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    Niles: The new Six Flags does not need to go cheap to succeed
    • July 9, 2024

    Six Flags and Knott’s Berry Farm owner Cedar Fair have made it official. The two theme and amusement park companies have merged into one.

    The new Six Flags Entertainment Corp. has kept the Six Flags name but Cedar Fair’s corporate headquarters, stock ticker symbol and most of its management team. So far, almost all of the information that the company has released about this deal has been aimed at Wall Street and investors. That’s fine. Investors need to support the deal for the new Six Flags to have any hope of success.

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    Eventually, the new company will need the support of fans and customers, too. The July 1 closing date for the merger sat in the middle of the operating season for most of the new Six Flags’ theme and water parks. That has meant that, for visitors, it’s business as usual this month at the new Six Flags’ 30 amusement and water park sites across North America, including Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags Magic Mountain.

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    Fans have a long list of questions about how this merger will affect the operations of their favorite parks going forward. I am sure that the new Six Flags management will want to use this opportunity to consolidate purchasing, licensing and corporate operations to achieve economies of scale. The more that the new Six Flags can standardize its parks, the more money that it might be able to save to help increase the new company’s profits.

    But let’s not forget that Six Flags also could boost its bottom line by winning back a lot of the customers who have felt burned by Six Flags and Cedar Fair theme parks in recent years. Slashing capacity, dropping live entertainment and cutting unique food, beverage and souvenir selections cripple a park’s appeal to fans with money to spend. As the new Six Flags management envisions what this mega-chain will look and operate like, allow me to make a pitch on behalf of the fans.

    Let each park grow into a unique destination that reflects and serves its local market. Not every park needs to carry the Six Flags name. Let that corporate brand instead stand for a consistently high level of customer service and value rather than a collection of the same attractions from park to park.

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    Sure, save money with volume deals from manufacturers. But invest in a creative team that employs people at the company’s sites and who work together remotely to tailor the name and decoration of each new ride, show, restaurant or store to fit each park’s identity.

    Just because Six Flags sits in the market as a budget alternative to Disney and Universal does not mean that its parks need to be — and feel — cheap. Run more coaster trains and stop raising food prices to cover for low-priced annual passes. Benchmark with competitors such as Herschend to find how to deliver better value while still undercutting Disney prices.

    Fans want to go to Six Flags’ parks not just because they are affordable but because they love them and the experience they provide. Ultimately, the best way to Wall Street success is to win fans’ hearts again.


    ​ Orange County Register