Six Flags looks to boost memberships by adding more parks

May 22, 2018, 3:26 PM · Six Flags is growing again, acquiring five more amusement and water parks in the United States. Six Flags is America's third-largest theme or amusement park chain by annual attendance, and today's acquisitions will add approximately two million visitors a year to the estimated 30.8 million visitors the chain attracted in 2017, according to the latest TEA/AECOM Theme Index report.

Four of the five parks are actually returning to the Six Flags chain, having been sold off by the company in the middle of the last decade, when Six Flags was flirting with bankruptcy. The five newly-added Six Flags parks are Buffalo's Darien Lake, Oklahoma City's Frontier City and White Water Bay, Houston's Wet 'n' Wild Splashtown, and Wet 'n' Wild Phoenix.

The Phoenix park is only one of the five that is not a former Six Flags property. It originally was part of the Village Roadshow-owned Wet 'n' Wild chain, and not affiliated the George Millay-founded former Wet 'n Wild water park that now is the site of the upcoming Endless Summer resort hotels at Universal Orlando.

All five parks were acquired from Premier Parks — which long-time Theme Park Insider readers might recognize as the original name of the company that acquired and renamed itself Six Flags back in 1998. The "new" Premier Parks was founded by former Premier Parks/Six Flags executives and has operated several of the parks that Six Flags sold in the mid-2000s.

"We are thrilled to welcome these outstanding properties and employees into our family of parks and look forward to sharing the thrill of Six Flags with guests of all ages in these key markets," Six Flags Chairman, CEO, and President Jim Reid-Anderson said in a press release.

"These are all fantastic properties that complement our existing portfolio and provide tremendous added value and cross-visitation opportunities for our extensive Membership and Season Pass base."

And there is the reason that Six Flags pulled the trigger on this deal, as it focuses more and more of its business on the sale of memberships that insulate the company from the vagaries of weather and customer whims.

Once you commit to that bargain-priced membership, Six Flags has your money and you have an incentive to keep coming to the parks, spending money on parking, food, drinks, souvenirs, and FlashPass line-skipping passes — where Six Flags makes its profit. The more parks that Six Flags can add to its line-up, the more compelling it can make the purchase of a membership, which are good at all of its parks across the continent.

Replies (4)

May 23, 2018 at 6:33 AM

The only park here of any note is Darien Lake. I'm not sure adding the upstate NY park or a bunch of waterparks really moves the needle here, and SF sold these parks because of under-performance despite heavy investment. I'm not sure what the thinking is here other than the deal is just for SF to lease these parks (not own them) to see if they can increase their membership base. If these parks fail to make any sizable contribution, SF can simply choose not to renew the leases in 2 years, but if they do, they can purchase them outright. I suppose it's a smart, low-risk move for SF, but I don't think they will find what they're looking for in these parks.

May 23, 2018 at 11:37 AM

When Six Flags announced they were looking to purchase more North American parks, these are pretty much the ones I had in mind as possibilities (though I was thinking Wet 'n Wild Palm Springs rather than Phoenix). They all serve markets with guests who visit a Six Flags park once every year or two, and are mainly to encourage those guests to buy a membership that they can use regularly at their home park as well as more distant parks. The business strategy is different this time...don't try to have large parks everywhere, have a mix of large and small parks with members everywhere. Don't quote me on this, but I remember hearing from somewhere their goal was that 70% of members visit multiple properties annually (I think the current number is around 30%). This is definitely a good move toward making that happen.

May 23, 2018 at 4:31 PM

In theory, that is likely good news for me as my Chicagoland Six Flags Great America can now stretch beyond St. Louis to Buffalo and OKC.

It is interesting that Six Flags is the third place winner and not, sigh, Seaworld/Busch Gardens

May 23, 2018 at 8:29 PM

This is also a much different company than 10 years ago. The strategy is different, and it is unlikely SF will pour millions into each of these parks like they did during the 2000's rapid expansion. SF must have learned some lessons as they don't want to own a bunch of parks that could under-perform, but rather lease and then buy the more profitable parks later on. Either way, these parks stand to benefit from the IP's and branding that SF brings.

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