Theme Park Price Experiments

Two theme parks have dropped their prices this summer while Six Flags parks have increased their gate prices, and park operators are watching closely.

Ohio amusement park Cedar Point and SoCal’s Knott’s Berry Farm have lowered their entrance fees after attendance drops in 2005. At Cedar Point, admission has dropped $5 for adults to $39.95 and kids get in for $9.95. The park also reduced the price of cotton candy from $3 a tick to 25 cents.

Knott’s Berry Farm has similarly reduced its entrance fee.

Six Flags has increased the gate price at most of its parks. Adult admission at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey has climbed $11 to $59.99, but the Six Flag parks offer several opportunities to reduce the entrance fee with coupons. The park company is also adding more entertainment and Looney Tunes characters roaming the midways.

Six Flags is also trying to reduce the waits for rides and food.

Nearly all parks offer savings for anyone who buys tickets online, and most have discount tickets available at local gas stations or grocery stores.

“Any guest paying full price at our parks is probably not doing their homework,” said Steve Brown, VP for ticket strategy and sales at Six Flags.

“Almost all of our guests have a discounted admission, said Will Koch, president of Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind. “We look at it as inexpensive advertising.”

Koch commended Cedar Point’s cotton candy pricing, saying his park began offering free soft drinks a few years ago to great success.

“It was one of the best marketing things we’ve every done,” he said. “Our business is driven by positive experiences.”

At Six Flags, a gas receipt will knock off $15 at the gate through August. New company president Mark Shapiro said he hopes that because of rising gas prices, families will stay closer to home and visit a Six flags park. The company also revamped its online purchasing system to allow for faster ticketing.

Families no longer plan visits weeks in advance, according to theme park consultant Dennis Speigel. “Now it’s, ‘What can we do this weekend?'”

One thing many of these parks have in common is the same owner. Cedar Fair, which owns Cedar Point and Knott’s Berry Farm, recently purchased the larger Paramount Parks, which controls the Six Flags parks, from CBS for $1.24 billion.