Could Missouri Lose One Of It’s Iconic Theme Parks?
Last week the parent companies of Six Flags St. Louis and Worlds of Fun announced that the two theme park giants would be merging. What does this mean for fans of Worlds of Fun and Six Flags St. Louis?
In the short term, like next summer, park visitors probably won't notice many changes. The deal has to go through regulatory approval, so a lot of changes or incorporation of the best parts of both companies into one new company probably won't be noticeable to the public until the spring of 2025.
A lot of amusement park and coaster enthusiasts have been focusing on the intellectual property that the two companies license. Notably, the Peanuts characters at Cedar Fair parks, as well as the Looney Tunes characters and superhero-themed rides at Six Flags parks.
Questions abound, will the parks keep separate identities? Will there be name changes on rides or re-themed rides? Will Cedar Fair parks still have the Peanuts gang and Six Flags Bugs and his friends? Or will the combined company jettison some of those licensed properties and standardize the experience at all parks?
Lost in all of this is the fact that some of the combined company's amusement parks could close, especially the ones that aren't monster revenue generators for Six Flags or Cedar Fair. That's bad news for Missouri residents because neither Six Flags St. Louis nor Worlds of Fun is a monster revenue generator.
Theme Park Insider lists both Worlds of Fun and Six Flags St. Louis as "Definitely Touchable." They write, "A little over half of these parks are located in major metro areas, which offer the upside of access to many potential local visitors, along with the downside of potentially high real estate values that could make the parks a lucrative sales opportunity."
So why would the combined company choose to close one of their Missouri parks or any of their parks? Money and profit. According to Theme Park Insider, parks that don't generate significant revenue to the bottom line may be considered expendable because the amusement business requires a significant capital investment in each park and it might be better for the bottom line to close some of the parks and invest in the ones that return more cash. Additionally, many of the rides from the closed parks could be relocated to other parks as "new" rides.
This doesn't mean Missouri will lose either park. The merger isn't one where one company gobbled up another and added a significant amount of debt that needs to be serviced, so that's good. The second part, and this is just my speculation, neither park is centrally located where people in St. Louis or Kansas City could reasonably be expected to drive to the "other" park for a one-day trip. People just won't do that, so there may be motivation to keep both parks.
There's also a wildcard in the mix. Silver Dollar City Company. They own Silver Dollar City in Branson and a few other Branson attractions. My question and this is just me wondering. If the combined Six Flags-Cedar Fair wanted to reduce its park count, might Silver Dollar City be interested in expanding its portfolio with Worlds of Fun or Six Flags St. Louis?
At this point, the only park that will be closing is Cedar Fair's Great America in Santa Clara. They sold the land the park is on last year, and need to have park operations discontinued within 10 years. It wouldn't surprise me if that closure happens sooner rather than later with the new combined company.
As for our Missouri theme parks, we'll just have to wait and see how the merger shakes out.
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