Kings Island’s parent company revenue down half a billion in 2020; optimistic about 2021

Cedar Fair, which owns and operates Kings Island in Mason, on Wednesday reported an operating loss of more than half a billion dollars, but said it was “optimistic” about this year.

The Sandusky, Ohio-based company reported that attendance dropped by more than 90 percent in 2020, as parks delayed openings and set capacity restrictions. Three of the company’s 13 parks never opened for the 2020 season.

For the full year ended Dec. 31, 2020, net revenues totaled $182 million versus $1.47 billion for 2019. The decrease in net revenues was the direct result of a 25.3 million-visit decrease in attendance and a $101 million decrease in out-of-park revenues, with both shortfalls due to COVID-19-related park closures and operating calendar changes in 2020, as well as the negative impact of the pandemic on demand upon reopening.

That drop in revenues isn’t getting company officials down.

“We are optimistic that levels of attendance at our parks and resort properties will significantly improve in 2021, particularly as COVID-19 vaccines become broadly available over the next few months,” Richard Zimmerman, Cedar Fair’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “In anticipation of improving demand, we are poised to resume normal operations, particularly during our seasonally stronger back half of the year.”

Kings Island hopes to improve demand with Kings Island Camp Cedar, a luxury outdoor resort scheduled to debut at the Warren County amusement park in the spring. When it opens to campers, it will deliver 73 cottages and 164 full-service RV spaces, with the addition of another 100 cottages planned for the future, according to park spokesman Chad Showalter.

The resort will be located on more than 50 acres of land less than a mile from the front gates of Kings Island. It will include outdoor entertainment like two pools, ponds, a walking trail and dining options, as well as camping facilities like bathhouses, a laundry facility, firepits, grills and picnic tables.

Camp Cedar also will offer Stay and Play packages with Kings Island. More specifically, the resort’s Grand Lodge will include an indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar, as well as shopping, exercise facility and large fireplace.

Construction of the resort is not the only thing happening at Kings Island this offseason. Carpenters are working to replace more than 500 feet of mostly original track on both sides of rollercoaster the Racer, Showalter said.

“The work is occurring on both sides of the twin-track roller coaster, from the base of the first drop through the drop on the 65-foot tall fourth hill,” he said. “This track work will deliver a smoother and more enjoyable ride experience on one of the park’s original attractions.”

The Racer has given more than 106 million rides since it opened in 1972, far more than any other ride at Kings Island, Showalter said.

Zimmerman said the company has “strategically designed” its operating plan for the 2021 season specifically to minimize cash burn in the pre-opening period and correlate park operating calendars with forecasted demand while growing its season pass base for the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

Cedar Fair suspended operations at its parks starting March 14, 2020, in response to the spread of COVID-19 and local government mandates. In accordance with local and state guidelines, it resumed partial operations in 2020 at 10 of its 13 properties on a staggered basis beginning in mid-June through mid-July.

Kings Island opened for the 2020 season on July 2.

Because of the drop in operating days and cost-saving measures implemented in response to disrupted park operations, the company’s operating costs and expenses were $484 million compared to $991 million in 2019.

Cedar Fair’s operating loss for 2020 totaled $572 million, compared with operating income of $309 million for 2019. The operating loss was the result of the 88 percent decline in net revenues, offset by the $507 million decrease in operating costs and expenses between years.

Working closely with state and local officials, the company established 2021 opening dates for its seasonal parks ranging from May 8 to May 29. Kings Island is scheduled to open for Passholder Preview days on May 8 and May 9, about a month later than its usual opening.

The park has not announced opening day yet.

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