Six Flags tickets: CEO says parks have become 'cheap daycare center for teenagers'

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Thursday, August 18, 2022
Six Flags CEO: Parks have become 'cheap daycare center for teenagers'
EMBED <>More Videos

Six Flags is looking to make changes and raise prices after seeing a decrease in both attendance and revenue this year.

Six Flags is looking to make changes and raise prices after seeing a decrease in both attendance and revenue this year.

Last week, the amusement park reported quarterly results that fell short of Wall Street's estimates and said attendance fell sharply from a year earlier.

During that earnings call, CEO and President Selim A. Bassoul said the parks have become "a cheap daycare center for teenagers during breaks and the summers."

Bassoul later addressed the company's customers and the demographics when it comes to those who visit its parks, saying "our objective is not to become a park that's not affordable to everyone." He said the company wants to target "middle income" and those who earn "what I call the average income of the U.S."

Still, he went on to say the company is migrating "a little bit from what I call the Kmart, Walmart, to maybe the Target customer."

Year-to-date park attendance through July dropped approximately 35% compared to 2018-2019, according to the earnings call transcript.

According to a recent study, traditional family outings like baseball games, movie theaters, and theme parks "increased in cost at 2-3x the rate of inflation."

In addition, the study -- which compared family outings in 1960 to today -- concluded that "American families have to work up to [twice] as many hours as they did 60 years ago."

In the earnings call, Bassoul acknowledged inflation's role in detering potential park-goers.

"I think many of our customers, even if you kept the pricing the same as last year, their disposable income has been hit pretty hard ... They suffered with gasoline prices. They suffered with their utilities at home. They suffered with their pricing at the supermarket. Those people were not able to come. And hopefully, when inflation comes back to normal, I'm hoping that some of those people come back to our parks and enjoy the new premiumization and beautification," he said.

This news comes days after three people, including a 17-year-old, were injured during a shooting in the parking lot of the Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois. The company responded by promising "layers of preventative measures both inside and outside the park."

Video posted on social media showed sheer panic as people ran from the gunfire and people could be seen huddling together inside the park.

"As we were walking by the gate, they started escorting people out, rushing people out toward the front," witness Olga Davil said. "Cops had already surrounded the place. There were two individuals that got shot and we saw blood by the entrance.

"They did a great job on their part getting everybody else safely," Amy Perez, from Holland, Michigan, said. "It's just sad. It's sad that it keeps happening."

Park security and officers from the on-site Gurnee Police Department Substation responded immediately, park officials said.

Police believe the shooting stemmed from an argument that appears to have begun elsewhere and spilled over inside the Six Flags parking lot.

"Based on the initial investigation, a white sedan entered the Six Flags parking lot and drove toward the front entrance of the park," Gurnee police spokesperson Shawn Gaylor. "Suspects exited the vehicle and began shooting toward another individual in the parking lot. The suspects got back into the white sedan and quickly left the area."

Police said while the shooting appeared to be targeted, the two people injured were not together and it was not clear if either of them was the intended target of the shooting.

Still, the incident prompted those visiting from out-of-town to cancel plans to the park.

"We were a little hesitant especially with taking children," Susie Sirianni from Streator said. "But I feel like they have good security here, so we feel safe."

"Our family travels to different amusement parks each summer just as a family trip and this is one that we have not been to yet," Perez said. "We still wanted to come down and make the best of it and enjoy the day."

Six Flags released a statement saying, "Six Flags dedicates our greatest amount of time, talent and resources to safety and security."Layers of preventative measures both inside and outside the park are in place for the protection of guests and team members. We continue to review and enhance our protocol on a daily basis to ensure we are providing the highest level of safety."Cameras placed in the parking lot and inside the park, uniformed and plain clothes patrols throughout the property, and advanced screening technology allow us to react quickly and provide important information. The park security team is joined by the Gurnee Police Department, who operates a substation at the park."

KABC and WLS contributed to this post.