Carowinds won’t reopen in 2020; parent company releases financials

FORT MILL, S.C. — Carowinds announced Tuesday that there will be no 2020 season. The park was days from opening in late March when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down everything. Carowinds worked for months on a detailed reopening plan, but it never happened.

On Wednesday, the park's Ohio-based owner, Cedar Fair, released second quarter earnings that reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Billy Dunlap heads the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau of Rock Hill and York County. He said 45% of all visitors to York County visit Carowinds, but that will not happen this year.

"It's just devastating to hear that," Dunlap said about the park's decision to not open for the first time in its history.

Dunlap said the draw of Carowinds is huge when it comes to tourism.

“Carowinds is such an economic driver that without them being in business, it has a direct effect on York County,” he said. “But it has a whole lot of indirect effects as well, all the restaurants surrounding that area. That’s less traffic going in there. That’s less people buying gas. That’s less people staying in hotels.”

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Carowinds, which straddles the North and South Carolina state line, and 10 other theme parks had a record year for attendance and revenue in 2019, according to documentation from Cedar Fair released to shareholders.

Revenue was up 9% to $1.47 billion.

Attendance was up 8% to 27.9 million visitors.

COVID-19 prevented Cedar Fair’s major parks from opening this year.

Second quarter 2019: $436 million in revenue.

Second quarter 2020: $7 million in revenue.

Cedar Fair said there were two reasons why it decided to not open Carowinds.

They were, “due to the diminishing number of calendar days left in the 2020 operating season, as well as limited visibility from state and local officials as to when park openings will be possible.”

An issue might be because the theme park is in both Carolinas. South Carolina allowed amusement parks to reopen starting Memorial Day weekend. North Carolina’s restrictions did not allow it to open.

In June, Cedar Fair and another amusement park operator sued state health officials in Ohio to be allowed to reopen parks in the state. Ohio's governor said the following day he would allow the parks to open in two weeks but four of the company's parks, including Carowinds, remained closed.

Carowinds told season pass holders that their passes will be good for the upcoming 2021 season.

The park is also offering perks to pass holders in the form of credits for use for in-park purchases.

Amounts vary from $35 to $50 depending on the type of season pass.

Carowinds’ Vice President Pat Jones released a statement about losing the 2020 operating season:

“We are disappointed that we are unable to welcome our guests back to the park this season. The safety of our guests and associates is always our top priority. Although we have done our due diligence in developing a comprehensive safety plan in accordance with industry and public health standards, the continued uncertainty in our region brought by COVID-19 leads us to the difficult yet responsible decision to keep the park closed for the rest of the year. We look forward to a great 2021 season with new rides, attractions, and entertainment for the whole family. We thank our guests and associates for their continued loyalty and support during this challenging time.”

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