I too already bought my season pass for this year and it was on the basis that I could take a trip up north the Great America in Chicago.
I would rather they shed smaller parks (excluding St. Louis) to survive than to dump the chain entirely. We don't need a bunch of New Orleans Parks around the country.
Six Flags has some good parks. I like what some of their managers are doing to improve their parks and turn around the chain's old reputation for poor service. But they can't get the capital they need to finish the job because of this debt. And now, the chain itself might not survive, throwing the survival of some of these good parks in jeopardy.
This is how unregulated financial markets die, folks. They don't just take out the weak and foolish (e.g. Premier Parks, Dan Snyder for taking over the chain rather letting Premier management go to bankruptcy court and buying the best assets there). They take out good, solid businesses, too (potentially SF Magic Mountain, SFGrAdv and SFGrAm).
What is also terrible about if SFGA closes its doors is all the business around it. SFGA has really changed Gurnee very similar for what Disney did for Orlando. The area has become a short vacation destination for the area with quality hotels and resturants springing up in the early 2000s. The other big destination in the area is Gurnee Mills which is just a giant mall.
I predict that SFGA and the other strong parks will be sold off rather than closed down. Great America is actually making a new attraction at the moment and appears to be one of the few businesses that can hire a ton of people. I am not sure what the other Six Flags Parks did, but at SFGA, everybody paid kids price plus discounts via soda cans or buying online/supermarket. It looks like SFGA saw the economy tanking before the other theme park companies.
The best option, for the consumer, is swift liquidation. Sell the best parks, while they are still strong, to other operators. Let the poorly performing ones die. If played well, we can end up with a new, stronger "Six Flags," with just the best parks and without the cripping debt. And with the best park managers still in place.
I am in agreement with the obvious solution: SF needs to sell off everything but its premiere destinations (i.e., Magic Mt, Fiesta Texas, Great America, Great Adventure, and one or two others) and pay off their debts. If they just keep the cream of the Six Flags crop they might be able to stay solvent...and even continue to improve.
But who would want to buy their lesser parks? And honestly, who is even in the market these days?
Man, I wish I had about $100 million just laying around as this would be a great (and inexpensive) year to become a theme park owner!
They just reported a profit and attendance increase for 2008, and by most accounts I've heard, seem to be turning things around inside the park. That's something for investors to think about, because if they can't get an extension or reach an agreement with PIERS holders, than they likely go to bankruptcy court, which means the shareholders probably get nothing (see Circuit City..among other companies). If I were holding those shares, I would think about giving them a little more time to fix things.
The best course of action for Six Flags? Have a good year and make some money. They operate in several of the largest markets in the country, and amusement parks will be seen as a cost effective alternative to spending thousands on a vacation. They have the ability to be successful, and doing well in the face of the economy will help make their case to the investors to give them time. It still could be a tough sell, given the fact that most people in the stock market (and the people reporting on it) seem to be acting like there is a bat in the room.
Recently I feel a little like Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House, when he's trying to control a chaotic crowd running for no real reason and yelling "REMAIN CALM...ALL IS WELL!". It seems that the general reaction to these chaotic times is to panic, cut, and run. I'll tell you this much, we, the Dow, the banks...etc... would be a lot better off if people would keep their cool a little more with the stock market and such. A free market relies on level headed people who don't panic, and unfortunately it seems we are lacking in that department. Parks aren't going to be on easy street this year, but the season hasn't even started and people are pretty much writing it off as a failure. Pessimism isn't exactly the best way to get off the ground.
Funny you should mention those six parks since during Walk in the Parks, the five mentioned were in the top 6! (one of the TX parks was combined with another). Since 12 participated in the Walk in the Parks event, thats the top half! But its true, Six Flags does help the areas around it from what I can see.
If I were to cut two (sorry!) It would be Kentucky Kingdom and St. Louis.
Also, do you think SFoT/SFoG has escaped most of the issues of the "parent company" due to their ownership status (i.e. limited partnership).
We went for opening day and had the best experience we've had at any venue for several years. Yes I said ANY (and that includes Non Theme Parks). At every corner there were bright faces, asking us how our day was, if we were finding everything all right, if there was anything they could do for us, taking the time to answer our questions about the animals and even letting us play catch with a friendly dolphin! When we returned to our car to head home our thoughts turned to the idea of returning every year for opening day.
I hope that they can find their way out of the financial turmoil. It would be shame to lose such a great institution.
SFSL should be on the save list. It has come a long way and should be kept on track. If it were to close 3000 people would lose their jobs here. That's on top of the massive layoffs that have already hit St. Louis hard.
There is always a possibility for it all to be sold and closed down because the land they all sit on might be worth alot.
Also, from what I heard, if it all goes down, Six Flags does not have to give refunds for its Season Passes. I doubt that will happen. They probably will stay open.
KEEP LIST:Six Flags Magic Mountain(That park has the potential to give Cedar Point a run for its money.)
Six Flags Great America(It's probably one of the most successful Six Flags parks ever!)
Six Flags Great Adventure(It's the largest Six Flags property, with the Drive-Thru Safari, and the world's tallest coaster, Kingda Ka.)
The Great Escape(One word: COMET!)
Six Flags Mexico(It's Mexico's largest amusement/theme park.)
SELL LIST:Six Flags Fiesta Texas
SIx Flags New England
Six Flags New Orleans(I know they have a contract with the city, but I think that New Orleans should void the contract because that park is a lost cause due to Hurricane Katrina.)
THE JURY'S OUT:La Ronde(I don't know about this one.)