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Six Flags and Cedar Fair Merger Makes Waves
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A surprising and unprecedented move is unfolding in the theme park world: the Texas-based Six Flags and Ohio-based Cedar Fair theme parks will soon merge as Six Flags, with the newly combined company relocating its headquarters to Charlotte, N.C. The result will be 42 theme parks, 15 water parks, and 9 resorts all operating as one behemoth entity under the Six Flags name, with locations in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

Of all the locations, California will be the one state with significant overlap between the parks. Six Flags Magic Mountain and Cedar Fair's Knott's Berry Farm are located inValencia and Buena Park respectively, with only about 60 miles between them in Southern California. To the north, in the San Francisco Bay area, California's Great America in Santa Clara and Vallejo's Six Flags Discovery Kingdom are also separatedby only about 60 miles. However, in the latter case, Cedar Fair's Great America already announced a closure in the next 7 or so years, and the merger could speed this event up.

In the greater Los Angeles area especially, questions currently swirl as to whether each of the locations will remain intact.However, Knott's Berry Farm and Magic Mountain will likely stay separate,operating entities, as both are viewed as big coaster parks, and industry leaders. 

Cedar Fair's CEO Richard Zimmerman will be the combined company leader, and Cedar Fair itself will hold the majority share. However, as noted, both park entities will operate under the Six Flags moniker. It's still anyone's guess as to what changes will be made and how quickly, but one thing is for sure, the merger has come as a surprise that is resonating throughout the theme park industry. It's also a bit of a concern in regard to antitrust issues, with one owner for what will now be combined as the largest park operator in regional theme parks. 

It's heartening for park fans that Cedar Fair's Zimmerman will helm, as Cedar Fair parks are thought by many enthusiasts to provide better operations for its guests, and a richer guest experience.  The hope is that both companies will feature unique rides and attractions, as cloning existing rides between the two park owners could make things less interesting in the industry.

The merger could potentially offer greater benefits to park guests, by providing a new ability to share iconic properties, such as Peanuts from Cedar Fair, and DC Comics along with Looney Tunes from Six Flags. 

Industry pundits meanwhile continue to question how much the two parks will fully integrate, with special interest paid to Knotts and Magic Mountain because of their proximity to each other. Both have quite different market appeal, despite a shared emphasis on big coaster attractions. Magic Mountain is essentially all thrills, besides a robust kiddie area; Knott's, however, is geared more toward family fun. Knott's offers a wide range of attractions from Camp Snoopy for little ones to family attractions like the shops and artisans, stagecoach rides, train rides, and the Calico Mine Train, the park's first immersive themed ride, all located in Knott's unique Ghost Town section. This area was the origin of the Knott Family's park, dreamed up as something to occupy guests waiting in line for food at Mrs. Knott's famous - and still operating - Chicken Dinner Restaurant. 
Knotts Berry Farm

With the classic appeal of Knott's Berry Farm and the thrilling big-gun coasters at Magic Mountain, keeping the park's separateness intact should honestly be a no-brainer during the merger of their corporate entities.

While attendees at both parks may differ, annual attendance is similar. Annually, Knott's Berry draws 3 million visits, just slightly ahead of Magic Mountain, with 2.9 million. Cedar Fair reported 3rd quarter attendance of 12.4 million guests, while Six Flags recorded 9.3 million. Cedar Fair attendance has increased by 1% from the previous year, and Six Flags attendance rose by 16% from the same period a year ago.

Because neither park clashes or duplicates its experience in terms of audience appeal or ride attractions, focusing on the differentness between the two should build business for both parks, keep both individual destinations intact, and improve promotional efforts for both.

According to a Six Flags press release, the merger combining both companies' parks will result in a more diverse “geographic footprint” for a “more balanced presence” in all-year operations. The same release notes that a strong combined financial profile should make it easier to invest in “upgrades, expansions and new, innovative offerings” at all parks, and makes note of  “approximately $200 million of annual synergies, including $120 million of cost savings” within two years of the merger's completion. Both operational and administrative savings should be realized, and revenue should increase as well. The combined company would be valued at $8 billion, both Cedar Fair and Six Flags assert, and their buying power should increase.


Six Flags Magic Mountain

According to Zimmerman, about to serve as CEO of the combined company, “With Six Flags, we will expand our footprint, enhance the resilience of our business model, and bolster our financial profile to drive in-park investment.” Selim Bassoul, who serves as chief executive at Six Flags, states that uniting both companies will mark exciting growth, and will allow both parks “to capitalize on the tremendous growth opportunities and operational efficiencies of our combined platform for the benefit of our guests, shareholders, employees,and other stakeholders.” Bassoul will serve as executive chairman of the combined parks' board of directors. 

Once united, the merged company is planning to offer expanded access to the parks to passholders as well as combined “enhanced loyalty programs.”

The merger is expected to close in the first half of 2024. Both companies' boards have already approved the move
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