Cedar Fair went almost all-in with Rocky Mountain Construction coasters this season, converting Mean Streak to Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point, Hurler to Twisted Timbers at Kings Dominion, and adding RailBlazer at California's Great America. Did they help the chain to a big attendance boost?
Cedar Fair reported today that attendance for the first six months of the year was down two percent across the chain, despite an increase at Knott's Berry Farm, which defied the trend toward RMC coasters by opening a Gerstlauer Infinity, HangTime. Chain-wide attendance was 8.7 million, a decrease of 211,000 from the same period a year ago, according to the company.
Revenue was down one percent for the period, driven in part by a decrease in per-capita admission revenue, as more of the people who did come to the parks came on repeat visits with a season pass. Season pass sales were down at Kings Island, so even that baseline is down at one of the chain's top parks. All told, Cedar Fair suffered a $7 million operating loss for the six-month period — a $26 million swing from its $19 million profit for the same period in 2017.
Cedar Fair blamed the weather for the declines and losses, but that's the oldest excuse in the book. At some point, a park has to create attractions that people will come out to see, rain or shine. The numbers so far this year aren't the type of performance that is going to encourage more parks, including Cedar Fair's, to follow the company's 2018 playbook. RMCs simply don't seem to be moving the needle enough to put the company firmly in the black this year.
RMC has 16 coasters in operation now, with five added this year. (Six Flags also added RMCs in Georgia and San Antonio.) The manufacturer has three coasters each in California and Texas, as well as coasters in Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, and Massachusetts. So they no longer are attractions that fans need to drive across the country to experience, as they were when New Texas Giant and Iron Rattler opened in the Lone Star state.
Hey, RMC coasters are great rides. I have yet to have a bad experience on an RMC coaster. They provide some of the best rides I've ever enjoyed, in fact. But hybrid coasters are no longer unique. And when Lightning Rod and Steel Vengeance suffer immediate operational problems, that discourages trips from the casual fans parks need to build attendance.
We've seen coaster manufacturers get hot and cool down before. At one point, installing a Bolliger & Mabillard meant a park could bank on a huge attendance jump. Yet after everyone in the industry hit that well hard, the market demand for a fresh B&M dried up in the United States. When SeaWorld Orlando's Mako didn't help the park, that's when fans knew the B&M hot streak was over in the US. (There hasn't been a B&M built in the country since, though our neighbor to the north is getting a new one at Canada's Wonderland next year.) Yet those B&Ms remain beloved rides by many fans, as will the RMCs.
Three RMCs are on order for next year — two in Europe and one in Japan. We will see which U.S. parks have placed orders when parks reveal their 2019 additions later this month. If the trend toward RMCs has cooled, which manufacturer will become the next "hot new thing" in the thrill ride market?Tweet
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