Will Pay-to-cut come to Kennywood?

Monday, December 14, 2009 11:24 AM

There are those rumors flying around about Q-Bot or something similar coming to Kennywood. This is in large part because of the new Sky Rocket coaster and the expectation for extremely long lines there.

If such a system happens, I would expect it to be used on the following rides -- Sky Rocket, Exterminator, Ghostwood Estate, Phantom's Revenge, and Raging Rapids. It mignt also be used on Pitt Fall, Racer, Jack Rabbit, Logjammer and Thunderbolt on busy days. On the other hand, some reservation system for Sky Rocket only is what we will see.

Hopefully, pay-to-cut is not part of Kennywood's future. They have gotten along fine without it in the past because the longest waits are usually about one hour on Exterminator and (on hot days) on Raging Rapids. Phantom eats lines up when both trains are running.

The new ride should provide an attendance bounce of maybe a couple hundred thousand for the season assuming the weather is normal. The new ride will reduce the impact of this added attendance on the other coasters. Overall, line conditions on other rides would not be expected to change much.

KW in the past has been known for being very guest-friendly whenever money was involved. Admission has generally been lower than other similarly sized parks. Free parking is available. Outside food and drink is permitted. Food and game prices are reasonable. Some of that might be changing now that the park is fully corporate instead of family owned. Last year there was a $2 (about 6 %) admission increase even though all that was added was a returning flat ride from the past. Sales tax (formerly included) was added to food prices on top of the usual annual increaase. (The Parkside Cafe already added the tax) Some games went from $1 to $2 although many $1 games remained but this was to be expected. .

The question now is, will Parques Renuidos start to become like SF or CF? Will there be another significant food price increase this year? How much longer will free parking remain available? (As far as I know, the only larger park with free parking is Silver Dollar City). Will the admission price start to approach that for the really big parks? Realisticly, I do see some increases but they wou't be extreme. The outside food rules will most likely stay as they are because KW depends heavily upon picnic groups and banning this would cause a significant attendance drop. As for Q-Bots, I would bet against it. KWs lines are generally not long enough to justify this, especially considering the damage that such a system would do to the park's image. What I would expect is a reservation system for Sky Rocket only and just for this one season.

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Monday, December 14, 2009 11:51 AM

Things are already changing. Ticket prices went up again. $35.99 for 2010 if you pay at the gate. They are also going to offer a limited number of season passes this year as a trial to see what happens. As for that virtual queue stuff, I only know that screamscrape posted that rumor.

And it is actually Palace Entertainment who runs Kennywood now. Parques may have a hand in whatever decisions are made in California, but at least to Kennywood, Palace is all that matters.

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Monday, December 14, 2009 11:57 AM

That's not entirely true. Palace is a US-based subsidary. The thing that's screwed up is that of the FEC's they own, many are apparently mismanged or losing money. So instead of the former Kennywood Entertainment unit running them, they're running K-wood. Makes little sense.

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Monday, December 14, 2009 12:19 PM

A $2 increase is warranted when a major coast3er is added to a park. It was last year's increase without a big addition that indicated a possible change in pricing policies. Remember that Waldameer went up $2 when RF2 was added. Of course I would rather pay $e more to get to ride RF2 than to pay the old price and not ride it.

As for season passes, KW is one of the biggest parks that doesn't have them so they appear to be overdue for this. I expect the pass price to be relatively high to prevent the problems that occurred at some of the Six Flags parks with their relatively low season pass prices in the past.. An intereesting question is whether a combination season pass for KW, Idlewild, and Sandcastle will be offered. If this is not offered right away, if would be very likely be doe in the future. I believe that a combination pass would be more popular than a Kennywood only pass especially since waterparks generate more repeat attendance than ride parks.

One thing that I do see going away in the future at Kennywood is free parking. I could see charges of $5 for regular parking and $10 for preferred parking within a couple of years. Remember that Sandcastle and Lake Compounce both have a parking charge. (Idlewild includes parking with admission at no extra charge).

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Monday, December 14, 2009 12:52 PM

Parques Reunidos bought Palace only a couple months before Kennywood, so I asked someone this year if, had it been the other way around, Kennywood Entertainment would be running Palace's properties. The answer I got was a resounding no. Palace has a nice, shining corporate headquarters, while Kennywood did not, was essentially how he put it.

As far as I know, Parques Reunidos had nothing to do with Kennywood this year. It was all Palace, Palace, Palace. Sky Rocket had to go through Palace, not Parques. Now, whether or not Parques is involved with Palace, and simply lets Palace do the dirty work when handling Kennywood, I don't know.

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Monday, December 14, 2009 12:59 PM

Kennywood has played with pricing many times in the past, even before Parques purchased them. It's a neat park to watch that kind of price testing happen for.

I know, for example, that the Bowler Roller game had been at 25 cents a game for a long time and then one season they increased it to 50 cents. That only lasted one season, though, and the next year it was again reduced to 25 cents, presumably because no one (or a significant enough amount fewer) was willing to play at the higher price. I don't know what it is now, but watching that kind of change occur is interesting.

I don't think things are going to go "corporate" at Kennywood because that atmosphere doesn't generally work for the park. Parking would be an area I would think might stand a change, but other pricing areas I would be less concerned with. I don't think the park pulls in their average crowd from enough varying places to support increases that have no concern for customer demand.

As for a virtual queue system, I'd be willing to see how it plays out. Even that technically isn't completely a new concept for the park. The upcharge Skycoaster has been on a reservation system since it opened. I know it's not quite the same thing, but it's worked. And you don't even get the option to choose to ride free or standby! ;)

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Monday, December 14, 2009 1:38 PM

I noticed an interesting thing about the games pricing. Many of the $1 games are the group games where the players play against each other with one of the players winning each time. These games need a certain number of players for a game to take place. If the price is too high, then there are often not enough players and the ones who want to play have to wait which might cause them to leave.

A reasonable price results in more repeat play where a player might play 5 or 10 games instead of just 1 or 2. This in turn leads to more players per game leading to more profit while still offering decent sized prizes.

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Monday, December 14, 2009 1:57 PM

Arthur Bahl said:
A reasonable price results in more repeat play where a player might play 5 or 10 games instead of just 1 or 2. This in turn leads to more players per game leading to more profit while still offering decent sized prizes.

Not necessarily. In fact, the opposite is just as likely to be true. Dropping the price doesn't guarantee that volume will rise enough to make up the difference (or more as is being suggested here).

If it were always the case then why wouldn't they make the game prices even lower than they are now so that even more people play and they make even more money?

There's a place where price and volume reach their maximum output. The key to doing good business is to find that spot and it's not necessarily (and I'd argue rarely in the cases of the things we talk about around here) at the low end of things.

But we've been over it a million times already. :)

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Monday, December 14, 2009 2:31 PM

I think for all intents and purposes when it comes to games, the cost of the "prizes" is so low that it actually makes sense to just look at revenue data to determine how to price the games. Wherever you find the sweet spot, # of games * price per game = max revenue, I think that's what you go with (unless/until the cost of the prizes becomes an issue where you'd need to take that into account).

Economists don't tell you "how to act", they tell how you already are behaving - then use that information to defeat you. ;)

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Monday, December 14, 2009 2:49 PM

I mentioned that the main type of games where price sensitivity is a concern are the group games. If you have a solo game and double the price, you miht lose a third of the players but the others can still play and you will come out ahead. With a group game, you might end up without a sufficient number of players to run the game. If this happensa, you don't lose some of the players; you lose them all and get no revenue.

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Monday, December 14, 2009 3:42 PM

Lord Gonchar said:


Not necessarily. In fact, the opposite is just as likely to be true. Dropping the price doesn't guarantee that volume will rise enough to make up the difference (or more as is being suggested here).

If it were always the case then why wouldn't they make the game prices even lower than they are now so that even more people play and they make even more money?

There's a place where price and volume reach their maximum output. The key to doing good business is to find that spot and it's not necessarily (and I'd argue rarely in the cases of the things we talk about around here) at the low end of things.

But we've been over it a million times already. :)

I don't know. Normally I would agree with you completely, but I think there's something to the "hook" factor in games that makes that equation less linear than for other things. If you can get someone thinking the next throw (or three) will result in a prize, they may be willing to keep playing for the win so long as they don't "feel" the expense of the game.

At that point it's not the normal price for perceived value issue. It's the experience as well as the competition that can drive sales up. So long as people don't realize what they're spending, anyway.

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Monday, December 14, 2009 4:01 PM

And I contend that it is easier to get a person to part with 3 $1s with separate games than $3 single games. Most everyone has a couple of bucks in their wallet. Those are easier to part with than having to break a $5, $10, or $20 (reduces clutter right?). That's my gut feeling anyway.

That being said, the prizes drive it quite a bit too. I was at Santa Cruz with my 4-year-old this summer and he absolutely wanted a croc plush. So I won one at the $3 fishing game. It was near the end of the day and when he saw the size of the diminuative size, he quickly corrected me that it was the wrong one. He wanted the BIG one. I guess it was worth another $6 to get to the train back to Felton without a disasterous meltdown.

Normally I wouldn't do that, but it would have been a long/public ride back on the train, had it been the car, another story perhaps.

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Monday, December 14, 2009 4:52 PM

Carrie M. said:
Normally I would agree with you completely, but I think there's something to the "hook" factor in games that makes that equation less linear than for other things.

I'd be curious to know what the playing patterns are for different games.

I suspect for certain kinds of games you might be right and for others the 'get it all upfront' approach works better.

I tend to think that any 'hook' that may happen happens regardless of price.

janfrederick said:
And I contend that it is easier to get a person to part with 3 $1s with separate games than $3 single games.

But does the $1 price entice enough people who otherwise wouldn't play compared to the $3 you get for everyone who will play no matter what. (because I have to believe there is a segment f the crowd that will play pretty much no matter what - boyfriends, showoffs, children, etc)

That being said, the prizes drive it quite a bit too. I was at Santa Cruz with my 4-year-old this summer and he absolutely wanted a croc plush. So I won one at the $3 fishing game.

And you'd have still probably done it for him at $5. I suppose the question is whether you'd have gone back for the biggie.

But perhaps the game changes and there is no smallest prize at $5 per play - so now it only takes two wins to get that big one. $10 and only two tries to get that big plush or three wins and $9. You're probably more inclined to drop the $5 again because it's only going to take one more try to get the biggie and the park ends up with 11% more from each player going for the big prize...and possible more people going for the big prize because it's just one win away as opposed to two away.

I'm guessing offsetting the cost with the perception of lower difficulty (less wins for the big prize) works in that scenario.

I also tend to think more along the lines of a parent with younger kids who insist on playing - and probably aren't going to win. Mom or Dad might say, "ok one game each" or "everyone gets to pick two games and that's it" - in that case there is no 'hook' and you just want the as much cash as possible upfront.

Goes back to personal experiences and observations, but I feel that I see way more people try once and walk away than keep trying...especially if they lose the initial game.

Basically there's so many variables that we could discuss hypotheticals all day long.

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Monday, December 14, 2009 7:57 PM

The season pass sounds like big trouble to me, seeing that the park is in Pittsburgh. It could get overrun with teens who have nothing better to do than to look for trouble, as seen in many SF parks located in or near big cities.

I believe that if, or when, Kennywood attempts to extort money from their value minded guests, via a pay-to-cut scam, it will likely blow up in their faces. It probably would not even last an entire season.

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Monday, December 14, 2009 8:03 PM

I just stick to the arcade, and skeeball, although I have never noticed whether that went up either. I guess I never cared. ;) I LOVE my skeeball no matter where I am, although I am partial to the old school machines. ;)

As far as the typical "midway" games, they have been around forever and although it's not really my thing, I don't see them going anywhere no matter how much they charge.

They must be doing something right. Those games have been around since amusement parks and carnivals were born for the most part.

I do enjoy Whack-A-Mole though, although "Whack-A Boy-Band" was much more fun. ;)

As far as pay-to-cut, I don't see it happening at Kennywood, but you never know. I agree with LK that it could possibly blow up in their faces. Kennywood isn't exactly a "destination" park like Disney, BG, Six Flags, or even Cedar Fair. I don't see the need for season passes OR a Q-bot thingy.

I know a lot of smaller parks who have season passes. Heck even Camden has one. I just don't see it at Kennywood.

-Tina

Last edited by coasterqueenTRN, Monday, December 14, 2009 8:18 PM
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Monday, December 14, 2009 8:08 PM

Gonch said:

"But does the $1 price entice enough people who otherwise wouldn't play compared to the $3 you get for everyone who will play no matter what. (because I have to believe there is a segment f the crowd that will play pretty much no matter what - boyfriends, showoffs, children, etc)"

I was going to say that as well. Aren't all three basically the same when it comes to these things? ;)

I decided to quote that my own way. Gonch is must more patient (and talented) than I am when chopping, pasting, and quoting. ;)

-Tina

Last edited by coasterqueenTRN, Monday, December 14, 2009 8:12 PM
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Monday, December 14, 2009 8:53 PM

Hard for me to determine which one seems more out of place, the season pass or a q-bot type thing. I guess it is slightly the q-bot thing because the average Summer day just doesn't need one. I don't how logistical it could work with most of the rides. Paying to park would be a sad sad day. As long as you can load up on discount tickets early in the season it shouldn't be too bad.

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Monday, December 14, 2009 10:22 PM

I park in Kennywood's pay parking lot. It's gated. :)

And if they start renting Q-Bot thingies (I like that term a lot. It's cute), the remedy is worse than the disease, as a famous rocker chick screams in one of her songs.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 4:54 AM

Dollywood has a similar version, which seemed to work for them two years ago. It was like $25 for 4 people and not too many people knew about it at the time. I don't know how it's working now. Then again Dollywood is more of a destination/vacation spot, unlike Kennywood. I don't know why the locals would care about a Q-bot thingy. ;)

At Great Adventure we had to stand in line for an hour just to pay for something to prevent us from standing in line. Funny.;)

-Tina

Last edited by coasterqueenTRN, Tuesday, December 15, 2009 4:58 AM
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2:49 PM

What a waste. What they need is some sort of system that saves your place, so you don't have to wait in line for a thing that allows you to avoid waiting in line....

I think.

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