The fact that Six Flags can't hold attendance numbers without their so-called "parks that don't fit the new strategy" is not a good sign. If attendance was flat or even a few points down I could understand...but 14%??? It makes me wonder why they are getting rid of some of these parks in the first place (cough Magic Mountain..cough) I know I know, debt reduction...at this rate though, they will be back in the same debt within ten years...without those parks.
If they want to regain consumer confidence, they are going to have to first improve the parks, and then lower gate prices and mass market to draw people in. At this point, the word is out, and people aren't choosing to go to Six Flags, and a price hike is making it worse.
Kings Island does a promotional day with it's passholders, where they basically give each and every passholder eight tickets to give to their friends, and then set aside a weekend to have all of those people in the park. Do they make any money off of admissions? Absolutely not, but the park is full, they sell a ton of food, drink, and merch, and thousands of people who probably don't even think about going are let in to experience the park because their ticket was free, and I'm absolutely certain that Kings Island converts plenty of those people into fans and also sells a good share of season passes in the process. I don't know if Six Flags practices this or not, but I think they should, in order to show people that they are improving. First things first though...they actually have to improve.
Their parks have virtually no aesthetic appeal.I don't go to a park just for the thrill rides.
The last time I found myself in a SF park was for the closing of ASTOWORLD last year (and had a negetive experience).The time before that was for the openning of BATWING at SF AMERICA 5 years ago.
I've been giving my money to Busch, Universal, Paramount and Disney.(as for Knott's Berry Farm and Cedar Point--I've only been to each one once)
As it stands now, the only way I see to save Six Flags is to invest many, many millions in the handful of viable parks that company owns. (Chicago, New Jersey, Arlington, Atlanta, St. Louis, plus, maybe, D.C. and Massachusetts.) But no one wants to buy the "unviable" parks, leaving the company relying on a real estate market that's already peaked to raise the investment funds that it needs.
When I was a kid, there was a "Jean Rebault" river boat ride where you went through "swamps" where indian shot arrows at you and Spanish soldiers shot cannons at you (there were loud booms and big splashes in the water near the boat). The log flume ride had two tracks, was very long, and you got very wet. There were great shows, lots of choices of food, the employees were friendly and the place was clean. Now, you have a park with no theme (unless you call a bunch of teenagers running around in bugs bunny costumes a theme), gang bangers running around jumping in line, trash cans overflowing, and outrageously priced pizza, hot dogs and hanburgers that are served by a sullen and surly group of teenagers who act as if they're doing you a favor by waiting on you.
I bought season passes for me and my son, which is a good value considering how many times we're visited the park this summer. However, $15.00 to park is insane. Parking should be free.
The other issue is the cost of food, which is way too high. $8.00 for a Hamburger? That's just nutty. And on top of that, they wont allow you to bring food into the park, so you're stuck. We either leave, eat somewhere and come back, or I pack a cooler in the trunk and we eat and then go back in. I would be willing to bet that if the park offered healthy food (good luck finding a salad or chicken breast sandwich) that was reasonably priced, people would buy, buy, buy.
I understand that the park has to pay for the expensive coasters and such, but I think they would fair better financially if the concessions and food were better prices. Six Flags charges $3.50 for a small lemonade; that's a $3.25 profit. They would sell twice as many if they were priced at $2.00.
The bottom line is that Six Flags is a fun diversion from time to time only if you buy a season pass and a season parking pass, do not eat and drink there. For goodness sakes, a bottle of WATER is $3.00 from a vending machine!! Everytime I pay that, I feel a little more resentment against Six Flags, because they have you by the throat. You cant bring your own water, so you have no choice.
I think all of this will ultimately be their downfall.
I don't know that it's possible to turn Six Flags around now. It certainly doesn't seem possible to do a 'quick' turnaround. There's too much that needs to be changed - and not just the physical things. They need to change or re-invent their image. They need to 'theme' their parks to make them visually appealing. Any changes would require a huge investment. Of course, not only do they have no money, they owe out the wazoo. Their current strategy seems to be resulting in "1 step forward, 2 steps back."
Cedar Point, however, has remained my Mecca of Roller Coaster Religion. Always got good service, good food, prices are cheap enough, cheap tickets, reliable and EXTREMELY fun rides, nice location, always clean... I need something to replace Six Flags with for my local tastes though, since Ohio is a bit of a distance from Virginia, so I'm going to start trying Busch Gardens, since everyone says it's good.
I visited SFFT in April of 2005 and I never really understood my strange reaction to the park until now. I kept commenting to my friend that it was "the most beautiful Six Flags park I had ever been to." There were not a huge amount of BIG thrill rides, just Superman, Poltergeist and the Rattler - the latter of which I would dismantle as it nearly broke our backs. It had an adorable Scooby Doo dark ride where you got to "shoot" the ghosts along the way. It had a beautiful themed street in Rockville. The backdrop of the park was the cliffs of an old quarry. And, it has won the "Golden Ticket" award for best theme park shows for the 7th consecutive year!
Maybe, Six Flags might want to take a look at Fiesta Texas - family-oriented, beautiful, diversity of rides and shows - and start emulating the magic of SFFT at the rest of the parks!
As much as a company like Cedar Fair would make the place a winner, I think that they are done buying parks for a good long while. They should be anyway. Their past expansion projects plus integrating the Paramount Parks leaves them plenty to do, so unfortunately for these parks being left behind, there isn't any fair haired prince charming to save them.
How about Busch moving into Coors backyard? Interesting concept....or how about Coors throwing their hat into the business. With all the sales going on, I couldn't think of a better time for a newcomer to make a big splash in the amusement world.