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Cedar Fair sells Great America for $70 million

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Published: September 19, 2011 at 3:34 PM

[Update:Dec. 2011 Deal was cancelled. Not happening.]

The Cedar Fair amusement park chain announced today [PDF] that it will sell its Great America amusement park in Santa Clara, California for $70 million.

The new buyer is JMA Ventures, a real estate investment firm that manages several ski resorts and other properties, mostly in northern California. Great America is located in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area, better known to tech geeks as Silicon Valley.

So now new Cedar Fair president Matt Ouimet has $70 million to pay down debt, and one less park to maintain. Great America was not one of the top-attended parks in the Cedar Fair chain, operating seasonally in northern California in competition with a a Six Flags park, not to mention the many much larger and better developed theme parks operating a short plane flight or half-day drive away in Southern California.

And, by the way, for those of you who are wondering and weren't around the 1970s, yes, Great America used to be the sister park of Six Flags Great America, when both were Marriott theme parks. When the hotel company got out of the theme park business, it sold the Chicago-area park to Six Flags and the San Francisco-area park to (*edit) Kings Entertainment which then sold to Paramount, which years later sold its theme parks to Cedar Fair.

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony Murphy on September 19, 2011 at 8:31 PM
I did not know that. SFGA has potential for being a GREAT park
From 76.103.17.137 on September 20, 2011 at 1:37 AM
from what i've been told Robert, JMA ventures is partially owned by the York family (owners of the 49ers)
From James Rao on September 20, 2011 at 5:31 AM
I used to go to this park back when I was a kid and it was still owned by Marriott. At the time, I thought it was a great "theme" park. Perhaps it can be great again one day?
From Jeff Elliott on September 20, 2011 at 9:34 AM
"The owners of the San Francisco 49ers are teaming with a local real estate firm to buy a Santa Clara theme park that had opposed the 49ers' new stadium plans.
The San Jose Mercury News reported the deal by the York family and JMA Ventures on Monday. The $70 million deal to buy Great America is expected to help clear the way for a new football stadium next to the park." From the San Francisco Chronicle
From Ted Heumann on September 20, 2011 at 10:45 AM
Now if they can just sell Knott's to someone who gives a dam about THEME parks and not just AMUSEMENT parks, then ALL of California will be happy.
From Ted Heumann on September 20, 2011 at 10:46 AM
The other thing that struck me like a TON of bricks was the $70 million price. Disney (and Universal) spend more than that on ONE ride!!!
From Zack McDonald on September 20, 2011 at 10:57 AM
The park is owned by the city, what they bought was the rights to operate the park, and ownership of attractions installed since the city bought the park from Marriott.

My dad says that Marriott was going to sell the park for its land value in 1984; however the city saved the park when they bought it and contracted KECO to run it for them.

From Jay Posteraro on September 20, 2011 at 10:21 PM
Any idea how long it will stay open?
From 174.108.6.75 on September 21, 2011 at 6:16 PM
Paramount did not own Great America I believe it was Kings Entertainment company who owned it because it had Hanna-Barbera Charcters and Grizzly was named after Grizzly at Kings Dominion just wanted to get facts more straight!
From James Rao on September 21, 2011 at 7:33 PM
I just wish Cedar Fair would have sent the Demon to Worlds of Fun before the sale. I used to LOVE that ride.
From 50.131.9.111 on September 21, 2011 at 9:36 PM
Zack is right, the city of Santa Clara purchased the park from Marriott because at that time the land was worth a fortune compared to what they paid for it.

As for the Gurnee park, I am pretty sure Six Flags was not who Marriott sold it too. I'm getting old but I think it was Bally Corporation that might have been the one that purchased that park???

From Robert Niles on September 21, 2011 at 10:40 PM
Paramount did own the operating rights to Great America in between the park transferring to Kings Entertainment and Paramount selling its chain to Cedar Fair. I've edited the post to reflect that Kings was the intermediate owner between Marriott and Cedar Fair.

As for Chicago, that was a direct deal between Marriott and Bally, which owned the Six Flags chain at the time.

From Andrew Rector on September 22, 2011 at 11:09 AM
I could see JMA running CGA with a entertainment complex and 49ers stadium next door. CGA is small enough where they could change it to a free admission park with a pay per ride (ticket) or wristband like Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and they could get people wandering around the park before and after 49er's games paying for the rides they want. They could keep the park open on weekends in winter through the end of the NFL season and on Friday nights (and just close the water rides if its cold). They could do midweek specials like SCBB does and they could take out the rides that don't work, like Grizzly, and eventually replace them with new rides (like a Gravity Group woodie like Wooden Warrior) if the park is profitable enough. Hopefully they would clean up the lake by Flight Deck so it doesn't look disgusting. JMA may be a property management company, but they also operate two ski resorts in Lake Tahoe and another one in Montana, which are kind of like "winter-time amusement parks". Maybe they are looking into expanding their portfolio with this being their first "summer-time amusement park". Cedar Fair wasn't really doing anything with this park, so I am glad to see someone else take a shot at it, and hope for the best.

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