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Cedar Fair attendance down 3% through July 4th

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SANDUSKY, Ohio, July 11, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Cedar Fair Entertainment Company (NYSE: FUN), a leader in regional amusement parks, water parks and immersive entertainment, today reported preliminary net revenues through July 8, 2018, of approximately $563 million, on 11.1 million guest visits, average in-park per capita spending of $45.87 and out-of-park revenues of $70 million. This period represents approximately 40% of the Company's total operating days for 2018.

 

When compared with the same period a year ago, net revenues were down 2%, or $10 million, the result of a 3%, or 314,000-visit, decrease in attendance. This was partially offset by a 3%, or $2 million, increase in out-of-park revenues, including resort accommodations, and a slight increase in average in-park per capita spending when compared with the same period last year.

 

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/cedar-fair-reports-revenues-through-july-4th-holiday-weekend-300678918.html

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I am sure that they were hoping to ride Mystic Timbers into this season to bolster attendance.  But without a new product (save for the Coney BBQ), there really isn`t anything to draw people to the park this year who visited last year.  Yes, The Peanuts Celebration was good (I didn`t partake in too much of it because my son is only 1 and not into it yet).

I wonder what is on the horizon for KI in the coming years.  Hopefully things turn around for CF in July and August and as they head into Haunt season, and the WF season.  Remember, that they will now have five parks open this year for Winterfest (Kings Dominion joins California`s Great America, Kings Island, Carowinds, and Worlds of Fun). 

I knew about the hotel at Carowinds, but I was unaware that a hotel was on the way for Canada`s Wonderland in 2020.  That is a nice way to boost the out of park revenues for the chain.  I wonder if a hotel will be developed near KI? 

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A few other things to keep in mind:

  • At Coasterstock it was mentioned that KI had its largest attendance since 1998 - since official attendance numbers are not disclosed, how much of that company-wide drop could be attributed to KI if we went back to "normal" attendance this year?  Remember a couple years ago with the water main break issue at CP and they were able to justify that the lost attendance from that closed weekend was the reason for the down number that year - if I recall correctly I thought the estimate of lost attendance for the closure was within the one thousands of the company wide down attendance number.
  • Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point has had its problems and it has been widely reported about refunds and other stuff going on with people that made plans to go to a destination park because of new ride and then canceled due to its problems.  Others may have decided to skip this year and go next year hoping it is resolved.
  • Twisted Timbers at Kings Dominion has experienced its own similar Steel Vengeance issues and not running at capacity for most of the season.  To some extent that will impact attendance there as well for same reason listed above.
  • Weather has had an impact - the region/country has had an exceptional above average temperature and that keeps people away as well.

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No new ride/s this year,  they could have announced the new Lights and Fireworks show along with Coney BBQ and might have generated excitement with that but it didn't happen so we'll never know..  Would it be better to try and announce something, even if its no new ride and have guests say,  "Well I wanted a ride this year"!  We just came off of 4 years of always having something new, and the parks attendance has continued to go up for the past 10 years.  How many years can it go up and then finally guests take a little break?  This year maybe?  :huh:

Maybe it's the heat, and more parks around the nation are staying open longer, leading some to wait till later in the year since they have more time to visit the parks? 

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I do agree that they should have started advertising the Coney BBQ earlier, at least teasers in January/February. 

It is my understanding that the fireworks show came together right at the start of the season, but it could have been pushed after the start of the season more. It should have part of the peanuts celebration advertising.

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Remember last August when (almost) all the CF parks did announcements on the same day (including CP and KBF which never happened before then) and KI was the elephant park in the room that didn't make any?  Even the smaller parks like Dorney and MIA announced their Pre-K plan that day.  KI easily could have done the Coney BBQ announcement then.  TBH, I didn't feel they were that excited for this season, especially in their under the radar announcement of Coney BBQ, and that showed in the GP reactions.  I know a lot of season pass holders that skipped this season. 

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Going through the forum and I found this thread about attendance, and @Shaggy and other's talking about the 1998 attendance for the park and how good it was, and the Amusement Business Magazine estimated it to be at 3.6, and KI had one of their best years in 2017 and compared it to the record of 1998.  Here's the thread.

So was 2017 a lot better then what TEA numbers estimated?  

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3 hours ago, Imperial79 said:

Going through the forum and I found this thread about attendance, and @Shaggy and other's talking about the 1998 attendance for the park and how good it was, and the Amusement Business Magazine estimated it to be at 3.6, and KI had one of their best years in 2017 and compared it to the record of 1998.  Here's the thread.

So was 2017 a lot better then what TEA numbers estimated?  

I know the TEA number is low, but I have no idea how low.  The issue is that the numbers fluctuate a LOT more than the report indicates.  I have been told to not even trust the order that the parks appear in the report, they are just that far off.

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For me personally, I spent more money on my recent trip to Cedar Point than probably ever. I spent $1,500 for 2 nights stay, Fast Lane Passes for 3 for a day, food and drink wristbands for one day. I bought 4 T-shirts and 10 on-ride/gate photos. Plus food and drink for the other 2 days. As a side note, next time I plan such a trip, I am gonna pay for food/drink all 3 days. It was very convenient to have it pre-paid. But, that's just me. 

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If KI wants to squeeze more money out of my wife and I they will follow the Zoombezie Bay lead and put in an over 21 true lazy river and sell $10 cocktails I can drink floating on a tube while the kids run up slide towers.  I spent more than I care to admit there the two seasons we had passes.  

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This is not surprising to me. The parks are better than ever before in terms of ride quality, but the overall experience is lacking.

Just a few examples from my trip to Cedar Point last week. The rides themselves are superb, world-class rides as always however...

1) My lunch was a $8.99 "hot dog basket", which consisted of a jumbo hot dog and a pre-packaged bag of Lay's chips, the kind that you get at the grocery store for 50¢. I understand prices must be high to cover other costs, but that pricing is absurd. No hot dogs were ready and the employees were standing around probing each and every hot dog with a thermometer. I waited 5 minutes and and my friend 10.

2) Rides were breaking down right and left. Millenium Force broke down while I was in line as did, Steel Vengeance (AMAZING ride) and Maverick was shut down at least while we were near it. I've been to CP many times and never seen this before. I may have just come on a bad day.

3) Yes, I know this is reality at parks for the last several years BUT the attendant was taking in half a train worth of Fast Lane riders in cycles on Steel Vengeance. I don't know if that is the policy, but it seemed rather excessive.

I'm not trying to be negative. I want the parks to live up to their potential in aspects outside of just rides. I had some high hopes in the Ouimet Era that he would bring some of the better aspects of Disney throughout the Cedar Fair chain. One suggestion: several years ago in the earlier days of Cedar Fair ownership (2008-10ish) at KI there were special events at the park. Robbie Knieval broke his dad's truck jumping record in the King's Island parking lot in 2008. One day the next year they had Pete Rose at the KI Theater and a Skyline Eating Contest with Major League Eating, (Coney Island Nathan's 4th of July folks) on the same day! There were Skydivers and a tightrope walkers on other days. These special events gave season passers and families a little something extra that made for "the best day ever." These have all but stopped.

There are many things for the execs to consider. Are unlimited food passes worth hurting the guest experience? Are Fast Lane passes, for the additional revenue they provide, worth the resulting necessarily weakened experience to standard admission and season pass guests? What can be done to make guests feel truly valued?

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On ‎7‎/‎12‎/‎2018 at 12:17 PM, flightoffear1996 said:

I woudl like to see Kings Island's number becuase the park seems really crowded this year to me so far.  Maybe its just the days I am picking to go on.

From my experience, I was not surprised to hear that 2017 was a new "modern" record as the highest attendance since 1998.  I do not think the park is as crowded this year consistently like it was last year.

 

22 hours ago, jcgoble3 said:

Put politely, TEA has no ****ing clue what they are talking about with their attendance numbers.

AECOM is a well respected publicly traded consulting firm that did $18Billion in revenue last year and utilizes generally accepted industry practices in how TEA estimates are determined.  Until a park announces an official number that can dispute or corroborate these numbers, we are all simply guessing.  I would think if they were that off and that low, CF would make an announcement to counter as an arbitrarily low attendance number predicted by AECOM/TEA could negatively impact the stock value of the publicly traded Cedar Fair (NYSE: FUN).  Just look at all the other "news" recently that has impacted other publicly traded companies - perception is reality to many investors so why would CF allow people to believe their attendance numbers are that low if they are not?  Now if the numbers in TEA are too high...well that is artificially good for CF in terms of potential investors...just saying...

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13 hours ago, disco2000 said:

From my experience, I was not surprised to hear that 2017 was a new "modern" record as the highest attendance since 1998.  I do not think the park is as crowded this year consistently like it was last year.

 

AECOM is a well respected publicly traded consulting firm that did $18Billion in revenue last year and utilizes generally accepted industry practices in how TEA estimates are determined.  Until a park announces an official number that can dispute or corroborate these numbers, we are all simply guessing.  I would think if they were that off and that low, CF would make an announcement to counter as an arbitrarily low attendance number predicted by AECOM/TEA could negatively impact the stock value of the publicly traded Cedar Fair (NYSE: FUN).  Just look at all the other "news" recently that has impacted other publicly traded companies - perception is reality to many investors so why would CF allow people to believe their attendance numbers are that low if they are not?  Now if the numbers in TEA are too high...well that is artificially good for CF in terms of potential investors...just saying...

It is not all speculation, next time you are at a park in the report, if you run across a member of upper management on a midway like Mike Koontz who is the general manager at Kings Island ask what they think of the numbers from the TEA report.  Over the last several years I have asked several individuals and every single one has said the numbers are wrong.  None of them will share real numbers but when I say that the order of the parks is sometimes wrong I was told that by a park GM who had access to the numbers for that chain.

Large natural fluctuations are part of the reason why Cedar Fair does not release individual park attendance figures.  But Cedar Fair does release chain wide attendance.  That’s how we know 2017 attendance was 25.7 million and was 25.1 million in 2016.

Let’s compare that growth of 600k admissions to the guesstimates in the TEA report.  The report shows the growth as 596k, so I will use that.  Combined the Cedar Fair parks featured in the report grew by 170k.  So that’s Knott’s, CW, CP, KI, and the water parks at Knott’s and CP.  The report states those parks account for 15.7 million of the entire chains 25.7 million guests.

Which means using TEA’s own numbers they claim the smallest 7 Cedar Fair parks only have a combined attendance of 10 million and had a combined attendance growth of 426k or 4.5%.  In a year when none of those parks opened a coaster, does that seem reasonable at all?  The only new coaster in the entire chain last year was Mystic Timbers plus Kings Island was open for Winterfest which added somewhere around 20 additional operating days.  Yet the claim is that attendance only went up by 85 thousand.

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I don't remember what year this happened, but I know it was during the Kinzel era. They were trying to get more people to the park after a down year at Cedar Point and lowered the ticket prices drastically the next year. I believe the price went up to almost $60 and people were complaining left and right. Maybe that's what they need to do again for a season is lower the ticket prices a little again. Maybe that's hurting the average families budgets.

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3 hours ago, Shawn Meyer said:

I don't remember what year this happened, but I know it was during the Kinzel era. They were trying to get more people to the park after a down year at Cedar Point and lowered the ticket prices drastically the next year. I believe the price went up to almost $60 and people were complaining left and right. Maybe that's what they need to do again for a season is lower the ticket prices a little again. Maybe that's hurting the average families budgets.

They have, at least for Indiana residents.  When I go on the website, I see a $39.99 ticket that included admission, parking, and drinks all day.  That is a pretty good price.

As far as attendance, this is my family's 3rd year with a gold pass, and this is by far the least busy we have seen KI every time we have gone during the past 3 years.  We usually go on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  For example, the past 2 years, in the middle of the afternoon, DB would typically be 4-6 switchbacks under the tent.  This year, there have been many days that the line doesn't get past the vending machines.  MT is typically a 10 minute wait, and Delerium is usually a one ride wait.  Much lower crowds this year, by far.

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If KI wants to squeeze more money out of my wife and I they will follow the Zoombezie Bay lead and put in an over 21 true lazy river and sell $10 cocktails I can drink floating on a tube while the kids run up slide towers.  I spent more than I care to admit there the two seasons we had passes.  

This is the best idea I've seen! I've been to Soak City twice this week and both times I said I wish they had a lazy river. I just can't with the Splash River. Between the wild children and having to dodge buckets and sprayers every 10 feet, I am always left wishing they had a relaxed one that parents could just stay in all day while the kiddos slide.


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CPS has the swim up bar so having alcohol in the water is not some corporate policy issue.   I sometimes wish I still had the Zoombezie Bay passes becuase my wife would scoot out of work early once day a week and meet the boys and I there, but that is another $400 a year plus the $$$$$$$ we would spend on the cocktails.  

But KI is stuck on trying to increase per caps with flavored sugar, nano coasters, plushies, and souvenir shot glasses. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

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On ‎7‎/‎14‎/‎2018 at 10:41 AM, Kenban said:

It is not all speculation, next time you are at a park in the report, if you run across a member of upper management on a midway like Mike Koontz who is the general manager at Kings Island ask what they think of the numbers from the TEA report.  Over the last several years I have asked several individuals and every single one has said the numbers are wrong.  None of them will share real numbers but when I say that the order of the parks is sometimes wrong I was told that by a park GM who had access to the numbers for that chain.

Large natural fluctuations are part of the reason why Cedar Fair does not release individual park attendance figures.  But Cedar Fair does release chain wide attendance.  That’s how we know 2017 attendance was 25.7 million and was 25.1 million in 2016.

Let’s compare that growth of 600k admissions to the guesstimates in the TEA report.  The report shows the growth as 596k, so I will use that.  Combined the Cedar Fair parks featured in the report grew by 170k.  So that’s Knott’s, CW, CP, KI, and the water parks at Knott’s and CP.  The report states those parks account for 15.7 million of the entire chains 25.7 million guests.

Which means using TEA’s own numbers they claim the smallest 7 Cedar Fair parks only have a combined attendance of 10 million and had a combined attendance growth of 426k or 4.5%.  In a year when none of those parks opened a coaster, does that seem reasonable at all?  The only new coaster in the entire chain last year was Mystic Timbers plus Kings Island was open for Winterfest which added somewhere around 20 additional operating days.  Yet the claim is that attendance only went up by 85 thousand.

I have spoke to upper management on many occasions and I am very well aware of industry standards and speculations.  For example, from what I have seen, I believe KI had better attendance in 2017 than Cedar Point did (and some prior years btw).  So yea, KI GM probably is upset their park isn't shown higher and simply says the order is wrong and lets you infer from that as you choose...

You mention "using TEA’s own numbers they claim the smallest 7 Cedar Fair parks only have a combined attendance of 10 million and had a combined attendance growth of 426k or 4.5%.  In a year when none of those parks opened a coaster, does that seem reasonable at all?"  Yes possibly.  As I referenced, at Coasterstock this year KI mentioned that 2017 attendance was its largest since the 1998 season.  What did KI install in 1998 - Hanna-Barbara Land got a makeover and rides were added to that area - no major coaster.  Look at all the major additions since 1998 that could not top that year's attendance - Drop Tower, Invertigo, Son of Beast, Tomb Raider, Delirium, Back Lot, Firehawk, Diamondback, WindSeeker, Banshee.  One could argue that adding family attractions drives attendance since the two highest years in 20 years were kiddie/family additions (many people consider Mystic Timbers as a family attraction)...Think about that if our next attraction is more family related and not a giga...

As I mentioned, if the numbers are that wrong or not selling the story Cedar Fair wants sold, being a publicly traded entity, they would dispute the numbers if it wasn't portraying their product in the way they want as anything less than that would devalue their stock price and investor potential...  So if the individual park numbers are wrong but company-wide they are accurate, then the wrong numbers for the individual parks is casting what Cedar Fair believes to be a good sell to investors.  For example, if the Cedar Point numbers are actually lower and its ranking within the Cedar Fair family of parks is lower, they probably don't want to bring that to light as that could be perceived negative to shareholders.  Or if one of the smaller parks is estimated higher than actual, that would be a good sell to investors on why they are making an investment to that particular park. 

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Or perhaps the investors are simply smart enough to see through the TEA's bull****, and Cedar Fair knows that. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why one shouldn't rely on those numbers.

Facts:

  1. TEA claims to have per-park attendance numbers.
  2. Cedar Fair does not publicly release such numbers and keeps them as an internal secret.

Conclusion (that anybody with half a brain can figure out): TEA's numbers are wild speculation at best and bull**** at worst.

Cedar Fair has no need to state the obvious.

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10 hours ago, jcgoble3 said:

Or perhaps the investors are simply smart enough to see through the TEA's bull****, and Cedar Fair knows that. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why one shouldn't rely on those numbers.

Facts:

  1. TEA claims to have per-park attendance numbers.
  2. Cedar Fair does not publicly release such numbers and keeps them as an internal secret.

Conclusion (that anybody with half a brain can figure out): TEA's numbers are wild speculation at best and bull**** at worst.

Cedar Fair has no need to state the obvious.

I guess you should point this out to AECOM shareholders that they are producing a fake document.  If you are so confident these numbers are bull**** then point that out to AECOM attorneys...I am sure they would love to hear your reasoning and methodology to discredit their report...I suspect what you will find is a slander lawsuit... 

This isn't like the Golden Ticket or some fan vote where it is arbitrary in awards and many have assumed/speculated/believe/know that those awards are "bought" or ballots are stuffed.  AECOM is a multi-billion dollar respected global engineering firm that is publicly traded and what would be their incentive to produce a fake document - this annual report equates to less than 0.00001% of their revenue.

Obviously you are not aware of generally accepted industry practices on how to determine these numbers.  It is not a rocket scientist, but you are close - it is typically engineers that do this type of work.  There are standardized practices in how to do this sort of thing.  I would share those techniques but obviously your mind is made up.  It is how engineering companies determine how many vehicles travel a road or bridge per day, traffic counts, estimates of spectators at free events, census counts, Nielson ratings, etc.  Do they count every car that goes through a traffic light for a traffic study - No - but there are tried and true practices to estimate these numbers and conform to generally accepted engineering practices.  Same with estimating number of people that go to an amusement park, shop at Meijer, etc.  Are the numbers perfect - no - even if an individual park released annual numbers I assure you there are dozens of different methodologies you can use to develop the "number" and they used the methodology that provides the number in the best light possible.

I believe that most (if not all) of the entities in these rankings are members of TEA.  You mention two facts - how do you know those facts are not true - maybe these members sign confidentiality clauses with AECOM to provide per park numbers - they may - you don't know whether they do or not and a GM of an individual park probably wouldn't be privy to knowing about that clause either.  I know it happens in other industries when compiling rankings.  The companies listed in the Cincinnati Enquirer Top 100 Privately Owned Companies based on revenue do just that...  How else is a company ranked 12th and for revenue it says DND (Did Not Disclose) - well they DND for paper publishing purposes but provided the number confidentially to the accounting firm putting together the list for the Enquirer in order to be compiled in the rankings.  Maybe the companies provide a methodology for AECOM to use to determine how to split the attendance per their individual parks (ie pie chart representations from company annual report) instead of providing the actual numbers, because as an example, maybe the interpretation of the pie chart allows Magic Kingdom to be the top visited Disney park for marketing and investing purposes.  Since you are alluding that I have half a brain and you have a full brain, you are then obviously aware of the different methodology techniques available to Disney to count visitors to their Lake Buena Vista parks and can utilize the methodology that puts their crown jewel Magic Kingdom at the top of their attendance should they feel the need to do so. 

I assure you that these publicly traded companies have an interest in these numbers being fairly accurate utilizing their counting methodology (or at least representative at selling the product they want sold) because these numbers are used by analysts in the evaluation of the profitability of each company.  Are these numbers perfect, probably not, but these respective companies believe they are representative of selling their product in the best light possible and is probably a better number than you could come up with. 

Each company has their own methodology in counting attendance to present it the best way possible to shareholders while not lying (and it may be hard to believe but it is not as simple as a head count or gate click)...so even if each company did provide individual park numbers, there is still a variable associated with it.  That much I will agree with you on.  But to arbitrarily discount generally accepted engineering/industry practices with no real evidence supporting your statement I believe crosses the line.

 

 

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It does seem to be industry wide with many other parks I have been to not having as much people as one would expect. Theme parks have been posting incredible growth since 2010... its bound to have a down year after so many successful and growing years. 

The 2018 Season during the initial Opening Weekends was incredibly slow, we did not get busy in the park in a day up until Early-Mid May... I blame this entirely on the incredibly cold spring Ohio had up until the second weekend in May.  You may not think weather affects operation and attendance but it truly does. The hot weather in late June and early July discouraged many to go to the main park. Soak City was incredibly crowded but it does not "soak" in as much people like Kings Island does. 

The remark during Coasterstock that 2017 had the best attendance since the 1998 season is not surprising to me if found to be true. 2017 was incredibly busy. Mystic Timbers was a big part of that. The park was great and fairly consistently busy. This year has been more affected by the varying weather than last year. 

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8 hours ago, disco2000 said:

I guess you should point this out to AECOM shareholders that they are producing a fake document.  If you are so confident these numbers are bull**** then point that out to AECOM attorneys...I am sure they would love to hear your reasoning and methodology to discredit their report...I suspect what you will find is a slander lawsuit... 

This isn't like the Golden Ticket or some fan vote where it is arbitrary in awards and many have assumed/speculated/believe/know that those awards are "bought" or ballots are stuffed.  AECOM is a multi-billion dollar respected global engineering firm that is publicly traded and what would be their incentive to produce a fake document - this annual report equates to less than 0.00001% of their revenue.

Obviously you are not aware of generally accepted industry practices on how to determine these numbers.  It is not a rocket scientist, but you are close - it is typically engineers that do this type of work.  There are standardized practices in how to do this sort of thing.  I would share those techniques but obviously your mind is made up.  It is how engineering companies determine how many vehicles travel a road or bridge per day, traffic counts, estimates of spectators at free events, census counts, Nielson ratings, etc.  Do they count every car that goes through a traffic light for a traffic study - No - but there are tried and true practices to estimate these numbers and conform to generally accepted engineering practices.  Same with estimating number of people that go to an amusement park, shop at Meijer, etc.  Are the numbers perfect - no - even if an individual park released annual numbers I assure you there are dozens of different methodologies you can use to develop the "number" and they used the methodology that provides the number in the best light possible.

I believe that most (if not all) of the entities in these rankings are members of TEA.  You mention two facts - how do you know those facts are not true - maybe these members sign confidentiality clauses with AECOM to provide per park numbers - they may - you don't know whether they do or not and a GM of an individual park probably wouldn't be privy to knowing about that clause either.  I know it happens in other industries when compiling rankings.  The companies listed in the Cincinnati Enquirer Top 100 Privately Owned Companies based on revenue do just that...  How else is a company ranked 12th and for revenue it says DND (Did Not Disclose) - well they DND for paper publishing purposes but provided the number confidentially to the accounting firm putting together the list for the Enquirer in order to be compiled in the rankings.  Maybe the companies provide a methodology for AECOM to use to determine how to split the attendance per their individual parks (ie pie chart representations from company annual report) instead of providing the actual numbers, because as an example, maybe the interpretation of the pie chart allows Magic Kingdom to be the top visited Disney park for marketing and investing purposes.  Since you are alluding that I have half a brain and you have a full brain, you are then obviously aware of the different methodology techniques available to Disney to count visitors to their Lake Buena Vista parks and can utilize the methodology that puts their crown jewel Magic Kingdom at the top of their attendance should they feel the need to do so. 

I assure you that these publicly traded companies have an interest in these numbers being fairly accurate utilizing their counting methodology (or at least representative at selling the product they want sold) because these numbers are used by analysts in the evaluation of the profitability of each company.  Are these numbers perfect, probably not, but these respective companies believe they are representative of selling their product in the best light possible and is probably a better number than you could come up with. 

Each company has their own methodology in counting attendance to present it the best way possible to shareholders while not lying (and it may be hard to believe but it is not as simple as a head count or gate click)...so even if each company did provide individual park numbers, there is still a variable associated with it.  That much I will agree with you on.  But to arbitrarily discount generally accepted engineering/industry practices with no real evidence supporting your statement I believe crosses the line.

TL;DR

I don't have the time or interest to read this wall of text. Please try to be more concise.

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25 minutes ago, King Ding Dong said:

Maybe a podcast would have worked better.  :D

That would be even worse. :P I can't dedicate an hour of my life to listening to people talk. I can read a transcript of a podcast in about a quarter of the time it would take to listen to it, maybe a little less than that.

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