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Cedar Fair pursues new strategies

Sports complex in the works for Sandusky

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    In a 2014 photo, Matt Ouimet, chief executive of Cedar Fair Entertainment Co., greets a guest at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.


Cedar Fair LP is on pace for a record $1.23 billion in revenues this year, but the amusement park chain believes there’s still more money it’s failing to get.

Company Chief Executive Matt Ouimet, at an investor conference Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif., outlined new strategies that included electronic photo packages, interactive computer-aided rides, and sports complexes to be used in the near future to enhance the Sandusky firm’s revenues.

First is a partnership with game maker Electronic Arts Inc. to build two digital attractions, Mr. Ouimet said at Wedbush Securities’ California Dreamin’ Technology Consumer Management Access Conference.

Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare, a big 3D version of a popular online game, opens in 2016 at Carowinds park in North Carolina.

“We’re reactivating a theater where guests will be on one side [or the other], zombies or plants,” Mr. Ouimet said. It will cost only a few million dollars, but it could be reprogrammed later for a new generation of the game, he said.

Costs also will be low at Cedar Fair’s Great America in Santa Clara, Calif., where a digital ride based on the Mass Effect video game will debut. The firm is promoting the ride on websites popular with video gamers, and the response has been very positive, the CEO said.

A second plan to increase revenue for the company that owns amusement parks across the country is getting its customers to buy photo packages of themselves on the day of their visit.

Figures show that season-pass holders skip souvenir photos sold at signature rides at parks, Mr. Ouimet said. To change that, he said, Cedar Fair will install WiFi at its parks and offer digital photo packages that use images from surveillance cameras on each ride around each park, allowing customers to see themselves on several rides and have the digital package delivered to their smartphone before they leave the park.

“We’re going to allow you to get photos you couldn’t get otherwise,” Mr. Ouimet said. “It will be very valuable from a marketing standpoint.”

No price or implementation time for such a product was discussed.

Mr. Ouimet, an ex-Disney Co. exec, said Disney found that having a sports complex at Walt Disney World in Florida lured amateur teams and boosted park revenues. So he thought such an idea will work in Sandusky, home to the company and its hallmark park, Cedar Point.

So its Cedar Point and the city of Sandusky will build a $20 million sports park. Cedar Point is donating $3 million worth of its land and the city will spend $17 million for facilities.

When the complex opens late next year, it will host tournaments for team sports such as lacrosse, softball, and soccer and Cedar Point will offer free tickets to tournament participants. Parents and siblings of the players then might want to go to the park, too, buying tickets and concessions.

Another strategy to raise money, the CEO said, is better waiting areas for adults who don’t ride any rides but don’t like waiting for their children in the hot sun. So more shade will be provided. “Now it’s a pleasant experience for dad. He can sit in shade, drink a Coke, and have WiFi,” Mr. Ouimet said.

Contact Jon Chavez at: or 419-724-6128.

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