The last of the Gold Coast’s major theme parks has reopened, 177 days after closing its doors due to coronavirus.
Ardent Leisure’s Dreamworld and sister park Whitewater World this morning welcomed back guests under COVID-safe plans.
“Even when you go onto a ride the experience is a little bit different, so we are actually physically distancing people on rides and spreading them out,” Chief Operating Officer Greg Yong said.
“Given that we are opening mid-week, this is an opportunity to test those procedures out and get ready for the school holidays.
“We have got a lot of really passionate fans at the park and we expect a lot of those will be back today.”
Mr Yong said staffing numbers were below that of pre-COVID times, but would ramp up heading into the busier Christmas holiday period.
Work on a new $30-million rollercoaster is also about to get underway.
“In the next little while we will be breaking ground and starting that work and it is really exciting,” he said.
“Not quite the same number [of staff] but close to 1,000 people on the books here at Dreamworld and as we come out of COVID, many more as well.”
Rival Village Roadshow reopened Movie World, Sea World and Wet’n’Wild in July.
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A return to normalcy
Brisbane resident John Papworth said he has been to Dreamworld “hundreds” of times and was one of the last to visit the theme park before it closed.
“Very excited, I’ve taken the day off work off for it,” he said.
“It’s just a great day out.”
Another Brisbane resident, Jack Hilton said he was “so keen to back through those gates after six months”.
“I visited the other theme parks like Movie World, Sea World, as well so I’ve had this bit of taste of freedom recently,” he said.
“It’s really got back to normal now with having Dreamworld back today.”
Local businesses welcome reopening
Coomera coffee shop owner, Laura Lejeune, said the closure of nearby Dreamworld has had a negative impact on her business.
“We normally see a lot of tourists come through, grab a coffee on their way to Dreamworld, or have a bite to eat and that’s all just stopped,” she said.
“There’s most good energy coming through back into the Dreamworld area, all the shops around us.”
Chemist owner Nam Huynh said he lost around half of his customers due to Dreamworld’s closure and coronavirus more broadly.
“We’re good for bandaids, for any emergencies, sunscreens probably the biggest seller here,” he said.
“It’s great news that they do open again.”
Dreamworld returns to court
The reopening comes a fortnight before the resumption of Work Health and Safety court proceedings against Ardent Leisure.
In July, the company pleaded guilty to three charges relating to the deaths of four people on the Thunder River Rapids Ride in 2016.
A coronial inquest has also examined the tragedy, after which Ardent Leisure committed to building a memorial garden for the ride victims, Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett and Roozi Araghi.
Mr Yong said work on that, however, was yet to start.
“Not for opening today but certainly something that is on the top of our list,” he said.
“It is really important that we consult with families when we do that work and that has been a difficulty obviously with COVID.
“It is something that we will continue to work on and we hope to get it done as soon as we possibly can and that’s really reliant on some travel restrictions being lifted as well.”