Before people go completely out of their skulls on this topic, I'll raise a few points to think about. A lot of good numbers for Busch, but one I didn't see was expenditure. BEC parks are year round operations, most with a stable of animals to take care of. Higher revenues and more attendance (much in part due to 11 months of operation compared to 4 months in the northern states) also means higher cost. High quality aside, the company still has shouldered over 2 billion dollars of debt, and now have to make that money to pay it back. Keep in mind too that the economic bubble inflated the Paramount price, but it also deflated the Busch price. Had this deal gone down in 2006, the price is likely a lot higher.
I'm sure that the parks are profitable, and the state of the economy has gotten Blackstone a bit of a discount. I'm also sure though that it was the park's P&L reports (that's profit and loss for those out of the know) that had a big say in the "pennies" price.
That being said, it's pretty hard to compare these two deals by the numbers when they happened in two completely different economic environments, and when we don't know all the numbers that matter. The notion that one deal was that much better than the other has some validity when you factor in Theme Park Insider fan mania and it's perceived value of the parks. Yes they get to keep it's brands, which are of ok value (horsepee..I mean A-B beer, Sesame Street, and Shamu), but I'm thinking that the state of the economy, the park balance sheets, and Busch's status as number 3 in Orlando makes the price an good deal, but by no means the steal of the century.
Maybe we should just be happy that the Busch parks have been passed on to a reputable company that will presumably take care of them and maintain their quality and status, and hopefully expand and improve them. They will have their problems, and their markets will become even more competitive. I take comfort in knowing that I'll still be able to go to a Busch park and have a good day.
But, even at a low funding level, Paramount did more with theming and storytelling than Cedar Fair does now.
Having been a former Paramount Parks creative type, I can reiterate Robert's comment -- we always did the best we could do given the capital expenditure, which wasn't much.
Would it have been better business to put in a "great coaster instead of a half-arse themed ride"? The numbers say no -- we never got any higher jump in attendance with a high-profile mega-coaster than we did with themed attractions.
In fact, Paramount Parks actually found more success with *family* attractions -- the Nick areas, Boomarang Bay in-park waterparks -- than they ever did with big steel. Look at a park like Great America, which floundered for YEARS, until they put in a (half-arsed, but serviceable) waterpark, and BOOM the local families arrived in droves. In every park within the Paramount Parks system, the same pattern evolved -- by focusing on a core family audience, and marketing directly to them (mostly through a very aggressive season-pass program), all of the parks had pretty steady growth (and in some cases like GA, a total turnaround).
I'm a coaster fan, too -- but you have to be realistic in the fact that big coasters are POLARIZING to an audience. Why do you think Disney doesn't put in more aggressive coaster rides? Because a larger audience often won't ride them. Coasters may get you press, but they don't get the largest amount of people through the gate.
Busch is a good example of this -- sure, they put in big coasters to get the press, but their bread-and-butter are family attractions and marketing to a much larger family audience. Do you see *any* aggressive coasters or thrill-based marketing on that new "World of Discovery" blog?
The other important point is that Cedar Fair bought Paramount Parks at their determined worth in 2006. I am sure they would have liked to buy them in a fire sale during the bleakest economy in half a century; but they were for sale then not now. Blackstone was in the right place at the right time and got the best deal they could hope for, because ImBev needs cash now.
Hindsight will tell if Cedar Fair made the right decision in 2006 - it probably was the right call.
In 1972, Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This legislation prohibits taking or selling killer whales, walruses and dolphins. While it was actively opposed by Sea World execs at the time, it ended up being a boon to the chain. Overnight they had an almost-exclusive corner on the market, being that they were one of the few chains to possess these animals prior to the bill's passage, and were thus able to still feature them in their parks.
While I wouldn't run to a park to see killer whales, it's undeniable that these flipper-beasts really do differentiate the Sea World parks from the other big-league players. It's more than just a brand...it's a whole attraction model that Sea World alone possesses. That's huge.
Great point about the marine mammals. I thought about that angle, but it would be well worth fleshing out as a story at some point.
As a woman might say, "It's the little things that count", and it was the little details that were missing in many of these themed rides. Italian Job could have been a home run. It ended up being a fly ball. I agree that the talent was present in the design department, as demonstrated by early offerings and little things here and there, and I'm sure that the design team's style was cramped by budget, but that's the game of the seasonal amusement park, with or without movie studio backing. It's pretty clear that Paramount and it's bosses quit on the parks, maybe because they weren't making enough money for their liking. They should have known that it was because they weren't spending enough for their formula to work.
Busch's family attractions? Besides the wildlife and marine life, what is Busch really known for?
Kraken- Multilooping floorless coasterSheikra/Griffon- 200 plus foot vertical drop coastersAlpengeist/Montu- Multilooping Inverted CoastersManta- Multilooping Flying CoasterDarKastle- vampire themed flat rideApollo's Chariot- MegacoasterGwazi- Dueling wooden coaster
They build great roller coasters...most of which are unthemed. The greatness of Busch isn't the individual themed attraction, but rather the animals and the atmosphere they create around great rides...the most popular of them being? Yep roller coasters.
Thanks for the kick in the rear. I'll try to get that review posted by the end of the month.
The posted noted the act as 'prohibiting' the taking (capturing) and selling of... marine animals (listed many types). This is not technically true. An organization (such as SeaWorld or other aquariums) can still apply for permits to collect marine animals. Thanks to the MMPA of '72 those permits are now much, MUCH harder to get approved--- but not impossible. In fact collections of marine mammals have occurred (legally) since the time of 1972.
The point that was made correctly in the previous post dealt with SeaWorld getting an almost exclusive market. While I am sure the SeaWorld people did not love some of the MMPA-- the act did (and still does) prevent just any yockle from going out and collecting marine mammals... in US waters at least. And to this day the two largest collections of bottlenose dolphins belong to SeaWorld... and the US Navy!
BTW these animals can be legally 'traded' between zoos around the world. A great example of that was when Six Flags Worlds of Adventure (former SeaWorld Ohio) brought in an female Orca from France.
Another main goal around the MMPA '72 deals with the restriction of harassing animals in the natural environment. Anyone without a permit must stay 150ft away from marine mammals in their natural environment. This also helps aquariums justify 'swim with the dolphins' type programs. Their thought is that people can have a controlled interaction with dolphins in an aquarium and leave the animals in the ocean alone.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act is up for review every few years, so changes can also be applied to the act.