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I always see people on Facebook and I saw on reddit today people seem to have this consensus that Kings Dominions attendance is on the decline. Is there any validity to this? There’s not really an easy way to verify it and if they go on weekdays then yeah sure it’s going to be dead. I feel like most parks are pretty slow on weekdays on the summer. I even see some silly comments saying it’s becoming “Dorney South.” I cant imagine they would of added Twisted Timbers if it had declined significantly. Anybody with knowledge of this please discuss.
 

Jonesta6

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Feb 14, 2019
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With no actual attendance numbers knowledge -

My conjecture is that it's quite possible, given the recent addition of WinterFest, events such as Grand Carnivale, and a renewed interest in food and beverage options by hiring a chef.

Basically it sounds like KD/CF has realized that even if the other park is a couple hours away, they still have to compete for tourist dollars. If attendance is low, the revenue generating areas of the park will suffer as a result.
 

b.mac

Indiana Beach Vibe
May 14, 2011
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I would not say it has been declining.

While the crowds certainly have gotten much lighter on most days there are other says that make up for the shortcomings.

Besides usual annual fluctuations because of weather, annual scheduling, etc. Attendance has remained pretty close to flat for the past few years.
 
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Aug 21, 2016
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It declined in the late 2000s but it's been pretty stagnant in recent years.
 

Zachary

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Sep 23, 2009
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For context, I'm told that last year saw a small increase over the previous year as well. That said, as I understand it, Winterfest was singlehandedly to thank for that as the summer season was a real struggle in 2018. So while 2018 did see an increase over 2017, attendance per day was still down.

The really concerning thing is that summer last year was such a struggle despite the addition of Timbers... ?
 
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When they announced Twisted Timbers the feedback I saw on social media seemed like the public just saw it as a rehash of Hurler. Granted it does pull long lines. KD probably does indeed struggle from its location being near Richmond instead of a larger metro area. The DC area has a lot of good alternatives. I also see comments like “idk why anyone goes to kings dominion when Busch Gardens is down the road”
 

Mushroom

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KD probably does indeed struggle from its location being near Richmond instead of a larger metro area.

I remember watching an interview where KD’s original GM and visionary, Dennis Spiegel, explained that this has been a problem for decades. They expected the area around KD to develop as a result of the park, and it just... didn’t. As a result KD remains in a middle-of-nowhere unincorporated part of Hanover County that few people live close to. Its only saving grace is that its location just off I-95 makes it a convenient road trip (godawful DC traffic notwithstanding).

This is also why KD pays significantly higher wages than most parks in the industry, and why staffing is constantly such an issue- nobody lives close enough to KD to want work there without an extra incentive for all that driving.
 
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Mar 18, 2017
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^^-- It seemed to me the problem was more the weatherman, or the lack of rain. They'd forecast it almost all the time, but when they forecast chance of rain over the next three days and it pours the first, usually the chance goes away for awhile. They'd just keep forecasting it and it wouldn't happen.

My impression was that 2009 was a very dead year, I'd see almost no one enough visits in a row that I was actually concerned for the park. While I305 didn't exactly pack them in, its draw really didn't peak until maybe 2013-2014. 2016 seemed to me to be going the way of 2009, not that bad but I didn't go as often on weeknights in June so it could have been. 2017 (EDIT: 2018) would have been a stronger year except Volcano went down before a lot of people got around to checking out Timbers. But it could have been a bad one if it weren't for the addition.

Of course, I'm the last one to complain about lack of crowds, as long as somehow the park survives and stays great. But there have a been a few times it seems too good to be true. RE: "Dorney South", actually I think Dorney got bigger crowds this year than usual. They actually had to turn people away one Grand Carnivale night, and there was another report of crowds after that. Queue-times also reported long waits whenever I checked it, but I think it was lying.
 
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Apr 22, 2019
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No mention of Volcano? Even last season it wasn't up for very long. Volcano was always a draw, and then they tore it down. I'd think that would hurt attendance. My KD attendance is way down this season. We've only been once (though I am going again finally in October). And next season I'm not getting a gold pass again. The drive from Baltimore is a pain in the ass and Volcano is gone with no replacement on the horizon yet (in spite of the sign).
 

Zachary

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I'm glad to hear KD is doing better thus far this season vs last (even if that really just translates to "not a disaster" considering how bad summer 2018 was). That said, like @Crunchewy, my visitation has plummeted this season as well. Grand Carnivale was a nice addition, but it didn't last long enough for me to even try to go more than once. Then, after Carnivale, Kings Dominion just wasn't offering anything new and interesting to me all summer long. Meanwhile, Busch Gardens was bringing in new, interesting entertainment acts every week, debuting new, limited time food and drink offerings, constantly releasing new pins, offering tempting membership rewards, etc.

My KD attendance is about to massively spike throughout Haunt and Winterfest like it does every year, but Kings Dominion needs to find a better way to pull me in over the summer if they want my business. Especially looking into summer 2020, I can't imagine KD successfully tempting me away from Pantheon very often (if at all...) ?
 

Mushroom

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I have also wondered if Volcano's loss has hurt attendance.

Another thought: KD (along with several other CF parks) it notorious for closing early on rainy days. I wonder if this makes attendance on days with poor weather even worse. Even I, a passholder who frequents the park, have decided not to visit if the forecast looked spotty, out of fear the park would close early.
 

Jonesta6

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I've been reading John Hildebrandt's Always Cedar Point (forgot who on here made that book recommendation, but thanks!), and the attendance issues sound similar to what he mentioned with the off years at Cedar Point where there wasn't a new coaster.

In that case, the recession of the 80s forever altered attendance patterns - people were attracted to that year's new coaster for about a year, but then any gains faded away whereas before there was a much longer boost period. Even now, once the park got it's 1-2 punch from Millennium and Top Thrill, they're finding Steel Vengeance and Valravn haven't been able to continuously move the needle.
 
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I would add that KD is much more unpleasant than BGW on hot, sunny days. I know I didn’t want to brave the increasingly awful interstate traffic for the pleasure of being cooked in Candy Apple Grove, during a brutal summer.
Kings Dominion is more unpleasant on hit days IF one is waiting for rides. They have been too cheap to build even minimum shade on way. too many ride queues. Even Tumbili.

However KDs walkways are MUCH better shaded than BGW. Most of the walkways there have zero tree cover
 
Aug 1, 2010
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However KDs walkways are MUCH better shaded than BGW. Most of the walkways there have zero tree cover

Not really. Comparing the Google Earth images show that both parks have about the same tree canopy coverage. The biggest difference is that KD uses asphalt and BG uses concrete/exposed aggregate. Asphalt absorbs and then radiates the heat back out more than concrete. The areas in Candy Apple Grove, near the Carousel and Twisted Timbers are brutal on sunny days. I'll take BG over KD on any August day.
 

Nicole

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Jul 22, 2013
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I'm not sure why my post from 3.5 years ago is being quoted, especially given all of the changes in the park since then.

Regardless, the idea that Candy Apple Grove, which is what I specifically cited, has more tree coverage than BGW is absurd.
 

Jonesta6

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Feb 14, 2019
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Since I don't think the park publishes attendance figures (something something different corporate structure than SEAS so no disclosure in an earnings call that I can tell), any response here as to JX's impact is anecdotal at best.

Given that, I think the proof is seeing what further investments they make. If they continue to expand the theming and/or retheme older rides, that'd be a telling sign they see some kind of positive impact.

I'll also venture to guess that the goal may not be attendance oriented but instead measuring the impact of improved guest experiences on in-park spending and repeat visits. Get people coming back often and increasing their in-park spending may have a similar financial impact that attendance alone would have. Obviously all three would be best, but may not be realistic goals to orient around.

Additionally, from what I can tell, KD being passed over as a tier one CF park allows the chain to use it as a testing ground for bigger concepts before they sink the investment into other larger parks. We saw this with Chef Dennis running culinary and getting favorable returns over lower grade food service options, and I'm guessing the impact of JX went into the calculus for the CW retheme work that's starting to happen.
 
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