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Cedar Fair says ride's over for Geauga Lake

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With roller coasters looming, patrons enjoy the wave pool at Geauga Lake.

AMY SANCETTA / AP Enlarge

SANDUSKY - After trying for four years to make Geauga Lake work, Cedar Fair LP said yesterday it has pulled the plug on its struggling Cleveland-area amusement park.

The park, southeast of Cleveland, will become only a water park for the 2008 season.

The 430-acre site in Aurora, Ohio, has been known as Geauga Lake & Wildwater Kingdom to emphasize 40 amusement rides adjacent to the $24 million Wildwater Kingdom water park that opened in 2005. It now will be called Geauga Lake's Wildwater Kingdom, the firm said.

The 40 rides, including eight roller coasters, will be dismantled and sent to some of the 11 other amusement parks that Cedar Fair owns. A Geauga Lake roller coaster, the X-Flight, was moved this year to King's Island amusement park near Cincinnati and renamed Firehawk.

Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc. of Cincinnati, said the decision to close the amusement park was for the best.

A water park can be profitable with attendance as low as 300,000 in a season, he said. "This is probably the best utilization of that current piece of property, other than selling it," he added.

In a statement, Cedar Fair Chief Executive Dick Kinzel said that after four years of bolstering Geauga Lake, which the company acquired from Six Flags Inc. for $145 million in 2004, officials "concluded that its future should be entirely as a water park."

The water park uses 30 acres, so the company has a consultant studying what to do with the remaining 400, a spokesman said. Improvements to the water park are under study. It has 50 full-time and 1,200 part-time workers, but far fewer will be needed next year, a spokesman said.

Amusement industry analyst Rick Munarriz, who writes for the Motley Fool online adviser site, called the move somewhat risky.

"You're almost at the northern coast of the country and you're going to a water park that will shorten the attendance season even more," he said.

But Geauga Lake was unfixable, he said. "Every year you kept telling yourself it couldn't get any worse, but it kept on happening," he added.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.

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