Batavia, Ohio • The CEO of one of the country's largest amusement park companies said that since the economic downturn has people staying closer to home, staycations have boosted business at the parks.
CEO Matt Ouimet on Wednesday predicted the staycation trend would continue even with the economy improving. He spoke about the future of the amusement park industry and Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. after touring the plant where the newest roller coaster for the company's Cedar Point park is under construction. He said Cedar Fair's parks generally draw most of their visitors from within a couple of hundred miles.
"I think staycations are here to stay because people have rediscovered that it's more fun, less complicated and less expensive to get in your car and drive to Cedar Point or other parks," Ouimet said.
The key to success for Cedar Fair parks and others is to focus on the job of "keeping people happy."
"As long as we do that and provide a great value for a full day's experience, the industry will be healthy for a long time to come," Ouimet said.
As he toured the plant, he several times said simply: "Wow!"
Clermont Steel Fabricators LLC in Batavia, just east of Cincinnati, is constructing the steel parts that will form a winged roller coaster, called GateKeeper, set to debut May 11.
Ouimet viewed sections of track and towers that will form a 100-foot tall keyhole-type opening for riders to pass through as they soar above guests entering the park. The blue-steeled tubular coaster will feature a 163-foot vertical drop and speeds of 67 mph, with riders on seats that extend sideways with nothing above or below them.
The $25 million coaster, designed to make people feel as though they are flying, will help provide the thrills that Ouimet says are a major part of Cedar Point's attraction.
The new coaster is part of a roughly $30 million project overhauling the entrance to Cedar Point in Sandusky. The company also plans to spend about $60 million over three years to renovate its hotels and some other projects at the park along Lake Erie.