UK theme parks from another point of view!

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Geauga Lake

Thu Nov 24, 2016 8:31 pm

Disclaimer: I'm writing this mainly because I'm very interested in the topic of abandoned theme parks, but also to give an insight to the rest of the community. Thank you.

Geauga Lake was an amusement park located in Aurora, Ohio. Established in 1887, the park was originally a local recreation area based on the river adjacent to it. The first amusement ride was actually added in 1889 (a steamed carousel) and the park's first rollercoaster (which actually still stands to this day) opened in 1925, and was named the big dipper. At the time it was built, it was actually labelled as the world's biggest rollercoaster. In 1952, a major fire devastated a lot of Geauga Lake and it was put into seasonal operation.

After a few years of seasonal operation, Funtime Inc. bought the park and it went through a massive expansion with new attractions added year on year. At around the same time, Sea World officials were planning the new Sea World Ohio across the small lake adjacent to Geagua Lake, however Sea World Ohio actually had an agreement with Geauga Lake not to compete, and actually worked together on many promotions. This was mainly because Sea World Ohio feared that Geauga Lake could outmatch them when it came down to things like rollercoasters, as Sea World Ohio suffered from severe height restrictions which made them incapable of adding a tall rollercoaster, however Geauga Lake (which is in a different township) could add new rides without taking height restrictions into account. Eventually, Premier Parks bought Funtime Inc. and Geauga Lake came under control of them. At this point, Premier Parks were expanding rapidly, so much so that in the following year they acquired Six Flags. Geauga Lake was then rebranded to Six Flags Ohio (in 2000) and four new rollercoasters were added. In the meantime, Sea World Cleveland (rebranded from Sea World Ohio) decided to start questioning themselves on if Ohio was the right place to maintain a theme park. This was mainly due to the extreme weather conditions that the northeastern climate faces, and the park could only operate between late spring to early autumn. Attendance started to drop rapidly, however the park continued to operate during the 2001 season. Eventually, Sea World finally decided to pull the plug on Sea World Cleveland, and when Six Flags approached them about buying the property, they accepted the offer for a reported $110 million.

After this, the park was rebranded as a mega park named Six Flags Worlds of Adventure. The former Sea World Cleveland became the Wild Life section of the park and had few rides. The other section (Six Flags Ohio) was the wild rides and hurricane harbour sections of the park. Although Six Flags continued to invest in the new park, most of the theme park revenue in the area was thought to be going to Cedar Point, located around 100 miles away. Also at this time, Six Flags were facing seperate financial issues, and started selling some of their parks. Originally, this did not include Six Flags Worlds of Adventure, as it was one of their best performing parks at the time. Cedar Fair (owners of Cedar Point) approached Six Flags to see if the park was for sale. Six Flags originally declined; but then saw it as a way to escape the company's major debt. The transaction is reported to be worth $145 million.

When Cedar Fair gained control of the megapark, they immediately closed the former Sea World Ohio section and changed the names of several attractions throughout the park. Removing the wildlife section of the park had a devastating effect on the amount of visitors were going to the park. The park's numbers dropped from around 1.5 million to 700,000. In 2005, to try and make up for the loss of visitors after losing the wildlife park, Cedar Fair decided to open a small water park on the old site of Sea World Ohio called Wildwater Kingdom. The park was then renamed back to Geauga Lake & Wildwater Kingdom. Things started to look bad for the megapark, as in 2006, popular attractions such as X-Flight & Steel Venom were being removed from the park, and furthermore the halloween event was cancelled. This put the park at a three month opening season which was not seen as viable to the owners of Cedar Fair. Shortly after, rumours began to spread about the park's closure, and a few days after the season came to a close, cedar fair held a meeting and opted to close down the theme park attractions at the park; leaving only the waterpark remaining. Several rollercoasters began to get removed days later, and the rest of the rides were either sold at auction or were moved to different Cedar Fair parks. The waterpark remained open; but this was a strategical move to make back some of the money they lost as they were not adding any new attractions to the park. On September 5th 2016, Wildwater Kingdom closed permanently. The only thing left on the remaining sites is the Big Dipper rollercoaster and a few other small structures.

Honestly, the chances of a new theme park opening on the site is very unlikely. Due to the weather conditions, any theme park operator would find it financially impossible to open a theme park with three months opening season. However, for the first time in the site's history, Cedar Fair have said they're willing to sell the land in parcels. Many people have apparently contacted Cedar Fair to ask about potential sound stages that could be placed on the land. More recently though, the Meijer supermarket chain have signed a contract to purchase a 41 acre plot of land to build one of their stores upon, so hopefully the land doesn't just lay there unused for the rest of it's life.

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