with multiple trains, if they could. Ragin Bull definitely had all three on.

coastin' since 1985

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Saturday, May 26, 2007 10:03 PM
eightdotthree's avatar

Agent Johnson said:
GL needs to return to a classic park. Cleveland's Park. Group picnics. The Wave. Octoberfest. Geauga Dog. These are big wounds that waterslides and cabanas can't cure for some time.

Couldn't say it any better myself. Are they booking picnics again?


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Saturday, May 26, 2007 10:17 PM
I am no expert, but is the fact that Geauga Lake is so close to Cedar Point a reason it is struggling? People in that area are so used to Cedar Point being the big guy on the block (yes, I know GL has been there a long time). People lost interest when Six Flags took over that area's traditional park, and I guess the public doesn't expect anything different.
University of South Florida....literally across the street from pretty much the best place ever....BGA
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Saturday, May 26, 2007 10:21 PM
"With the massive debt that Cedar Fair has taken on, shareholders will put the company under pressure to get rid of Geauga Lake for two reasons: 1) Geauga Lake has turned into a money bleeding liability for Cedar Fair and 2) selling the park will generate quick cash which can be used to pay down the debt. "

As a Cedar Fair unitholder (not shares - its a partnership) I am actually happy with the direction of Geauga Lake. As for bleeding money - do you know that for sure? As for the debt, it will be paid off by 2012 (5 years from now) and Cedar Fair will be stronger than ever.

GL needs time to return to glory, and 2 years is not enough. GL is not the lowest attended park owned by Cedar Fair, I believe that is MiA, yet no one is calling for its demise.


". . . don't you know baby that life is a scream!" - Gordon Gano

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Saturday, May 26, 2007 10:21 PM
Well if there was EVER a negative place to goo this certainatly supercedes the rest... Doom and Gloom only works for the movies...

2006 - 2009 Cedar Fair Ride Operations
2009 - Walt Disney World Attractions.
http://www.EncoreArrangements.com

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Saturday, May 26, 2007 10:31 PM
I have received Cedar Fair's annual reports the last five years, and I am trying to save up money right now to invest in the company as a unitholder.

That's really interesting that you are, Coasterdad.

I am still trying to understand the complete difference between a corporation and a limited partnership! It's part of my major so I gotta learn quick.


University of South Florida....literally across the street from pretty much the best place ever....BGA
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Saturday, May 26, 2007 11:10 PM
Thank you, everyone, for the insightful responses.

CoasterDad, I do not know for sure how good or bad Geauga Lake's financials look since the company doesn't release specific park numbers. My logic is that given the low ratio of employees to customers in the park sometimes (such as today), each person would have to spend quite a bit of money just for Geauga Lake to break even on labor costs. I also think that Cedar Fair has said in numerous press releases that Geauga Lake has been disappointing. I don't think Cedar Fair is a good investment right now and I personally wouldn't invest my money in the company until that debt is off the books.

Free parking and free pop are examples of things Geauga Lake will never do under Cedar Fair because those two items are responsible for a big part of per-cap revenue; and yet they are two perfect ways to enhance the guest experience. I believe the food service could be greatly improved if the food service was operated like private parks like Kennywood, Knobles, and Holiday World. I feel like the big corporate parks probably have contracts with big providers which don't make especially good food and won't or can't deviate from those contracts.

Sometimes it is the small things that really make a difference. Just think about all the policies the park has now. Most of them have good intentions but a lot more unintended consequences than there should be. It isn't pleasant to be standing in a line and hear a ride employee scream repeatedly until a kid stops sitting on the bars in the station. I understand that people should sit on them, but harassing your customers to follow the rules is not good customer service. The atmosphere at Geauga Lake stinks, frankly; it just isn't really a very fun place to be.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007 12:06 AM

Chuck, who likes Geauga but also feels that the waterpark isn't worth the 4hour drive. The animal side combined with the park was.

Aaah, just the point I was trying to make in the other column.... I wouldn't drive 4 hours for a water park, either.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007 12:37 AM
the problem is as the park currently exists, it wont survive as a 'Cleveland' park. it needs to pull strong from akron/canton. cleveland is very a very depressed area and it would be difficult to support to major amusement parks. GL needs to really focus on the water side for now, keep improving their current coasters ie villian, and hope for the best at this point....
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