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Saturday, Sep 30, 2023


Operators of Magic Mountain’s Hurricane Harbor amusement park in Valencia are hoping for one thing this summer: Hot weather. With snow falling in the local mountains in May, water park operators have good cause to be worried. Hot summer days are a driving factor in the business, and last summer’s El Ni & #324;o weather pattern of cloudy days in June and July hurt attendance at water parks like Hurricane Harbor and Raging Waters in San Dimas, said James Zoltak, West Coast editor for Amusement Business, an amusement park trade publication. Magic Mountain does not release attendance figures, but Amusement Business estimates that the park’s Hurricane Harbor had 400,000 visitors last year during its open season from May 16 through Sept. 27. That’s an increase of 48 percent over the water attraction’s first-year attendance figure in 1996, but much of that rise can be attributed to the fact that the park doubled the number of slides to 22, Zoltak said. Had it not been for the unseasonably cool weather, Zoltak said the park might have seen as much as a 60 percent rise in attendance over 1996. “There was cooler weather in June and July, but business rebounded when it warmed up for the following months,” Zoltak said. Raging Waters officials acknowledged that cool weather hurt business last year, although they said it was hard to gauge by how much. “Water park attendance is driven by weather,” said Kent Lemasters, vice president and general manager of Raging Waters Group Inc., the park’s owner. “We have found that increasing advertising does not increase attendance when there is cooler weather.” Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor are owned by the Oklahoma City-based Premier Parks, which bought the properties for $1.9 billion in February from Boston Ventures and Time Warner Inc., which jointly owned the Six Flags Theme Parks chain of 10 parks. Magic Mountain/Hurricane Harbor spokesman Andy Gallardo would not comment on the effects of the cooler weather last year. “We were pleased with the number of people who came last year and are looking forward to larger crowds this year,” Gallardo said. Gallardo would not comment on Hurricane Harbor’s advertising budget for the park’s 1998 season, which runs from May 16 through September 27. However, the park this year will, for the first time, be “working with a number of Los Angeles TV and radio stations (both English and Spanish-language stations) for ‘in-the-park’ broadcasts and promotions,” Gallardo said. He said that the promotions would involve broadcast personalities and contests, but would not elaborate further. So far, April and May have been unseasonably cool similar to last year’s weather, which Air Quality Management District officials say contributed to relatively good air quality. However, the agency forecasts “more typical” summer weather this year, meaning more sunny days. According to Amusement Business, Hurricane Harbor had the 11th highest attendance of the roughly 850 commercial water parks in the U.S. in 1997 (which was the first year it ranked in the publication’s top 15). Raging Waters came in fifth with 702,000 attendees, which was a drop of 2 percent from the previous year. The rise in estimated attendance figures at Hurricane Harbor may have helped keep Raging Waters’ figures static, said Tim O’Brien, the southeast editor and parks analyst for Amusement Business. But by and large, “there are enough customers to go around for both,” he said. Hurricane Harbor benefits from being located near Magic Mountain, O’Brien said. In many cases, tourists come to Magic Mountain early in the day and then go to Hurricane Harbor when the mid-day heat becomes intense. Others come to visit Magic Mountain and end up staying an entire extra day to visit Hurricane Harbor. The parks also enjoy a symbiotic relationship in terms of sharing resources and employees, he said. “If Hurricane Harbor runs out of ice cream or if it is short-handed, all it has to do is call over to Magic Mountain,” O’Brien said.

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