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Oct 15, 2019
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Warrenton, VA
Earlier today, Kings Dominion released their calendar for their 2021 operating season.


The general schedule is weekends only from May 22nd to June 19th, then daily operations starting that week. The last day for daily operations will be August 8th and will return to weekend only operations on the 13th. The park has yet to announce their Fall (and hopefully Winter) calendar as of this point in time. Here is a color coded version I made to help visualize.

KD May Calendar.pngKD June Calendar.pngKD July Calendar.pngKD August Calendar.pngKD September Calendar.png
 

Jonesta6

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I wonder why they shortened their full-week schedule by a few weeks - staffing or prep time for an event?
 
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Nov 30, 2018
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I wonder why they shortened their full-week schedule by a few weeks - staffing or prep time for an event?
It's not a great sign for the future of KD. By early summer a large population should be vaccinated and more likely to do things, but KD is going the opposite way.

My gut is Taste of the Season went poorly financially and CFs financial outlook for KD isnt promising with all the debt they took on.
 
Oct 15, 2019
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I have to disagree. Having been in direct contact with park operations for TOTS, I think there might be a bit more to this.

Before the park opened we were periodically checked on by park operations and we were told some interesting information about the event. Being a small business, it's important to know who you're selling to. From what I gathered in these conversations, Cedar Fair was liquid enough to keep all full time employees and re-open a few parks for limited capacity events. Kings Dominion was one of the parks that opened, mostly because of their family clientele, as Holiday events are most popular with family groups. The whole point of the event was meant to be a sort of trial run for both the company and the parks in creating safe Covid guidelines for this year's operating season. Contrary to popular belief, while KD was allowed to open at 4,000, I was told they only let 3,000 in per night. This is likely the reason why many of you may have felt a bit safer at KD than at BGW and why so many nights were fully reserved.

In my mind, these are the 2 biggest things that are happening here.
  1. With Taste of the Season, Both Cedar Fair and KD recognized that the majority of park goers are families with younger children, many of which have early bedtimes, and decided that it wouldn't be worth it to keep the park open past the time most of their guests had left. Being relatively close to my childhood, I can attest to the countless times where I left the park with my family before 8, every time we were there, much to my protest.
  2. Staffing is short. Hanover county public schools are in session until May 17th. It's an unlikely coincidence that's when the park will begin daily operation. Many seasonal workers at KD are high school students that live in the county, and KD likely wanted to operate only with the largest amount of staff members as they could easily handle
 
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Nov 1, 2012
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It's not a great sign for the future of KD. By early summer a large population should be vaccinated and more likely to do things, but KD is going the opposite way.

My gut is Taste of the Season went poorly financially and CFs financial outlook for KD isnt promising with all the debt they took on.
I reviewed KD's calender, KI's calender, and Carowinds calender. KI's has the most operating days/hours. Their closing hours are like KD's in 2019.

Carowinds on the other hand has about 10 more operating days between Memorial Day and Labor Day. (Though Carowinds is closed Labor day). But their operating hours are just like KD's; with 7pm-8pm-9pm closings. All operating days in June, including weekends, have a 7pm close.

And all three parks don't open till 11 am.
 

horsesboy

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One point that I think is being missed here is CF reliance on passes for their bottom line. One interview with Richard Zimmerman where he said that close to 60 percent of CF's income comes from passes and sells related to them. That kinds of budget reliance means that trimming the calendar and doing other things that might turn off those pass holders in future years could have long term consequences.
 
Nov 1, 2012
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I read on one of the CF park sites that the operating schedule is not set in stone and can be changed as conditions warrant.

My guess is that KD and the rest the parks had to come up with a schedule based on CURRENT conditions and their state's CURRENT Covid restrictions.

Based on what one park put out there, there is a chance the schedules can be updated. With the internet, info like that can be spread much faster through web sites and social media.
 
Mar 18, 2017
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I expect the bean counters have been pondering some changes for a long time. This gives an excuse to implement some. Even if one of them was to your personal benefit (nonsmoking), I knew overall it was bad sign. While it may be that they just don't want to commit and could change it later, it's more likely permanent.

Schedule's still better than SFA. I can't claim the 9-10 PM hour was very popular, but that made it all the more the best time to be there. Every time I rolled up to the park at 9 PM on a Wednesday and got a dozen or more laps before close, I had the feeling it was too good to last.

The website opening page does say there will be Haunt and Winterfest, vs. Dorney which can't offer any more than "Fall operating days will be announced later this year." I think CF is one of the better off chains and the difference is not because they're struggling, it's because they can afford to do only sure money makers.
 
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Mushroom

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I agree that the fact that Grand Carnivale, Haunt, and Winterfest are all slated to return means this schedule isn't as "doom and gloom" as some are making out to be. I'm scratching my head just like everyone else about why daily operations are ending so early, but unlike now a handful of other parks in the CF roster, KD is still hosting its huge seasonal events, which shows CF sees something in KD they haven't seen in some of the other parks.

The return of Grand Carnivale strikes me as a particularly noteworthy; the fact that they're investing in a massive, mid-season entertainment event shows promise IMO.
 
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Aug 9, 2016
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I’m far from a kings dominion regular. The husband and I only go once maybe twice a year. But if I was a season pass holder, I’d be pretty upset about this new operating calendar. Especially considering last year they were primarily closed (with the exception of a few weeks during winterfest) and a park they compete with a hour down the road is actually increasing operating days and adding more themed events.....
 
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I agree that the fact that Grand Carnivale, Haunt, and Winterfest are all slated to return means this schedule isn't as "doom and gloom" as some are making out to be. I'm scratching my head just like everyone else about why daily operations are ending so early, but unlike now a handful of other parks in the CF roster, KD is still hosting its huge seasonal events, which shows CF sees something in KD they haven't seen in some of the other parks.

The return of Grand Carnivale strikes me as a particularly noteworthy; the fact that they're investing in a massive, mid-season entertainment event shows promise IMO.
I'm surprised on Carnivale because it seemed designed to bunch large numbers of people up.
 

horsesboy

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I’m far from a kings dominion regular. The husband and I only go once maybe twice a year. But if I was a season pass holder, I’d be pretty upset about this new operating calendar. Especially considering last year they were primarily closed (with the exception of a few weeks during winterfest) and a park they compete with a hour down the road is actually increasing operating days and adding more themed events.....
Yeah the fact that BOTH other regional parks added dates while KD dropped dates is just shocking. Especially when one takes CF reliance on passes into account it should intersting to see how this plays out.
 
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mtorange

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I'm surprised on Carnivale because it seemed designed to bunch large numbers of people up.

Unsure if my comments should belong in the Grand Carnivale 2021 thread or this thread, but anyhow.

I’ve noticed something about Grand Carnivale... all parks that have announced dates for the event have cut one week off of the event AND it is later in the schedule by about a month compared to both 2019 and 2020 before it was cancelled. Some parks (like KD) are hosting the event in mid-July and others (like Valleyfair) are hosting it during the last week of July. Some others (like Kings Island) have only announced a return without any dates, which is interesting.

It makes me think that Cedar Fair might have pushed the event back because they are banking on the United States reaching herd immunity before this event. There is debate on where the exact herd immunity threshold is, but there seems to be a consensus that the threshold is between 70% and 90%. Current projections according to the CDC and New York Times (linked below) have us reaching 70% on June 21st and 90% by July 31st. These dates change every day and depend heavily on vaccine distribution and inoculations. They also seem to be creeping more towards the beginning of summer. Just a week ago, projections had herd immunity happening between July 22nd and September 12th! You have to scroll down to almost halfway through the article to see the chart I’m referencing.

Hopefully these numbers spell good news for Halloween Haunt and WinterFest, as I missed both of these events dearly last season. Worlds of Fun announced their Haunt would take place from September 17th to October 31st, which is very similar to the pre-COVID days. This makes me optimistic that KD will adopt a similar calendar.

As for why they cut off a week of Grand Carnivale, my guess is they’re trying to save some money. I assume we’ll find a more concrete reason for this during the Q2 earnings call later this year.

 
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horsesboy

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Unsure if my comments should belong in the Grand Carnivale 2021 thread or this thread, but anyhow.

I’ve noticed something about Grand Carnivale... all parks that have announced dates for the event have cut one week off of the event AND it is later in the schedule by about a month compared to both 2019 and 2020 before it was cancelled. Some parks (like KD) are hosting the event in mid-July and others (like Valleyfair) are hosting it during the last week of July. Some others (like Kings Island) have only announced a return without any dates, which is interesting.

It makes me think that Cedar Fair might have pushed the event back because they are banking on the United States reaching herd immunity before this event. There is debate on where the exact herd immunity threshold is, but there seems to be a consensus that the threshold is between 70% and 90%. Current projections according to the CDC and New York Times (linked below) have us reaching 70% on June 21st and 90% by July 31st. These dates change every day and depend heavily on vaccine distribution and inoculations. They also seem to be creeping more towards the beginning of summer. Just a week ago, projections had herd immunity happening between July 22nd and September 12th! You have to scroll down to almost halfway through the article to see the chart I’m referencing.

Hopefully these numbers spell good news for Halloween Haunt and WinterFest, as I missed both of these events dearly last season. Worlds of Fun announced their Haunt would take place from September 17th to October 31st, which is very similar to the pre-COVID days. This makes me optimistic that KD will adopt a similar calendar.

As for why they cut off a week of Grand Carnivale, my guess is they’re trying to save some money. I assume we’ll find a more concrete reason for this during the Q2 earnings call later this year.

Another thought on this that goes hand and hand with them starting to charge for passes in April even though they are not opening till end of May. It seems reasonable that they might be looking for a cash infusion from those months of being open to help cover prep charges for this so they don't did further into they reverses in these uncertain times.
 

Mushroom

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Another thought on this that goes hand and hand with them starting to charge for passes in April even though they are not opening till end of May. It seems reasonable that they might be looking for a cash infusion from those months of being open to help cover prep charges for this so they don't did further into they reverses in these uncertain times.

I've never understood why people make it a big deal that they're charging for passes while they're not open. They've always done that. The passes are normally on a 12-month payment plan, so in a normal year they'd be charging for passes in January and February, even though the parks are closed during those months. This isn't new.
 

horsesboy

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I've never understood why people make it a big deal that they're charging for passes while they're not open. They've always done that. The passes are normally on a 12-month payment plan, so in a normal year they'd be charging for passes in January and February, even though the parks are closed during those months. This isn't new.
The difference here is that they had charged through the typically closed months last year and said they wouldn't be charging till they reopened. Honestly it not a big deal to me personally I look at as ok my pass will be paid off a month earlier that all. But I do see it as something that people are not going to be happy with.
 
Nov 30, 2018
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Yeah the fact that BOTH other regional parks added dates while KD dropped dates is just shocking. Especially when one takes CF reliance on passes into account it should intersting to see how this plays out.
I’m really struggling with KDs strategy here. All their local competitors are pushing hard to rebuild their customer bases, while KD just sits it out and cedes market share. One of the worst things you can do in business is give your dedicated customers reasons to try out competitors, as they might not come back. My hypothesis is too much of the decision making is coming from headquarters where they have an Ohio based monopolist perception in strategy, and aren’t seeing the regional issues well enough.
 
Nov 1, 2012
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I’m really struggling with KDs strategy here. All their local competitors are pushing hard to rebuild their customer bases, while KD just sits it out and cedes market share. One of the worst things you can do in business is give your dedicated customers reasons to try out competitors, as they might not come back. My hypothesis is too much of the decision making is coming from headquarters where they have an Ohio based monopolist perception in strategy, and aren’t seeing the regional issues well enough.
In my opinion, Cedar Fair corporate takes a more conservative approach in operational philosophy than the competition. Six Flags seems almost reckless compared to CF. And their track record shows it. SEAS seems to float between the two; leaning conservative.

Too many factors that play into making 2021scheduling decisions; especially with the COVID elephant in the room.

State restrictions and vaccination rates in each state where one or more properties are located.​
Employment rates. Over the last decade, CF has relied heavily on foriegn employees. But, that takes 4-6 months of advanced planning with all the screening, paperwork, Visas, and transport to get those folks into the USA. (If they were allowed to enter the US in the first place). They are housed in dorm-like structures where they are living clustered together. Very difficult to do with COVID restrictions in place. It looks like CF is doing a national hiring program this year.That looks like they could be bringing in folks from other areas of the country to work in a park located in another region. That happened to folks that were hired for KD in 2020. A number of them worked at Cedar Point that summer for a 4-6 week program.​
With things so fluid right now with COVID and the vaccination rates, Cedar Fair decided on a conservative operating schedule. It feels to me a schedule where hours and/or days could be added later as conditions warrant. With the internet and all social media available, changes to existing operating hours can be made to the schedule and the GP notified rapidly. If a few days and/or a week or so were added, KD would probably get that info out 4-6 weeks in advance​
 
Mar 16, 2016
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I would possibly add that what CF could be prioritizing is the ability to have all parks operate the same way with a similar schedule and a similar feel. And with states still doing things differently with different regulations, they are waiting for a baseline level of commonality across all states to open at all.
 
Nov 30, 2018
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CF's strategy to be conservative and wait it out a bit makes sense in the areas where they effectively have monopolies on the amusement park business (e.g. OH/MI or NC/SC). There's no reason to open unless they know they can make an operating profit since there customer base doesn't have many similar options. However that strategy doesn't really work in competitive markets (KD being one) where competitors are eating up market share while they stay closed.

By skipping spring, CF is effectively ceding any ability to sell season passes for this year to BGW, SFA, and to a lesser extent HP. Even if spring isn't that profitable, it's still worth opening the park as a loss leader for summer and fall to lock in season passes and ensuring the park is fuller during those times of year. By the time KD is open their three closest competitors will all have been open for a couple months, and I could see the park become somewhat forgotten by then.
 
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