At a virtual press conference hosted by the California Attractions and Parks Association, representatives of Disney, Universal, Cedar Fair and Legoland theme parks trashed the reopening guidelines released by the state on Wednesday.
The guidelines from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration would not allow theme parks to reopen until their home counties hit the lowest tier on California’s COVID-19 reopening plan. That would require the county to report less than one new case daily per 100,000 people and have a rate of positive COVID-19 tests under 2 percent.
For the Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the U.S., that seems “unachievable” until well into 2021, according to Universal Studios Hollywood president and chief operating officer Karen Irwin. She criticized numerous elements of the reopening guidelines, claiming the state has not collaborated with the industry as promised.
“The restriction of 25 percent capacity for indoor restaurants at our parks is an example of kind of an arbitrary guideline that contradicts guidance for all other California restaurants that can be seated up to 50 percent in Tier Four, including those just outside of our gate in CityWalk,” Irwin said. “The insistence that opening our parks will draw guests from outside California ignores the fact that parks are already operating elsewhere and see predominantly local attendance.”
Disneyland Resort Ken Potrock said both theme parks and the state have the same desire to keep COVID-19 transmissions down. But he also pointed to the lack of outbreaks tied to reopening parks in other states and concerns about the health of workers being laid off due to theme park closures as reasons for the state to consider a quicker reopening.
“Ultimately, we all want to get people back to work, that getting them back to work helps from a health perspective,” Potrock said.
Select questions from reporters were read aloud at the press conference by CAPA executive director Erin Guerrero. Theme Park Tribune’s question was not among them. We asked if Disneyland would hire back some of the tens of thousands of workers being laid off if the resort was allowed to reopen, since Disney partially blamed the state government when it instituted massive layoffs in its theme park division. At least 15,000 of the 28,000 layoffs are affecting employees at Disney World, though that resort reopened in July.
The most-asked question from reporters was whether the parks are considering legal action. Guerrero said, “I think that all options are open at this point. We’re going to continue to explore our options. Our number one goal is to be allowed to reopen responsibly. Obviously, we’d love to keep that conversation going and come up with a reasonable timeline for reopening, but at this point, any options are viable.”
Raffi Kaprelyan, regional vice president of Cedar Fair, which owns Knott’s Berry Farm and California’s Great America, said parks desire equal treatment as other industries while reiterating that “all options are open.”
Potrock took a softer tone on Disney’s behalf, saying the industry is flexible and open-minded on reopening.
“We all gladly and willingly would roll up our sleeves and work with the administration to do so, but it has to be a back-and-forth dialogue, not just a ‘you told us what to do, and we’re doing that with intent,” he said.
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