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Aug 5, 2018
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I don't post here often, but I wanted to get everyone's opinion on the park as it currently stands. I have a feeling that most people who post on this forum have a deep appreciation/love for the park and have been going there for years.

Over the past number of years, I have noticed diminishing quality at the park. I used to feel it was magical, from the candle maker to the flower sculptor to the theming to the amazing landscaping - to me it was an emotional escape every weekend - it was my vacation when I couldn't afford an actual vacation.

Now all the tiny magical things I loved, includi f the quality and quantity of the shows, the animals, the quirky and cool merchandise, are all fading away to be replaced by cheap thrills that can be obtained at any Cedar Fair or Six Flags park. Theming has been forgotten, and the cast stone pit of Finnegan's Flyer remains years after installation.

In your opinion, has there been a noticable drop in quality and enjoyment at the park? Do you still love it like you once did? What do you think is behind these changes? Is Kevin a poor park president?

I'd love to hear what everyone has to say. Thanks!
 
Mar 16, 2016
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There has been a drop, but I still love it.

Honestly, I don't have much "insider" knowledge, but I would expect the answer not to be Kevin since the decline started before his tenure. I instead put that on the board. They have highly emphasized profits over experience. Entertainment budges have been slashed, theme budgets have been slashed, staffing budgets have been slashed; and I wouldn't be shocked if we heard maintenance felt the brunt of it. BGW has gone the way of the rest of SEAS of outsourcing games, so it's clear there's pressure from up higher up to cut things.

So it's not dropping the ball so to speak, it's the importance of other things.

BUT, I would offer up this thought: Previous ownership seemed to understand that putting money into quality would produce similar results in profit for them as much as cutting at experience and adding more.

I think at this point I would very much want to see one of two things happen:
1) I would love to see someone else buy BGW, let Kevin and his history of the park do what he sees fit to get back to the "heyday".
2) I would love to see SEAS parks just given a budget yearly, let the park presidents invest as they see fit, and keep them in place with a rolling profit margin over a time period.
 

SLC Headache

The Spirit of the Forest is a raging Karen
Aug 9, 2017
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Seconding everything in the OP. BGW is starting to go too far towards thrills vs. presentation. At first, having the headliner rides coming was nice, especially to keep up with KD RMC'ing Hurler. But KD did a great job with presentation there, and it looks like Tumbili will measure up to this new standard. It all rests on what they will do after Drachen Spire. If losing "Most Beautiful Park" now means they stop trying and start doubling down on thrills, they lose everything that set them above KD.

Ideally, Drachen Spire would be left on the drawing board, and the next major attraction is the DarKastle replacement, when the entertainment/storage building is built. Then we have a new hamlet and a smaller ride using the Drachen station.
 
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Mar 18, 2017
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To win that award, people have to go to the park. Ironically they might take it back after Pantheon opens.
 
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The park is just as magical as it always has been we just need to understand that everything that has changed is due to Covid and we the guests should be grateful for the measly offerings we get for the inflated prices we are still payng. J/K

But seriously, every aspect of BGW has changed and they are still using Covid as a excuse. No trams, no Josephines, the sculpters are gone, crappy shows, long lines for everything because they only want to run one train or one coaster car, dont bring a backpack because we dont want to pay security to look through it.....the list goes on and on. The only one I would say that is a exception is the candle maker, I talked to him at Christmas of 2019 and he said no one wants to learn the art of what he does. His health was a factor and that is probably why he is no longer there. I will forever cherish the Christmas candle he made for us that night. The sculpters from what ive heard have moved on to another location. Untill the park wants to shell out some money things are going to get worse and worse.
 

Ice

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This is what happens when you try to make a vanity project/tax write off a legitimate business.
This is exactly it. There will never be a change back to the days of the AB "magic" we are calling it. This is how things will go from now on, no matter who owns it. It sucks but is the truth. No longer do they have the financial backing of the richest beer company in the world to just burn through cash on whatever August wanted, now it has to be a self sustaining business. Not only self sustaining, but profit yielding even past the cost of putting cash away for new attractions. The "cost of magic" is the first thing to go from a business perspective since it is only sustainable if your park sees astronomical attendance regularly.
 

SLC Headache

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My bar for "magic" is Cedar Point or Knott's Berry Farm, since I have yet to visit a Disney park, and I believe the Busch parks can still reach or surpass that even without AB.

But Gadv is a bleak look at BGW's future if they continue on the cheap thrills path. You've got the crowd-pleasing B&Ms and the Intamin masterpiece and really tall coaster, the animals, but a run-down atmosphere.
 
Apr 9, 2013
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This is exactly it. There will never be a change back to the days of the AB "magic" we are calling it. This is how things will go from now on, no matter who owns it. It sucks but is the truth. No longer do they have the financial backing of the richest beer company in the world to just burn through cash on whatever August wanted, now it has to be a self sustaining business. Not only self sustaining, but profit yielding even past the cost of putting cash away for new attractions. The "cost of magic" is the first thing to go from a business perspective since it is only sustainable if your park sees astronomical attendance regularly.
I think this is what old-timers secretly know but hate to admit, and what younger folks try to grapple with but can't vocalize because they don't understand.

The park you used to go to is gone. Long gone.

I went to BG during the AB days and was fairly astonished; fast forward 20+ years and now it's just another park (sorry - not sorry). Look no further than Darkastle: a ride that by all means was a long-term investment but instead ignored under new ownership while dying on the vine, only to limp off and finally be put out of misery with little or no notice. Unfortunately DK is not the exception.

This isn't to say BGW or BGT aren't enjoyable experiences now, or that I'm relishing in nostalgia (I'm not particularly nostalgic). I usually go to both parks once a year, once every other year - and I used to be a pass holder. But I've come to realize it's just never going to be the same - not without exorbitant price hikes AND (not or) insane attendance. Basically, Disney.
 

Ice

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I think then the answer to "who's dropping the ball" is nobody, since it really is "who dropped the ball", that person being the same man who let the hostile takeover occur in the first place. There was simply no way for this to go how we wanted it to once the takeover happened.

If anything, let's be thankful that SEAS seems to have at least ATTEMPED to keep things somewhat good looking and whatnot. They haven't gone a full 180 like six flags would have with ownership, rather found a middle ground.
 
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Fur Dozy

Mayor of Busch Gardens Tampillsburg
Nov 5, 2009
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This is exactly it. There will never be a change back to the days of the AB "magic" we are calling it. This is how things will go from now on, no matter who owns it. It sucks but is the truth. No longer do they have the financial backing of the richest beer company in the world to just burn through cash on whatever August wanted, now it has to be a self sustaining business. Not only self sustaining, but profit yielding even past the cost of putting cash away for new attractions. The "cost of magic" is the first thing to go from a business perspective since it is only sustainable if your park sees astronomical attendance regularly.
Counterpoint: Herschend seems to do fine.
 

Ice

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Isn't Dolly Parton a partner of Herschend? Pretty sure they have a lot more investment backers.

Regardless, Dollywood charges more for a ticket currently than BGW (considering BGW's "limited time deals" which are actually always in effect), BGW offering fun cards for cheaper long term admittance usually at the same price as a ticket, and Dollywood offering a simple season pass structure with no extra freebies restricting revenue elsewhere. Also, I'm fairly sure Dollywood sees more attendance than BGW but I could be wrong.

Either way, the theme park business when ran as a business is prioritizing profit. I think Herschend is a special case because they aren't simply maximizing profit, since that isn't necessarily a necessity for someone like Dolly who wants the thing with her name on it to be a good product (like August Busch). Herschend is like how AB used to be, it's a family company with people who care running some parks who have no investors breathing down their necks to please. Not to mention Herschend is private, you can't compare public companies with private ones fairly.
 
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Zachary

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My bar for "magic" is Cedar Point or Knott's Berry Farm

This right here is key.

I will always lament the loss of Busch Gardens Williamsburg as it was for the first 40 years of its existence, but I also readily admit that change was inevitable due to the InBev sale. That said, my concern isn't that BGW isn't currently reaching the guest experience provided by 2009 Busch Gardens Williamsburg—my concern is that BGW isn't currently reaching the guest experience provided by much smaller, much less successful, much cheaper, regional Cedar Fair, Palace, and Merlin properties. That is what I can't justify with the "this is just BGW operating like a business" line of reasoning. All of those parks are also operating like a business—very successful ones in fact.

There's a big difference between a park that is making sensible cuts to bring the experience in line with similarly featured and priced competition in the market and a park that is making every cut possible in pursuit of maximizing the business around a single metric—short term profits. I believe the latter is where we currently find the SEAS chain. That is what scares me. SEAS is essentially cashing in on all of the reputation, goodwill, beauty, etc that the BEC parks built up over many decades—it doesn't feel like they're adding any new gas to the tank—they're just burning the parks' inherent momentum to pull profits for as long as possible. The harm of this strategy is slowly turning from relatively minor, fixable alterations to permanent scars on the properties. That is what I'm worried about—that's why I agree that someone (spoiler: corporate) is really dropping the ball here.
 

SLC Headache

The Spirit of the Forest is a raging Karen
Aug 9, 2017
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...my concern is that BGW isn't currently reaching the guest experience provided by much smaller, much less successful, much cheaper, regional Cedar Fair, Palace, and Merlin properties.
I notice you left out Six Flags. And this current direction of buying big unthemed rides and neglecting everything else is very much the Six Flags way of the early 2000s, if not a kid playing said Six Flags parks in RCT2.
 

netdvn

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The park is still magical and still one of my favorite parks in the country. That being said, the past couple years have hit the park pretty hard between the one train ops, the closing of shops/snack stands, and the slow downturn of the park's atmosphere. I blame Sea World management though. SWO and BGT have been pulling cutbacks like this for years and years, long before BGW was hit.

Don't act like Herschend is perfect. Dollywood and SDC may be top-tier parks, but Wild Adventures and Kentucky Kingdom aren't exactly destination parks.

Don't act like Six Flags is a villain in all this. I've seen the way they're trying to pump more money into SFA and turn that park around from its rough reputation a couple years ago. The fight last weekend didn't really do the park any favors, but fights have been breaking out across all parks, all chains all over the country, including Disney. On top of that, operations at SF have been excellent through this pandemic. I was at GAdv a month ago and they were not only running 2-3 trains on all their coasters on a random weekday in August, but most of the rides were pumping out trains like they were nothing. Bizarro was the only ride with a slow crew, but the line was still relatively short.

Bringing back the streetmosphere is a step in the right direction. Since the parks are turning a profit again, I'd love to see them bring back the craft demonstrations, reopen the candy shop, bring back 2 train ops on slow days, etc.
 

Jonesta6

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Feb 14, 2019
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I wonder how the average guest observes this - is this an issue at the actual park, or are they still having a good time and appreciate that there's some kind of theme presented? Do they see everything through a haze of nostalgia, or are they upset that things have changed?

Not downplaying what's been said here, more just curious if this isn't just specific observations by a group of enthusiasts who care deeply about the park but also easily noticable to the casual guest who otherwise doesn't think much about the park when they're not visiting?
 
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Jul 14, 2019
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Don't act like Herschend is perfect. Dollywood and SDC may be top-tier parks, but Wild Adventures and Kentucky Kingdom aren't exactly destination parks.

Wild Adventures isn't really a traditional theme park and Kentucky Kingdom they LITERALLY just purchased this year.
 
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Oct 20, 2019
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If BGW keeps sliding backwards then I sincerely hope cedar fair takes notice and continues their own thematic push (JungleX/CAG). I’ve been going to BGW as a 757 native since the late 90s but this year was the first time I’ve ever visited kings dominion. Not only did seem to be doing more with what they have, but the employees were actually acting like they wanted me to have an awesome day. Makes me sad that BGW isn’t leagues ahead of what I always thought would just be an “amusement park”. But also makes me hopeful that where one slacks the other can knock it out.
 
Mar 17, 2020
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This right here is key.

I will always lament the loss of Busch Gardens Williamsburg as it was for the first 40 years of its existence, but I also readily admit that change was inevitable due to the InBev sale. That said, my concern isn't that BGW isn't currently reaching the guest experience provided by 2009 Busch Gardens Williamsburg—my concern is that BGW isn't currently reaching the guest experience provided by much smaller, much less successful, much cheaper, regional Cedar Fair, Palace, and Merlin properties. That is what I can't justify with the "this is just BGW operating like a business" line of reasoning. All of those parks are also operating like a business—very successful ones in fact.

There's a big difference between a park that is making sensible cuts to bring the experience in line with similarly featured and priced competition in the market and a park that is making every cut possible in pursuit of maximizing the business around a single metric—short term profits. I believe the latter is where we currently find the SEAS chain. That is what scares me. SEAS is essentially cashing in on all of the reputation, goodwill, beauty, etc that the BEC parks built up over many decades—it doesn't feel like they're adding any new gas to the tank—they're just burning the parks' inherent momentum to pull profits for as long as possible. The harm of this strategy is slowly turning from relatively minor, fixable alterations to permanent scars on the properties. That is what I'm worried about—that's why I agree that someone (spoiler: corporate) is really dropping the ball here.
I would be curious to know how much business SEAS gets versus the others because of their Florida parks, which I view as a key differentiator. To me, it is well worth it to pay up for the Platinum membership to get that benefit, which comes in quite handy during school breaks October - April. Sure, there is Merlin's Legoland in Florida, but that isn't going to have the same draw across all age groups that SeaWorld and BGT has.

On the financial/operations front, perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised? After all, if people kept visiting after what we saw SEAS did with their new coasters, is SEAS corporate to blame for what we are seeing? Maybe if more members didn't renew, we might see investments into things that differentiated SEAS from others return?
 
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