August 30, 2014

Elyria
Mostly clear
69°F
test

No more coasters at Geauga Lake


Industry experts cite lagging attendance

Geauga Lake is all wet.

Or, at least, it will be when the Aurora park opens for the 2008 season.

CHRONICLE FILE
A rider hits the water slides at Geauga Lake. Cedar Fair announced Friday that the amusement park will become a water-only attraction starting next year.

The park, which has been owned and operated by Cedar Fair, parent company of Cedar Point, since 2004, announced Friday that the park will become a water park-only operation next summer.

Although no specific attendance figures were released, Cedar Point spokesman Tony Clark said the amusement ride portion of the park — officially known as Geauga Lake & Wildwater Kingdom — was not drawing the crowds company officials hoped for.

“The market demand simply wasn’t supporting that part of the park the way it was currently structured,” Clark said. “Now we’re going to concentrate all our efforts on Geauga Lake’s Wildwater Kingdom. That was the more popular section of the park anyway.”

Jennifer Lovesee-Mast of Theme Parks Magazine, in an e-mail response to a media inquiry about the announcement, said, “It’s terribly sad to see a park go down like this.

“However, parks are businesses, and in the … years Cedar Fair owned Geauga Lake, it never once turned a profit.”

The fate of the park’s roller coasters and other rides has been under discussion for some time, she said.

“I heard from a source that, several months ago, general managers of all the different Cedar Fair parks sat around and divvied up the rides and roller coasters for their (respective) parks,” she wrote.

Clark said plans do call for an unspecified number of the park’s roller coasters and other rides to be moved to other Cedar Fair-owned parks.

“We don’t have a timeline yet on what will happen on the ride side of the park,’’ Clark said. “We’ve hired a consulting firm to review various options for parts of the property not required for operation of the water park.”

Lovesee-Mast theorized that Geauga Lake’s decline began when former owner Six Flags mistakenly tried to transform it “from a small, family-oriented classic park to one trying to compete with the Cedar Point superpower nearby.”

The water park-only decision by Cedar Fair officials makes perfect sense to Tim O’Brien, a longtime editor with Amusement Business, a publication that covered the amusement park industry.

O’Brien recently authored “Ripley’s Believe It or Not: Amusement Park Oddities & Trivia,” a book that contained several mentions of Cedar Point.

“(Cedar Fair has) been doing such a good job with other water park properties, including Soak City at Cedar Point and Castaway Bay (the indoor water park resort located outside the park),” O’Brien said. “Their management has always been able to put its finger on what guests want. Just look at what their coasters have done. They have the brains and experience to create a magnificent water park.”

Already, Cedar Fair has been moving forward with its water park effort at Geauga Lake.

During the last three seasons, Cedar Fair has invested $25 million to create and develop what Cedar Fair chairman, president and chief executive officer Dick Kinzel called “the premier water park in northeastern Ohio. Since its opening in 2005, Wildwater Kingdom has been the park’s highest-rated attribute.”

Geauga Lake’s major attractions include Tidal Wave Bay, a 390,000-gallon, Caribbean-themed wave pool; and Thunder Falls, a 10-story, seven-slide complex billed as Ohio’s tallest water slide attraction.

Two of Geauga Lake’s signature rides were its 161-foot, 65-mph floorless Dominator steel roller coaster and the Big Dipper, a wooden roller coaster built in 1925.

Lovesee-Mast speculated the Big Dipper may be torn down.

“I can’t see Cedar Fair moving it. This will be the most significant loss to the U.S. roller coaster collection in the last five years,’’ she wrote. “It was old but extremely fun. I could easily put it in my top 10 of wooden roller coasters."

Contact Steve Fogarty at 328-7139 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.