How Long Island's longest-running amusement park is pivoting amid statewide closure
Despite the remedies that the drive-in events have provided, the stark reality is a bit more sobering
Long Island’s longest-running theme park is finding new ways to make a profit as it remains shuttered due to pandemic-related restrictions. Adventureland is pivoting to bring would-be park-goers to its premise with drive-in movies, concerts and even outdoor workout classes.
Located in one of the only three states that have barred amusement parks from reopening entirely, along with California and Massachusetts, the family-owned park has remained desolate all season with its Ferris wheel motionless and roller coasters at a standstill. Ring toss, Whac-A-Mole and other arcade favorites have been left untouched, with super-sized stuffed animal prizes hanging in despair.
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Behind the grounds, however, a newfound vibrancy fills the void. What used to be the parking lot is now an outdoor theatre for drive-in movies, live concerts and fitness classes lined with up to 200 socially distanced cars.
“It’s keeping us busy, and it's helping a little bit to help defray the costs of our normal expenses at this point time,” owner of Adventureland Steven Gentile told FOX Business. “It’s nice to see that we're getting the support from the community to come out and support these events. But the community is also coming out because they are thirsty for entertainment. They are looking for stuff to do, and fortunately, we are able to be the ones to provide that for them and the kind of entertainment they're looking for.”
Although most amusement parks shut down in October, Adventureland will keep the holiday spirit alive to maintain relevance and generate a margin of the lost revenue. Halloween-themed drive-in movies are lined up for the weekends of October, followed by family-oriented gingerbread-decorating events in December.
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Despite the remedies that the drive-in events have provided, the stark reality is a bit more sobering.
After banking on the hope of reopening under Phase 4 in July, spending thousands of dollars on PPE equipment, cleaning and revamping the park with new safety measures, state officials bumped amusement parks from the list of eligibility.
Theme parks like Adventureland rely on annual revenue from March through October. Faced with a season-long closure and a zero revenue event, the family-run business was forced to cut 20% of its staff in addition to making companywide pay cuts.
“It’s difficult, and it’s uncomfortable,” Gentile said. “That’s not something we have ever done in the years that we have been here. A lot of the parks in our industry are family owned, and many of them are going to start going out of business or being gobbled up by the big boys.”
To keep the rides from going deficient after months without wear, Gentile and his team now run the rides on a daily basis. The monthly burn rate for testing and inspecting all of the rides on average is over $150,000 per month.
Amusement parks statewide, along with arcades and movie theatres, did not receive the nod to reopen, even though gyms, casinos and other indoor entertainment facilities proceeded to open up under the fourth and final reopening plan. State guidelines also neglect to take account of the similarities that exist between many of the industries listed in Phase 4 plans.
And since the largest 20 amusement parks in the United States have opened, there have been no reported COVID-19 outbreaks, according to state health agencies and theme park officials.
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“Many of the people that want to go to our amusement parks, whether they have indoor or outdoor facilities, are going to New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania now,” Gentile said. “All of our entertainment dollars are going to our neighboring states. Our industry in New York can run and operate safely and safely the same way as those states are running their parks.”
New Yorkers are now dashing to theme parks in other states for day trips, like New Jersey’s Six Flags just across the bridge, and coming right back to the city, according to Gentile.
“Our industry will continue to get decimated if we cannot do what the neighboring states are able to do,” Gentile said.
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