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jonlee

Expanding the park

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^^^^Exactly. It seems like the park is being run by a couple of teenage boys. They love roller coasters, but do not understand how to run a theme park. They think that just throwing a bunch of roller coasters in a parking lot is going to bring people flocking in to the park to ride them. They do not understand there is more to a park than coasters and coasters alone will not make a park successful.

 

Great Adventure is a regional theme park. There are not enough people in the area that love roller coasters to sustain the park. They have to attract more than just teenage boys. They have to attract families, children, even seniors. Theme parks can do that. They can have thrill rides and also have the things that attract other people like shows, good food, and a pleasant atmosphere. You do not have to destroy the park in order to add thrill rides.

 

Even people who love roller coasters like a park to have a pleasant atmosphere and like those roller coasters to have coherent theming that enhances the whole experience of the park. The idea that coaster enthusiasts do not care about the atmosphere and/or theming is ignorant. I am a coaster enthusiast. I prefer a coaster with a fun atmosphere in addition to a great layout. It takes away from the ride to have a lousy atmosphere, a ride that just runs around itself on concrete. Coasters that run through trees, down hills, and over water are much more fun.

 

Six Flags is engulfed in this ridiculous "coaster war" where they believe having the most coasters is going to be the key to their success. They are wrong. I would much rather go to a park that has 5 great coasters, themed to enhance the park experience and with great atmosphere, than a park that has 15 coasters in the parking lot with superhero names on them.

 

They desperately need a change of management. They also desperately need to get rid of the current park designers. They need people who know something about theme parks. They hire management with business backgrounds that have nothing to do with theme parks and the designers seem to be former boardwalk amusement pier employees.

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The Texas and Georgia parks have some legal stipulation that SF uses part of the budget to maintain things like landscaping and themeing-why can't the company implement that chain-wide?I myself am an enthusiast of not just coasters but parks in general:tall,fast multi-loopers and woodies get my attention,but having a varied selection of rides is a HUGE asset in keeping my interest,as well as having other seemingly inconsequential amenities like trees,shows,a pot-hole free parking lot....

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^That extra legal cash is the reason that Cedar Fair picked Carowinds to get a coaster for 2015 over King's Dominion. Just an example of how enormous of a difference that money makes.

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They also decided to invest in Carowinds because the market in NC/SC is under-served with little competition and room for growth.

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Great Adventure is a regional theme park. There are not enough people in the area that love roller coasters to sustain the park. They have to attract more than just teenage boys. They have to attract families, children, even seniors. Theme parks can do that.

I think you got this part backwards. The great THEME parks in the country are not regional parks, but rather destination parks. Disney and Universal are located in Orlando and LA, which are huge vacation hotspots in year-round warm weather. Ditto for Sea World and Busch (Williamsburg being an exception on the weather front, but is a major destination for tourists). Hershey is an exception, but is also very unique in terms of licensing and history, but even that park has focused intensely on coasters the last 15 years.

 

The reason is because the 18-35 age group is the group (aka the thrill seeking bracket) that is mostly single and is harder-pressed to afford expensive vscation to destination parks. That is why SF and CF, the thrill park chains, dominate these markets, with charming family parks like Holiday World and Knoebels filling in the gaps.

 

Therefor, while I do feel GAdv could improve operations, add shows, touch up theming and add more flats (which they have done recently), major thrill rides should always be their bread and butter. They are what attract their target demographic, and with our amazing coaster lineup, can make us a mini-destination park much like CP is. That would require another elite coaster addition, couple flats, new show and at least an affiliated hotel nearby, but we are one of the very few amusenent parks worldwide with the goods and solid location to nake it work. Is immersive theming a nice plus? Yes, but it is not a necessity, as CP has shown. As long as we got a stellar thrill ride lineup with good operations, some family rides and shows mixed in, we are golden. We could still use a couple more flats and definitely shows, but I do feel we have improved in some of those areas we were very weak in a couple of years ago, and that a new coaster is overdue and would do wonders fir next year.

Edited by Nitro1118

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I think you got this part backwards. The great THEME parks in the country are not regional parks, but rather destination parks. Disney and Universal are located in Orlando and LA, which are huge vacation hotspots in year-round warm weather. Ditto for Sea World and Busch (Williamsburg being an exception on the weather front, but is a major destination for tourists). Hershey is an exception, but is also very unique in terms of licensing and history, but even that park has focused intensely on coasters the last 15 years.

 

The reason is because the 18-35 age group is the group (aka the thrill seeking bracket) that is mostly single and is harder-pressed to afford expensive vscation to destination parks. That is why SF and CF, the thrill park chains, dominate these markets, with charming family parks like Holiday World and Knoebels filling in the gaps.

 

Therefor, while I do feel GAdv could improve operations, add shows, touch up theming and add more flats (which they have done recently), major thrill rides should always be their bread and butter. They are what attract their target demographic, and with our amazing coaster lineup, can make us a mini-destination park much like CP is. That would require another elite coaster addition, couple flats, new show and at least an affiliated hotel nearby, but we are one of the very few amusenent parks worldwide with the goods and solid location to nake it work. Is immersive theming a nice plus? Yes, but it is not a necessity, as CP has shown. As long as we got a stellar thrill ride lineup with good operations, some family rides and shows mixed in, we are golden. We could still use a couple more flats and definitely shows, but I do feel we have improved in some of those areas we were very weak in a couple of years ago, and that a new coaster is overdue and would do wonders fir next year.

 

Simple math regarding the NY/Philadelphia markets will show you that the thrill seekers between the ages of 18-35 are NOT enough to sustain a park the size of Great Adventure, even if every one of them attended the park each year. But, you are correct that GA doesn't have to have perfect themeing. But, the themeing that it does have HAS to have some appeal to those that are NOT thrill seekers. You are spot on that GA needs a much better balance of thrill rides, flats (that appeal to more than just thrill seekers), SHOWS, and an atmosphere that is appealing to families with children of all ages. When all you do is build metal monsters with no consideration for their impact on the overall atmosphere of the park, you may be appealing to that thrill seeker category of 18-35 year olds, but you are doing so at the expense of the rest of the 18-35 year olds with children of all ages. Regional theme parks, for the most part, are not competing with other regional theme parks that are not in the same region. HersheyPark IS a direct competitor to GA and, historically, GA attendance has far exceeded that of HersheyPark. Hotel Hershey, the Hershey town's attractiveness, etc. have always been there as long as GA has been in Jackson. Again, the simple math (the core markets of NY/Philadelphia's population) mean that GA SHOULD always outdraw HersheyPark. That is, unless you are turning-off so much of your core market that they choose to travel further from home for what they want in a theme park or simply choose to stay home. Personally, I'm of the opinion that this is what has happened to GA.

 

Lastly, while both Orlando and LA are huge vacation hotspots, the two markets are completely different in what draws vacationers to them. Without Disney in Orlando, it was not the vacation hotspot that it is today. Disney made Orlando the place that it is today and theme parks are the primary reason for traveling to Orlando. Disney can not survive by simply drawing from the Orlando market. In contrast, Disneyland gets a significant proportion of its visitors from the LA/Long Beach metropolitan area and, while it now has more amenities associated with a destination theme park, still draws a good proportion of its guests from the local market. If you visit both WDW and Disneyland, you will definitely notice that one clearly draws most of its attendance via tourists from throughout the world while the other really is fueled by the locals who will drive home long before the park closes each day.

Edited by Daved Thomson

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I think that regardless of what is really happening behind closed doors, we can all agree that to get back on top (or at least back on track), SF management is going to have to have to commit to some major reinvestment into Great Adventure for the long haul. No, I'm not talking what Premier, but sustainable capital in all facets of the park. Major thrill rides/coasters absolutely can attract huge numbers of guests and help to sustain a park--look at Fury 325 at Carowinds this year; all reports are that attendance is through the roof compared to this date in 2014. However, thrill rides aren't enough to sustain a park, and there has to be an equal, if not greater focus on the overall experience of the park, and that starts with families. And by no coincidence at all, families are the audience that are going to be spending some major cash during their visits, which are likely once a year--hence the ultra-cheap season passes and expensive admission tickets/parking/food.

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I think that regardless of what is really happening behind closed doors, we can all agree that to get back on top (or at least back on track), SF management is going to have to have to commit to some major reinvestment into Great Adventure for the long haul. No, I'm not talking what Premier, but sustainable capital in all facets of the park. Major thrill rides/coasters absolutely can attract huge numbers of guests and help to sustain a park--look at Fury 325 at Carowinds this year; all reports are that attendance is through the roof compared to this date in 2014. However, thrill rides aren't enough to sustain a park, and there has to be an equal, if not greater focus on the overall experience of the park, and that starts with families. And by no coincidence at all, families are the audience that are going to be spending some major cash during their visits, which are likely once a year--hence the ultra-cheap season passes and expensive admission tickets/parking/food.

What single ride in Great Adventure's history resulted in the park's highest attendance ever? Skull Mountain. None of GA's current, "record breaking" coasters have brought the attendance above 3 million guests. Not the season they were introduced or any season since their introduction. In fact, the park's attendance hasn't even approached 3 million guests since the late 1990s. It really doesn't matter that GA is the most attended park in the company if, in fact, that attendance level is not producing a profit.

 

We are in agreement, however, that "SF management is going to have to have to commit to some major reinvestment into Great Adventure for the long haul." I would simply add that removing structures/rides/shows/atmosphere that really are key to the parks overall appeal and replacing them with new metal monsters is not considering the long haul at all. And, that is all I have been saying here from the very start.

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What single ride in Great Adventure's history resulted in the park's highest attendance ever? Skull Mountain.

 

Actually, the park's highest attendance year was 1995 when Viper was installed - they passed 4 million that season. Ironically,Viper ranks as the park's most hated roller coaster!

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My bad... I thought it was 1994 but knew it passed 4 million that year.

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what has happened at SFGadv for attendance to drop so much?

Consider the following...

 

Multiple changes in park and corporate management has resulted in some serious changes relative to core markets and marketing segments. The park, relative to its balance of rides, shows, and attractions once attracted a broad demographic beyond just teenagers and singles. There was "something for everyone." Right now, the vast majority of the park's offerings are really directed at (and appeal to) teenagers. And, in some cases, this appealing to teens is at the expense of the larger, broader demographic of the past. One thing is certain. The building of many noteworthy and/or record setting roller coasters while ignoring the elements of the park that offer broader appeal has not resulted in any sustained growth in attendance over multiple seasons. And, the significant expense of building these coasters has contributed to an inability to regularly perform preventive maintenance on overall infrastructure, particularly real estate and venues that have broader appeal.

 

I'm sure those in park management and at the corporate level have to wonder why a park like GA, with core markets significantly larger than those for any of the company's other theme parks, generates attendance that is only comparable to that of its other parks and those parks are in markets significantly smaller.

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The park's competition has really stepped up its game since the high attendance days. Hersheypark, Dorney Park, Moreys, and Coney Island all were only a fraction of what they are now and today draw greater attendance from Great Adventure.

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In 2013, GAdv welcomed in 2.8 million guests, making it the 19th most visited park in North America, only 1 of only 2 Six Flags parks in the top 20. Magic Mountain is the other, at 18th with 2.9 million guests. Attendance hasn't tailed off nearly as much as some of the posts in this thread would have you believe; it's actually gone up. The 2.8 million in 2013 was a nearly 6% increase from 2012.

 

These are the most recent figures available. It'd be interesting if the park continued to trend upwards in 2014.

Edited by gencx

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Granted, attendance is only one factor used to measure growth, sales, and profitability for a park. Any good analyst understands that you can not simply look at a measure (such as attendance) considering only year-to-year levels or this month versus last month. The overall trend, direction of that trend and the strength or weakness of the measure all have to be considered in the long-term. The industry itself, with the exception of industry leader Disney, hasn't seen a lot of growth from parks that have been in operation for some time. When you consider that GA easily outdrew parks such as Busch Tampa and Knott's Berry Farm that operate year-round, with the exception of "tragedy years" like 1984, Great Adventure has not seen sustained growth since the 1990's. When it has recorded substantial growth in recent years, it often occurs following a prior season that was already lower (or trending lower) than the average. Thus, any increase in attendance appears larger than it is and actually costs significantly more to attain than if the park had simply been able to maintain consistent (stable) levels versus erratic, significantly increased or decreased levels. It is always far more efficient to keep a customer than it is to replace or have to find a new customer. Sadly, if GA attracted only 2.8 million people in 2013, that number is comparable to the about 2.8 million it attracted for many years in the 1980s. No matter how you look at the numbers, however, with attendance levels roughly the same as they were 30 years ago, you wouldn't consider GA's performance to be positive or even something to strive for. The park has essentially allowed some not very strong competitors to eat away at its attendance by simply offering an overall experience that has broader appeal to more people, both locally and in outer markets.

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^ I honestly don't understand the impression that our park is still appealing to limited audiences. The last time the park specifically appealed to the young thrill seeking demographic multiple years in a row was 2005-06. The additions of the past 5 years actually appeal to the wide range you're looking for.

 

2011-Green Lantern--replaced another coaster and didn't cost the park much to put in

2012-3 new family rides and a thrill flat with a low height requirement

2013-In park Safari experience-now there for families who wouldn't have spent the extra money to do it in the past

2014-Zumanjaro-thrill ride

2015-El Diablo-"in between" ride for families

 

I'd say that's pretty balanced, our only real weakness for families now is our lack of shows.

Edited by RC98

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^ I honestly don't understand the impression that our park is still appealing to limited audiences. The last time the park specifically appealed to the young thrill seeking demographic multiple years in a row was 2005-06. The additions of the past 5 years actually appeal to the wide range you're looking for.

 

2011-Green Lantern--replaced another coaster and didn't cost the park much to put in

2012-3 new family rides and a thrill flat with a low height requirement

2013-In park Safari experience-now there for families who wouldn't have spent the extra money to do it in the past

2014-Zumanjaro-thrill ride

2015-El Diablo-"in between" ride for families

 

I'd say that's pretty balanced, our only real weakness for families now is our lack of shows.

How can you possibly call the addition of more than 75% of your new attractions being thrill rides, with some of these rides replacing rides that had broader appeal across most age groups, while at the same time eliminating your shows/attractions (that had broad appeal) and replacing them with shows/events that are highly specific to a teen audience, a balanced park?. Just using the years you indicated above, there is nothing in that list that would begin to move the scales in the direction of a balanced position. The cost of a ride (using your reference to Green Lantern) has nothing to do with whether or not the ride has broad appeal. Making the Safari part of the theme park doesn't really change the appeal of the basic concept of wild animals roaming free. Even if it did, it certainly is not something that the park was not already offering with a drive-through safari. All that has changed with SOA versus the former Safari is the system for delivering the animals to the guests. But, given that these animals have always been available to guests that are interested in "wild animals," there isn't any incremental gain in attendance overall for Great Adventure. That is, the guest that specifically wants only the "wild animals" doesn't have the option of getting only wild animals. It's true that the Safari didn't sell very many tickets to the Safari only, but you can be certain that the Combination Ticket was the ticket type that the vast majority of guests purchased.

 

For whatever reason, the shows and entertainment that were once a significant contributer to a balanced park, are no longer presented. Just considering the fact that the Dolphin Show was, without question, the park's most widely viewed show and enjoyed by people of all ages, tell me how the stadium that was built for those animals and rivaled the quality of Sea World aqua stadiums, is now being torn down? Please don't tell me it is too expensive to maintain or repair, because it isn't. The SuperTeePee and Conestoga Wagon, each revenue sources themselves, were demolished also because they were too expensive to either repair or maintain. Really? How expensive is a canvas covering over logs? I doubt it would have been more expensive than the purchase of the SOA vehicles and new loading station that was built in its place which will never be a source of revenue for the park.

 

Also, think about the guests you do see at Great Adventure as opposed to the guests you have seen at the park in the past. Just take a good look at the people in the background of pictures taken at the park today compared to the people in the background of pictures from at least 10 years ago. You will be hard pressed to find many family units in any of the more recent pictures.

 

Replacing Flying Wave with Sky Screamer. They are not comparable rides. Zumanjaro does NOT have broad appeal along the lines of Flying Wave. Show me how often you see someone 40+ or 10- on Zumanjaro. El Diabo does NOT have broad appeal either. The Carousel, easily the oldest ride at GA, is an antique that has been allowed to deteriorate to looking pathetically sad. Roaring Rapids, also allowed to deteriorate to just a shell of its once great theme elements along with the removal of Hydro Flume.

 

I could go on and on and on with examples of just what has made GA so out of balance, but there is nothing that you can point to as being long-term, strategically developed plan to broaden the park's appeal

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I agree with you 100% on this one, Harry, but have to admit that this is one topic that can really make my blood boil when others appear to ignore history. Suddenly, black is white, white is black, and, what clearly is gray, simply does not exist.

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Bottom line is GAdv is now a thrill park. It's been that way for almost 20 years now. However, we are not SFMM. Only 1 major coaster has been added the last 10 years, and 1 major ride that is designated specifically for thrill seekers. We have seen more attractions devoted to a wide variety of park-goers in these years...TDK, AA flats, Skyscreamer, and SORA. And yes, SORA does count because they turned a veey bland drive-thru into a fantastic interactive experience with a very well-done pit-stop area with other cool things to do.

 

So, while we are a thrill park that has let its history deteriorate, they have not been mindlessly adding thrill ride after thrill ride, and in recent years have made moves to become more well-rounded. And you have to use context when discussing attendance figures...the economy during the years of the attendance decline has affected most of the industry. Also, attendance doesn't always equal profitability. With SF's current penny-pinching ways, they are seeing annual profit increases with stagnant attendance figures. It may be annoying to the consumer, but it is making them money, which is ultimately always the end game.

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Six Flags has been spending their money in a way that they are finally doing financially well. Attendance is slightly up, profit is also up, and their stock is doing quite well. From Premier to Shapiro we went from one end of the spectrum to the other, each with radical approaches to the park's image and appeal, but under Jim Reid Anderson we seem to have achieved a middle ground, and I can't complain about that.

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Six Flags has been spending their money in a way that they are finally doing financially well. Attendance is slightly up, profit is also up, and their stock is doing quite well. From Premier to Shapiro we went from one end of the spectrum to the other, each with radical approaches to the park's image and appeal, but under Jim Reid Anderson we seem to have achieved a middle ground, and I can't complain about that.

Agreed completely. They are spreading the budget around to all the parks, making high-value additions (RMC, JL dark rides), and do seem to be trying to add a little bit of everything. Definitely have more hope in this regime than Shapiro and Premier.

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Of course the economy is a factor in any business, however, you can not explain away GA's attendance declines using the economy as an excuse when the facts clearly show that parks with significantly lower attendance than GA, in much smaller markets, now regularly outdraw GA. When people can't get what they want closer to home, they'll be more than happy to drive to a place that does give them what they want. Six Flags is doing financially well?! They certainly claim to be doing well. But I find it interesting that when stating such claims, they can't (or will not) point to any specifics in their financials that actually supports their rather rosy profits. Think as you may, but you're either building your business or allowing it to deteriorate. And, other than the roller coaster enthusiasts on this site, I hear very few people thinking that GA is getting better at anything. As I said, black is now white, white is black, and gray doesn't exist.

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Of course the economy is a factor in any business, however, you can not explain away GA's attendance declines using the economy as an excuse when the facts clearly show that parks with significantly lower attendance than GA, in much smaller markets, now regularly outdraw GA. When people can't get what they want closer to home, they'll be more than happy to drive to a place that does give them what they want. Six Flags is doing financially well?! They certainly claim to be doing well. But I find it interesting that when stating such claims, they can't (or will not) point to any specifics in their financials that actually supports their rather rosy profits. Think as you may, but you're either building your business or allowing it to deteriorate. And, other than the roller coaster enthusiasts on this site, I hear very few people thinking that GA is getting better at anything. As I said, black is now white, white is black, and gray doesn't exist.

During the Premier/Shapiro campaigns we had so many of our flats ripped out. In the past few seasons we've added 3 high-profile flat rides (Zumanjaro, Skyscreamer and El Diablo), as well as a couple of smaller ones as well. Houdini is regularly operational after years of long closures. SORA is a huge improvement over the old Safari. TDK gave us another coaster for families and tweeners. HH also finally started getting love after a decade of neglect. La Cocina is getting a facelift and becoming more than a "grab your food and go" place.

 

Just because these aren't changes YOU want to see doesn't mean they aren't valid or significant. I am a coaster enthusiast first, so while I have been hoping for a shiny new RMC the last few years, I definitely understand and appreciate our park filling in gaps outside of the coaster front.

 

As far as SF's current business model, it isn't surprising they are seeing profit growth. Parking alone is over twice as expensive as it was 10-15 years ago, and 3x as much if we are talking about preferred parking. Flash pass has caught fire in popularity, food and drink prices have shot up, forcing lockers on riders, increased price of one day admission, etc... It would not surprise me one bit if the park is equally as profitable now as it was when it was hitting 3.5M visitors.

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