Great Adventure seeks to bring in families
Six Flags Great Advenutre in Jackson, known for its steep and fast roller coasters, will shift gears this summer and add four new rides, including a towering swing ride known as the SkyScreamer and a bumper car ride known as the Fender Bender, the park's president said this week.Six Flags itself is riding some momentum. After building up $2.5 billion in debt, the company filed for bankruptcy in June 2009. It emerged the following year, debt free, with new management and a new strategy.
John Fitzgerald said the company wants to reach adults who have children not quite old enough for the roller coasters and who have fond memories of similar rides during their own youths.
"Great Adventure has always been a park split evenly between teens and families," Fitzgerald said. After last year's big attraction, The Green Hornet roller coaster, it was time for the park to turn its attention to families.
Six Flags Great Adventure is one of New Jersey's biggest summer attractions. The company's parent, Grand Prairie, Texas-based Six Flags Entertainment Corp., doesn't break out attendance figures for individual parks. But the Jackson location is hiring more than 4,100 employees this season.
The company, nearly two years after emerging from bankruptcy, appears to be on the upswing. But for Fitzgerald, it sounds like something extra is at play; he's returned to the park where he spent summers in high school operating the Saw Mill log flume ride.
His goal now is to keep visitors such as Jackie Texter happy. Texter, 47, of Lacey, grew up going to the park and made it a point to return as an adult with her family. She shied away when Great Adventure's reputation was one of being unsafe and dirty, but returned a few years ago, pleasantly surprised.
She took a break to save money during the recession. But last year, she bought a season pass, taking her children, then 13 and 11, to the Hurricane Harbor water park each week.
Although she's still not flush with money – her biggest complaint is the price of food – she plans to re-up and pay $299.96 for four season passes.
"The only reason I really did do it is because they had a payment plan," Texter said. "It pays for itself in two visits, it really does."
Six Flags reported net income of $13.1 million on revenue of $1 billion in 2011. And investors have warmed to the company; its stock has more than doubled since emerging from bankruptcy in May 2010.
Among the changes: The company, which used the dancing, tuxedo-wearing Mr. Six in its marketing campaign for all of its parks, shifted to regional marketing campaigns that would promote individual attractions.
"What drives people to the New Jersey park is local," said Ian Corydon, a stock analyst with B. Riley & Co. in Los Angeles. "You want to have a newness in all your parks so you want to advertise locally."
Fitzgerald, 48, a Freehold Township resident, has spent untold hours trying to figure out just the right price to convince customers to trade up from the daily pass to the season pass. This year, prices range from $61.99 for an adult for entrance to Great Adventure and Wild Safari to $299.96 – and a free parking pass – for four season passes to the theme park, safari and water park.
This summer, he is banking on nostalgia. In addition to the SkyScreamer – a 242-foot-high swing ride – and the Fender Bender, it will add Deja Vu, a spinning twister of a ride, and Air Jumbo, an elephant ride.
For Fitzgerald, the memories aren't far away. He attended Jackson Memorial High School and started on the ground floor at Six Flags Great Adventure. He became a ride supervisor before deciding to pursue a doctorate in social sciences.
He was teaching at the University of New Hampshire when he got a call from a former Six Flags colleague who told him the company was opening a theme park in Germany and wanted to know if he was interested in helping.
He considered the choices: Academia versus amusement park. New Hampshire versus Europe. Teacher's salary versus corporate executive's salary.
Fitzgerald changed course, eventually jumping from park to park and briefly leaving the company to consult, before he was asked by Six Flags' new managment to oversee Great Adventure in August 2010.
"You're going back to a place where you worked," he said in an interview on Tuesday. "If you have fond memories of it, you want to make it succeed."
Great Adventure seeks to bring in families
Posted 22 February 2012 - 06:33 PM
Posted 22 February 2012 - 06:51 PM
Six Flags Great Adventure Team Member 2012- Rides - Green Lantern
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Posted 22 February 2012 - 09:11 PM
Posted 23 February 2012 - 09:34 AM
Posted 24 February 2012 - 08:06 PM
Posted 24 February 2012 - 09:50 PM
It's BAD if he really thinks they have a "Green Hornet" roller coaster. It's SAD if he really thinks the park "has always been a park split evenly between teens and families".
"Green Hornet" wasn't a quote from the park - I am sure that was the author's mistake.
Posted 27 February 2012 - 04:39 PM
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