Newsom says ‘no hurry’ on theme parks, Six Flags workers speak out about delay in reopening

Twisted Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain was ranked as the country’s second-best roller coaster of 2018 by the readers of USA TODAY. Photo submitted by Six Flags Magic Mountain

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday there is “no hurry” in reopening theme parks across California — including Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia — after the state last Friday delayed releasing initial COVID-19 safety measures for them to follow.

“We feel there’s no hurry in putting out guidelines. We’re continuing to work with the industry,” he said during a state news briefing, adding that, while he understands the frustration business leaders have in wanting to move forward, “We’re going to be led by a health-first framework and, and we’re going to be stubborn about it.”

His comments come after the Newsom administration was expected to release draft guidelines last week but held back to obtain additional feedback from those in the industry, according to Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services secretary. 

“Given the size and operational complexities of these unique sectors, we are seeking additional input from health, workforce and business stakeholders to finalize this important framework — all leading with science and safety,“ Ghaly said in a Friday statement. 

Developing guidelines

Parks have spent months developing comprehensive draft guidelines of their own after months of remaining closed, according to Erin Guerrero, executive director of California Attractions and Parks Association, of which Six Flags Magic Mountain is a member. 

Six Flags officials said in a statement Thursday that, in consultation with the corporation’s epidemiologist, they have developed wide-ranging safety standards that exceed existing city, state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. 

Since June, Six Flags has reopened 15 outdoor theme parks and water parks across several states and countries, implementing a variety of measures including technological safety procedures such as online reservations and a contactless entry process. 

“It is imperative that the state work with the industry to review all theme parks’ plans and visit the parks to see for themselves the significant efforts to safely and securely reopen during the pandemic,” read the statement.

Guerrero said the governor’s “no hurry” approach is ruining businesses and livelihoods for “thousands who could responsibly be back at work.” 

Local resident Cassidy Mancia, a lead at Magic Mountain, said Thursday she is among the thousands affected by the local park’s temporary closure and that it is time to reopen. 

“It affected me on not being able to pay rent and car payments and with unemployment it’s been difficult because it’s not enough money to pay for everything,” she said. “The park should start opening but put in place restrictions and have people make reservations.” 

Not all employees are on board with reopening theme parks. Canyon Country resident Dawson Banna said it’s still too soon and too risky. “I feel like it’s going to be much harder to keep social distancing at an amusement park than like anything else.” 

Banna is now in search of another job due to not knowing when Six Flags will reopen and because unemployment benefits ran out for him, he said. 

Both Banna and Mancia were among an estimated 3,200 employees at the Valencia theme prior to the pandemic — making it the largest employer in the Santa Clarita Valley, according to Holly Schroeder, president and CEO of the SCV Economic Development Corp. 

“(Q)ualitatively it’s easy to see why the impact is significant,” she said via email. “Many visitors are from outside the SCV and beyond. They’re spending in the park, many also visit local restaurants, gas stations, coffee shops and other businesses. That generates economic activity in the area, resulting in employment and tax revenue.”

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