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Knott’s Eyes Purchase of Chula Vista Water Park

Officials of an Ohio-based company that owns Knott’s Berry Farm and other amusement parks has confirmed the company is buying White Water Canyon, the Chula Vista water park.

Company officials announced the purchase Oct. 14. Its completion is still subject to a number of conditions and conclusion of a definitive agreement.

Brian Witherow, director of investor relations for Cedar Fair, L.P., the company is in discussions with the water park’s current owners, Investors Bancor of Anaheim.

The discussions are coming down to certain conditions and other reviews, Witherow said.

Officials from Investors Bancor of Anaheim, which currently owns the park, were not available at press time.

On Oct. 14, Cedar Fair CEO Dick Kinzel flew to San Diego to discuss his company buying White Water Canyon.

Sources say that Investors Bancor and Trigild Corp. and the city of Chula Vista, were surprised by the announcement. Trigild, a locally based property management firm, has been managing the park’s operations since last spring.

Owns Four Other Parks

Cedar Fair owns Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park and four other theme and amusement parks in the United States. They are: Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown, Pa.; Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun in Kansas City, Mo.; and Valleyfair Family Amusement Park in Shakopee, Minn.

Cedar Fair also manages Knott’s Camp Snoopy at Bloomington, Minn.’s Mall of America.

This summer, White Water Canyon had what current management considered a promising season, building toward a sale such as this.

This year, an additional 25,000 people came through the gates, marking a 21 percent jump in attendance, Hoffman said.

Also this summer, White Water Canyon’s revenue rose by 15 percent, said Trigild’s Judy Hoffman in a previous interview with the Business Journal.

The park saw a profit of more than $500,000 in July and August, lost a little in May and broke even in June and September, said Hoffman, Trigild’s vice president of marketing.

The 32-acre park hadn’t met attendance or revenue projections and was losing money since its late 1997 launch.

Filed For Bankruptcy

Developers filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy last spring, owing $11 million to the lender, Bancor. Soon after, Bancor began foreclosure proceedings.

The foreclosure was authorized in March, at which time the courts appointed Trigild to manage the park.

Before the season began, current owner Investors Bancor of Anaheim invested $1 million in start-up marketing and deferred maintenance, Hoffman said.

Since then, a new general manager for the park was hired and a new marketing team and public relations support was installed. White Water also expanded its target market from mothers to teen-agers and kids and added cross-promotional partners such as Carl’s Jr. and Calimax.

The park added more entertainment and events, such as its H2O Olympics, she said. The park also decreased its expenses through a hourly staffing system and new vendors, she said.

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