SANDUSKY — The top executive at Cedar Fair LP said he’s optimistic the amusement park operator can turn in a third straight year of record revenues in 2014, even without the benefit of a flashy new ride at its flagship park on the shores of Lake Erie.
Chief Executive Matt Ouimet said early sales of season passes have been strong, and that attendance and per-capita spending at the chain’s open parks has been trending higher than last year.
“Based on our record performance in 2013 and these strong early-season trends, we remain confident in our ability to execute on our long-term strategy and expect 2014 to be another record year for Cedar Fair,” Mr. Ouimet said in a release.
The company is forecasting revenues between $1.16 billion and $1.19 billion this year. Last year, Cedar Fair’s revenues were $1.14 billion.
Cedar Fair reported first-quarter results Thursday morning that were weaker than last year, but in line with the company’s expectations. The company said its revenues fell 3 percent to $40.5 million in the quarter, compared with $41.8 million in the first quarter of last year. The decrease, officials said, was entirely because of the timing of Easter and spring break holidays, which fell in the second quarter this year.
The first quarter is historically the company’s weakest, as most of its amusement parks are closed for the year’s first three months.
Losses actually narrowed somewhat to $83.5 million, or $1.51 per share in the quarter, compared with a loss of $109.1 million, or $1.95 per share last year. However, last year’s losses were larger partially because of a $34.6 million one-time charge related to refinancing debt.
Mr. Ouimet said Thursday that comparable park net revenues through April are up approximately $7 million over the same four-month period last year. He also noted that Kings Island, an amusement park just north of Cincinnati, had the best opening weekend in its 43-year history thanks to a new thrill ride called Banshee that’s billed as the world’s longest inverted roller coaster.
Cedar Point opens Saturday. The park is debuting two small, family friendly rides this year after unleashing GateKeeper, a winged roller coaster, last year.
Cedar Fair stock fell 80 cents a share, or about 1.5 percent, to close at $51.18 Thursday. The stock price has risen about 20 percent in the last year.