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Tuesday, Sep 26, 2023

Optimism High Over Pending Water Park Purchase

CHULA VISTA , City and tourism officials are predictably bullish about Knott’s Berry Farm’s Ohio-based parent company buying a local water park.

Cedar Fair L.P. recently announced its purchase of the 33-acre White Water Canyon and 32 adjoining acres of undeveloped land from Anaheim-based Investors Bancor.

The deal is expected to be completed at the end of this year. Until then, Cedar Fair officials are not disclosing how much they paid for the park and the additional land.

Investors Bancor had foreclosed on the property last spring. Since opening late in the 1997 summer season, the 32-acre park hadn’t met attendance or revenue projections and was losing money. Owing $11 million, original developers George Hice and his other investors filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

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In White Water’s recent summer season, attendance increased by 13 percent, and the park began showing profits, according to its current management.

City Officials Optimistic

Both Mayor Shirley Horton and Robyn Wilner, director of the city’s tourism bureau, agree that Cedar Fair’s industry standing will make a positive impact on not only the fledgling water park, but on Chula Vista and beyond.

“Cedar Fair is an organization that is knowledgeable in the entertainment and theme park industry,” said Horton.

Wilner, of the Chula Vista Convention & Visitors Bureau, is waiting for the sale to go through before she’ll begin calculating what additional tourism traffic could bring to the city.

Wilner is hoping it will encourage more visitors to stay in local hotels, which would generate hotel taxes. Chula Vista has 28 hotels and 3,750 hotel rooms, she said.

Adding Knott’s branding to the water park is particularly important, Wilner said.

Cedar Fair plans to involve the Knott’s name with White Water, said Bob Ochsner, a spokesman for Knott’s. Details haven’t been decided yet but will be announced soon , in time to market for the 2000 season, he said.

Ochsner said White Water’s season will continue to run from May through September, as is the standard in the water park business.

Major Marketing

Cedar Fair’s immediate plans for White Water’s next season include heavy marketing and improving the physical property, he said.

Cedar Fair also plans to increase White Water’s attendance. Approximately 200,000 people visited in the ’99 season, according to White Water officials. Cedar Fair want to boost it to 300,000 next year, Ochsner said.

Cedar Fair has found much success with developing amusement park complexes that lure visitors to stay overnight, rather than make a day trip, he added.

Some of Cedar Fair’s other sites are full resorts, with combination of hotels, amusement parks and water parks

The 65-acre site in Chula Vista is not likely to follow this pattern because the site is too small, Ochsner said. Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, for example, sprawls across 160 acres.

The additional 32 acres attracted Cedar Fair to the park, as did the residential development planned for the nearby land, Ochsner said.

However, the development precludes Cedar Fair buying more land near the White Water site, Ochsner said.

It wasn’t a deterrent, however. “Just because we’ve built 150-acre resorts in the past doesn’t mean that’s the only way to go,” Ochsner said.

Cedar Fair doesn’t expect to announce what they’ll do with the additional 32 acres until after White Water’s next season, Ochsner said.

The land will be used in a way that would be complementary to the existing water park, whether an expansion or “other attractions that complement a water park experience,” Ochsner said. Other possibilities include retail support of separate paid attractions, he said.

The other sites Cedar Fair owns are much larger. The 160 acres in Buena Park that includes Knott’s Berry Farm, also includes a recently purchased hotel that will be called the Radisson at Knott’s Berry Farm, and a 15-acre water park, called Soak City, U.S.A., which will open in May.

There also are the 364-acre Cedar Point, an amusement park and resort at Cedar Fair’s Sandusky, Ohio, headquarters; the 200-acre amusement park and water park Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown, Pa.; the 175-acre Worlds of Fun and 60-acre Oceans of Fun in Kansas City, Mo.; and the 90-acre Valleyfair Family Amusement Park in Shakopee, Minn.

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

Of buying White Water, Ochsner said, “It was a project that was in great physical condition, but had suffered some financial and marketing mishaps that needed to be alleviated. The market held a lot of potential , there isn’t a lot of water park competition.”

Another water park is being developed further north in Poway by the company that owns Six Flags Magic Mountain.


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