After the COVID-19 pandemic limited Cedar Fair’s investments in new rides in recent years, the amusement park chain is set to announce new coasters and other additions on Thursday, Aug. 10.
During the company’s second quarter earnings call, Cedar Fair CEO Richard Zimmerman said 75 percent of the debt incurred by Cedar Fair during the pandemic has been paid off. Coupled with the chain selling a record 3.2 million season passes (a 20 percent increase from 2019), the time appears right to build new attractions to encourage passholders to renew.
“Next Thursday, we will be unveiling our 2023 capital investment program, sharing with our guests, communities and associates, the first look at what exciting new rides, attractions and immersive entertainment are coming to our parks and resort properties, some of which are already under construction.” Zimmerman said. “While continuously improving our properties as a Cedar Fair tradition, we also never lose sight of what matters most, making people happy.”
Cedar Fair has typically focused on adding two to three major attractions each year, with the biggest investments generally going to its most well-attended parks, such as Cedar Point, Kings Island and Canada’s Wonderland. In fact, four parks in the chain — Michigan’s Adventure, Dorney Park, Valleyfair, and Worlds of Fun — have gone more than a decade without getting a brand new roller coaster.
Worlds of Fun will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2023, and plans were filed with Kansas City in July for something called “Project 50,” which was identified in planning documents as a wooden coaster.
The rest of the financial report was a mixed bag for Cedar Fair. The 7.8 million in attendance between April and June was 8 percent below the same period in 2019. Other companies that run theme parks have reported surpassing their pre-pandemic attendance levels. Net revenue, however, was up 17 percent compared to 2019, and Zimmerman said that resort bookings “are also pacing well ahead of pre-pandemic levels.”
The earnings call also addressed the chain’s recent sale of the land beneath California’s Great America. The $310 million deal means the park will close no later than 2033.
“While a difficult decision, selling the land at Great America was a generational opportunity to capitalize on a very attractive real estate market, while at the same time, allowing us to continue to operate the park for the foreseeable future,” Zimmerman said. He later added that Cedar Fair now has an opportunity to “do other things with the capital that we generate from the sale,” meaning the $310 million that will be reflected in the company’s third quarter earnings.