Kings Island Sues Ohio for Right to Reopen

June 4, 2020, 5:49 PM · Cedar Fair amusement parks Cedar Point and Kings Island have been awaiting approval from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to reopen, and many had been hopeful that approval would come today. But the reopening order that the governor issued this afternoon did not include theme or amusement parks, though it did include movie theaters, zoos, and indoor family entertainment centers.

Later that afternoon, Kings Island filed suit against the director of the Ohio Department of Health, asking the court to clear the way for amusement and water parks to reopen in the state.

Officials from parent company Cedar Fair had been working with state lawmakers on legislation that would allow the state's theme parks to reopen. Cedar Point posted a statement from CEO Richard Zimmerman on its website today:

Cedar Fair fully supports the amendment to HB 665 that was adopted today in the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. The amendment provides for the immediate re-opening of Ohio amusement parks and water parks.

We fully anticipate and expect having the same opportunity granted to other businesses in Ohio to operate our business in a safe and manageable environment.

As professional amusement park operators with an exemplary safety record, we are experts at managing risks and following protocols. The protocols we have developed to reopen our parks are in accordance with governmental and CDC directives, Erie County and Warren County Health Departments, medical professionals, Ohio’s Development Services Agency (DSA) and industry best practices. They are specifically responsive to the COVID-19 crisis.

Earlier in the day, Cedar Point announced that its Hotel Breakers will begin welcoming guests again starting June 12.

Cedar Point is offering a "Sun & Fun" package to entice guests to book Hotel Breakers even if the park is not open. The park was to celebrate its 150th anniversary this summer, so it's not unprecedented to have people coming to Cedar Point for something other than thrill rides. After all, generations of visitors were visiting long before Cedar Point opened its first roller coaster. The package is available through June 28.

Update: Cedar Point has joined the lawsuit. Here is the amended filing.

Replies (10)

June 4, 2020 at 6:17 PM

I think the parks will be open before the end of the month. But I don’t understand the logic of opening zoos, and especially indoor attractions like movie theaters and laser tag arenas, which the governor has repeatedly expressed pose the highest risk of transmission, but not the amusement parks.

UPDATE: And right after I posted this Kings Island filed for injunctive relief. I’m sure the suit alleges the State’s order unreasonably discriminates against the parks, as there is no discernible difference between attractions like zoos, and the parks.

June 4, 2020 at 6:37 PM

I can’t understand the logic here either. Although generally speaking I’m not convinced it’s time to open... I can’t see what risk factor is in a theme park that’s not in a movie theatre or indoor family entertainment centre” (I presume this is arcades and soft play centres and the like)... the latter seems to me to be analogous to the riskiest part of theme parks.

I think this highlights some difficulty in legislative construction... the more specific you get in naming things, the more category problems you have like this. I would have thought the more bland “outdoor leisure” and “indoor leisure” categories would cover the two different bands of risk nicely.

June 4, 2020 at 7:07 PM

I don’t think its an issue of statutory construction, I think the order deliberately left out the parks. I think it’s more that these states are making policy on the fly in the effort to reopen. I also think the hesitancy to reopen the parks is largely based on the optics - regardless of reality, many people think that an amusement park is the most dangerous place to be right now.

June 4, 2020 at 10:18 PM

Given that most other outdoor tourist attractions are allowed to reopen and theme parks have been acknowledged to be lower risk than at least half of the indoor locations covered under this order, a lawsuit doesn't surprise me. Now that major parks are starting to open across the country, I've got a strong feeling we're going to see more of this anywhere else where theme parks must remain closed but other outdoor attractions are allowed to open.

June 4, 2020 at 11:37 PM

Sadly for Six Flags and Cedar Fair their biggest money makers are the last places that are going to be allowed to re-open and they are taking it on the chin. The VP of SFGAm has resorted to going to the news pleading for the governor to allow them to re-open and still nobody has any idea when that's going to happen. Also these parks can't just open on a dime they have an entirely seasonal workforce that needs to be hired and trained. Even when they do re-open they will barely have any people in them so i'm sure they will still accrue debt just to stay in business throughout the year.

I saw an interview on the news with Nick Laskaris yesterday and they asked him if he thinks its safe to re-open...and basically he said he doesn't know but he has no choice, he has to re-open or he's going to lose the business (although i'm sure many longtime midwest people consider that karma for destroying the Dells).

June 5, 2020 at 5:57 AM

One thing the parks could also point to in upcoming lawsuits are the protests over the past couple of weeks. Specifically, why are businesses such as Kings Island forced to remain shuttered when the majority of governors and mayors did nothing to enforce social distancing and/or face covering requirements for protestors? Logically thinking through this, I have to think the risk of contracting COVID-19 at a park is infinitely less than it is in the types of environments we saw on television the past couple weeks.

June 5, 2020 at 6:40 AM

Although I agree protesters are at a higher risk than others due to the crowds, I think you need to be practical there. Who is going to enforce the rules And how? The police are already there in riot gear containing the situation.... if you’re going to start sending in people to issue fines, you’re lighting a fuse on a powder keg.

This argument would have been stronger when it was small numbers of protesters against the lockdown.

June 5, 2020 at 8:29 AM

I'm curious why the lawsuit was filed by Kings Island and not the umbrella of Cedar Fair to cover both Kings Island and Cedar Point.

June 6, 2020 at 1:17 AM

Look at customized indoor playground. That's a good choice if you want to invest any amusement park.

June 6, 2020 at 2:12 AM

CHAD H--I hope I am misunderstanding you and you are not still advocating for fining smaller groups of protesters, but not doing anything to fine large groups of protestors? The gov of kentucky said get the license numbers of churchgoers (when it was banned) and sent them a fine in the mail. The gov of calif and NY and Florida (and others) could exactly do that. Yes. someone could take it to trial and say my car was just parked there. I was doing something else. (although in most of these all stores and offices were closed, so there was really nothing else to do). pretty similar situation as cars in a church parking lot.

Alas. I do not believe one citation has been sent in the mail for protesting this time. That only happens in the rare instances when it is conservative protestors. Which does not even occur barely ever, although conservatives are 50 to 55 percent of the population.

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