By Tracy Kahaner (left), president Kahaner Research and News Editor, Blooloop.
Note 1: We believe the information in this article to have been well-researched and accurate at press time – late Oct' 2010 and apologise for any inadvertent omissions or errors. We are indebted to the owner/operators who took the time to review this information for accuracy.
Note 2: Updates: Recent developments include:
- 1/31 – Compagnie des Alpes and the private-equity fund H.I.G. Capital France, in association with Laurent Bruloy (“the H.I.G. Capital Consortium”), sign agreements concerning the disposal of a group of seven leisure parks: Bagatelle park, the Aquarium at Saint Malo, the Mini Châteaux park and Val de Loire Aquarium, the Bouveret waterpark in Switzerland, Avonturenpark Hellendoorn in the Netherlands, and Pleasurewood Hills in the United Kingdom
- 1 / 26 Amusement Management Partners will manage Magic Springs and Crystal Falls in Hot Ssprings, Arkansas. As noted in November 2010, Amusement Management Partners, a company chaired by former Ripley's Believe it or Not CEO Bob Masterston, had entered into an agreement to manage the following eight FEC's (Camelot Park in Bakersfield, Calif; Mountasia Family Fun Center in North Richland, Texas; Fiddlesticks Fun Center in Tempe, Arizona; Funtastics Fun Center in Tucson, Arizona, and the Zuma Fun Centers in Charlotte, North Carolina, Knoxville, Tennessee and Houston, Texas).
- 1/ 26 Frontier City and White Water Bay (both parks are located in Oklahoma City) will be managed by Premier Attractions Management LLC, a firm run by former owners Kieran Burke and Gary Story. The contracts for each park will begin when the parks open this spring. Premier Attractions Management will also manage Splashtown in Houston, Texas
- 1/ 25 Former owner of Wild Waves takes over as manager. CNL LIfestyle Properties reached an agreement with NorPoint Entertainment to manage the park located in Seattle, Washington.
- 1/ 25 CNL Lifestyle Properties, Inc., announced that Herschend Family Entertainment Corp. would assume the day-to-day management of two parks — Darien Lake in Buffalo, New York and Elitch Gardens in Denver, Colorado — starting immediately.
- 12/17 Village Roadshow sells Sydney Attractions to Merlin Entertainments Group
- 12/15 CDA announced plans to dispose of the following seven leisure parks: Bagatelle park, the Aquarium at Saint Malo, the Mini Chateaux parks and Val de Loire Aquarium, the Bouveret waterpark in Switzerland, Avonturenpark Hellendoorn in the Netherlands and PleasureWood Hills in the United Kingdom.
- 11/17 CNL Terminating 19 Leases With Its Largest Operator.
- 11/12 Hershey sells Dutch Wonderland to Palace Entertainments, the U.S subsiciary of Parques Reuidos.
This is the third annual study I have conducted regarding ownership of major theme parks, amusement parks and park chains. This year’s was expanded to include smaller branded attractions.
Related: Walt Disney Co’s 2010 results – Woody and Buzz do the business / A look at EuroDisney's 2010 results / Compagnie des Alpes – poor weather and economic depression lead to a fall in sales for 2010 / Not bad for a Boy Wizard! Universal's Magical Ride / EuroDisney’s Strategy to 2030: Doubling Capacity and Eco Tourism
The TEA already compiles, jointly with AECOM, an industry-wide annual study regarding attendance at the various parks (the TEA/AECOM “Theme Index”). As in previous reports, the “Top 10 Theme Park Chains” from that report was a foundation for this study.
Retail districts, overnight accommodations and residential communities, including cruise ships and campsites, are excluded from this report.
Each listed attraction is an amusement or theme park, unless otherwise noted. In several cases the descriptive term used to define an attraction can vary from one chain to the next. For example, attractions defined as a “midway site” (1) by Merlin might be defined as a “family entertainment center” or “themed attraction” by another.
Other changes this year include the following:
Merlin Entertainments opened LEGOLAND Discovery Centre in Manchester, SEA LIFE Aquariums in Phoenix, AZ and Porto, Portugal and a Waterpark alongside LEGOLAND California. Scheduled to open in 2011 are Madame Tussauds in Vienna, Blackpool, UK and Bangkok, SEA LIFE in Jesolo, Italy and Dallas/Fort Worth and a LEGOLAND Discovery Center also in Dallas/Fort Worth. In January 2010, Merlin purchased historic Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Florida and will open LEGOLAND Florida on the site at the end of 2011. A second LEGOLAND Park is scheduled to open in Malaysia in 2012 as well as several other ‘midways.’
• Since around August 2010, reports have been appearing that the owner of Parques, private equity firm Candover, was reviewing options for the park. An October 2010 report indicated Candover was about to scrap plans to sell, having received two offers below asking price.
• Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom was omitted from this listing. During February 2010, Six Flags Entertainment Corp. decided to reject the lease with the Kentucky State Fair Board and will no longer operate the Louisville theme park.
• Six Flags New Orleans has been excluded. This park had been closed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005; however, the property still appeared on earlier listings. During the third quarter of 2009, Six Flags mutually agreed with the City of New Orleans to terminate their lease with the City.
• Anheuser-Busch InBev sold Busch Entertainment Corp. to the Blackstone Group and the parks are now referred to as SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.
• Besides a change in order, Aspro Ocio replaces Herschend Family Entertainment on the listing of the Top 10 Chains.
• The ownership structure of Merlin has changed. In June of this year CVC Capital Partners took approx a one third stake in the company joining Blackstone Group, KIRKBI (LEGO’s investment company) and the management team. Dubai International Capital sold its stake.
• Universal Singapore recently opened.
• Compagnie des Alpes (CDA) Group became leading shareholder in Futuroscope 18 Oct, 2010.
With the exception of some Merlin properties, as in previous versions of this study, only those parks with separate gates are included.
The following three chains are included here due to the fact that they own significant properties.
• Herschend Family Entertainment Corp.
• PARC Management/CNL Lifestyle Properties
• Village Roadshow
Top Ten Chains
1. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide
Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, Florida
Disney’s Blizzard Beach (water park), Lake Buena Vista, Florida
Disney California Adventure, Anaheim, Calif.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Lake Buena Vista, Florida
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon (water park), Lake Buena Vista, Florida
Disneyland, Anaheim, Calif.
Disneyland Paris, Marne-La-Vallée, France
Epcot, Lake Buena Vista, Florida
Hong Kong Disneyland, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Magic Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, Florida
Tokyo Disneyland, Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
Tokyo DisneySea, Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
Walt Disney Studios Park, Marne-La-Vallée, France
2. Merlin Entertainments Group
Alton Towers Resort, Staffordshire UK
Chessington World of Adventures, London
The Dungeons (midway site), London, Edinburgh, York, Hamburg, Amsterdam and Warwick.
Earth Explorer (midway) Oostende, Belgium
Gardaland, Verona, Italy
Gardaland Aquapark (midway), Milan
Heide Park, Soltau Germany
LEGOLAND Parks, Billund, Denmark; Windsor, UK; Günzburg, Germany; Carlsbad, Calif. (and Winter Haven, Florida in 2011)
LEGOLAND Discovery Centres (midway site), Berlin and Duisburg, Germany; Manchester, UK; and Chicago
Madame Tussauds (midway site), London, Berlin, Amsterdam, New York, Hollywood, Las Vegas, Washington DC, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, with Bangkok, Vienna and Blackpool to open in early 2011
The Merlin Entertainments London Eye, (midway site)
SEA LIFE Centres (midway site), Over 30 centres in more than 11 countries.
Thorpe Park, UK
Warwick Castle (attraction), Warwickshire UK
3. Parques Reunidos
Aqualud (water park), Le Touquet, France
Aquarium of the Lakes (zoo & nature park) Cumbria, UK
Aquópolis (water park), seven centers in Spain
Benalmádena Cable Car, Andalucia, Spain
Big Kahuna’s (water park), Destin, Florida
Blackpool Zoo, Lancashire UK
Bo Sommarland (water park), Bø, Norway
Bobbejaanland, Lichtaart, Belgium
Boomers (family entertainment centers), Locations throughout California, Florida, New York, USA
Bonbon-Land, Holme-Olstrup, Denmark
Bournemouth Oceanarium, Bournemouth UK
Castle Park, Riverside, Calif.
Delfinario Costa Daurada, (zoo & nature park), Spain
Faunia (zoo & nature park), Madrid
Idlewild, East Ligonier, Pennsylvania
Kennywood, East Ligonier, Pennsylvania
L'Oceanogràfic (zoo & nature park), Valencia, Spain
Lake Compounce, Bristol, Connecticut
Madrid Cable Car, Spain
Malibu (family entertainment center), Norcross, Georgia; Redwood City, Calif.; and Houston, USA
Aquarium Mar del Plata, Argentina
Marineland, Antibes, France
Mirabilandia, Ravenna, Italy
Mountain Creek (water park), Vernon, New Jersey
Mountasia (family entertainment center) Marietta, Georgia and Dallas, USA
MoviePark, Bottrop-Kirchhellen, Germany
Parque de Atracciones, Madrid
Parque Warner, Madrid
Raging Waters (water park), Sacramento, San Jose and San Dimas, Calif.
Sandcastle (water park), West Homestead, Pennsylvania
Sea Life Park Hawaii (zoo & nature park), Oahu, Hawaii
Selwo Aventura (zoo & nature park), Estepona, Spain
Selwo Marina (zoo & nature park), Estepona, Spain
Silver Springs (zoo & nature park), Florida, USA
SpeedZone (family entertainment center), Los Angeles and Dallas
Splish Splash (water park), Riverhead, New York
Story Land, Glen, New Hampshire
TusenFryd, Vinterbro, Norway
Water Country (water park), Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Wild Waters (water park), Silver Spring, Florida
Wet ‘n Wild (water park) Greensboro, North Carolina and Orlando
Zoo Aquarium de Madrid, Spain
4. Six Flags Entertainment Corporation
La Ronde, Montreal
Six Flag America, Largo, Maryland
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo, Calif.
Six Flags Fiesta Texas, San Antonio, Texas
Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey
Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, Illinois
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor (water park), Arlington, Texas
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor (water park), Jackson, New Jersey
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Valencia, Calif.
Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, Calif.
Six Flags Mexico, Mexico City
Six Flag New England, Agawam, Massachusetts
Six Flags Over Georgia, Atlanta, Georgia
Six Flags Over Texas, Arlington, Texas
Six Flags St. Louis, Missouri
Six Flags Wild Safari (drive–through safari), Jackson, New Jersey
Six Flags Whitewater (water park), Marietta, Georgia
5. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
Adventure Island (water park), Tampa
Aquatica (water park with marine animals), Orlando
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia USA
SeaWorld Orlando (marine-life park)
SeaWorld San Antonio (marine-life park)
SeaWorld San Diego (marine-life park)
Discovery Cove, Orlando
Sesame Place (family oriented play), Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Water Country USA (water park), Williamsburg, Virginia
6. Universal Studios Parks and Resorts
Islands of Adventure, Orlando
Universal Studios Florida, Orlando
Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal City, Calif.
Universal Studios Japan, Osaka
Universal Studios Singapore
Wet’n Wild (water park), Orlando
7. Cedar Fair Entertainment Co.
California’s Great America, Santa Clara
Canada’s Wonderland, Toronto
Carowinds, Charlotte, North Carolina
Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio
Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, Allentown, Pennsylvania
Geauga Lake’s Wildwater Kingdom, Cleveland, Ohio
Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park, Gilroy, Calif. (management of this park)
Kings Dominion, Richmond, Virginia
Kings Island Cincinnati, Ohio
Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park, Calif.
Knott’s Soak City, Buena Park, Palm Springs, and San Diego, CA
Michigan’s Adventure, Muskegon, Michigan
Valleyfair!, Shakopee, Minnesota
Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun, Kansas City, Missouri
8. OCT Parks
Happy Valley Beijing, China
Happy Valley Chengdu, China
Happy Valley Shanghai, China
Happy Valley, Shenzhen, China
Happy Valley (Wuhan), China (under construction)
Splendid China/Folk Cultural Village, China
Window of the World, Shenzhen, China
OCT East (Eco-Resort)
OCT Taizhou (Eco Resort)
OCT Yunnan (Eco Resort) (under construction)
9 Compagnie des Alpes Family Recreation
Aquapark, (water park), Le Bouveret, Switzerland
Aquarium du val-de-loire, Franci
Avonturenpark Hellendoorn, Netherlands
Parc Bagatelle, Merlimont, France
Bellewaerde Park, Ypres, Belgium
Bioscope, Ungersheim, France
Dolphinarium, Harderwijk, NL
Fort Fun, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
France Miniature, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France
Grand Aquarium, Saint Malo cedex, France
Grevin, (wax museum) Paris
La Mer de Sable, Ermenonville, France
Mini-Chateaux, Amboise, France
Parc Asterix, Plailly, FR
Planete Sauvage (safari park), Port Saint-Pere, France
Pleasurewood Hills, Suffolk- Angleterre, UK
Walibi Aquitaine, Rocquefort, France
Walibi Belgium, Wavre
Walibi Rhone-Alpes, Les Avenieres, France
Walibi World, Pays-Bas, Netherlands
10. Aspro Group
Alpamare (water park), Zurich
Aqualand, 14 parks throughout Europe
Aqualeon (safari & water park), Costa Dorada, Spain
Aquarium Grand Lyon, France
Blue Planet (aquarium), Cheshire, UK
Blue Reef Aquarium, Newquay, Portsmouth, Hastings, Tynemouth, Bristol, UK
Boudewijn Seapark, Brujas, Belgium
Captain Jako, Cap d’Agde, France
Deep Sea World (aquarium), Fife, Scotland
Deltapark Neeltje Jans, Vrouwenpolder, Netherlands
Jungle Park (zoo), Tenerife, Spain
L’Aquarium, Barcelona, Spain
Marineland, Mallorca, Spain
Oakwood Theme Park, Pembrokeshire, UK
Palmitos Park (zoo & botanical gardens), Gran Canaria, Spain
Puuhama, Tervakoski, Finland
Serena, Espoo, Finland
Smugglers Adventure, Hastings, UK
Tropiclandia, Vaasa, Finland
Visulahti, Mikkeli, Finland
Wasalandia, Vaasa, Finland
Western Park (water park), Mallorca, Spain
Additional Major Park Chains
Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation
Adventure Aquarium, Camden, New Jersey
Classic Cable Car Sightseeing, San Francisco (2)
Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (3)
Dollywood’s Splash Country (water park), Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (3)
Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede (dinner show), Branson, Missouri; Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (3)
Newport Aquarium, Newport, Kentucky
Ride the Ducks (sightseeing tour), Branson, Missouri; Newport, Kentucky; Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia and San Francisco
Showboat Branson Belle (cruise and dinner show), Branson, Missouri
Silver Dollar City, Branson, Missouri
Stone Mountain Park, Atlanta (4)
Talking Rocks Cavern, Branson, Missouri
White Water, Branson, Missouri
Wild Adventures, Valdosta, Georgia
PARC Management / CNL Lifestyle Properties
Camelot Park (family entertainment) Bakersfield, Calif.
Darien Lake, Buffalo, New York
Elitch Gardens, Denver, Colorado
Fiddlesticks Fun Center, Tempe, Arizona
Frontier City, Oklahoma City
Funtastics Fun Center, Tucson, Arizona
Magic Springs & Crystal Falls, Hot Springs, Arizona
Mountasia Family Fun Center, North Richland, Texas
Myrtle Waves Water Park, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
NASCAR SpeedPark, St. Louis, Missouri; Sevierville, Tennessee; Concord, North Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Pavilion Nostalgia Park, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Waterworld, Concord, Calif.
White Water Bay, Oklahoma City
Wild Waves & Enchanted Village, Seattle, Washington
Zuma Fun City, 2 in Houston, Texas; Knoxville, Tennessee; Charlotte, North Carolina
Australian Outback Spectacular 2 ‘Heroes of the Light Horse’ (dinner show), Gold Coast, Australia
Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter & Underwater World, Auckland, New Zealand
Oceanworld Manly (aquarium), Sydney
Paradise Country Aussie Farm Tour, Gold Coast, Australia
Sea World, Gold Coast, Australia
Sydney Aquarium, Australia
Sydney Tower Observation Deck, Skywalk and Oz Trek Ride (open air attractions)
Sydney Wildlife World (interactive attraction), Australia
Warner Bros. Movie World, Gold Coast, Australia
Wet’n Wild Water World, Gold Coast, Australia
Wet’n WIld Hawaii, Oahu (5)
Wet’n Wild Phoenix, Arizona
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide
The US theme parks are owned and operated by the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts division of The Walt Disney Company. The Company manages and has 51 percent effective ownership interest in the operations of Disneyland Paris. The Company also has a 47 percent ownership interest in the operations of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, with the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region owning the majority interest. A separate Hong Kong subsidiary of the Company is responsible for managing this resort. Tokyo Disney Resort is owned and operated by an unrelated Japanese corporation, the Oriental Land Co., Ltd. of Japan. The Walt Disney Company earns royalties on revenues generated by the resort, but has no equity interest.
Merlin Entertainments Group
Merlin’s ownership structure is now: KIRKBI 36 per cent, Blackstone 34 per cent and CVC 28 per cent. The management of Merlin holds the remaining shares.
The company is currently owned by European private equity firm Candover Investments. However, in August of this year it was reported that Candover had been reviewing options for Parques Reunidos and has received offers from various private equity firms. Movie Park Germany was acquired in 2010.
Six Flags Entertainment Corporation
Six Flags Entertainment Corporation owns or operates most of its theme, amusement, and water parks. The Six Flag properties that are less than wholly owned currently consist of Six Flags Over Georgia, Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags White Water Atlanta. During February 2010, Six Flags Entertainment Corporation decided to reject the lease with the Kentucky State Fair Board and no longer operates the Louisville theme park.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
In December 2009, Anheuser-Busch InBev and The Blackstone Group announced closing the transaction for Blackstone Capital Partners V L.P. to purchase Busch Entertainment Corporation from Anheuser-Busch InBev for up to USD $2.7 billion. The purchase price was declared to be comprised of a cash payment of USD $2.3 billion and a right to participate in Blackstone’s return on its initial investment capped at USD $400 million. Busch Entertainment Corporation is now known as SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.
Universal Studios Parks and Resorts
Universal Parks and Resorts is a division of NBC Universal. Before September of 2010, NBC Universal was 80 percent owned by General Electric and 20 percent owned by Vivendi. During the later part of September, Vivendi sold 7.66 percent stake to GE and is scheduled to sell the remaining 12.34 percent of its stake in NBC Universal to GE later in the year. NBC Universal wholly owns Universal Studios Hollywood and has significant interests in Universal Orlando Resort, Universal Studios Japan, Universal Studios Singapore, and their respective theme parks. Universal City Property Management and affiliates of the Blackstone Group equally own the Universal Orlando Resort. USJ Co Ltd. operates the theme park in Japan (Universal Studios Japan) under a license by Vivendi Universal Entertainment LLP and other Universal group companies regarding use of intellectual properties.
Cedar Fair Entertainment Company
Cedar Fair is a publicly traded partnership headquartered in Sandusky, Ohio. The Partnership is one of the largest regional amusement park operators in the world. All parks are owned and by Cedar Fair, LP.
Shenzhen Overseas Chinese Town Co. Ltd., formerly Overseas Chinese Town Enterprises Company (OCT Group), is a China based enterprise that owns a series of enterprises and brands, including Splendid China, China Folk Culture Villages, Window of the World and Happy Valley.
Compagnie des Alpes Family Recreation
Compagnie des Alpes is a public company that operates many amusement and leisure parks. During March 2009, Compaigne des Alpes adopted a single-tier management structure with a Board of Directors.
Aspro Ocio, S.A. operates leisure parks and centers in Spain, France, Finland, Portugal, Switzerland, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.
Additional Park Chains:
Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation
Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation is a family-owned company that owns, operates or partners in themed attractions in the US. It is the largest family-owned theme park corporation in America.
PARC Management /CNL Lifestyle Properties
PARC management owns and operates entertainment facilities across North America. Its portfolio consists of theme parks, water parks, family entertainment centers and more. PARC Management is the largest attractions operator of CN Lifestyle Properties.
Village Roadshow is the largest theme park operator in Australia. Having acquired 100 percent of the theme parks in mid-2006, Village Roadshow remains Time Warner’s licensed partner for the Warner Bros. Movie World property in Australia. In February 2008 Village Roadshow acquired Sydney Attractions Group and now owns Sydney Aquarium, the Sydney Tower and other attractions.
About the Author
Tracy Kahaner of Kahaner Research and News Editor for Blooloop conducts studies for the attractions industry. Her expertise is in providing vital information to the concept phase of a leisure time attraction, to analyse the market potential and competitive environment.
- 1. Midway attractions are typically indoor shorter stay attractions. As stated by Merlin Entertainments, “Midway attractions are branded, “chainable, ” low capex (capital expenditure) city-centre or coastal visitor attractions that have a strong record of proven popularity and predictable growth.”
- 2. HFE operates Classic Cable Car Sightseeing.
- 3. HFE is an operating partner with Dolly Parton in the Dollywood Company, which owns the Dollywood Theme Park and Dollywood’s Splash Country. The Dollywood Company is the largest shareholder in the Dixie Stampede dinner show attractions.
- 4.HFE operates Atlanta’s Stone Mountain Park in conjunction with the State of Georgia.
- 5 Village Roadshow operates this CN Lifestyle Property.
Images from the top: 1 & 2 kind courtesy Disney 3 courtesy LEGOLAND® California 4. © 2010 Universal Orlando Resort. All Rights Reserved.
This article is also featured in print in the 2011 TEA Annual & Directory published by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA).