Cedar Fair Looks Ahead to 2021 After a Tough 2020

February 18, 2021, 12:43 PM · Cedar Fair reported big losses, as expected, for its shortened 2020 operating season, as the chain's biggest parks looked ahead to the start of the 2021 season.

Cedar Point will kick off its postponed 150th anniversary season with a Frontier Festival, starting on its May 14 opening day.

The Sandusky, Ohio park's Frontier Town "will transform into a Wild West hootenanny" for the event, which will feature live music, interactive games for adults and kids, and a special food and drink menu, including 20 cherry-inspired food tastings and more than 100 craft brews, seltzers, ciders, and custom cocktails around Frontier Town.

Frontier Festival will run for the park's first two weekend of the season (May 14-16 & 21-23), then daily May 28 through June 13. In addition, Cedar Point will open its new boat ride, Snake River Expedition, on May 29.

Snake River Expedition
Photo courtesy Cedar Point

"Riders will be immersed in a journey that will have them performing secret tasks, encountering surprises along the way and avoiding 'danger' around every bend," the park said in its press release. "Tours on Snake River Expedition are led by a cast of live characters with animated scenes and special effects to enhance the experience. Guests will also see nods to Cedar Point’s past attractions like the Western Cruise and Paddlewheel Excursions boat rides."

Cedar Point will be open daily from May 28 through August 15, then on weekends through Labor Day, September 6. The Celebrate 150 Spectacular parade and nighttime party will take place daily from June 26 through August 15. The park said that it will announce information about its fall season later.

Elsewhere around the Cedar Point chain, Kings Island has revealed its 2021 operating calendar, which matches Cedar Point's except for opening one day later - on May 15. The Cincinnati-area park opens to season passholders one week earlier, on May 8. As previously announced, Canada's Wonderland is targeting a May 14 opening day, though it has not published its 2021 calendar yet. That leaves Knott's Berry Farm among Cedar Point's parks in the North America Top 20 theme parks, and the California park remains closed indefinitely due to state pandemic restrictions.

Meanwhile, Cedar Fair yesterday reported a loss of more than half a billion dollars in 2020, as revenue decreased from $1.47 billion in 2019 to just over $181 million in 2020 due to the pandemic closing parks from coast to coast. Attendance for the year at parks that were allowed to reopen was 2.595 million, down from 27.938 million overall at the company's parks in 2019. Per capita in-park spending did not suffer too badly, however, dropping from $48.32 in 2019 to $46.38 in 2020.

"We are optimistic that levels of attendance at our parks and resort properties will significantly improve in 2021, particularly as COVID-19 vaccines become broadly available over the next few months," Cedar Fair President and CEO Richard A. Zimmerman said. "In anticipation of improving demand, we are poised to resume normal operations, particularly during our seasonally stronger back half of the year. We have strategically designed our operating plan for the 2021 season specifically to minimize cash burn in the pre-opening period and correlate park operating calendars with forecasted demand while growing our season pass base for the 2021 and 2022 seasons."

“Over the last several quarters, the team implemented significant business process improvements and identified meaningful cost savings opportunities" Zimmerman said. "These efforts have reduced our use of cash and positioned us well to emerge from the pandemic as a leaner and more cost-efficient organization. We believe the steps we’ve taken, along with other proactive measures already in process, will drive further margin improvement as we return to a normal operating environment and historical levels of attendance and revenues. Cedar Fair is poised to deliver strong performance as operating conditions improve in 2021 and beyond."

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