Theme park operators who spent months installing hand sanitizing stations, figuring out how to disinfect roller coasters seats and checking the temperatures of guests at their gates so they’d come back in the midst of the pandemic are finding many reluctant to return.
Some parks have reduced operating days, slashed ticket prices and closed early for the year because of lower-than-hoped attendance — expectations weren’t high to begin with — along with the uncertainty of what’s to come with the coronavirus.
A few parks have been unable to open their gates at all because of state and local health restrictions.
Disney this week will begin cutting an hour or two out of each day at its four Florida theme parks. It already called off its annual after-hours Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom.
Neighboring Universal Orlando also nixed its Halloween Horror Nights.
Amusement parks across the South that had their seasons delayed by virus outbreaks in the spring deal with a second punch with the summer flare-ups across the Sun Belt.
Some, including Kings Dominion in Virginia and Carowinds in North Carolina, never opened and won’t this year.
Cedar Fair Entertainment, which operates those two, has reopened just half of its 13 amusement parks and water parks across North America.
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The company, based in Ohio, expected attendance to stay at no more than 25 percent of normal levels through the rest of the year at its parks that are operating, CEO Richard Zimmerman said in early August.
Despite the lower numbers, those parks still are able to make a profit, the company said.
Cedar Point, the company’s flagship park in Sandusky, Ohio, scaled back to weekends only in mid-August and did away with online admission reservations to manage the daily crowds.
California’s parks haven’t been open — except for a few food festivals — since mid-March and are pushing the state to issue guidelines on how and when they can allow guests back.
Kennywood, an amusement park near Pittsburgh, delayed its opening twice this year, cut ticket prices in half and then decided to end its season early on Labor Day.