Checking In on Local Disneyland Competition

Adam Guren laments the state of Six Flags Magic Mountain in today’s Los Angles Times. The park is in the northern Los Angeles County area, and as such, competes with the Disneyland Resort for dollars from locals who want to get out of the home for entertainment.

The problem isn’t necessarily the teens in the park – it’s the park itself, which is rundown and expensive. It took forever for a tram to pick me up from the parking lot. Too many drinking fountains were broken. Too many bathrooms were dirty. Too much paint was peeling.

But beyond these details, Magic Mountain didn’t feel like an amusement park, with entertainment at every turn and attractions for every demographic. It felt like a collection of roller coasters with a few other rides, concessions and relics scattered in between.

Whole areas of the park were all but abandoned. At game booths, employees tried to coax a trickle of passersby into playing. At Bugs Bunny World, the park’s pathetic attempt at a children’s area, a lone tyke rode a silent carousel while the ever-popular teacups sat motionless.

Current Six Flags leadership, which is trying to get the company out of debt and take a more family-focused approach, is considering selling the park as a package deal with several other parks, which some people see as a hopeful sign that developers won’t get Magic Mountain’s property to turn into new housing, like much of the surrounding area. However, I don’t know what would stop a theme park company from buying the package and then selling off Magic Mountain anyway. Property values and home prices in the area are very high, and another theme park operator could relocate some of the attractions to another park or sell them to other theme park operators.

If Magic Mountain does close, the Disneyland Resort may see a slight increase in local dollars, but I suspect Knott’s would likely benefit the most from the patronage of thrillseekers.