Spotlight on Business Growth: Improving the Outlook For 2011

March 23, 2011 No Comments

March 23, 2011

While the worst part of what has almost unanimously been called the worst recession since the Great Depression is seemingly over, smart owners and managers of leisure entertainment facilities are looking for new ways to improve their profitability picture in 2011 and beyond. And adopting such a stance, rather than counting on the recovery alone to get the job done, is the best course of action.

“No matter how much unemployment drops and small businesses become more profitable, consumer spending will never return to pre-recession levels,” stated Randy White, CEO of White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group, in a recent blog entry on his consulting firm’s Web site. “You can call it by many different names, the new frugality, the ‘smarties,’ the strategic consumer, the grounded consumer, but the bottom line is that the Great Recession has brought about a permanent shift in consumer values, behaviors, and spending patterns. The days of conspicuous consumption are dead. We have moved from mindless to mindful consumption. There will not be a recovery in the sense of returning to the good old economy. This is the new normal.” For those entities that make their money selling entertainment, he added, this means thinking out of the box a bit in terms of promoting a sunnier financial outlook.

For some leisure entertainment facilities, taking a stab at improving profitability this year means introducing or augmenting strategies for giving guests more for their money, in turn cultivating increased repeat business instead of being forced to incur marketing expenditures aimed at attracting first-time visitors. Cedar Fair Entertainment Co.’s Carowinds, in Charlotte, N.C., represents a good example: From June 27 through August 7, the park will offer extended operating hours until 10 p.m. rather than closing at 9 p.m. or earlier on certain days. Bart Kinzel, vice president and general manager, said the extra time in the park, coupled with a light-and-sound spectacular featuring Snoopy and the PEANUTS ™ gang that will cap off the later closings, will not only add value to the guests’ experience at Carowinds, but will give them a concrete reason to stay there longer than they may have planned, and to spend more money in the bargain.

Carowinds has also instituted special deals on multiple season pass purchases completed before May 29. Gold passes, which include free parking and admission to the park’s SCarowinds Halloween event in the fall, are $69.99 apiece, rather than the regular price of $79.99, when consumers buy four or more. Individuals who purchase a minimum of platinum passes, which also offer free parking and SCarowinds admission as well as admission to all amusement parks and outdoor waterparks operated by Cedar Fair, pay $155 per pass instead of $165.

Similarly, Camden Park in Huntington, W.V.., put its 2011 season passes on sale at $59.99 each, a 40 percent discount off the regular admission price, through the end of March. The purchase of four or more such passes entitles visitors to free parking; a discount season parking pass, available for $14.99 to those consumers requiring fewer than four passes, has been introduced as well. A park spokesperson reported that seasonal pass sales appear to be up over those recorded last year.

For other leisure entertainment facilities, new or enhanced profit centers are on the menu, with parties topping the list. Chuck E. Cheese’s (CEC Entertainment) saw a 3.9 percent increase in comparable store sales and a 17 percent increase in birthday party revenues during the last quarter of 2010. Richard Huston, executive vice president, attributed these results in large part to the addition of new Ticket Blaster units at all 550 company-owned and franchised locations. Only children attending “registered” birthday parties at a Chuck E. Cheese’s facility may take a turn inside one of the units, which resemble glass capsules, and attempt to grab as many flying prize tickets as time permits. A promotion intended to encourage more consumers to book more expensive parties on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, rather than during the week, has been playing a role in enhanced birthday party revenues, according to Huston.

Meanwhile, in a twist on a children’s party strategy used by some museums and aquariums in recent years, Prime Time Family Entertainment Center in Abilene, Texas,  has instituted a menu of after-hours, adult-oriented “lock-in” parties that start at 12:30 a.m. on weekend nights and last for three or four hours. The parties, which according to Director of Integrated Services Dan Decker were instituted to pump up profits by giving the facility access to the larger group market, include unlimited bowling, unlimited billiards, and a $10 arcade card, plus access to bumper cars, NASCAR simulators and an XD theater. Organizers pay $20 per guest for a three-hour party and $24 per guest for a four-hour party. Optional “add-ons” encompass one hour of pizza and desserts at $5 per guest, two hours of dancing, at $100, and a one-hour, unlimited breakfast buffet at $8 per guest.

What’s more, while zoos and aquariums have been organizing summer and school vacation camps for a few years, family entertainment centers are getting into the act with increasingly more sophisticated offerings. In addition to after-school care during the school year, Adventure Park USA in New Market, Md., which according to Owner Jerry C. Davis is Maryland’s largest family entertainment center, will offer an eight-week summer camp for kids ages 5 to 13. As an adjunct to on-site activities, the camp will offer trips to other area attractions, such as the Baltimore Zoo and a local waterpark.

Industry News

A Remembrance


QubicaAMF’s William “Bill” Merrick 
November 22, 1952 – January 20, 2011

William “Bill” Merrick, who passed away early this year, was amusement sales manager for QubicaAMF Worldwide. He came to work for AMF Bowling as a district sales manager for Florida in 1991, spending five years managing and developing this region. In 1996, Bill joined Qubica Worldwide where he was responsible for the set-up of Qubica’s United States distribution network, growing United States sales and the development of Highway66 mini-bowling. With the merger in 2005, Bill began heading sales for the Amusement Division in North America.

Bill’s passion and dedication for bowling and Highway66 could not go unnoticed. He established a strong network of friends in the bowling and amusement industries. “We lost a valuable peer and co-worker in Bill, but more importantly we lost a friend,” said a spokesperson for QubicaAMF Worldwide.

Barron Games Experiences a Successful Amusement Expo 2011

The Barron Games booth at Amusement Expo 2011 had a great turnout, and the company experienced a successful show. The company featured redemption video game Hit Hit Amazon, the Jungle Hoki Baby, which is an Air Hockey table for toddlers, and their newest four-player air hockey table, the Quad Air.

There was a lot of buzz going around the show about Quad Air.  This four-player table is not only an eye-catching centerpiece, but also introduces a new way of playing air hockey. (Quad Air will be ready to ship in April.)

Additionally, Barron Games was a finalist in the Amusement Expo’s 2011 Innovator Awards.  Entered in the competition was the Genesis 2-Player Air Hockey Table.  The Genesis is the epitome of the next generation of commercial redemption air hockey tables.  It has a powder-coated red finish and professional ice hockey rink surface design.    
The company would like to give a special thank you to everyone that stopped by its booth at the show.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Hires New Horticulture Manager Rob McCartney

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s Facility Operations Division recently welcomed Rob McCartney as the new manager of Horticulture.

As head of the zoo’s horticulture staff, McCartney is responsible for the care and maintenance of all the plants, flowers and trees on the zoo’s 183 acres. And he’s just in time to help open the zoo’s new exhibit, African Elephant Crossing on May 5.

“(Retiring horticulture manager) Don Krock and his team are well-known for the hallmark gardens created over the years here at the zoo,” McCartney said. “To work in an environment that successfully combines the natural elements of plants and animals is truly an art. Visitors come to see the animals and are pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the landscape and gardens.”

A native of Maumee, Ohio, McCartney currently resides in Michigan where he has been running his own independent landscape design and consulting firm with a focus on sustainability. He began his career at the former SeaWorld of Ohio as manager of horticulture and later became director of horticulture at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Mich. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in horticulture at Ohio State University.

McCartney has experience with many kinds of garden displays, and knowledge of an extensive array of specimen plants, turf, pathways, ponds, streams, greenhouses, woodlands and wetlands.

Busch Gardens Offers Ticket Promotion for Virginia Residents

For guests looking to spend time at the park with a friend, Busch Gardens recently announced an offer for Virginia residents unlike any other in the park’s 36-year history. Virginia residents who purchase a single-day ticket online can receive a second ticket free. The Bring a Friend for Free promotion is a great way for friends and families to experience all the park has to offer – together.

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