Valladares introduces bill looking to reopen theme parks sooner

Hundreds of cars wind around the Six Flags Magic Mountain parking lot as people wait for their up for Covid -19 in Valencia on Wednesday. 012021. Dan Watson/The Signal

Theme parks in California have remained closed since the onset of the pandemic, with no clear sight of when they’ll welcome guests again — but a new bill introduced by Assemblywoman Suzette Valladares, R-Santa Clarita, is looking to accelerate that process. 

Assembly Bill 420 was introduced Thursday by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, and Valladares, whose 38th District includes Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia. 

Under the state’s color-coded, four-tiered reopening model, large theme parks can only reopen when a county is in “yellow,” or tier 1, which is the least restrictive level, as there would be a “minimal” spread of COVID-19 at that point. Smaller parks can open with modifications such as allowing only a 25% capacity, in the “orange” tier where there are only “moderate” risk factors. 

Los Angeles County and surrounding counties where some of the state’s largest theme parks are based, such as Magic Mountain, Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland, have remained in the most restrictive tier (“purple”) due to the virus being so “widespread.” To date, 54 counties are currently in the purple tier, one is in red (“substantial”), three are in orange and none are in yellow. 

The new bill would allow all theme parks to reopen in the orange tier, one step ahead of the yellow tier. 

“Theme parks are not just entertainment, they provide jobs for people in and around our district. They also support local small businesses and their opening will trigger a ripple effect creating more jobs,” Valladares wrote in an email. “It’s time to offer clear guidelines that will balance public health and the need to safely get people back to work.” 

Six Flags Magic Mountain officials declined to comment on the proposed bill, but they’ve repeatedly voiced during the pandemic that the park is ready to reopen due to all of the safety precautions park officials have taken. Park President Don McCoy and company officials have previously said the park has implemented procedures that include reconfiguring guest traffic patterns, posting safety signage throughout the park and training staff for strict enforcement of all mandated guidelines. The park, when open, is the Santa Clarita Valley’s largest employer, with an estimated 3,200 workers, according to the SCV Economic Development Corp. 

“I believe that we can do that here in California safely and responsibly,” Valladares wrote, noting she’s been in direct communication with park officials and that other parks across the country have opened with safety protocols in place.

The announcement of AB 420 comes as Magic Mountain and other theme parks have recently served as mass COVID-19 vaccination sites for health care workers and those ages 65 and up. 

“Getting vaccines to people that need them are priority No. 1,” Valladares added. 

As large-scale vaccination efforts continue at the theme parks, it remains unclear when counties in the purple tier could reach the orange tier. 

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