Six Flags is taking us for a ride

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By Raylyn Rollins

By Raylyn Rollins

Six Flags is closed!

No, it’s not. It’s been sold to housing developers.

No, it’s not. It’s all a big rumor.

OK. So those are just a few of the rumors that have surfaced since the Six Flags Corporation announced the potential selling of Six Flags Magic Mountain. The truth is that no one really knows what is happening to the beloved Southern California attraction. Partly because not even the executives of the theme park know for sure where the park’s future lies.

Few who have been to the park in recent years can miss the changes in the park’s atmosphere and demographics. What used to be a busy family theme park with rides for all ages is now dominated by high-speed roller coasters.

Teens rule the park and families can be spotted only sporadically. It may surprise many, then, that representatives at the Six Flags Corp. excitedly announced that family attendance is up. Then why so many rumors about selling the park?

Simply, the Six Flags Corp. is in debt. To relieve its $2.1 billion debt, six separate Six Flags theme parks are potentially up for sale, including Ventura’s Hurricane Harbor and parks in Texas, New York, Colorado, Washington and another near San Francisco.

However, these sales in no way mark the dissolution of the corporation, which owns 30 theme parks in North America. Many of those parks still cater to families who are generally more likely to buy pricy souvenirs and the food offered around the parks.

“What has been unexpected thus far is that the families we are targeting to replace those teens have been harder to attract than anticipated,” said Mark Shapiro, President and CEO of the Six Flags Corp.

Teens are Magic Mountain’s largest group of attendees. However, their rowdy behavior and tendency to start fights discourage the families the corporation is targeting.

The problem is that Magic Mountain’s rides cater to the teens responsible for Six Flags’ reputation as a young person’s paradise. High-speed roller coasters do not attract many families with children, so decreased revenue is understandable.

In order to get rowdy teens out of the park, the company has raised the price on annual passes. Without cheap entrance into the park-a regular ticket costs $39.99, plus $10 for parking-teen attendance has decreased, but families have not come back either.

From a business standpoint, closing the venue that has decreased attendance by 19 percent in one year seems reasonable.

But the consequences of selling the park may impact Southern California.

Cities surrounding the Ventura-based theme park are not keen on more housing developments in the area. Not only is a theme park good for business in the city, but more housing has economic consequences that could harm the cities’ revenues with an increased need for schools and resources.

The good news for them is that the Six Flags Corp. is considering selling all six parks as a package, meaning that the theme park may be refurbished and reopened. However, a new coat of paint and a few additions may not be enough to pull the theme park out of its rut.

Inland residents are far less affected by the potential selling of the parks. RCC student Dane VanDerMark said that he does not go to Magic Mountain very often because it is too much of a drive, a statement with which many Inland residents agree.

Because sale of the parks is still in an early stage, the future of the parks is uncertain.

Shapiro shed light on the uncertainty of the situation.

“We’re investing more in our operations because the health of our business depends on bringing back families. Our first priority is to fix the operation and that is not going to happen overnight. We see this as a long term investment,” he said.

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