Kings Island emerges from pandemic resilient, ready to build on 50-year legacy

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Kings Island is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic resilient and ready to build on its five-decade legacy

The park recently marked its birthday with a daylong celebration ahead of what is expected to be a busy 2022. Richard Zimmerman, president and CEO of Kings Island parent company Cedar Fair, told this news outlet that during the pandemic, people ending up buying things, but now that is shifting to people getting out and doing things.

Plans are in motion for Kings Island’s next several seasons, but the park won’t announce until mid- to late August what it’s store for the 2023 season, Zimmerman said.

“We’ve got plans for next year and beyond,” he said. “Most times in our planning cycle we’re working two to three years out.”

When Kings Island does have a new ride to announce, it typically hints at the nature of the attraction on social media and at the park for several months within a season, announce it at a fan-filled summertime gathering and then unveil it for the world the next season.

That’s a formula employed to whet the thrill-seeking appetites of coaster enthusiasts, but one likely not employed this season coming out of the pandemic.

Based on preliminary results for the four-month period ending May 1, Cedar Fair recorded record net revenues of $193 million driven by strong attendance trends, continued record levels of in-park per capita spending, and improved out-of-park revenues, Cedar Fair said on Wednesday. Those preliminary results represent a 33%, or approximately $48 million, increase in net revenues compared with the four-month period ended May 5, 2019, which Cedar Fair said was the most recent comparable period when parks operated without COVID-19 disruption.

“This record 4-month performance was driven by continued strength in demand and guest spending across all key revenue channels,” Zimmerman said. “These are encouraging signs heading into the busy summer season when all 13 of our properties will be open and operating without restrictions for the first time since 2019.”

Early sales of season passes and other all-season products pacing well ahead of pre-pandemic level. However, first-quarter results for Cedar Fair have historically represented less than 5% of the company’s full-year net revenues as most parks and facilities are closed during the first quarter.

Due to Cedar Fair’s outstanding recent performance, it has accelerated its post-pandemic recovery and is on pace to outperform its 2019 operating results. The momentum that fueled its record first quarter revenues continued through April and is likely to stretch throughout the season at the Warren County amusement park, Zimmerman said.

“We think Kings Island will have a tremendous 50th anniversary year,” he said. “There’s so many special things planned for this summer.”

The Golden Celebration, a summer-long event starting Memorial Day weekend, will feature brand new entertainment highlighting special moments from the Kings Island’s first 50 years, culinary dishes created especially for the Golden Anniversary year and the opportunity to dance the night away at the base of the Eiffel Tower.

The park said the event is planned to include a “stunning, one-of-a-kind, immersive fireworks finale featuring thrilling and heartwarming moments from the park’s first 50 years.”

Kings Island’s next big rides, whenever they are announced, likely will incorporate as much immersive, experiential technology as possible, according to Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services, which has worked on more than 500 projects in 55 countries.

“If you could go forward 20 years and look back ... you’d see that technology has taken over our industry,” Speigel said. “The evolution of technology has been so monumental over the last 10 years, that things that are out there that can be done and brought to theme parks from Disney to the smallest mom-and-pop (operation) are amazing.”

Coming June 4 will be Phantom Theater Encore! at Kings Island Theater, where once again the Maestro and his troupe of ghoulish thespians will perform what Kings Island says will be a “spooky, zany, whimsical production that’s filled with toe-tapping music, laugh-out-loud comedy, and mystifying illusions that are sure to amaze.”

The amusement park also will launch its 2022 Concert Series, offering the most summer concerts at Timberwolf Amphitheatre since 1995.

For the first time, Kings Island will not require concertgoers to also purchase admission to the amusement park. Concert tickets will be available to the general public and will include free parking after 5 p.m. and an exclusive entrance to Timberwolf before each show begins.

Also coming soon to Kings Island will be two all-new VIP experiences. One offering is a Premium VIP Bundle, an all-inclusive experience where guests set the pace. It includes single-day admission, plus preferred parking, a Fast Lane Plus wristband, the All-Day Dining Premium package including a drink wristband, All Day FunPix and All Day Access to the exclusive VIP Lounge, which includes complimentary snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, lockers and other amenities.

While not offering park admission, an All Access VIP Tour will include a six-hour guided tour led by a Kings Island ambassador, which includes immediate boarding on all Kings Island attractions (excluding Soak City), plus preferred parking and the same All Day add ons available with the aforementioned Premium VIP Bundle. In addition, the tour also will offer a complimentary ride photo print and reserved seating at select restaurants and shows.

With inflation continuing to rise and new rides coming on board in the past several years, including giga coaster Orion in summer 2020, Kings Island pricing also has increased. The price of a season pass went from $132 in spring 2018 to $135 this spring, a 2% increase.

That’s a remarkable value, especially when considering we extended Kings Island’s season by adding on WinterFest in 2017,” said Kings Island spokesman Chad Showalter.

Admission price varies throughout the year and the best place to purchase tickets to Kings Island is on its website in advance of visit, Showalter said.

“Right now tickets are available for as low as $45 when you purchase them online,” he said. “That’s consistent with pricing over the last several seasons.”

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