How can they raise the money? Sell a few of the parks. Focus on the more popular regions to start. It's simplistic, but it could work.
Now, if your problem instead is that you don't want to go to a park with Latinos and black people in them because you associate their mere presence with gang activity, well, I can't help you get over that. But I can say to everyone else that gang violence is not a problem in Six Flags theme parks.
As for their food prices, have you checked the last time you ate in a similar venue? We went to the movies the other night and the cost of the popcorn, sodas and ONE box of candy for a family of 4 was more then the admission tickets!!! Likewise, the food at the concert and baseball game my wife and I attended last summer was way more then our local theme park and don't even get me started on the parking. How about $25 for concert parking and $50 for playoff parking.
I've been a season pass holder for my six flags park for the past 20 years and my home park though it is kept clean and safe has nothing more the Kinda Ka and El Toro to draw people it. This off-season my local six flags removed its only classic Arrow looping coaster, The Great American Scream Machine To replace it with a Stand-up coaster this is a move backwards. Great Adventure brought in Shockwaye a stand up coaster in 1988 and it was closed 80 precent of the time.
Bottom line: If Six Flags does not make changes very soon we may see the Flags lowered once and for all.
SO, to settle the record strait for every ignorant person out there who probably hasn't been to a Six Flags park in over a decade.....THERE IS NO GANG PROBLEM!!! It's a very safe and clean park...and like Mr. Niles stated, if you're making the connection to gangs because the park is frequented by a large segment of the Latino and Black population...then that's your problem, you're just sticking to some seriously negative stereotypes...
Still, looking on the Six Flags chain, I dont think you can write off the whole chain as a whole because I cant say that SFGA is terrible. Yeah, it could be better, but the only complaint that seems to be constant is bad food, not bad rides, workers, or park upkeep. Looking back at 2010, most SFGA issues seemed to be corporate choices that affected the whole chain because of the need to save money. SFGA however seems in a perfect storm to really achieve greatness. It is seen as an asset to the area.
Maybe I am thinking incorrectly, but wasnt SFGAdv and SFGA always 19 or 20 for the past few years?
Yeah, the food is expensive and so is the parking, but guests are only spending $40 or so to get into the parks. I think that its too low of a price if individuals are expecting a near close Disney Experience.
Consider Disney, who probably charges close to the highest of any theme parks. Sure the tickets are pricey, but you are getting better food, cheaper parking, free fastpasses (as in cost), and better themed attractions.
I think Six Flags has to find out a center point where they can charge people a admission where guest won't feel gouged when they enter the park.
So I think if Six Flags charges more at the gate, the park experience will get better!
Hopefully, that makes sense.
That being said, there are several things that need to be done to make the Saint Louis park better and these ideas can be applied to any park in the chain (and really, to any theme park in any chain).
1) Look, most all of us love roller coasters, but if building a new one every year led to long-term attendance gains, Magic Mountain would be the top park in the world. Instead it is sitting near the bottom of the heap. Enough already. Six Flags needs to build some immersive, narrative, unique, whole-family experiences and stop catering to cash-starved teens and Waffle (Awful) House-loving coaster enthusiasts. New coasters should still be added, but how about putting them on a rotation with other types of attractions and shows instead of focusing solely on wood and steel?
2) It is now a requirement for all theme/amusement parks that they be well-maintained (safe), manicured (pretty), and customer-friendly (service oriented). SFStL is decent at the service aspect, but maintenance and aesthetics are sub-par. In fact, if it wasn't for grease and weeds, SFStL would be nearly devoid of scenery!
3) As Robert stated in his article, Six Flags parks are supposed to be "regional THEME parks". Therefore park "imagineers" should adhere to established regional themes (whatever they may be) at all times. Whether they add a new ride, a new show, a new restaurant, or a new shop, it must support the theme.
4) With the removal of the branded restaurants like Papa John's, Johnny Rockets, and the ubiquitous slop-shop known as Panda Express, Six Flags needs to step up to the plate and make dining at their parks a unique, flavorful, reasonably priced affair. Restaurants should have a regional flair and should provide a compelling reason to stay in the parks rather than head out to the local chicken-parts-and-sawdust, fast-food joint. As others have suggested before, SF needs to bring in a top-notch local chef and let him or her determine the menus and ingredients (no slouching here) for all of the park's themed eating establishments. Doing so would make food part of the event, rather than an expensive, tasteless afterthought. Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens, and Herschend have all shown that food can and should be a vital part of the theme park experience.
5) Lastly, Six Flags should try, as much as possible, to avoid copy-cat syndrome. I know, I know, every company copies themselves once in a while (shame on you Cedar Fair for your recent Windseeker plague), but with over a dozen Six Flags parks spread across the nation there should be a compelling reason for people to want to visit each and every one of them as they travel. Magic Mountain seems to have a fairly diverse collection of rides, but otherwise, if you've visited one Six Flags park, you have pretty much visited them all. There needs to be more of a uniqueness factor to inspire season passholders to make Six Flags a part of every vacation, no matter where they are traveling!
Moreover, Six Flags management just needs to take a close look at this and other theme park web sites, and listen to the voices of their fans. We all want Six Flags to succeed and ultimately we want to love our regional parks. The path to success is clear and the first step for the brass at Six Flags is to start listening to their fans - while they still have a few left!
Great America's layout of having the lands themed to different regions throughout the US wouldn't be a bad way for the other parks to go either.
Also I hope Looney Tunes never leave Six Flags. I think they're one of the few brandings the parks have that I associate positively with. I hope others feel the same way!
That doesn't mean Six Flags has to bring all attraction design and development in house. But it needs a creative team to participate in those processes with contractors and vendors, from the beginning, to define and defend Six Flags' brand identity.
What would I suggest to 'save' the chain? It may sound strange but I strongly believe season pass prices are too cheap. If pass holders each paid an additional, say $20 for the annual pass, all that extra revenue could be used to create a more immersive experience, not to mention extend park hours and bring back all the operating days they took off the calendar thru the years. Closing at 9:00pm on a mid summer day is too early. Coasters and other rides should be repainted more often. Theming should be replaced or refurbished rather than allowing to rot away after its debut. They could also improve the annual Fright Fest and bring back Holiday In The Park to the SF locations that no longer have it. Without a doubt, I would rather pay MORE for my pass and get a better year-long experience for it. The hard truth is I cannot expect much from a park that sells me an unlimited annual admission for $50.
On the other hand, food and parking prices should be lowered. I do buy an annual parking permit, which is a MUST for pass holders. I avoid eating in the park. And I won't lie - I do like coasters. Not to say that they should add a new one every year, but some new attraction each year will keep enthusiasts coming. And by all means, they need to stop alienating their guests with the mandatory ride lockers among other things. If guests feel nickel and dimed to death, they will not soon return.
On a national level, I really like the idea of a creative team. But whomever manages the park moving forward, I hope they would take Angus Wynne's original mission statement to heart.
If Six Flags is canceling contracts, then give us generic themes. There's plenty of 'public domain' themes to go with - medieval, superheroes, cartoons, etc. Give us these themes but with a twist. Or come up with new characters, lands and themes yourself - God forbid Six Flags actually use their minds and come up with something original.
If they're behind the major parks like Disney and SeaWorld, then follow their lead and be original and build a new brand.
It's the perfect time to reimagine Six Flags all together and reintroduce it to the theme park community.
I'm seeing a theme park built around the movies with attractions showcasing Gangs Of New York, West Side Story, Our Gang (aka the Little Rascals) and of course, the greatest gang movie ever made..The Warriors.
Now THAT might save Six Flags!!! Can yooouuuu DIG it!!!???
I think the gang rumor still persists because Six Flags caters almost exclusivly to coaster freaks and that is MOSTLY young people. If families go to a park and 90% of the people in it are under 21, they are going to assume they are AT LEAST mostly holligans. That is why Six Flags needs to start catering to families. Heck, families spend more money than the under 21 crowd anyway. And STOP selling $50 annual passes!! That just encourges parents to use Six Flags as a summer time babysitting service.
Most people know that the food at theme parks and other tourist destinations is expensive, BUT it doesn't have to be horrible. If HIGH quality restaurants can make money selling good food at reasonable prices, Six Flags SHOULD be able to make money selling good food at high prices.
I think that Six Flags should look to parks like the old Knott's Berry Farm (before Cedar Fair ruined it!). They didn't have alot of money, but they still had a nice themed environment and were able to provide a well-rounded theme park experience for the WHOLE family. I'm sure there are other well-run regional parks that they could learn from as well, including Dollywood, Holiday World, etc.
And I fall into this family category only recently. I am a coaster freak and as an adult, i HATE dealing with all these kids. So I don't want to go as coaster loving adult, and i definitely don't want to subject my children to this either.
Six Flags needs to institute much stricter rules and enforce them! Just b/c "real" gangs aren't overrunning the place, doesn't mean that people feel safe. running a cheap babysitting service inst going to work for Six Flags in the long run.
Friends have told me it is just not the same anymore. They said all the things we loved were pretty run-down. That really makes me sad.
Somethings I know that might help them out is: if you are going to go licensed, such as Gotham & the random Superman ride. You have to go all out. Do like Islands did & make it a full out "land" get people excited to go check out Gotham & Metropolis. But theme it, don't just plunk one ride in there and that is it, in the middle of an Asian garden. Then give recognizable themes to the other areas. Or at least really bump it up. Kids & adults alike have an easier time remembering "that ride in the wild west", rather than the name of it. I think dropping the licensed stuff, while cost effective will take away people. Why go to a place with nothing you can take a picture in front of when you can go to places with Marvel, Harry Potter, Star Wars etc. Bump up your ticket prices a bit once these changes are made. Make a discount for residents of that particular state, and a good deal on season passes. Make a "fast pass" system. Start it free, then once it gets popular charge. That is what Universal did. For $20 I can go on every ride in one park fastpass 1 time (that is IF they scan the ticket). Worth it on busy days. Make a "meal deal" and a "drink deal". The food isn't stellar & you are restricted on what you can eat but you are guaranteed people will eat with that pass.
My advise? Maybe over time, budget to bring in new smooth coaster rides that will replace the older ones that give you a headache after you bang your head back and forth for 45 seconds straight (ie: Ninja). Us parents are getting older and to justify continuing to take our teens we'll want smoother rides that still thrill, but feel safe and smooth on the neck and head at the same time which is better for everyone actually.
Think about this from a business stand point: They need to cut costs somewhere, and increase profit somehow. Some of the suggestions seem to be very costly ideas.
I can see and even agree on increasing the cost of the season pass being a way to get more money and keep the park from being a babysitting service...... I think some of the reason why they want to get crowds in is because the more people in the park the more worthwhile it is to have the shops, resteraunts, and services open (more people means more people in the shops, resteraunts, other places spending money..... even things like parking and stroller rentals generate more money with more people).
If they went the heavilly themed attractions route they would have to do the themed attractions before expecting people to come..... people will not pay to come until the work is done. That is why I just don't know about that route for them (Where would they get that type of money to do it before they can expect an increase in profits?).
More recently, their Mr. Six campaign was 100% original. The Vengaboys song (which nowadays is alternatively referred to as the 'Six Flags song') which went with this ad campaign was catchy as was the phrase "It's Playtime!". If SF had an in-house creative team, maybe they could rely less on IP's and more on originality, which was what got the chain off the ground in the first place.
They may have to license that last one from MTV, though.
And yes, I'm from New Jersey, so I can make those jokes.