Archive for January, 2011

Cedar Point Off-Season (January 17, 2011)

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Cedar Point - Off-Season Welcome Sign

For my first trip of the year, I had the opportunity to visit the park in the winter off-season. Mr. Innes was very nice and agreed to take myself and a few select CP Guide members on a tour of the main midway, wicked twister midway, and a small part of the wildcat midway.

Cedar Point - Off-Season Bay View

Cedar Point - Off-Season Toll Booths

To start we walked through the Hotel Breaker’s parking lot and saw the roller coaster cars awaiting a winter check-up.

Cedar Point - Coaster Cars

Cedar Point - Coaster Cars

Cedar Point - Coaster Cars

Cedar Point - Coaster Cars

Then we moved on to the WindSeeker construction site.  They had just poured the foundation the Friday before and they were working on setting up the concert mold for the ride base.

Cedar Point - WindSeeker Construction

Cedar Point - WindSeeker Construction

The concert they used was special concrete that need to be done in one pour, the reason behind the giant concert pour.  The foundation is 60ft by 60ft and the ride will go down 6ft.

Cedar Point - WindSeeker Construction

Cedar Point - WindSeeker Construction

Cedar Point - WindSeeker Construction

The ride is currently scheduled to open on opening day, but so was Shoot the Rapids, so we will have to see.

Cedar Point - WindSeeker Construction

Moving down the midway, we find Chaos, or the spot Chaos used to occupy.  Chaos is undergoing its off-season maintenance, but it doesn’t sound like it’s coming back.

Cedar Point - Off-Season Chaos Gone

Troika, like Chaos has been taken apart for its off-season maintenance, the rumor circulating is the Troika will go to Chaos’ spot and open up space for Disaster Transport to be replaced with a new coaster. Of course, this is just a rumor, and I don’t have any real facts to support it.

Cedar Point - Off-Season Troika

Cedar Point - Off-Season Troika

Throughout the park many rides have been shrink-wrapped; maXair is one of them as well as the test seat.

Cedar Point - Off-Season maXair

On the main midway, the games are all closed up as expected and Raptor was hibernating until May.

Cedar Point - Off-Season maXair Area

Cedar Point - Off-Season Johnny Rockets

Cedar Point - Off-Season Midway Games

Cedar Point - Off-Season Main Midway

Ocean Motion, on the other hand, will be getting a new home at the old Demon Drop location and it will be complemented with a pond when it opens in May. In the Blue Streak area, we find Calypso taken apart for its maintenance.

Cedar Point - Off-Season Calypso

Boo Hill has been reverted to its normal season look and the Blue Streak was nicely covered with snow.

Cedar Point - Off-Season Blue Streak

Cedar Point - Off-Season Blue Streak

Cedar Point - Off-Season Raptor

Moving onto the Wildcat Midway, we find that Dodgems has been enclosed so the floor doesn’t get ruined and Wildcat’s queue ramps have been taken apart for easy access to the track for car removal.

Cedar Point - Off-Season Corkscrew

Cedar Point - Off-Season Dodgems

Cedar Point - Off-Season Wildcat

Many of the fences around the park have also been removed for easier access to the rides.

Cedar Point - Off-Season Iron Dragon

The train cars for the CP and LE Railroad are at different parts of the track: one set back in Frontier Town and one is parked by the Mantis.

Cedar Point - Off-Season Train Cars

Moving on to Millennium Force, we find two cars left on the midway.  Of course we all went crazy taking pictures of it and the brand new wheels.

Cedar Point - Off-Season Millennium Force Car

Cedar Point - Off-Season Millennium Force Wheels

Cedar Point - Off-Season Millennium Force Wheels

Cedar Point - Off-Season Millennium Force

Cedar Point - Off-Season Millennium Force Car

Cedar Point - Off-Season Millennium Force Car

Cedar Point - Off-Season Millennium Force Wheels

Cedar Point - Off-Season Frontier Trail

Cedar Point - Off-Season Millennium Force

Ending the tour, we walked back down the Wildcat midway and by Scrambler and Matterhorn.

Cedar Point - Off-Season Skyride Station

Cedar Point - Off-Season Main Midway

Cedar Point - Off-Season Scrambler

Cedar Point - Off-Season Matterhorn

We passed Kinzel’s Castel and through the parking lot of coaster cars.

Cedar Point - Cedar Fair Corporate Offices

Cedar Point - Off-Season Power Tower

Cedar Point - Off-Season Top Thrill Dragster and Magnum XL-200

Cedar Point - Off-Season Hotel Breakers

On the way out I took some pictures of Mean Streak’s off-season track work and some views of the park from the road.

Cedar Point - Off-Season Challenge Racing

Cedar Point - Off-Season Mean Streak

Cedar Point - Off-Season Mean Streak

Cedar Point - Off-Season Blue Streak

Cedar Point - Off-Season Cadillac Cars

To finish the day I took a picture of me in front of the “Welcome to Cedar Point” sign.

Cedar Point - Off-Season Welcome Sign

Cedar Point - Off-Season Welcome Sign

Cedar Point - Off-Season Welcome Sign

As you might expect, those were only a small chuck of the pictures we took, click here to view all 150 pictures on flickr.

Cedar Fair Board Splits Chairman and CEO Roles In Response To Unitholders’ Vote at Special Meeting Held January 11,2011

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Cedar Fair Press Release

SANDUSKY, OHIO, January 24, 2011 – Cedar Fair Entertainment Company (NYSE: FUN), a leader in regional amusement parks, water parks and active entertainment, today announced the appointment of C. Thomas (“Tom”) Harvie as non-executive, independent chairman of the Board of Directors, effective immediately.

Harvie succeeds Dick Kinzel as the Company’s chairman.  Kinzel voluntarily relinquished his chairman position in response to unitholders’ support of the proposal regarding the separation of the chairman and chief executive roles.  Kinzel will remain as president and chief executive officer of Cedar Fair through the end of his contract on January 3, 2012.  The proposal passed with approximately 54 percent of the vote at the Special Meeting of Unitholders, held on January 11, 2011, to consider two amendments to the partnership agreement as proposed by Q Funding III, L.P. and Q4 Funding, L.P. (“Q Investments”). Given the complexity of voting tabulation caused by the two distinct sets of proxy materials used in such special meetings, the results required a verification and reconciliation process by an independent inspector of elections.

Harvie, who has served as an independent director of Cedar Fair since 2008, chairs the corporate governance committee and the CEO succession planning committee.  Most recently, Harvie served as senior vice president, general counsel and secretary for The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.

Harvie’s appointment is in line with the Board’s newly adopted policy, which requires the separation of the chairman and chief executive officer roles and states that the chairman of the Board will be independent of the Company.

Harvie commented, “We believe today’s actions will help ensure a smooth and seamless leadership transition for Cedar Fair as it enters a new era of growth and sustained value creation for its unitholders.  The Board recognizes the valuable leadership that Dick Kinzel has provided the Company during his years of service as Chairman and CEO, and appreciates his continued commitment to the Company.  I look forward to serving in this strategic leadership and governance role as we complete the CEO succession planning transition process and continue to build on the Company’s strong 2010 performance.”  The appointment of the non-executive, independent chairman will be reviewed by the Board on a periodic basis.

As announced on December 6, 2010, the Board has retained Korn/Ferry International, one of the world’s leading executive recruiting firms, to assist in its ongoing CEO succession planning process, which is expected to be completed by the end of the second quarter of this year.

The Company also announced that Proposal #2, which called for the amendment to the partnership agreement to require the payment of cash distributions to unitholders as a higher priority than reducing leverage and strengthening the Company’s balance sheet for the future, failed to receive the requisite number of votes required for approval by unitholders.  Three of the four leading proxy advisory firms recommended that unitholders vote against the proposal.

“The Board recognizes that unitholders have a vested and continuing interest in the payment of a sustainable and growing distribution,” said Kinzel.  “The Company is – and always has been –  deeply committed to the payment of a distribution to our unitholders.   Consistent with that commitment, the Board has agreed to review the distribution strategy during the 2011 first quarter in combination with our 2010 full-year results.  As part of that process, we will consider all options available under our current capital structure with respect to the payment of future distributions.  As evidenced by the past 24 years the payment of a distribution is among the Board’s highest priorities.”

The Company today filed an 8K with the Securities and Exchange Commission which sets forth the detail of the final voting results, as certified by the independent inspector of elections.  The filing can be accessed via the  SEC website at www.sec.gov.

What’s next for Cedar Fair?

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From the Sandusky Register

SANDUSKY

Cedar Fair Entertainment Company is nearing a crossroads as critical decisions loom.

The company’s board of directors is searching for someone to replace Dick Kinzel, 70, a long-respected amusement park operator who has served as Cedar Fair CEO since 1986.

Kinzel has been pivotal in building the company into the undisputed roller coaster capital of the world.

The board, meanwhile, is under pressure to hire a new chairman who has no previous ties to the company.

The board is also being asked to increase cash payouts for investors.

Cedar Fair itself, meanwhile, may even be targeted for a merger with the rival Six Flags amusement park chain.

As the decisions are made, local officials will be watching for any effects on Sandusky, home to Cedar Fair’s corporate headquarters and home to its flagship park, Cedar Point.

On Jan. 11 unitholders were called to a special meeting by dissident investor Geoffrey Raynor, where they voted on two proposals from Raynor’s group of companies, Q Investments.

One proposal: Appoint a new chairman of the board — someone with no ties to Cedar Fair.

Kinzel currently serves as president, CEO and board chairman.

The other proposal: Make cash dividend payments to investors a higher priority, rather than focusing on paying off the company’s debt.

Preliminary results show the proposal to obtain a new independent chairman passed overwhelmingly, Kinzel said at the Jan. 11 meeting.

The outcome of the other proposal was too close to call, Kinzel said, and the vote will be announced in “several days.” As of Friday afternoon, the official tally still hadn’t been released.

On Dec. 6 Cedar Fair’s board said it’s looking at CEO candidates from inside and outside the company, and it hopes to announce a hire by the end of June.

But the vote for a new board chairman could complicate the search, since Q Investments is pressing for the new chairman to be hired as soon as possible.

Ultimately, the new chairman ought to be allowed to participate in the hunt for a new CEO, said Scott McCarty, portfolio manager for Q Investments.

“We would like the new chairman to have a significant role in the process,” McCarty said. “It serves all unitholders the best to have a truly independent chairman when selecting a new CEO.”

Cedar Fair’s board said it’s not bound by the unitholder vote, and board members haven’t revealed just how quickly they’ll move to name a new chairman.

Kinzel and other Cedar Fair officials declined repeated requests for interviews last week.

Even if Kinzel leaves his post as chairman, he’ll remain on the board — in June 2010, he was re-elected to a new three-year term.

Jay Barney, a professor at the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, said the unitholder vote on the new chairman suggests Cedar Fair will consider bringing in an outsider to fill the CEO’s spot.

“It would be difficult for an insider to tell a convincing story to the board that they were distinctive enough from the prior leadership that shareholders would be satisfied with that,” said Barney, who specializes in corporate management.

And given the role Raynor has played in recent Cedar Fair decisions, “obviously, whoever they get will have to pass muster with this guy,” Barney said.

Numerous amusement-park industry analysts say Kinzel has earned a reputation as a skilled amusement park operator.

Financial analyst Jeffrey Thomison, a vice president at Hilliard Lyons, has followed Cedar Fair for years.

Thomison, who knows the management at The Walt Disney Co. quite well, said Disney executives admire Kinzel.

“Several times in the past they have commented on Dick being a very skilled park manager and businessman,” Thomison said. “He has the respect of the industry.”

Even Kinzel’s critics at Q Investments praise his skills.

While criticizing Kinzel’s “poor financial decisions,” for instance, McCarty also said Kinzel is a proven amusement park operator.

Q Investments wants the ability to nominate members of the Cedar Fair board, but Cedar Fair’s board members said there is “currently no procedure” for investors to do that.

Q Investments filed a lawsuit over the dispute in Delaware in November. The issue is still in litigation.

Kinzel alleges Raynor’s ultimate goal is to merge Cedar Fair with the Six Flags amusement park chain. Six Flags filed for bankruptcy in June 2009 but left restructuring in May 2010.

Q Investments has sidestepped questions about any proposal to merge Cedar Fair and Six Flags.

“Our focus right now is just trying to get the best corporate governance policies implemented at this company,” McCarty said. “If we fail to accomplish that, then we can talk about the next steps.”

The new CEO will have to decide if Kinzel’s policies should be preserved.

Chief among those policies: Keeping the corporate headquarters in Sandusky and investing heavily in Cedar Point.

Thanks largely to Kinzel, there’s little disputing Cedar Point’s status as the best amusement park for thrill seekers, not only in the U.S. but in the world.

Amusement Today has voted Cedar Point “Best Amusement Park in the World” for 13 consecutive years. And the park’s 75 rides remain top draws among all amusement parks.

The park reached its peak attendance in the 1990s, thanks to economic declines in nearby cities like Cleveland and Detroit.

Attendance at Cedar Fair’s northern parks, including Cedar Point, rose 3.7 percent last year compared to 2009, but attendance also soared by about 18 percent at the company’s southern parks.

Closing down a company’s headquarters and moving it is an expensive proposition, and it’s hardly a casual decision, said Barney, the OSU professor.

Still, hiring a new CEO “puts it on the table, where it wasn’t on the table before,” he said.

McCarty and Thomison both said they believe any new CEO will continue to spend money to keep Cedar Point fresh.

“It’s a very productive asset,” said Thomison, who noticed the park seemed very busy when he visited last year. “I can’t see any reason why a management team would de-emphasize the park.”

Cedar Point to Pour WindSeeker Foundation Tomorrow

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Cedar Point Press Release

SANDUSKY, Ohio – Although there is ice on the lake and snow on the ground, the Cedar Point Beach will be a hub of activity tomorrow (Friday, Jan. 14) when the concrete foundation for its new ride, the 301-foot-tall WindSeeker swing ride, will be poured.

Weather permitting, more than 1,600 tons of concrete will be needed to build the 30-story ride’s foundation.  The dimensions of the foundation are 60 feet by 60 feet by 6 feet deep and will require more than 800 cubic yards of concrete.  Prior to the pour, more than 36 tons of steel rebar and 176 steel anchor bolts were placed in position.

Overall, the total weight of the foundation will be more than 3.3 million pounds or 1,650-plus tons of concrete and steel.

The Adena Corporation, Mansfield, will build the foundation while Huron Cement, Huron, will deliver the concrete.  The pour is scheduled to begin at approximately 7 a.m. and should be completed by 5 p.m.  A fleet of 14 trucks will make 80 continuous trips to the park to transport the concrete to the park.

To watch the construction progress, Cedar Point’s web site: cedarpoint.com will have two of its webcams covering all of the activities.  You can also follow the conversation about the construction via Cedar Point’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Costing more than $5 million to build, WindSeeker will stand more than 30 stories above the Cedar Point Beach.  Seated in two-passenger swings with their feet dangling in the air, riders will be treated to breathtaking views of Cedar Point, Lake Erie and the Cedar Point Beach.

Cedar Point will open for the summer on Saturday, May 14.

Unitholders vote could force Kinzel out as chairman

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From the Sandusky Register

Cedar Fair’s unitholders have voted overwhelmingly to appoint a new chairman of the board with no previous ties to the company, current chairman Dick Kinzel announced at today’s special meeting of Cedar Fair unitholders.

A second proposal, to make paying cash dividends a higher priority than paying off debt, is too close to call, and the result will not be known until all the votes are in and counted. That will be in a few days, he said.

Kinzel will stay on as CEO until the end of year and will remain as chairman until the board takes action.

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