Theme park fans should not quit on Six Flags now
By Robert NilesI supposed it's human nature, when a relationship is going bad, to want to be the one who breaks it off. No one wants to be dumped. ("No, you can't break up with me. I'm breaking up WITH YOU!")
Published: March 12, 2009 at 9:04 PM
So might it be now between amusement park fans and Six Flags. The chain appears to be going bankrupt, and fans do not want to be left in the lurch.
But theme park fans aren't helped themselves by pre-emptively "dumping" Six Flags and choosing to stay at home while the corporation fights for its financial life. If Six Flags' parks are to have any future after bankruptcy, potential buyers and investors need to see signs of life. Right now.
The more people who go to Six Flags parks this spring and summer, and the more those visitors spend there, the more likely that a financially healthy investor will want to take a chance and buy into these parks, keeping them alive for years to come. If fans stay home now, that apathy will ensure the company's failure, and the permanent closure of many of its parks.
I have no interest in saving Daniel Snyder's investment. He's a rich guy, who will remain a rich guy whether Six Flags dies or not. He doesn't need our help. But many of us don't want to lose our local amusement park. And many of us don't want to see thousands of good, hard-working managers and employees, who've done much in the past two years to turn this chain around, lose their jobs in this industry.
A business doesn't always close when it goes bankrupt. There are two main types of corporate bankruptcy in the United States. "Chapter 11" bankruptcy, while Six Flags is talking about filing, allows a company to stay open while a court oversees the company's assets and efforts to negotiate a deal with the folks to which it owes money. If the company can't make a deal, then it goes to the other type of bankruptcy - liquidation. At that point, the company does close forever, and its remaining assets are sold. That's what happened earlier this year to Hard Rock Park.
I've argued that Six Flags ought to be liquidated. Rather than slowly bleed the company to save money to pay off creditors, customers would be better served by selling the parks right away, while they still have loyal fans and value. We've been covering Six FLags' financial troubles for a long time, long before Dan Snyder and his crew came upon the scene. (In fact, we broke the story of the company's financial troubles, way back in 2002.) Debt from the former Premier Parks' spending spree has been crippling Six Flags for years. The company simply cannot survive under that burden any longer.
But many of its theme parks remain profitable, and are cleaner, more friendly and more enjoyable than they have been in years. What a shame it would be to lose that momentum, after what Six Flags' fans have had to endure over the past decade.
So... let's not lose it. Don't quit yet. If you like the direction your local Six Flags park is heading, keep going. Heck, make an extra visit and buy an extra churro or two.
If you are among those who don't like your local park's direction, by all means, stay away. Break it off. Don't throw your good money after Dan Snyder's bad. But if you haven't been in the past two years, give it another try.
Six Flags' corporate fate need not be the fate of all its parks. But fans will help determine those parks' fate by how they respond during the next few months.
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