Tourism: Knott’s Adjusts to Demands in
First Ownership Season
Basking in warm summer temperatures and reportedly strong attendance, Chula Vista water park Knott’s Soak City USA has extended its season into October. The season was originally scheduled to end Sept. 24, operating on weekends after Sept. 9. Now, the park’s weekend operations will continue through Oct. 22. According to park director Marty Keithley, the decision was made late last month, after gauging ticket sales and attendance. It’s a positive stamp on the 4-year-old park, which is under its first season of ownership with Sandusky, Ohio-based Cedar Fair L.P. Cedar Fair owns the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park in Buena Vista and bought the Chula Vista water park in October when it was White Water Canyon. Before opening the park in May, Cedar Fair rebranded White Water into Soak City, changing the former Western theme to a 1950s California style.
According to Keithley, the Knott’s brand and the revamped park’s “new kid on the block” status, and a hotter summer than expected, adds up to what he described as a “terrific” season. Knott’s spokesman Bob Ochsner did not divulge attendance figures, but said the park’s current season has surpassed each of its past three seasons and also exceeded corporate expectations. Last summer, the park had more than 200,000 visitors, and Knott’s had previously said it hoped to boost that figure by 100,000.
Staffing Not A Problem
According to Keithley, running Soak City through October simply postpones season-ending activities such as inventory, storage, cleanup and maintenance projects. He’s not worried about keeping the park’s seasonal crew for an extra month.Most of the summer employees are high school- and college-aged, and as long as they attend local schools, continuing to work a longer season shouldn’t be a problem, Keithley said. The park’s season works around the school year, he noted. “Whenever kids are out from school is your busy season. So if it’s a weekend, if it’s a holiday, that’s when we’re most busy and that’s when we need our kids, and that’s when they’re going to be available.” For the park’s year-round staff, lengthy amounts of time off are postponed. “The team is pretty beat by now, and you start looking for time off, you start looking for vacations and that sort of thing when October and November arrive, so we’ll push it back another month,” Keithley said. In October, the staff might also be working at Knott’s Berry Farm during the week, assisting with the theme park’s extensive Halloween activities. As Cedar Fair was buying and revamping Soak City in Chula Vista during the last year, it was also building another Knott’s Soak City water park in Buena Park. That water park, located next to Knott’s Berry Farm, has had higher attendance than the Chula Vista park, Ochsner said. He attributes the difference to the more dense population around the park. The Buena Park Soak City’s season has also been extended, he noted.
Some Promotions Continue
The season extension does not include promotional partnerships , including both parks’ main promotion in which grocery chain Food 4 Less sells discounted tickets, Ochsner said. However, the cheaper tickets will still be valid throughout both parks’ extended seasons, he said. The same is true with the parks’ season passes, he said. One unexpected factor this year was the park’s electric bill, Keithley said. “Because we’ve had a busier summer, we can offset some of those costs with that,” he said. The park’s staff has become more cost-conscious about the office’s air conditioning and leaving on lights unnecessarily, Keithley said. However, little if any cost-cutting has taken place in the park area, he said. “We’ve tried to keep everything we could up and running in the regular park area for our guests.” According to Chula Vista Mayor Shirley Horton, the successful season is an “incentive” for the future. Cedar Fair owns 33 acres of property adjoining the Soak City site, and this summer’s success could propel plans for destination-style development there, Horton said.