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Cedar Fair drew record number of visitors in 2010

Marietta Times

Original Article »

February 16, 2011

America's third-largest amusement park chain hit an all-time high in attendance in 2010 despite the tough economy and a shakeup in its front office.

Ohio-based Cedar Fair drew 22.8 million people to its parks, the company said Tuesday.

Better weather and an increase in season pass and group sales helped attendance rebound 7.8 percent from 2009. Many of its parks were hit hard by the recession.

Most of Cedar Fair's 11 amusement parks, seven water parks and five hotels are in the Midwest, including six properties in California and three along the East Coast. Its parks include Cedar Point and Kings Island in Ohio, Knott's Berry Farm near Los Angeles and Great America in Santa Clara, Calif.

Cedar Fair said Tuesday that its fourth-quarter revenue rose 23 percent from $105.6 million to $130 million. But it reported a net loss of $63.2 million, or $1.14 per limited partner unit, compared with a loss of $26.3 million, or 48 cents per unit, a year earlier.

For the year, the company lost $31.6 million, or 57 cents per unit, compared with an income of $35.4 million, or 63 cents per unit. Its revenue rose from $916.1 million in 2009 to $977.6 million in 2010.

Cedar Fair said more people stayed at its hotels, but visitors spent less in its parks. Season pass sales were strongest at parks in the South and West.

"While the economic recovery continues to be slow, we demonstrated the inherent competitive strength of our properties and attractions with record attendance," said Richard Kinzel, the company's chief executive.

2010 was something of a rollercoaster for Kinzel.

Shareholders voted for a change in the company's leadership structure in January, forcing his removal as board chairman. The company's largest investor led a revolt, charging current company leaders with mismanagement.

Kinzel will retire as CEO at the end of this year.

In just over four years, Cedar Fair rose from a regional amusement park chain into an industry giant only to see its debt become a barrier to a buyout by a private equity firm.

Cedar Fair is a publicly traded limited partnership based in Sandusky, Ohio. It bought Paramount Parks in 2006.

The nation's largest amusement park operator is the Walt Disney Co., where parks and resorts accounted for $2.9 billion in revenue in the most recent quarter, out of a total of $10.7 billion.

The second-largest is Six Flags Entertainment Corp., which also has struggled during the recession with attendance, debt and management turnover. It emerged from bankruptcy court protection last April and operates 19 amusement and water parks, including one in Mexico and one in Canada. It reported net income of $133.9 million and revenue of $475.6 million for the quarter that ended Sept. 30.

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