Posts tagged January 2011

Cedar Point’s carpenters busy all year long

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From the Sandusky Register

SANDUSKY

Cedar Point in the winter can seem like an odd sight. Snow is on the ground, and it’s empty and quiet.

The picnic shelter near the park’s entrance is boarded up from view.

Inside the temporary makeshift shelter, equipped with heaters and work tables, the seeds of Cedar Point’s spring renewal are being sown.

Bellevue resident Jim Sumser, 38, one of two carpenter foremen working for Cedar Fair, is doing his part to make sure the park will be ready to open on May 14.

The various areas in the park seem to compile lists of what’s broken and what needs to be refurbished.

During the summer, the carpenters have to concentrate on keeping things running, so the winter shutdown lets them play catch up on other tasks.

“This is pretty much our main time to get those lists completed,” Sumser said.

As Sumser spoke, a brown wooden horse with a broken leg lay stretched across a table.

“The painters have taken all of the paint off with heat guns,” Sumser said. “Once we finish it, it will go back to the painters. This particular horse is from the Kiddieland Carousel.”

The carpenters are also responsible for other tasks: Fixing the wooden decks where passengers stand as they prepare to get on a roller coaster; putting up signs; building the walls that provide the maze for guests walking through the haunted houses during Halloweekends.

The workshop has big stacks of yellow pine boards.

“We use that for the ride decks, because it is a strong material and holds up well,” Sumser said.

Sumser grew up in Sandusky and still enjoys taking his wife and children to the park.

He said he especially enjoys how his work contributes to Cedar Point.

“It’s really nice to see that people are enjoying their vacations, because of something you were a part of, that you were able to make happen,” he said.

Much of the winter work takes place outside the warm cocoon of the temporary shelter.

In fact, about half the work takes place in the cold.

“We try to keep the guys out of the really nasty weather,” Sumser said. “A lot of times, there are projects that have to get done. That’s when we have to work outside.”

As the May 14 opening date nears, the carpenters will become even busier as everyone picks up the pace.

“About the month before we open, pretty much every department is on overtime,” he said. “We pretty much are running around like crazy, trying to make all of the last-minute fixes and changes.”

Once the park is open, the carpenters work day and night on three shifts.

One shift runs from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. That way, any serious problem can be fixed promptly.

“If there’s a problem we can’t fix, it might reflect on how certain guests feel about this place,” Sumser said.

The park maintains 1,528 hotel rooms, including the rooms in Castaway Bay. Some of the issues in the hotels demand immediate action.

For example, when an electronic lock suddenly refuses to work, a carpenter is dispatched to fix it.

Usually, it simply needs power.

“We have to take the lock apart, put a new battery in,” Sumser said.

If that doesn’t fix it, the carpenter has to take the circuit board out.

Sumser doesn’t get called at home very often to deal with an emergency at work, but hotel problems can prompt such a call. A bad roof leak or a sprinkler system leak has to be fixed right away to prevent additional damage.

Sumser has been a union carpenter for 21 years. He’s a member of Carpenters Local 940, which negotiates contracts with the amusement park on behalf of the park’s carpenters.

“Recently, we just negotiated a five-year contract with Cedar Point,” he said.

Seeking the assurance of steady work and an interesting job, he went to work for Cedar Point after working in the construction business.

“It seemed pretty exciting to work in an amusement park, all of the roller coasters,” he said.

DQ set for Cedar Point Causeway

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From the Sandusky Register

SANDUSKY

Dairy Queen fans who live in Sandusky currently face a cruel reality.

When they hunger for the food and ice cream chain’s chicken strip basket or its nutty banana blizzard, they have to drive to Huron.

The Huron store, in fact, is the only one around.

The local Dairy Queen drought will end this year, however, when Cedar Fair replaces its East of Chicago pizza parlor at 2015 Fifth St. with a Dairy Queen Grill and Chill Restaurant.

“We’re just looking to try something different,” said Robin Innes, Cedar Fair spokesman. “We just think Dairy Queen has very broad appeal.”

Innes declined to say if the new eatery will be ready for the park’s May 14 opening.

He said he wants to preserve some of the sweet, cold details for a formal announcement next month.

It will be the first complete Dairy Queen serving any Cedar Fair park, although Canada’s Wonderland in Toronto does have a few Dairy Queen stands that offer only ice cream.

Dairy Queen’s website, which already lists the new Sandusky outlet as “coming soon,” lists a food menu that includes burgers, chicken strips and chicken sandwiches, fries and onion rings, hot dogs, iron-grilled sandwiches, shrimp and salads.

The ice cream treats include cones, sundaes, ice cream bars, a brownie and ice cream combo, ice cream sandwiches, soft ice cream blizzards and the like.

Ice cream cakes also are offered.

Drinks include a variety of soft drinks, but also the “Arctic Rush” fruit-flavored drinks, iced coffee, malts and fruit smoothies.

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.

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.

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