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California's Great America Amusement Park Gets Lease Agreement, Park Can Continue to Operate for 11+ More Years
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Last summer, Cedar Fair announced that their Great America Amusement Park, located just south of San Francisco, would close. The land on which it is built was being sold.

However, park fans don't have to worry just yet about getting their thrill ride fix. Cedar Fair sold the land to Prologis real estate company for $310 million – with a lease agreement.

That agreement means that Cedar Fair will continue to run the park for as much as 11 more years before closing it. It's a win-win for Cedar Fair, who purchased the land in July 2019 for approximately $150 million. Increased market value made the sale profitable, helping the company to resolve funds borrowed during the height of the pandemic, when operations were greatly disrupted. The sale helps the company to take a highly valued asset and successfully monetize it so that funds can be reinvested in the theme park company overall.

A press release last fall asserted that Cedar Fair plans to use their proceeds from the sale of the land to facilitate and speed reduction of debt, as well as to invest in projects with a high return. This includes improving resort properties and elevating aspects of their parks such as theming.

Cedar Fair has long resisted full theming at its parks, as well as the creation of lands, but things are starting to change. Kings Dominion, which had lands prior to the Cedar Fair's ownership, featured a relaunch this past year of its themed Jungle X-Pedition. With that relaunch successful, now four new lands will be coming to four other Cedar Fair parks in 2023.

Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif. is getting a major change in their Fiesta Village. While new rollercoasters have been the central upgrades at the park since Cedar Fair purchased it in 1997, Fiesta Village will now gain new landscaping, including flowers and arbors, new lighting, flags, and paint.  More retail venues featuring purveyors of authentic Mexican wares will be positioned in the marketplace, and Montezooma's Revenge, a shuttle loop roller coaster that has been closed since February of last year, will be reopened and rebranded Montezooma: The Forbidden Fortress. The track will be redone, and new launch features will be added. The launch features will make backwards and forwards launch starts random, so that riders will want to experience the ride over and over for different thrills.

At Carowinds in Charlotte, N.C., the park will open a new land dubbed Aeronautica Landing, described as celebrating aviation in the region where the Wright Brothers famously flew. Here, the B&M inverted coaster will be restyled and called Afterburn. It will be joined by flat rides and steampunk styling throughout the land. Existing Dodgem bumper cars and Yo-Yo swings will receive new wraps; and two new flat rides will join the flight-themed mix. Air Racers from Zamperla will offer an inverted experience, while Gear Spin will feature accelerated visuals, and create the sensation of spinning on gears for its riders. Along with a steampunk aesthetic, the land will also include games themed to aviation and piloting, and a new dining option, Terminal A, which includes a bar.

The Boardwalk at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, will focus on reopening the park's natural Lake Erie beach shore for guests.  Rides blocking the views have been dismantled, all in preparation for the area's rebirth as The Boardwalk.

There will be a bevy of changes to reimagine the Boardwalk and pay homage to the park's turn of the century history, when trolleys brought guests to the entertainment attraction. These changes include relocated flat rides; a new Grand Pavilion that will offer dining and drinking options with a view of the lake; and a new family roller coaster, Zamperla's Wild Mouse.

At Kings Island, in Kings Mill, Ohio, a new land called Adventure Port will replace the Octoberfest area of the park. Existing concept art reveals the area as representing a village outpost in South America, designed around a stone city only recently discovered. There will be a marketplace, new food offerings at reimagined existing dining locations, and two new flat rides. Sol Spin is designed with a sun disk at its center; first riders will spin and then the floor will drop away. Cargo Loco offers spinning barrels labeled Arrow Cargo Company. A new entrance for Adventure Express is also being planned.

All these changes translate into positive upgrades for Cedar Fair parks, utilizing their infusion of capital from the company's Great America land sale. It also assists in allowing Cedar Fair to reinstate quarterly distributions to investors.

The park originally opened during the 1976 Bicentennial. First owned and operated by Marriott, it became part of Kings Entertainment Corporation, then Paramount Communications, prior to Cedar Fair. With all the changes and growth that have occurred at the park's location in the Silicon Valley.  Long-term, the park's land will likely find a more relevant usage than as an amusement destination.

Regardless, as noted, Cedar Fair's sale to Prologis does not mean an imminent demise for the park, with a potential for an 11-year run time ahead. The property is leased back to Cedar Fair for six years with an option to renew for another 5 years after that. Cedar Fair says there will be upgrades to rides, attractions, and dining during this time, at least potentially. Citing current strong market conditions for the park, Cedar Fair plans not just to maintain but to enhance the park over the next 6 to 11 years, to make sure attendance stays strong. And park spokesmen report that Prologis itself may continue to have an entertainment element on the property, if not a full-blown amusement park.

Presently, Great America features nine major coasters, along with flat rides, water rides, and a water park. While some of the rides are site-specific, some may be relocated to other Cedar Fair Parks when the property does eventually close.
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