Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

Are regional amusement parks still viable in an era of escalating land values?

William Henschke, Rehoboth Beach Funland, USA: There are a very small percentage of parks that would be viable. Land values have risen to the point that in some locations the land value exceeds the value of the park itself. You would make more money if you sold the land for condominiums than if you continued to operate as an amusement park. But in our family we want to operate as a park. This is our 45th season and we now have our fourth generation actively in the business. They have the same values we have. They want to continue Funland as it has been without cashing in. In shore areas, such as where we are, land values have escalated out of sight.

Gary Smart, Harbour Park, UK: Trading is definitely tougher, but for small seaside parks like ours it is probably as much to do with the fact that we are more of a niche pursuit than we once were. Huge numbers of people used to visit the coast; now many jet off on cheap holidays, go shopping or stay at home and play their Wii computer consoles. Those that have not recognised these social changes and invested have been left behind. Land values have changed dramatically, inland as well as by the sea, and what we really have to ask ourselves is what sort of lifestyle we want. For most operators of “mom and pop” parks I would suggest it’s a way of life rather than a job.

Doug Trimper, Trimper Rides, USA: While I have my own positive views on this question, it remains to be seen whether those opinions will be fact or fiction. We are currently appealing property tax increases which are greater than our net income of last year. This is a ludicrous situation with the unbelievable skyrocketing assessment. I believe that it is up to society to open its eyes as far as the survivability of our industry. Land will need to be designated for amusement use, as are golf courses and agriculture, if we are to be allowed to stay and operate a business. This after all is essentially rent we are having to pay on land we already bought!

Stine Lolk, Tivoli, Denmark: Tivoli was founded in 1843 and has seen Copenhagen grow and completely surround the gardens gradually. Even though it has been suggested now and then to move Tivoli to some suburb it is highly unlikely that will happen. The public likes the fact that we have this historic oasis or retreat in the heart of the city, and there are restrictions on the land so that it can only be used for recreational purposes and not, say, for office buildings. Should you build Tivoli in a city centre location today the costs would probably be too high to make such a project viable [Tivoli is a not-for-proft organisation], but in recent years we have in fact seen an improvement in earnings.

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