California theme parks are considering legal action to receive permission to reopen, following state guidelines announced Tuesday that keep venues such as Six Flags Magic Mountain closed for an unknown amount of time.
Officials with various amusement parks and the California Attractions and Parks Association held a virtual news conference Wednesday to discuss their response to the state’s guidance, expressing unanimous disappointment.
“I think that all options are open at this point,” said Erin Guerrero, executive director of the association, of which Six Flags is a member. “We’re going to continue to explore our options. Our No. 1 goal is to be allowed to reopen responsibly.”
Six Flags Magic Mountain President Don McCoy, who was previously scheduled to attend the news conference but was not in attendance, said in a statement to The Signal the company is “deeply disappointed” with the state’s latest decision.
“Six Flags Magic Mountain is well-positioned to reopen. However, this latest news could effectively keep us closed indefinitely,” he said. “The impact on local communities who are dependent on theme park business is devastating. We will continue to do everything we can in conjunction with state and local officials to get our parks open.”
California’s long-awaited guidelines would not allow amusement parks to reopen until their respective counties reach the “yellow” or “minimal” tier, meaning they have less than one daily new case per 100,000 individuals and a positivity rate of less than 2%. Smaller theme parks, or those with 15,000 visitors or less, will be allowed to resume operations when their counties enter the “orange” or “moderate” tier.
Theme parks in Los Angeles County and Orange County, such as Six Flags, Disneyland and Universal Studios, remain in counties with “widespread’ and substantial” spread of the virus.
For the larger venues, reaching a “minimal” tier feels nearly impossible, they said.
“Frankly, the most disturbing part of these guidelines is opening in Tier 4 (the ‘minimal’ level). And frankly, I just don’t see a path forward to getting to that level,” said Karen Irwin, the chief operating officer and president of Universal Studios Hollywood. “I’m very concerned that L.A. County, being as populous as we are, can achieve that tier for anytime in the near future and probably well into next year.”
In a news conference Tuesday, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the state is issuing its guidance with “science and data,” and after learning about what other theme parks around the nation are doing, although some protocols have raised concerns.
“We also had the opportunity to send a small team to some of the operating parks in other parts of the nation, and they came back with lots of valuable lessons, things that we saw that we were very reassured by,” he said. “But also some things that, you know, raised some concern: the level of mixing even without masks that seemed very random and concerning to us.”
Theme park officials said Wednesday reopening is about bringing back their employees and they are working on areas in which they can bring in at least some of their workers.
“We have so many employees that are not getting paid right now and so that’s certainly top of mind in everything that we do,” said Irwin. “We have explored doing a reopening with some of the already permitted businesses on our site, whether that’s food and beverage, or retail. So we are exploring those possibilities.”