A free Special COVID-19 Edition of Amusement Today is available now!

By | April 2, 2020

The Special COVID-19 Edition digital issue showcases the strength of the industry in these challenging times:

  • Industry voices offer their thoughts on what lies ahead
  • Theme parks find silver linings during the shutdowns
  • Manufacturer’s and suppliers forge on
  • Insurance, finance companies find solutions
  • Industry organizations guide members
  • Family-owned parks display hope
  • Carnivals, midways strive onward
  • FECs show themselves eager to welcome back families
  • Water parks look to keep flowing …and more!

FEC international community slack channel created to foster support among entertainment center owners and operators

By | April 9, 2020

CALGARY, Alberta —  A Slack channel has been created specifically for use by owners, operators and other key players in the family entertainment center (FEC) industry so they have a place to come together and share knowledge, best practices and ideas with each other during, and then after, the COVID-19 crisis. Those in the FEC community who would like to participate in the channel and contribute value can request to join at http://fecinternational.org.

Created by a small group within the FEC Community, the Slack channel has grown to include nearly 200 participants around the world within just a few weeks since it was created at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“The seed for the idea actually came from several stakeholders in the FEC community, and we moved quickly and collaboratively to bring it to life because we knew we couldn’t waste any time helping each other navigate the craziness,” says founding member Christine Buhr, Former Owner and President of Shakers Fun Centre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. “There’s a clear need for this new way for all of us to stay in touch with each other, share a variety of ideas and, candidly, sometimes commiserate a bit about many of the issues we’re all struggling with now and working hard to address.”

The FEC International Community on Slack features a variety of channels that participants can use to talk about specific topics amongst all participants or just a few, depending on the nature of the conversation and need. There’s a channel featuring industry news and events, a channel for FEC professionals to become introduced to each other for the first time, a channel for specific needs and requests and, of course, a robust channel specific to COVID-19 given its relevance and immediacy.

While many of the conversations in the COVID-19 are centered on how industry peers are navigating the rough waters around operational and financial matters, there’s also discussion around planning for the recovery period after the pandemic and preparing now for a successful rebound. 

“While the channel was created in light of the struggles FEC owners and operators are dealing with currently, the intent is for the FEC International Community to stay active well beyond this tough period for everyone,” says Buhr. “The friendships, relationships and trust we’re forging now with each other will be strong as a result, and we want to leverage that in the future when things return to normal again.”

In order to join, an interested participant only needs to provide their name, their business name, a little background about their business, and a brief statement about the help they’re seeking.

Visit http://fecinternational.org to request to participate.

Dollywood presents critical items to Sevier Co. first responders, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital

By | April 9, 2020

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — While the novel coronavirus pandemic has forced Dollywood to postpone its season opening, hosts are finding new and creative ways to give back to the community that has supported the park for 35 years.

Two weeks ago, the park provided the Sevier County Food Ministries with a check for more than $16,000 to help shore up the non-profit’s supplies just as it began facing unprecedented demand. Now, two of Dollywood’s hard-working teams have found additional ways to provide crucial items to two important groups.

Last week, Dollywood’s wardrobe and costume shop teams began producing reusable face masks to give to patients, nurses and doctors at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. In one day, the wardrobe team produced 350 masks, while the costume shop team created 250 adult masks and 250 children’s masks over the course of two days. Members of both teams have asked to continue making the masks from home, so company officials will provide supplies currently on hand to allow the teams to produce additional masks. 

“We are blessed to have talented hosts working in our wardrobe and costume shops,” explained Eugene Naughton, Vice President of Dollywood Park Operations. “East Tennessee Children’s Hospital reached out to us to see if we could help, and as soon as we received the call, our teams started working. We knew this was the right thing to do, and our hosts have done an amazing job producing these masks. We’re just glad to do our part.”

Also last week, Dollywood’s safety team provided 200 ponchos to the Sevier County Emergency Management Agency, Pigeon Forge Fire Department and the Sevier County Ambulance Service. Due to the ongoing medical supply shortage, the groups are in dire need of gowns that typically are used to protect first responders from bodily fluids that may be present in scenes where they are needed to perform live-saving measures. When hearing of the need, the park’s safety and merchandise teams knew the stock of Dollywood souvenir ponchos on hand could be used to meet the need. 

“When we heard they were in need of this vital personal protective equipment, we knew we had to find a way to assist,” Naughton explained. “These folks are on the front lines every day and we have to do all we can to keep them safe. We have a close working relationship with these groups—in fact, a number of our EMTs on staff also work for these local agencies—so we’re honored to be able to help them in this way.”

Six Flags increases revolving credit facility to $481 million to provide additional liquidity and financial flexibility

By | April 9, 2020

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — Six Flags Entertainment Corporation (NYSE: SIX), the world’s largest regional theme park company and the largest operator of waterparks in North America, today announced that certain of the company’s revolving credit lenders agreed to provide an incremental $131 million of revolving credit commitments to its senior secured revolving credit facility, increasing the facility from $350 million to $481 million.1

“The increase in our revolving credit facility, combined with actions we have taken to reduce operating expenses and capital expenditures, provides us with significant runway to operate in this uncertain environment,” said Mike Spanos, President and CEO. “I am extremely proud of our team members’ commitment to successfully navigate through this challenging period. We are confident that our resilient team and the underlying strength of our business will enable us to emerge from this crisis even stronger, and we remain committed to driving long-term value for our shareholders. Once we reopen our parks, we will redouble our efforts to profitably grow our base business and pay down debt.”

As previously announced, the company suspended operations of its North American parks beginning March 13, 2020 due to the spread of COVID-19. The company expects to keep its parks closed until at least mid-May and to reopen as soon as possible thereafter.

Preliminary First Quarter Financial Results
The company expects total revenue in the first quarter of 2020 to be $25-$30 million lower than the same period in the prior year, with $9 million of the decline associated with the company’s international agreements. Prior to the park closures, the company’s revenue from its North American theme park operations was higher than the prior year period, primarily driven by higher attendance and higher guest spending per capita. A significant portion of the revenue decline will be offset by cost saving measures the company implemented after the suspension of park operations. Prior to the park closures on March 13, the company paid $21 million in dividends and repurchased $51 million of its 4.875% notes due 2024. The company also invested $53 million in capital expenditures in the first quarter.

COVID-19 Response
The safety and well-being of its guests and team members is the company’s highest priority. The company is also focused on managing the health of the business to ensure it can provide the best guest experience when its parks are able to reopen.

Since closing its parks in March, the company has taken the following actions to reduce operating expenses:

  • Eliminated nearly all of its seasonal labor costs, and positioned itself to maintain this low level until its parks reopen.
  • Announced a 25 percent salary reduction for all executives and salaried employees and a 25 percent reduction in scheduled hours for all full-time hourly employees to 30 hours per week, subject to federal and state minimum requirements.
  • Suspended all advertising and marketing costs.
  • Intends to eliminate at least $30-40 million of additional non-labor operating costs in 2020, including the increased investments the company announced in its fourth quarter 2019 earnings release to improve the guest experiences.

In addition, the company’s board of directors has agreed that no cash retainer fees will be paid in the second quarter of 2020 to any director for service on the Board or any committee of the Board.

To enhance its liquidity, the company is taking proactive steps to address its capital spending for calendar year 2020, including deferring or eliminating at least $40-50 million of discretionary capital projects planned for 2020. In addition, as part of the revolving credit facility increase, the company has agreed to suspend the payment of dividends and the repurchase of its common stock until the earlier of December 31, 2021, or such time as the company terminates the incremental $131 million of the new revolving credit facility commitments.

The company is working with its members and season pass holders to extend their usage privileges to compensate for any lost days and is offering higher-tiered benefits to members in return for maintaining their current payment plans.

Liquidity Update

As of March 31, 2020, the company had cash on hand of $23 million and, including the revolving credit facility increase, net of $21 million of outstanding letters of credit, had $420 million available under its revolving credit facility. The company expects to have ample cushion under its debt covenants until at least the fourth quarter of 2020, even if the parks were to remain closed through September. The company has no debt maturities until 2024.

At this time, the company believes it has sufficient liquidity to meet its cash obligations until the opening of the 2021 operating season. The company estimates that its net cash outflow during the time its operations are fully suspended will be, on average, $30-$35 million per month.2

2020 Guidance and Investor Day

In light of the uncertain operating environment, the company has withdrawn its previously provided 2020 Adjusted EBITDA3 guidance. For the same reason, the company will not hold its previously scheduled investor day on May 28, 2020, and will reschedule it to a later date.

Embed engages, inspires and empowers through a range of initiatives to help partners, customers & friends settle into unsettling times

By | April 9, 2020

Transforming the business of fun since 2001, Embed, the worldwide leader of the cashless business management systems and solutions for the amusement, entertainment and leisure industries has launched a range of initiatives during this unprecedented climate, to weather this storm with our partners, customers and friends, helping them to settle into these unsettling times.

“Embed is a small business with offices all over the world and we are committed to working with our partners and customers, doing absolutely everything we can, within our means to support our industry’s recovery. The best way out of this is through planning ahead, anticipate what can be done and looking for innovative ways of doing things. We believe that even the smallest of initiatives has the potential to impact and transform a person’s life.” said Renee Welsh, CEO, Embed.

Initiatives such as:
1) Educational & Empowering Content
Written in-house by the team, Embed publishes educational and inspiring content three times a week to help customers get through the present (revenue generating ideas via social media) and be ready when business resumes. Topics include 15 Ideas to Engage Your Stay-Home Guests During the Lock-Down to Making Lemonade Out of Lemons and Be A Game Changer During the Covid-19 Crisis. For a list of blog topics, you can refer here.

2) #EmbedLIVE
To help the community navigate through the storm of change, while people work from home, Embed brings the global community together,
with #EmbedLIVE – a series of video chats, that include segments with opinion leaders across our FEC and Attractions industry and a variety of industries. Embed’s CMO, Sara Paz catches up with Embed’s CEO, Renee Welsh, to hear her thoughts and message to the industry. Get more exclusive conversations with the people who matter, when it matters here.  

3) Women@Embed Channel is Live
Embed launched Women@Embed on Int’l Women’s Day, 2020 because Embed wanted to shine a light on the pioneering women in the FEC and Attractions industry. Embed has a Chief Executive team made up of 50% women, with Renee Welsh as the CEO (when only a mere 17% of fortune 500 companies have a female CEO). At Attractions Expo in New Orleans, the Embed team captured the stories of more pioneering women, like Vicki Peek, Director of Marketing, Tilt Studio, and long-time veteran of the FEC industry, starting her career at Nickels & Dimes as a part-time employee. And Alicia Lavay, Brand Director, Vending Times, also shared her journey in the industry. These video stories are published on the YouTube channel for Women@Embed and additional upcoming stories of unstoppable pioneers, like Christine Buhr, Founder, Owner & CEO of Shakers Fun Center, Canada, and many more will be published every week across Embed’s omni-marketing channels.

4) Embed’s very own #clubquarantine Playlist
Social distancing does not mean distant. Embed recognises that music creates a sense of belonging and participation, especially during these unsettling times, so it’s no surprise that Embed employees compiled a list of their favourite tracks to create Embed’s very own #clubquarantine.  Feel free to add the playlist to your Spotify and groove to the music.

This is far from business as usual, but Embed’s e-lights are on. We’re working hard to get through this, together. And together we will.

Contact the U.S. Congress today to ask for technical corrections to CARES Act

By | April 9, 2020

While the previous federal stimulus packages were a good start, they aren’t enough for many of us in the attractions industry.

IAAPA and its members have an opportunity to advocate for even more relief efforts for our industry so we need you to ACT NOW to ensure the needs of the attractions are heard.

Your action is critical, please contact your elected officialsTODAY and urge them to include the following items in any technical clean-up bills or future stimulus funding bills:

• Expand the affiliation code exemption for 500 employees per location to include NAICS 71, the attractions industry NAICS code, to allow members of the attractions industry to be eligible for small business interruption loans.

• Change the CARES Act definition of small business, which is a business with 500 or fewer employees to include small attractions and other industry businesses that may have over 500 employees at a given time, but a substantial percentage of their employees are part-time, seasonal and temporary employees. The current definition doesn’t accurately reflect size for these businesses.

• Provide additional relief for businesses like amusement parks and attractions, which may not be able to fully open once the crisis is over because their businesses, by their very nature, bring groups of people together.

• Increase funding for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Ensuring the attractions industry endures this crisis will require everyone’s participation. Thank you in advance for all you do to support our industry. Please be safe and be healthy and reach out directly to GR@IAAPA.org with any further questions or concerns.

DNP IAM donates supplies to support local front-line medical professionals

By | April 9, 2020

CONCORD, N.C. — DNP Imagingcomm America Corporation (DNP IAM) today announced it will donate 35 Half Face Respirators and several cases of P100 Filter Cartridges to local hospitals for distribution. The donation of supplies helps support the safety of front-line medical providers as they treat patients with COVID-19.

Half Face Respirators prevent the inhalation of harmful substances, making them critical for working medical professionals during this challenging time. The masks are made of 100% medical-grade silicone and can be disinfected. The P100 cartridges are effective at filtering out 99.97% of solid and oil-based particles, making it possible to safely reuse the respirators over a long period of time.

“We are very grateful to be able to help our local healthcare providers during this tough and uncertain time,” says Shinichi Yamashita, President of DNP Imagingcomm America Corporation. “We are proud of our local community and want to show support for the medical professionals who help keep us safe not just during this time, but in our everyday lives.”

DNP IAM continues to monitor the changing situation concerning COVID-19 and is taking action toward doing its part in preventing the spread of the virus. The health and safety of employees and customers is DNP’s priority while also providing support to the local community.

S&S Statement: Letter to our friends concerning COVID-19

By | April 9, 2020

To Our Friends in the Amusement Industry:

It has already been said by many, but we are living through an unprecedented time! Even though this global pandemic has been a shock to all of us, we can’t imagine a better group of people to band together in a spirit of unity, creativity and ingenuity to bring our industry back to prosperity. Despite the daily barrage of discouraging news, we at S&S are optimistic that our industry has a bright future that will be here sooner rather than later. With an attitude of optimism, S&S is proud to share some encouraging news with all of you:

  • In accordance with globally recognized COVID-19 safety guidelines, S&S has stayed open for business. We have implemented a work from home program for many of our employees. We have adopted social distancing and sanitation standards for all employees still working in our factory which has resulted in no negative health impact to our employees. Our employees are our most vital asset and we are grateful for their safety, positive attitudes and hard work.
  • S&S is exempt from any potential shelter-in-place closures enforced by local or state governments based on our manufacturing status. Because of this, we are thrilled to announce that we can support our customers with new projects for deliveries as soon as Memorial Day weekend of 2021.
  • Additionally, S&S has not experienced any significant supply chain disruptions.  Our key vendors have also been identified by local governments as exempt from potential closures. Our current and future spare part inventory levels are secure. 
  • S&S has been in business for over 25 years.  The principles of wise financial management and hard work that have helped us through difficult economic challenges of the past will serve to help us endure this current pandemic event. It is important to note that S&S has a publicly traded and well-managed ownership group in Sansei Technologies.
  • S&S has multiple projects in various stages of completion that we anticipate being completed in full and according to our customers’ various schedules.
  • We are seeing positive movement with our customers in China with regards to spare parts orders and scheduled park openings. We believe this is a sign of things to come in Europe and North America.
  • It is the company-wide commitment of S&S to continue to serve and strengthen the amusement industry.  Our 24-7 service hotline remains open and available to support customers with their needs. Most S&S rides can be accessed remotely for diagnostic assistance.  

We cannot stress enough the gratitude we feel to be part an industry so full of wonderful, creative, intelligent and caring people. We offer this letter as a statement to the industry that we are fully committed to support the recovery of the greatest industry in the world.

Six Flags America donates 1,440 ponchos in fight against COVID-19

By | April 9, 2020

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted medical supplies across the region and many hospitals are struggling to maintain stable inventories.

Six Flags America donated 1,440 plastic ponchos to Doctors Community Hospital in Prince Georges County in response to their request for supplies.

“While our park is temporarily closed, we are grateful to be able to fill this critical need for the community and help those on the front lines of this health crisis,” said Park President Rick Howarth.

Obituary for Patricia B. Rolle Bennett

By | April 8, 2020

Patricia Rolle Bennett, 69, of Lavallette, NJ, passed away Thursday, April 2, 2020.

Born in Lakewood, NJ, she grew up on Pelican Island and resided on West Point Island in Lavallette.
She was a 1968 graduate of St. Joseph High School, now Donovan Catholic High School.

Patricia is the 3rd generation of the Rolle family to operate a boardwalk business. She owned Strand Skilo on the Seaside Park Boardwalk for many years. Together, with her husband Robert, they owned several other prominent boardwalk businesses for years.

Patty served as a Board of Director for over 30 years on the New Jersey Amusement Association. She was a Past President and served in many roles, as well as being a lifetime member.

Patty also served on the International Amusement Association Parks & Attractions (IAAPA) on the Applause Committee for many years.

She was predeceased by her parents, Frederick J. Jr. and Barbara Rolle and her brother Frederick “Fritz” J. Rolle, III.
Patricia is survived by her husband, Robert Bennett, who owned and operated Casino Pier and many other local Seaside Heights Boardwalk Business, her sister and brother in law Michele & Gary Bodeep of Boca Raton , FL, a niece Kimberle Samarelli of Pelican Island, a nephew Frederick J Rolle IV of Boston and a great niece and nephew Samantha and James Samarelli, Jr. She leaves behind many other close friends and family.

A Celebration of Life will be held later in the year.

Timothy E. Ryan Home for Funerals, 145 St. Catherine Blvd., Toms River is in charge of the arrangements. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Donovan Catholic High School, 711 Hooper Ave, Toms River, NJ 08753 in Patty Bennett’s memory

Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting www.ryanfuneralhome.com.

Intercard outfits another Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl And Grill

By | April 8, 2020

ST. LOUIS — Intercard has completed installation of its cashless technology at the fun center of the Uncle Buck’s FishBowl & Grill restaurant at a Bass Pro Shop location in Vancouver, Canada. Intercard has outfitted four other centers for the award-winning restaurant chain; the others are in Altoona, Iowa; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Peoria, Illinois and Harlingen, Texas.

The full-service restaurants, which invite guests to “bowl in the ocean” amid underwater scenery and eat in a nautical-themed restaurant and full-service bar, offer casual family dining in an immersive environment for visitors of all ages.

The new fun center will complement the bowling offering with a variety of family-friendly video and arcade games, including today’s newest interactive hits and classic favorites. Operating on Intercard’s cashless technology, the arcade features a series of amusement and redemption games, a full-service redemption counter and a variety of great prizes. Player One Amusement Group supplies the games.

“Intercard’s cashless technology gives Uncle Buck’s management capabilities beyond what they had before, including the ability to remotely manage games from mobile devices and stay in business even if a fun center’s Internet connection goes down,” says Scott Sherrod, CEO of Intercard. “We are also proud to be partnering with another innovative company from our home state of Missouri.”