The state of Virginia has cleared its theme parks to reopen - but the conditions the state is imposing might just keep those parks closed.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam yesterday said that the state will enter its Phase 3 of reopening on July 1. That would allow theme parks to operate at up to 50 percent capacity or 1,000 people - whichever is greater.
For big parks such as Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Kings Dominion - which have capacities far in excess of 2,000 people - that means a hard 1,000-person cap on daily attendance. That's not going to allow those parks to make enough income to justify reopening, which is why Busch Gardens has said that it will not reopen until the state relaxes the attendance rule.
"We are extremely disappointed in this guidance," Busch Gardens Williamsburg President Kevin Lembke told the James City County Board of Supervisors last night. "Our parks are largely outdoor facilities spread across hundreds of acres but we continue to be lumped in with unrelated models like bowling alleys and skating rinks."
Busch Gardens' sister parks in Florida and Texas - SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa, and SeaWorld San Antonio - have reopened under what has become an industry standard for Covid-19 mitigation, including lower capacities to promote safe physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and sanitation, suspension of some activities, promotion of contactless payment, and the use of facemasks. But even with lower capacities, those parks are admitting more than 1,000 people per day.
The Williamsburg park had proposed opening with a capacity limit of 5,000 to 7,000 visitors a day, which would range between 20-30 percent of the park's capacity of 24,000 people per day.
Before the pandemic closed parks across the world, Busch Gardens Williamsburg had planned to open a new Intamin Blitz coaster, Pantheon, for the 2020 season. But now parent company SeaWorld has cut its capital spending and management has said that it might delay 2020 projects into next year.Tweet
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