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Disneyland veteran Matt Ouimet to take over Cedar Fair

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Published: June 20, 2011 at 11:10 AM

The man who helped engineer Disneyland's turn-around in the post-Paul Pressler/Cynthia Harriss era is stepping in to run the Cedar Fair amusement park chain.

Matthew Ouimet will succeed the retiring Dick Kinzel. Ouimet takes over as president immediately, and will assume Kinzel's CEO role in January. Kinzel earlier this year was forced out as board chairman by Cedar Fair shareholder Q Investments, a hedge fund which is battling Cedar Fair management in court.

Ouimet drew near-universal praise for his term as president of Disneyland Resort leading up to the parks 50th anniversary in 2005. Ouimet left Disney to become president of Starwood Hotels in 2006.

Readers' Opinions

From Bill Lohr on June 20, 2011 at 1:07 PM
I would hope this is a great thing. I feel that Cedar Fair has moved from quality entertainment and I hope that this will mean that it may return to the parks. Kings Dominion would be much more complete if this was brought back. I am sure others would be much better as well and the parks could once again be a place for all age groups. Coasters are great but a true quality park needs to have something for everyone. Dark rides, family rides and QUALITY shows as well as good food, all help make a park the best it can be.
From Robert Niles on June 20, 2011 at 2:16 PM
Ouimet helped many Disneyland fans fall in love with that park again by reestablishing its commitment to cleanliness, maintenance and show quality after the disastrous run of management in the 10 years prior. Let's hope he can do the same for Cedar Fair.

After visiting Holiday World, I felt a bit cheated when I visited Kings Island and Cedar Point on my recent trips to the Midwest. There's just too much nickel-and-diming at the Cedar Fair parks. And as for the flagship (jn terms of attendance) Knott's Berry Farm? I visited that park with my son a few weeks ago and have yet to write about it, because I just couldn't think of anything to say. Underwhelming is not good in this business.

Ouimet's not going to have the capital he had at Disney. I hope he doesn't end up like Mark Shapiro did at Six Flags, chasing the Disney family market without the capital to rebuild his parks in that mold. Instead, I hope he looks more toward Holiday World and the Herschend parks, and finds ways to provide high quality and good value within the context of a regional amusement park.

From m johnson on June 20, 2011 at 2:52 PM
What a great hire for Cedar Parks. For the short time he was President of Disneyland he had a big influence in the park today. My son says thanks for Buzz Lightyear ride.
From James Rao on June 21, 2011 at 6:45 PM
Most Cedar Fair parks I have visited have been pretty well maintained from a cleanliness perspective, so that trend needs to continue. Most of the theming is decorative only, so it would be nice to see the narrative elements improved. Also, some of the old special effects (at the former Paramount parks especially) might actually receive some refurb love....

As for ride selection, unless Ouimet has the budget to start a team of in-house Imagineers, Cedar Fair needs to keep its focus on coasters and thrill rides. Sadly, they just aren't that good at anything else, probably because they don't have the funds to "go all out."

As I said, I do think there will be more narrative details going forward, and most everything will probably require a story of some sort (known only to designers, sadly), so they days of random ride placement might be over. And perhaps the food offerings will improve to the point of being edible, at least. All good things.

I especially hope Ouiment looks to the Midwest and Worlds of Fun, cause that park definitely needs a lot of work. More coasters, updated flats, more whole-family (not kiddie) attractions, and dare I say it, a dark ride or two (at least a shooter would be nice). And maybe a show that is more entertaining than embarrassing for performers and audience members alike!

Incidentally, I wonder what good old Jake Rivers will say when he finds out a former Disney exec is running the show at his favorite iron ride park? Probably the same thing he's been saying since he was first incarcerated: "No, I will not pick up that bar of soap!" ;)

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