Theme Parks

California's Theme Park Leaders Disappointed by State's Reopening Guidelines

NBC Universal, Inc.

The heads of California’s most popular amusement parks lashed out at Governor Gavin Newsom today for what they called arbitrary restrictions that threaten the future of the parks and its workers.

Theme parks such as Disneyland and California‘s Great America in Santa Clara have been shut down since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Park leaders say they feel offended by the state's decision, and the uncertainty of their business' future being up in the air.

A lot of people were forced to stop working once rides and other attractions inside Great America stopped running.

To express their feelings, companies like Cedar Fair - which operates Great America - along with Knott's Berry Farm and Gilroy Gardens, joined Disneyland, Universal Studios, Six Flags and Legoland for an emotional virtual news conference expressing frustration at the state's decision to keep them at the most restricted tier.

Raffi Kaprelyan, Cedar Fair’s vice president said the state ignored all the parks’ safety measures during inspection tours this week.

“The administration’s visit to three facilities in California this past week just seemed to be just a show," Kaprelyan said. "They made no changes in guidance for large parks from what we saw two weeks ago.”

Although many large parks already planned to stay closed until next year, the state’s new guidelines make it hard to predict when they can reopen full time.

“The requirement that we sell ‘reserve tickets’ and contact each guest 24-Hours in advance of their visit is really onerous and, for many parks, it could even be impossible," said Universal Studios president Karen Irwin.

The main concerns expressed by the parks are the hits to the local economy, as well as the financial and psychological impact on thousands of unemployed workers.

Ken Potrock from Disney Resorts said "anxiety and joblessness is a gigantic toll, human toll, on individuals. It begins to affect things as dire as ‘suicide rates’ and life expectancy."

NBC Bay Area reached out to Gov. Gavin Newsom's office but did not receive a response.

However, the state has said in the past that amusement parks are a bigger risk than sports arenas because visitors come from so many different areas and mingle more directly.

Park leaders say they will continue to work with the state but they have not ruled out going to court.

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