To the surprise of most and to the comedy of few, it turns out that
America went and built itself a few exits away from the city too far,
purchased a car that was a touch too big, and liked way too many Coach
bags, and now the whole the whole system is a mess. Oops! So the
situation is dire and will probably be that way for a few years. I've
always tried to do a list of parks that may/may not open ever again
and so I'll go ahead and bring that back. In that time span, all these
parks have closed and/or disappeared:
-Six Flags Astroworld
-Six Flags New Orleans
-Santa's Village (IL)
-Nara Dreamland and a few other Japanese facilities
Going with them were 13 wood coasters and a whole bunch of other
unique attractions. In the time since, things have changed. The bottom
falling out of the real estate market means that if not in the
immediate future, the cost of the land that many of these parks reside
on will fall, making them less susceptible to replacement by condos.
The downside to that is the real estate market is dragging the entire
service economy of the US into the black hole with it, with no set
date on when its coming back. This is not a good thing if you're
loaded up with debt, which Cedar Fair and Six Flags undeniably are.
What's interesting about the list in 2008 is how tough it was to put
together. Before you could expect a ton of potential facilites. Most
are gone now, which means that the industry may have bottomed out at
least at the traditional level. How many really quirky small parks are
left in the US? Honestly? The Williams Grove type of traditional is
gone, replaced by large FECs anchored by generic steel coasters,
impressive mini golf, and some rev limited go karts. Is that an
improvement? Not in my eyes. I suppose I'm probably an "ol'
curmudgeon" to most of the still e***d 16 year olds who are in a
dead rush to ride plug and plays, but oh well.
THE LIST IN 2008:
1) Clementon: One of the last of its kind. Has new owners, but who the
hell knows what they're thinking.
2) Six Flags...all of them: In danger of being delisted for much of
the year, its been a pretty awful year for them and their final
destiny seems to be at hand for sometime in 2009. There is no credit
to keep them going, their debt load is supermassive, and you have to
think in a tanking economy that regional themers reliant on $15
parking and $60 entry tickets are in a bind. While you can't
necessarily expect SFOT to become a parking lot for the new Dallas
Cowboys stadium, its more successful parks will likely end up in new
hands and some may end up being closed for a time while investors are
3) Amu***ts in Primm: How on earth are these things still running?
Well, the Turbo Drop hasn't in years, but that's the least of their
worries. Primm is a wasteland these days and if attendance in Vegas
begins to fall (some developments are at a standstill for
construction), this outpost will undoubtedly fall before most.
4) Hard Rock Park: It may have just closed for the year early and be
in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but its a fully developed site near a major
tourist destination that under different owners could have a long
5) Wild Adventures/Cypress Gardens: Into bankrupcy. I honestly don't
even understand WA's business plan. CG makes slightly more sense, but
I worry greatly about it.
6) Wet And Wild Orlando: Well discussed elsewhere given Aquatica's
7) Beech Bend: Every generation needs a racetrack/amu***t park, and
now they're the lone remaining one. I have no idea what their
financial situation is like, but I can't imagine it being markedly
better than Williams Grove. At least WG had a couple big yearly events
to depend on for money.
8) Cedar Fair (some of them): No chain is gonna be recession proof
when you bought a lot with credit. CF did just that. Now, to their
benefit, they bought things that made money, but the decisions to cut
costs with licensing are creating massive headaches for the patrons
and the marketing departments. Kings Island had a pretty mediocre 2007
and I can't imagine 2008 being a vast improvement. If they choose not
to re-up the Nick trademarks, they will be selling off parks within 3
years of that choice. Mark my words.
9) Busch Gardens/Sea World: Again, can't imagine them going under
totally, and if a situation arrives where they and SF or several CF
parks are on the market simultaneously, I imagine they'll be the ones
to get bought first. They might also suffer from "nicest on the block
syndrome". Either way, there's not a lot of talk about InBev wanting
to keep them around, and if they cut drastically on both's 2009 and
2010 budgets, they could kill some of the goodwill.
10) PNE: Will they move? Will the price of real estate in Vancouver
finally drop? The saga continues....
-Western Washington State Fair: Economic hard times and the decision
for the public and private sectors to diverge led to most of the fair
grounds coasters being destroyed. Can it survive another eventual
-????: The financial crisis could be worldwide and thus could bring a
lot of parks to a stop.