What will this mean for Cincinnati’s beloved Kings Island (along with Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, Kings Dominion and other Cedar Fair parks)?
In the immediate future, the answer is “nothing.”
The deal won’t close until sometime in the first half of 2024, meaning nothing should change, especially park passes and pricing, until at least that date.
The deal is being called a “merger of equals,” meaning one chain will not dominate the other: the new CEO will be current Cedar Fair owner Richard Zimmerman, which means fans should not worry about Six Flags coming in and changing everything.
But once the deal is done, there will inevitably be changes.
Longtime Kings Island fans will remember the different feel, and all the Paramount movie-themed rides (Top Gun, Italian Job) when Paramount bought Kings Island back in 1992.
But that was a complete sale of the park to a Hollywood company, which came in with a mission to make the park more like Disney and Universal. This is not a takeover like that.
What changes could guests see?
No one can say for sure at this point, but we can speculate.
This reporter is a theme park enthusiast, and I have visited 7 Cedar Fair parks and 6 Six Flags parks all over the country in the past decade.
I have ridden Twisted Collossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California, where Clark Griswold forced John Candy to take the family on a ride at Wally World (as it was called in the movie).
I have ridden Kingda Ka at Six flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, the tallest coaster in the US, even taller than Cedar Point’s Top Thrill Dragster (though I have ridden that, too).
The first thing that might change would be park names, because the new company will be called Six Flags.
Cedar Fair, the lesser known name, will go away.
So Kings Island could become “Six Flags Kings Island” just as Magic Mountain became “Six Flags Magic Mountain” when the company bought it. Marriott’s Great America in Chicago became “Six Flags Great America” immediately after its purchase in 1984.
In addition, Six Flags is known for comic book theming, owning the rights to the DC comics.
It is highly possible the next new roller coaster at Kings island, such as in the spot where Vortex once stood, could become Batman or Superman, as almost all Six Flag parks have a Batman or Superman coaster.
Six Flags also owns the rights to Looney Tunes, used in its kids’ zones, though it’s hard to fathom how that would mix with Peanuts characters in Planet/Camp Snoopy. Would Bugs Bunny join Linus? The possibilities are endless.
What about prices and passes?
Both companies have single park (think Gold Pass) all-park passes, with Cedar Fair just now changing its multi-park Platinum Pass to an add-on feature to the standard Gold Pass for 2024.
None of that will change for next year, as the merger has to close first.
But you can imagine the new company will have the most monstrous all-park season pass you can imagine, incorporating all 27 parks, and possibly Six Flag’s 15 water parks, onto one pass.
Theme park consultant Dennis Speigel, a former Kings Island and Kings Dominion manager, said he is excited about the possibilities.
“If this happens you’ll be able to get a season pass that will not only get you into Kings Island but get you in Six Flags over Georgia, or Six Flags over Texas, and vice versa,” he told WCPO reporter Jessica Hart.
And Speigel says it would provide a lot more value than the current all-park passes.
- Currently, a Kings Island Gold Pass is approximately $125 annually, depending on when you buy it.
- The new Cedar Fair All Park Passport is an additional $95, bringing the all-Cedar Fair pass (former Platinum Pass) to just more than $220 a year.
- Six Flags multi-park passes (formerly Diamond and Platinum Passes, but changing to Six Flags Plus passes in 2024) tend to be cheaper, at around $150 - $200 a year. They also include occasional skip-the-line passes, a nice perk.
Both Cedar Fair and Six Flags passes include free parking, a savings of $25 to $30 a day.So look for new pass options, along with new rides in the future, and the chance to visit lots of parks on a single pass.
Dennis Speigel says Kings Island fans should not fear the merger, because Cedar Fair executives will primarily running the show, not Six Flags executives.
“Six Flags has gone through a lot of management changes during the last eight or nine years, and it’s really been a company with a ship at sea without a captain,” Speigel said. “Cedar Fair has been nose to the grindstone for 35, 40 years.”
John Matarese is a reporter for WCPO, a content partner of the Journal-News, Springfield News-Sun and Dayton Daily News.