Cedar Fair Announces Planned Leadership Succession

By | October 4, 2017

SANDUSKY, Ohio — Cedar Fair Entertainment Company (NYSE: FUN), a leader in regional amusement parks, water parks and active entertainment, today announced that Richard Zimmerman, its president and chief operating officer, will succeed Matt Ouimet as chief executive officer effective January 1, 2018.  On the same date, Ouimet will take the newly created role of executive chairman of the board of directors and Debra Smithart-Oglesby will become lead independent director. As part of this process, Zimmerman will also be added to the board of directors during the 2018 annual meeting period.  These changes are designed to ensure continuity in leadership as the Company pursues its ongoing strategy of investing in broadening entertainment offerings and new attractions to create greater excitement for guests, and positioning itself to produce strong results for many years to come.

“I have very much appreciated the opportunity to serve as the CEO of Cedar Fair and I am proud of what our team has accomplished,” said Ouimet.  “The market value of Cedar Fair has increased by more than $2.6B during my time at the company.  This performance provides us with a solid foundation to build upon and a positive outlook for the future.  Richard is a perfect choice to succeed me as CEO and I look forward to continuing to partner with him as the executive chairman going forward.”

Zimmerman, age 57, has more than 30 years of experience in the hospitality and leisure entertainment industry.  He became president of Cedar Fair in 2016, having been named COO in 2011 after serving as an executive vice president since 2007.   He also served as vice president and general manager of the Kings Dominion amusement park beginning in 1998.  Prior to entering the amusement park industry, Zimmerman served in various financial and strategic planning roles with Paramount Communications, Inc.

“Richard has the skills and experience required to lead the company forward,” Ouimet stated.  “He has been a great thought partner to me and has made major contributions to our strong performance, including being a key driver behind such successful initiatives as Fast Lane, season passes and our all-season dining and beverage programs.”

“Having the opportunity to lead Cedar Fair is a distinct yet humbling honor,” said Zimmerman.  “We are fortunate to have an exceptional organization with a deep and talented leadership team.  We are also fortunate to be a leader in an industry that continues to have the potential to grow and expand.   I look forward to the opportunity to continue broadening our offerings to better serve our guests, as well as providing long-term value for our investors.”

In conjunction with Ouimet’s move to executive chairman of the board of directors, the Company also noted effective January 1, 2018, Eric Affeldt will transition from his role as chairman of the board but will continue to serve as a director. Since joining the board in 2010 and assuming the chairman role in 2012, Affeldt has overseen improvements in Cedar Fair’s corporate strategy and governance standards, increased board diversity, improved alignment of executive compensation with unitholder interests, and supported enhanced investor relations.  He also led the development of the senior leadership succession plan the Company is announcing today.

“We are fortunate to have someone with Debra’s skills and board experience to take on the role of lead independent director,” said Affeldt.  “Debra has been a valuable voice in all of our deliberations and will be an even greater asset in her new role as lead independent director.”

Tom Mehrmann named President and General Manager for Universal Beijing Theme Park and Resort

By | October 4, 2017

ORLANDO, Fla. — Universal Parks & Resorts has named Tom Mehrmann as president and general manager for Universal Beijing Theme Park and Resort, a world-class entertainment destination now under construction in Beijing.

Mr. Mehrmann will play a lead role in the continued development of Universal Beijing. Once the destination is complete, he will oversee its opening and ongoing daily operations.  He will report to Page Thompson, president and chief operating officer –International, Universal Parks & Resorts.

Mr. Mehrmann comes to Universal Parks & Resorts from the Ocean Park Corporation, the Hong Kong marine life and animal theme park, where he served as chief executive officer for 13 years.  In addition to managing day-to-day operations there, he led a redevelopment of the theme park that resulted in record-breaking attendance and annual revenue growth.  Prior to his time at Ocean Park, Mr. Mehrmann held a series of positions at Knotts Berry Farm, Six Flags and other themed entertainment companies.

“Tom will bring tremendous industry knowledge, business acumen and international experience to our project,” said Mr. Thompson.  “He has exactly what we and our partners need to help create a world-class theme park entertainment destination.”

Universal Beijing is being built in partnership with the Beijing Shouhuan Cultural Tourism Investment Co., Ltd., a consortium of five Beijing state-owned enterprises, and Universal Parks & Resorts.  Universal Beijing will initially occupy a 147-hectare (approximately 363-acre) site located in the Tongzhou District of Beijing.  The theme park will be accompanied by a Universal CityWalk entertainment complex and two hotels, including a first-ever Universal themed hotel.  The theme park will include all-new attractions designed especially for China as well as some of Universal’s most popular themed entertainment experiences from around the world.

Eastern States Exposition breaks attendance record; 1,525,553 attend the 2017 Big E

By | October 2, 2017

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A record number of visitors attended The Big E, in West Springfield, Mass., breaking the Fair’s all-time high attendance figure, with a final tally of 1,525,553. The previous record, of 1,498,605, was set in 2014. October 1 attendance was 137,208, also a new record for the final Sunday of the 17-day Fair.

During the Fair’s run, the all-time highest single day attendance record was also broken when 171,897 visitors attended Saturday, Sept. 23. Three additional daily attendance records were set: Sept. 21, 85,019; Sept. 28, 89,905; and Sept. 29, 109,871.

Eugene J. Cassidy, president and chief executive officer of the Exposition, said, “I am humbled to see the incredible support of Eastern States Exposition by our loyal fair patrons. The 2017, 101st edition of The Big E broke records again, recording for the first time in history over 1.5 million guests. Patrons of New England’s Great State Fair braved days of punishing temperatures that pushed the heat index to above 100 degrees, they endured a 55 degree drop in temperature accompanied by rain, and yet they came in great numbers to participate in, enjoy and support this organization and all it stands for.”

Great gates thus far at the Easter States Exposition

By | September 28, 2017

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Big E – Eastern States Exposition – has set two attendance records thus far during the fair’s 2017 run.

On Saturday, Sept. 23, 171,897 passed through the gates, the highest all-time single day attendance. Thursday, Sept. 21,  saw 85,019 visitors, a record for that day.

The 2017 edition of The Big E concludes Sunday.

North American Amusement Midway Entertainment provides the midway.

Fletcher’s Original State Fair Corny Dogs Celebrates 75th Anniversary

By | September 28, 2017

DALLAS, Texas – The State Fair of Texas is excited to announce that 2017 is the 75th Anniversary of Fletcher’s Original State Fair Corny Dogs! To commemorate the special occasion, the Fletcher family has planned a number of surprises and activities for fairgoers throughout the duration of this year’s Fair.

On Opening Day and each Friday of the Fair, all seven Fletcher’s Original State Fair Corny Dog concession stands will give away FREE Original Corny Dogs to its first 75 customers. Fletcher’s will also be selling their Jalapeño Cheese Corny Dog, Turkey Corny Dog and the Veggie Corny Dog at each location. A mural highlighting the successful history of Fletcher’s at the State Fair of Texas will also be featured inside the Tower Building. On Saturday, September 30 at 2 p.m., join the Fletcher family at their newest concession trailer on the Thrillway to take your picture with Mr. Corny and wish them a happy anniversary. You will have the opportunity to receive some Fletcher’s swag! Throughout the Fair, the Fletcher’s will announce more celebration activities through the official Fletcher’s Original State Fair Corny Dog’s Facebook and Twitter page.

The Fletcher family’s history at the Fair dates back to 1942, when Neil and Carl Fletcher opened their first concession stand on the Midway. The duo gave fairgoers bite-sized portions to introduce their new invention. Today, the all-meat sausages dipped in a secret-recipe batter and deep fried in vegetable shortening to a golden brown, is considered a staple for many fairgoers, with more than 600,000 Corny Dogs sold last year during the 24-day run of the Fair.

Earlier this year, the late Fletcher’s patriarch, Neil “Skip” Fletcher, Jr., passed away. Dubbed the “Corny Dog King,” Skip learned the art and trade of the corny dog business from his father. Although this will be the first year without Skip Fletcher, the Fletcher family will continue his legacy throughout the 2017 season of the State Fair of Texas and beyond.

For 6th Consecutive Year, Polin Waterparks Honored With European Star Award

By | September 27, 2017

TURKEY — Polin Waterparks is honored to announce that, for the sixth year in a row, it has been honored with multiple European Star Awards. This year, the prizes were bestowed in the categories of “Europe’s Best Waterslides” and “Europe’s Best Waterparks.” Polin received the recognition at this year’s Euro Attractions Show (EAS) during a special ceremony on Sept. 25 at the Columbia Theatre in Berlin, Germany. The event took place the evening before the official kick-off of EAS, the largest attractions exhibition in the amusement industry. 
With an expansive footprint, the EAS show floor boasts more than 500 exhibiting companies from around the world, representing more than 130 product categories. As the foundation of the EAS, 2017’s trade show floor offers attendees the chance to gain a first look at some of the up-and-coming products, services and technologies in the industry.
Park operators and manufacturers were awarded their prizes personally after an independent, international trade jury voted for and ranked the most remarkable attractions, waterslides, rollercoasters and theme parks in Europe. Awardees were recognized for entrepreneurial courage and exceptional innovations within the European theme park industry. The prizes are considered a rare distinction for attraction designers and theme parks, proving their exceptional achievements.
Of particular note regarding this year’s event, Polin’s innovative King Cobra waterslide earned an award for the fourth time in six years. This year’s recognition was as the First Place European Star Award for the “Best Waterslide in Europe” category.

King Cobra’s accolades
King Cobra has won numerous awards since its debut. The waterslide is unique in its thrilling ride. As a whole, however, it is considered a game-changing waterslide because of its compelling appearance; it is the first in the world that offers its own theming built directly into the fiberglass. When installed with its original theme, it features bold red, black and white scales that create an imposing veneer over both its exterior and interior. Its sheer size also gains respect: It reaches a massive height of 50 feet (15.24 meters) with a length of 260 feet (790 meters). Yet, parks have many options with the impressive slide, because it can also be designed to match a park’s own theming, being customized with unending variations.

In total, Polin achieves seven awards 
Polin’s awards didn’t end with its accolades for King Cobra, however. Polin also was honored with seven additional awards in partnership with waterparks that feature its waterslides. Polin gave kudos to these parks in providing them with the perfect facilities in which to showcase its waterslides.

“We truly owe a debt of gratitude to the park owners who put their faith in us to deliver waterslides that create such dedicated fans – fans who come back over and over to be able to experience our rides,” said Sohret Pakis, Director of Marketing and Communications for Polin, who was on hand to accept the award. “We rely on our partners to help us continually innovate our products to meet their and their guests’ highest expectations. We congratulate them all and all the winners.”  

IAAPA Announces North American and European Management Transitions

By | September 26, 2017

ORLANDO, Fla., US –  The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) today announced the departure of long-time attraction and hospitality industry veteran Richard M. Jackson, vice president of IAAPA North American Operations. Karen Staley, senior vice president of IAAPA EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) Operations, will assume the role of senior vice president of North American Operations, effective Sept. 30, 2017. In addition,Jakob Wahl, who recently rejoined the IAAPA EMEA office, will succeed Staley as vice president of EMEA Operations.

“During his tenure, Richard had a significant impact on the growth of our member base and enhanced the association’s focus of providing outstanding service to our members throughout North America,” said Paul Noland, president and CEO of IAAPA. “He worked closely with our global headquarters team to connect attraction operators and industry suppliers with valuable resources, while creating and facilitating many meetings and networking events throughout the region. We thank Richard for his many contributions to IAAPA and for strengthening the support we could offer to our North American members.”

Karen Staley Named Senior Vice President, North American Operations 
Succeeding Jackson will be veteran IAAPA team member Karen Staley, who most recently served as senior vice president of IAAPA EMEA Operations, and managed the regional office in Brussels, Belgium. Staley will relocate to IAAPA’s global headquarters in Orlando, Florida to lead the continued expansion of North American member services and programs. Staley will report to Doug Stagner, chief operating officer of IAAPA.

“Karen’s leadership has been instrumental in establishing and expanding our Europe, Middle East, and African region. She has a proven record of successfully developing and maintaining key partnerships and alliances,” said Noland. “Her strategic vision, including the execution of our annual Euro Attractions Show (EAS), has significantly enhanced IAAPA’s global presence and will be invaluable as we take our North American operations to the next level.”

Having more than a decade of service to IAAPA, Staley joined the association in 2004 as manager of marketing and exhibit sales for IAAPA’s conference and trade shows in the United States, Europe, and Asia. In 2006, she assumed the role of operations manager for IAAPA Europe and the Euro Attractions Show (EAS). She was promoted to director of operations in 2008, named deputy director of IAAPA Europe in 2009, and executive director in 2010.


Jakob Wahl Appointed Vice President, EMEA Operations
Jakob Wahl returns to the IAAPA EMEA office to serve as vice president of EMEA Operations, leading the Brussels office to support EMEA member services. He joined the IAAPA team in 2009 as a program manager for several years, and most recently served as director of communications and executive assistant to management at Europa-Park.  Wahl will also report to Stagner.


“We are pleased to welcome Jakob back to IAAPA. His return will ensure a seamless transition so that our North American and European members are continuously provided with optimal levels of service and support,” said Noland.

“VR Splash Cabin” Fully immerses guests into gaming experience

By | September 22, 2017

TURKEY — Polin Waterparks (Turkey) & Lagotronics (Netherlands) are taking the  experience to the next level with the new “Virtual-Reality Splash Cabin” aquatic attraction.

Using the latest technology in VR goggles, along with handheld shooters, guests will enter an otherworldly environment in which they will feel they are floating along streams and through villages on a remote island.. As they encounter a variety of different situations, they will participate in the greatest water battle of their lives, competing against other players to earn points and “stay alive.”

The next level of “Splash Cabin” gaming

Last fall, Polin introduced the Splash Cabin at IAAPA. That version of the game allows two players to engage in a fun, water-fueled battle with animated competitors using an interactive screen and mounted water shooters. Guests don 3D glasses – either Oculus Rift or HTC Vive – and play from inside a beach-bungalow-style cabin, scoring points by hitting moving targets while trying to avoid being hit themselves by waterjets shooting from screen-embedded nozzles.

The first installation of the Splash Cabin was announced last month when it opened at Aquafantasy Waterpark in Selçuk, İzmir, Turkey.

As Polin continuously innovates its product line via its recently certified Research and Development division as and R&D center, it partners with world-leading experts to develop games unlike any others on the market. For Splash Cabin, Polin partnered with Lagotronics (Venlo, Netherlands), a specialty firm that creates state-of-the-art technology and innovative solutions.

Advantages of the newest innovation

Now, Polin’s and Lagotronics’ second collaboration – the VR Splash Cabin – will be unveiled, pushing the envelope by using VR glasses and handheld water shooters. For smaller parks, the VR Splash Cabin covers a smaller footprint compared to its 3D Splash Cabin cousin. The VR version requires a space of 3.8 meters long x 3.6 meters wide of space (12.5 feet long x 12 feet wide).

The VR version creates a full 360-degree experience using the highest-resolution virtual-reality equipment on the market. Players will experience being “inside the game” while defending themselves using fully robust and durable water shooters. Players will be doused with water splashes – controlled by Polin’s system – according to their game play.

An interactive experience unlike any other
Mark Beumers, CEO of Lagotronics Projects, says most consumers’ experiences to date with virtual-reality gaming have been with home-based consumer devices. “But the VR Splash Cabin allows them to finally feel the power of a true VR experience. When they enter the Splash Cabin and put on their VR goggles, they will believe they truly are lost on a remote island. Our interactive hardware is a powerful system, and guests will feel its breadth in this new aquatic attraction.”
Ali Cansun, Polin’s R&D Director, believes the VR Splash Cabin offers guests an experience they won’t find anywhere else in the world. “The state-of-the-art hardware, software and waterplay components provide the greatest interactive VR experience possible,” he says. “And we’re not beholden to any particular company’s VR equipment when it comes to the future. As the products improve, we will switch brands accordingly to ensure guests get the best available VR glasses in the world.”

In Response to Hurricane Harvey: Extension on IAAPA Attractions Expo 2017

By | September 19, 2017

With the Atlantic hurricane season well underway, many of you may have experienced the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. We send our best wishes for a swift recovery to each of you and hope your facilities and attractions are either unaffected or back to full operation.

We understand your focus may have been on recovery from the recent hurricanes and we want to help in any way possible. We have extended our Super Saver Registration Rate for IAAPA Attractions Expo 2017 to Tuesday, Oct. 31 for anyone whose business is located in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, and surrounding regions. Our hope is this extension will allow your team to still receive our best rate to attend IAAPA Attractions Expo 2017 as you continue to move forward post hurricane. Please use the following promotional codes to take advantage of this special offer:

IAAPA Member and Nonmember Extension of Super Saver Rate: HEART

Promo code instructions are available on the FAQ page and here.

Orlando, Florida was in the path of Hurricane Irma. As of Sept. 17, all properties (Orange County Convention Center, hotels, parks, etc.) involved in the production of IAAPA Attractions Expo are fully operational. Together we look forward to seeing you here in Orlando this November.

Revenge Of The Mummy at Universal Studios Orlando Wins Tenth Consecutive Golden Ticket Award For The World’s Best Indoor Roller Coaster

By | September 17, 2017

Baltimore, MD — Amusement Today has announced the winners of its prestigious Golden Ticket Awards which are presented to the “Best of the Best” in the amusement industry.  The awards were presented at historic Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut during the 20th Annual Golden Ticket Awards Ceremony.   In the 2017 Amusement Today international poll, experienced park enthusiasts voted Universal Studios Orlando’s Revenge of the Mummy as the Best Indoor Roller Coaster in the world.

Universal Creative Engineer Eric Kaminsky, on behalf of Executive Vice President of Resort Operations Richard Costales, proudly accepted the award stating, “Thank you to our Operations Team and our Maintenance Team for keeping this amazing attraction going every day.  At this point between all three Universal parks that have a Mummy attraction, we have given over 150 million riders the opportunity to experience the Revenge of the Mummy, which is great, so thank you!”

Kaminsky added, “Revenge of the Mummy is an awesome ride!  We have received this award a number of times, so hats off to Jim Seay and the Premier Team for providing us with a really great ride experience.”

Jim Seay, President of Premier Rides, remarked, “We at Premier Rides are honored to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Universal Team that produced the Revenge of the Mummy attraction.  It was exciting to work on this technically complex and sophisticated attraction, and we enjoy continuing to support its impressive reliability.   We are pleased that it continues to garner global acclaim, even defending its position as the world’s best indoor coaster for a full decade!  All of us at Premier Rides are honored that Universal continues to keep us a part of their formula for success and we are thrilled each time we are selected to deliver award-winning attractions to Universal Resorts located both domestically and around the globe.”

The Revenge of the Mummy attraction plunges guests into total darkness as they face fireballs, scarab beetles, and an army of warrior mummies on a psychological thrill ride, unlike anything else.   This highly-themed attraction uses the latest technologies such as magnetic propulsion systems, high speed track switches and show elements to create the ultimate guest experience.  It’s no wonder this combination of the thrill of a coaster, the fear of darkness and breath-taking interactive scenes continues to earn the distinction of Best Indoor Coaster.  Fans of Revenge of the Mummy can also experience The Revenge of the Mummy, at Universal Studios Singapore.  A variation of this award-winning layout can also be enjoyed at Universal Studios Hollywood.