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Gr.Adv. Debate #14: Six Flags' Acquisition of Great Adventure

  

20 members have voted

  1. 1. Was Six Flags' acquisition of Great Adventure in the fall of 1977 a good thing?

    • Yes it was.
      18
    • No it was not.
      2


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Please feel free to comment on why or why not.

I think this is a great question, but it also requires a little clarification on my vote, which was "yes." Six Flags was a very different company when they acquired Great Adventure and I think their initial investments in the park along with strong upkeep of the park overall, really made Great Adventure into one of the top theme parks in the country. The themeing of Hernando's Hideaway was great, the introduction of broadway shows was great, and park management was very focused on the overall guest experience and marketed the entire park experience. Today, Six Flags is no longer a privately held company (with GSC/Six Flags owned outright by The Pennsylvania Company (Pennco) at the time). The vast majority of Six Flags executives were people who started with the company at Six Flags over Texas and had a real passion for the company and the individual uniqueness of each of the company's parks. Today, the company is a publicly traded company with only a handful of key decision makers either growing with the company or even veterans of the theme park industry. I don't think many of them have any real interest in the customer experience, the industry, and certainly not the individuality of the parks. If you asked me if the current day Six Flags should acquire Great Adventure, it would be a resounding "No," yet I'm not sure that any of the other theme park companies would be any better of a choice (with the exception of Disney).

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yet I'm not sure that any of the other theme park companies would be any better of a choice (with the exception of Disney).

 

Universal and SeaWorld Parks would like a word with you.

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I agree with the aforementioned statement that at THAT TIME being bought up by SF was a good thing.Back then SF was content with running a handful of parks that each had it's own uniqueness;when Tierco/Premiere Parks took over,everything seemed to fall apart.

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From the start I was not happy about Six Flags purchasing the park. From the start they began destroying the magical Enchanted Forrest atmosphere and stripping the park of it's identity, turning it into a generic amusement park. These changes have accelerated throughout the years, but they began immediately. From day one of Six Flags ownership, the beauty of the park has deteriorated and it has become a tacky amusement park instead of the magical theme park it was when it opened.

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You have to remember that back in the 70s, There weren't alot of theme park companies. Paramount might've purchased it (Although with history, Would show they most likely would've gotten rid of the Wild Safari park) and HBJ (An early SeaWorld) might've purchased it as well; However you can look at recent news with Sea World/Busch to see what would happen today. Another "maybe" might be Marriott but they sold in the 80s.

 

 

Cedar Fair didn't start buying properties until 1978, Herschend had purchased Dollywood (Then Goldrush Junction) and probably wouldn't have been big enough to operate another park so soon. Premier Parks didn't really exist until 1990, Hershey didn't acquire parks until the 80s, Merlin was founded in 1998, and Arden was 1992, Palace started in the 90s, Tussauds didn't acquire parks until the 1984 with Chessington Zoo. Kennywood Entertainment didn't acquire until 1983.

 

So You Had:

Six Flags

Taft Broadcasting (Later Paramount and then Later Cedar Fair)

HBJ (Later SeaWorld and then Later Busch Parks)

Marriott (Who would sell the parks in 1984)

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You have to remember that back in the 70s, There weren't alot of theme park companies. Paramount might've purchased it (Although with history, Would show they most likely would've gotten rid of the Wild Safari park) and HBJ (An early SeaWorld) might've purchased it as well; However you can look at recent news with Sea World/Busch to see what would happen today. Another "maybe" might be Marriott but they sold in the 80s.

 

 

Cedar Fair didn't start buying properties until 1978, Herschend had purchased Dollywood (Then Goldrush Junction) and probably wouldn't have been big enough to operate another park so soon. Premier Parks didn't really exist until 1990, Hershey didn't acquire parks until the 80s, Merlin was founded in 1998, and Arden was 1992, Palace started in the 90s, Tussauds didn't acquire parks until the 1984 with Chessington Zoo. Kennywood Entertainment didn't acquire until 1983.

 

So You Had:

Six Flags

Taft Broadcasting (Later Paramount and then Later Cedar Fair)

HBJ (Later SeaWorld and then Later Busch Parks)

Marriott (Who would sell the parks in 1984)

 

Justin, I believe you're supporting my contention that, at the time, Six Flags was probably the best choice of companies to buy the park. They were the first company to really begin the acquisition of already existing parks and consolidate the entire theme park industry.

 

Great Adventure was acquired just one year after the last (Great America/Gurnee) of the (little more than 30) major theme parks operating at the time in the U.S., was built. The majority of theme park developers at the time were dreamers. Most had big dreams and unique concepts, but really bit off more than they could handle when it came to operating a theme park at a profit. Few parks were built within budget and most of them operated at a loss during their initial years.

 

Six Flags, at the time, was very committed to the guest experience and quality of its parks, with most management having started in one of the company's parks and maturing as executives in the still, very young, theme park industry. Their commitment to make Great Adventure the largest seasonal theme park in the country was ambitious, given that the park was really quite a financial disaster when they bought it. But their ability to grow underperforming parks into very profitable parks was real, with Great Adventure becoming the company's "cash cow" after just one season of operation. No other theme park company, at the time, had it's roots in the industry. Most park operators at the time (BEC, Taft, Marriott, and HBJ) really operated their parks to build goodwill for the parent brand. Six Flags, while definitely not my choice today, was certainly the best choice at the time.

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Close...

 

Great Adventure- 1977

Great America- 1984

I think you're misunderstanding my point. Both Great America parks opened in 1976 with the Gurnee park being the last major theme park to be built in that era. Six Flags acquired Great Adventure in 1977 and Great America (Gurnee) in 1984.

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I think it was the companies that bought the Six Flags company that screwed things up.Some examples:Bally's-who bought the chain and stuck video arcades at exit ramps and Time Warner-who although built some well-themed rides-had no experience running a live,seasonal operation.

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I voted a yes. But with a case heart sunk emoitions. Yes they were a good choice at the time. But if asked today Id say no. I agree the park has changed. In some ways for the best in others just corperate greed. The real problem came when Le Roy sold his interest in the park. Untill the early 90s Id like to belive he had some say so. Maybe not but let me have that. Most of the problems with the park was Six Flags un willingness to expand the foot print beyond what was there. Straxberry Fair and Fun Fair were fine as the were. Fourtune Festival was good as a stand alone also. Ok jump ahead to expansion. Moving the main gate was needed and plans actually called it to be themed " Little Ol"New York". Why wasn't " Boardwalk" built along the lake were Nitro is? And "Movietown" Pushed back beyond "Fun Fair" ? Six Flags Un willing ness to expand inferstructor of water and electric. So we build on top of whats there. I belive the one thing that really gets my negitive feelings about there take over was Site locations for KK and Off Road Safari. Then could have gone well beyond the boarders of "Frontier Adventures". And wrapped around the lake and back half of safari. But there it is again when have to build new pathways, restrooms, So we ripe out a few trees here and few there remove this bulding and that one and OMG ditch the flower gardens. And some concrect here and there. And last but not lest we let a few land marks rot away form poor maintaince and gee we need to remove it for safety sake. Gee maybe a should change me vote to no.

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If SF never bought it, are we assuming it would had been bought some one else or run independently. If it dependent, it would be no bigger than Dutch Wonderland and though entertaining for the day, people would had grown tired of it. If bought by someone else .. then its by who and who knows how they would had run it ... that would be a separate debate all together! lol

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i voted yes because i have been to some privately owned parks and even tho they have that "old feeling", they need a lot of fixing up which they really cant afford on the money they make. Great Adventure gets tons of money they otherwise wouldn't have if it wasn't for Six Flags. On the flip side though, Great Adventure could do what they wanted and wouldn't have to adhere to any corporate standards. I feel that the great location of Great Adventure would have made it very prosporous on it's own!

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Overall, yes it was, although they have made some questionable decisions (ex. War on Lines, ride removals 2006-2008, removing GASM). If Six Flags never took over, the park would probably be more on the scale of Busch Gardens Williamsburg, with less bigger rides but a better balance of attractions and a better atmosphere and live entertainment. However it most likely wouldn't be as well-known as it is now had Six Flags never bought the park.

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The vote is a mute point SF did take over- However, I did vote YES in the context of what the Park was like in 75-76. Warner LeRoy had a great imagination and could translate those dreams to blueprints nicely.. but often His blueprints and his imported English Management crew did not finalize some of the "Little Details" that typical theme park visitors in the USA tend to expect.

 

A couple of simple examples. Soft Drinks- in the 70's that meant Coke (Pepsi) and a couple of other choices sold at every stand you could to meet the demand of 30,000 guests on a hot day. Dumping ice into the cup with the drink both chilled the beverage and increased the profits.. but what did the G A Planners decide in this issue.... they installed banks of vending machines to dispense 12 oz cans of soda at 40 cents a can (very high price in 1974) While this may have cut labor costs for the counter help in a foodstand, it created chaos for whoever had to stock those machines every hour and constantly empty the coin boxes. The crowds emptied the machines before the soda could get cold..even if it was pre-cooled in the warehouse, The cans were warm compared to iced cups. The front loading soda machines caused the employees to mix with irate guests as they loaded or unloaded the vending machines, and with not insult intended the warehouse crew were not hired to be 'Guest Relations Specialists"... There were many confrontations between workers and guests over change making and buying direct without "feeding the machines. These conflicts were the result of thinking small...Six Flags would never have let it happen.

 

SECOND The guest parking lots were divided into 5 'sub-lots' screened by hedges and trees from each other, with only a couple of pass-thrus cut thru the woods. Literally Hundreds of guests would be unable to locate their cars late at night when they left the Park because they would go to the wrong sub-lot. Making things worse the lots were not paved, so any rain or other bad weather could make walking in the lots pretty tricky. It took over a year for the original owners to get the message and tear down the dividers and pave the whole thing into one big lot with painted lane markings and at least 10,000 traffic cones (sic) and still we had guest reporting lost cars each night.

 

These issues would not have happened if a Pro Team of Developors had been able to translate Warner LeRoys Dreams to reality right from the start.

Edited by mayor al

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I have never seen photos of the soda vending machines from the early years other than those in the employee areas. Do you know where they were located for guests?

 

Also, I know early on the parking lot sections were named after various safari animals (for example, the Baboon section) but haven't been able to confirm which animals were used. Do you know the names of the various lot sections?

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