Less than a week after California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state’s long-shuttered theme parks can reopen as early as April 1, that timeline was moved up to this weekend for Los Angeles and Orange counties.
The change because of a new metric in the state’s COVID-19 reopening guidelines: the goal of administering 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in low-income communities throughout the state. Newsom said the state will pass that mark on Friday, allowing L.A. and Orange counties to immediately qualify for the “red” tier or tier 2.
That status will allow theme parks in those counties to reopen rides and attractions for the first time in a year, though at only 15 percent of parks’ maximum capacity.
One problem: The parks aren’t ready yet.
While parks in Orange and L.A. counties have been operating limited-capacity, ride-less events in recent months, staffing levels have been lower than what is required for full operations. Disney CEO Bob Chapek cited this reality in comments at the Disney shareholders meetings on Tuesday in explaining why Disneyland Resort is aiming for an opening in late April.
Chapek said, “the fact is it will take some time to get them ready for our guests – this includes recalling more than 10,000 furloughed Cast and retraining them to be able to operate according to the State of California’s new requirements,” Chapek said. “We look forward to publicizing an opening date in the coming weeks.”
Besides needing time to bring back staff members — or hire new workers — theme parks also have prior engagements for the coming weekend.
In L.A. County, Universal Studios Hollywood is sticking to its plans to open the ride-less Taste of Universal food event this weekend, which park president Karen Irwin called the “first step in our reopening” in a statement to Theme Park Tribune.
“Universal Studios Hollywood is developing its reopening plans and will share more information soon,” Irwin said.
Six Flags Magic Mountain also confirmed with Theme Park Tribune that it has nothing new to share about its reopening timeline with L.A. County’s imminent move into the “red” tier. The park is holding the final weekend of its drive-thru Cruis’n the Park Car Show with West Coast Customs on Saturday and Sunday.
Disneyland neighbor Knott’s Berry Farm did not respond to a request for comment on their immediate plans, but the park launched its Taste of Boysenberry Festival event just last weekend. Tickets have already sold out for this Saturday and Sunday, as well for Saturday, March 20.
More Theme Park News:
Disneyland should reopen in late April, Epcot’s ‘Ratatouille’ ride debuts Oct. 1
Theme parks retain COVID-19 safeguards even as some governors remove them
California governor won’t release findings of state employees’ Disney World COVID-19 trip