As guests prepare to stream back into Central Florida’s theme parks — with proper physical distancing, of course — West Coast parks are readying their own reopening plans.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has said theme parks will be able to reopen during Stage 3 of the state’s reopening plan. There’s no set date for when that next phase will begin, but some parks want to welcome back guests in less than a month.
On Tuesday, Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain asked for a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors task force to allow workers to return to prepare a reopening between mid-June and July 1.
“Many people instinctively think that large theme parks with crowds would be the last thing that should reopen,” Universal Studios Hollywood president Karen Irwin said to the task force. “While this misperception is understandable, theme parks actually offer a more controlled environment than places like beaches, gardens or even hiking trails.”
Irwin is representing Universal, Magic Mountain and the Santa Monica Pier’s Pacific Park on the task force, according to the Orange County Register. The parks have yet to present a detailed set of safety guidelines for reopening akin to what Orlando theme park resorts proposed before their own reopenings were approved.
SeaWorld San Diego and Legoland California have also proposed reopening by July 1.
Cedar Fair, the theme park chain that includes both Knott’s Berry Farm in Orange County, may begin announcing reopening dates next week, according to Cedar Fair CEO Richard Zimmerman. As reported by Theme Park Insider, Zimmerman said the park will require advance reservations to visit, just like Disney World and Six Flags parks.
“With regard to social distancing, we’ve run sophisticated modeling of all of our parks, which sit on hundreds of acres,” Zimmerman said during the Goldman Sachs 2020 Travel and Leisure Conference Tuesday. “And we’ve come to the conclusion that everybody’s gravitating towards a percentage of theoretical capacity. So we’ll have a reservation system to come to the park once we open. You’ll need to make a reservation – online or on our mobile app – that will be one of the steps we take.”
The pandemic led Cedar Fair to postpone Knott’s 100th anniversary celebration and Zimmerman said the chain will find additional savings by delaying the return of parades and live shows. With air travel and expensive vacations still a dicey proposition for many, however, regional chains like Cedar Fair may benefit as customers opt to visit parks within driving distance.
Conspicuously absent from any reopening chatter, however, is Disneyland.
Officially, the resort remains closed until further notice, but it is surveying annual passholders about policies like a face mask requirement — to gauge what will make guests feel comfortable enough to return. Like Disney has warned visitors to Disney Springs, “an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present.”
Other than surveys, there’s little indication of Disneyland’s near-term plans. Its on-site hotels aren’t accepting reservations before mid-July. Downtown Disney, the resort’s shopping and dining district, has remained closed, even as other Orange County dining establishments were allowed to reopen in late May.
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