After nearly $500M in 2020 losses, Dorney Park parent company ready for new season

Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in South Whitehall Township. PHOTO/FILE


As expected, 2020 was not a good year for amusement parks, and Cedar Fair, the parent company of Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom reported a drastic drop in revenue for the year.

Cedar Fair said with a limited season, and lower attendance because of the COVID-19 pandemic, net revenues for the company totaled $182 million versus $1.47 billion for 2019.

That led to a loss of more than $590 million dollars, when factoring in added expenses the company incurred implementing COVID-19 mitigation strategies and other operating costs.

The good news is the company expects the pent up demand for amusement parks will make 2021 a much better year.

“We are optimistic that levels of attendance at our parks and resort properties will significantly improve in 2021, particularly as COVID-19 vaccines become broadly available over the next few months,” said Cedar Fair President and CEO Richard A. Zimmerman. “In anticipation of improving demand, we are poised to resume normal operations, particularly during our seasonally stronger back half of the year. We have strategically designed our operating plan for the 2021 season specifically to minimize cash burn in the pre-opening period and correlate park operating calendars with forecasted demand while growing our season pass base for the 2021 and 2022 seasons.”

Zimmerman said in response to the pandemic, the company made great strides in process improvements and found cost saving opportunities.

For 2020, operating costs and expenses totaled $484 million compared with $991 million for 2019.

“These efforts have reduced our use of cash and positioned us well to emerge from the pandemic as a leaner and more cost-efficient organization,” he said.

Zimmerman said he expects the company’s parks will benefit from lingering COVID-19 caution as families continue to look for outdoor, closer-to-home entertainment options.

After a late opening in 2020 because of the COVID-19 shutdown, Dorney Park closed its season early, shuttering on Labor Day, Sept. 7 and foregoing its popular Halloween-themed weekends. Wildwater Kingdom never opened for the season because of the pandemic.

Plans are on track for both parks to be open for the 2021 season.

Dorney announced Wednesday that it planned to hire “thousands” for the upcoming season.

The park said it is hiring ride operators, security, aquatics, horticulture, food & beverage, merchandise, finance, maintenance and entertainment workers.

Amusement parks will stay closed Memorial Day weekend

Dorney Park & Wild Water Kingdom, like other parks in the state, won’t be opening Memorial Day Weekend. PHOTO/FILE –


Memorial Day weekend should mean the official opening of the summer season for Pennsylvania’s amusement parks, but this year the festivities are at a standstill. Those who run the parks don’t know when or if they can open for the year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Park operators are being cautious about saying too much about what kind of season, if any, they may have. But they do say they are preparing as much as possible for the day they are given the green light to reopen and are trying to give their parks’ fans as much information as they can.

“Given the uncertainty created by the pandemic, the situation remains very fluid and there is still a great deal of unpredictability on the horizon,” said Garrett Gallia, vice president of communications and corporate relations at Hershey Park.

Parks such as Hershey in Derry Township, Dorney Park & WildWater Kingdom in South Whitehall Township and Knobels in Elysburg all have an indefinite start date at this point. All three are located in counties that remain in the red zone in Pennsylvania’s reopening plan in which stay-at-home orders are still in place.

Opening isn’t a word they’re tossing around.

“We continue to work closely with local and state health authorities to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the best information we have currently, we do not anticipate resuming operations at any of our parks in the near term. This projection remains fluid and subject to change as the situation evolves, including if state and local guidelines are modified.” Richard Zimmerman, president and CEO of Cedar Fair, Dorney’s parent company, said recently in a statement to investors.

Tana Korpics, public relations manager for Dorney, said she is keeping the public up-to-date on the latest news about any potential for activity at the park, but so far there hasn’t been much to report.

Knobels said it is also posting any updates on its social media, but it is advertising for virtual interview for potential employees for if and when they can reopen.

If and when they can reopen, however, the parks are thinking ahead about what kind of health and safety protocols need to be in place to keep employees and park visitors safe from the spread of COVID-19.

One of the biggest concerns they have is social distancing in parks that can get very crowded in the summer, especially on weekends. Social distancing plans include capacity management, queue line management and a planned park and ride reservation system at Hershey.

Cedar Fair said it had similar plans for its parks, including Dorney, that also included COVID-19 training of staff, cashless transactions. All of the parks’ plans include increased cleaning and sanitation.

“As we contemplate what new measures could be necessary, our overarching goal is to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone inside our properties, while still providing our guests a best-day experience,” Cedar Fair’s Zimmerman said.

What to do about season ticket holders who’ve already purchased tickets for the summer 2020 season is another issue. Dorney and Hershey both said they will be honoring this year’s season passes through 2021 to make up for any lost time.

Knobels does not charge general admission or have season passes.