September 22, 2007
Aurora, OH -- It's the end of an era for Geauga Lake amusement park in northeast Ohio. In a statement released Friday, park owner Cedar Fair Entertainment confirmed that they will close the historic amusement park and convert the property into a water park only operation.
After 119 years, the amusement park portion of Geauga Lake entertained its last guests without fanfare on Sunday, September 16. While the amusement park will close, the water park across the lake will continue to operate according to Cedar Fair.
"After four years of operating Geauga Lake as a combined water park/amusement park attraction, we have concluded that its future should be entirely as a water park," said Dick Kinzel, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Cedar Fair Entertainment Company. "Visiting Geauga Lake is a 119-year-old tradition in northeastern Ohio. That tradition will continue, but in a new and exciting way."
"Geauga Lake's Wildwater Kingdom has been recognized as one of the finest water parks in the country," Kinzel said. "Over the past three seasons, we have invested approximately $25 million to create and develop the premiere water park in northeastern Ohio. Since its opening in 2005, Wildwater Kingdom has been the park's highest rated attribute."
Geauga Lake's Wildwater Kingdom attractions will include Tidal Wave Bay, a 30,000 square-foot wave pool featuring seven different types of wave patterns; Liquid Lightning, a 60-foot-tall tornado slide; Thunder Falls, Ohio's tallest water slide complex; an activity pool; an action river; and a multi-story play structure. The park will also provide a catering facility and picnic pavilions for group outings and poolside cabanas will be made available for daily rental.
Water parks are very important to Cedar Fair. In addition to parks where the water park is incorporated into the amusement park, the company owns and operates five separately gated water parks: three in California, one in Ohio (Soak City at Cedar Point) and one in Missouri.
Kinzel added, "Water parks traditionally draw from a closer geographic market than amusement parks, and we believe Geauga Lake's Wildwater Kingdom will continue to be successful in drawing visitors from the greater Cleveland, Youngstown and Akron-Canton areas."
Geauga Lake's 2008 operating schedule, admission pricing, group programs and other operating details will be announced at a later date. However, the water park season is traditionally Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Geauga Lake has suffered from a severe decline in attendance in recent years. After an impressive increase in 2000 the amusement park has been in a decline every year since.
The biggest drop came a year after Six Flags sold the park to Cedar Fair. Attendance fell from 2 million in 2003 to just over 700,000 in 2004.
For many years Geauga Lake was on the rise. In the early 1990s Geauga Lake was entertaining over a million guests each year. Premier Parks purchased Geauga Lake in 1995 and year later spent $9 million on new rides including the Head Spin roller coaster and Grizzly Run river rapids ride.
Four years later, Premier Parks now owner and operator of the Six Flags Theme Parks chain, spent another $40 million transforming Geauga Lake into Six Flags Ohio in what appeared to be an attempt to compete directly with Cedar Point. With the addition of four new roller coasters, attendance at the new Six Flags Ohio jumped by a whopping 42% in 2000.
A year later Six Flags purchased the neighboring Sea World marine animal park across the lake from Anheuser Busch. The two parks were then merged and renamed Six Flags Worlds of Adventure offering a theme park, water park and marine animal park for one admission price.
Despite the increased offerings and another new roller coaster attendance was down in 2001. The decline then continued in 2002, with attendance slipped 21% to 2.15 million. A year later it fell another 7% to 2 million.
Six Flags suffering from its debt load decided to abandon its operations in Ohio and sold the park to Cedar Fair for $145 million in 2004. The marine animals were not included in the sale and this marked the end to many of the attractions on the former Sea World side.
In attempt to renew interest from locals, Cedar Fair decided to bring back the park's original name Geauga Lake. Despite the return of the original name and new owners, the crowds never returned.
In January 2005, Cedar Fair reported that attendance at their newest park, totaled just over 700,000 guests, well below their expectations. In one year attendance at Geauga Lake dropped 65%.
Two months earlier, Cedar Fair announced a major expansion of the property that they hoped would revive Geauga Lake. The $26 million expansion included a brand-new, multi-million dollar water park to be built over two years, expanded catering and picnic grounds, a new Peanuts character show and gift shop. Geauga Lake would also be dropping the price of the adult admission in 2005 by $10.
A year later, Cedar Fair expanded Splashwater Kingdom again with the addition of the Tidal Wave Bay wave pool.
Even with the addition of the new water park attendance did not improve at Geauga Lake. The guests who did visit spent most of their time in the water park and skipped the amusement park.
Signs of trouble for the amusement park were more evident than ever when Cedar Fair last fall began removing two major roller coasters from Geauga Lake. X-Flight was moved to Kings Island in Cincinnati and Steel Venom was removed and will reopen at Dorney Park in 2008.
Cedar Fair's plans for the amusement park portion are unknown. The company said that property not necessary for the operation of the water park is being reviewed for other uses and development.
"Our planning and design department is going through and analyzing what the best use for all of our assets are," Stacy Frole, Cedar Fair spokesperson.
As part of the changeover to exclusively water park attractions, a number of the rides at Geauga Lake will be introduced at other Cedar Fair parks.
Cedar Fair would not comment on which specific rides might be relocated, so the fate of rides like the historic Big Dipper roller coaster that dates back to 1925 are unknown.
Last month, several Internet sites posted unconfirmed reports that Dominator will be relocated to Kings Dominion and Thunderhawk to Michigan's Adventure. Fans hope that Cedar Fair will find a new homes for the park's three wooden coasters, but the complexity and expense of moving these types of rides may prevent their relocation.
Fans of the Big Dipper are hopeful that Cedar Fair will put forth the effort in relocating this historic ride.
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