‘Every time we ask them, “Can you help us understand what’s going on here and why we can’t open?” They just keep saying to us, “Well, you’re different,”‘ says Cedar Fair regional vice president Raffi Kaprelyan.
The lack of reopening plans for California theme parks has left Knott’s Berry Farm leaders frustrated as they await guidelines from state officials that would allow the Buena Park tourist destination to return to full operations.
“We’re ready to open as soon as the government gives approval to do that,” Cedar Fair Regional Vice President Raffi Kaprelyan said.
Kaprelyan aired his frustrations with Gov. Gavin Newsom and the lack of California theme park reopening plans during a meeting with the Southern California News Group editorial board.
“We’ve tried to pursue an honest and meaningful conversation with the governor’s office to no avail, which has been quite frustrating,” said Kaprelyan, the former general manager of Knott’s.Sign up for our Park Life newsletter and find out what’s new and interesting every week at Southern California’s theme parks. Subscribe here.
Knott’s — the most-attended theme park in the Ohio-based Cedar Fair chain — has partially reopened without rides for a series of weekend food and beer festivals.
Knott’s is following the now-familiar “new normal” of COVID-19 health and safety protocols with mandatory face coverings, temperature screenings, social distancing and enhanced sanitization.
“Our protocols yielded a 3,000-plus page document,” Kaprelyan said. “We wanted to make sure that all angles were covered as we developed our standards and requirements for safe operation.”
Cedar Fair reopened theme parks in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri. Cedar Fair parks in Virginia, North Carolina, Minnesota and Canada remain closed due to COVID-19 mandates.
In the last few months, more than 1.2 million visitors have attended reopened Cedar Fair parks that have been staffed by 14,000 employees, according to Kaprelyan.
“During that time, at no point have we had an outbreak or any kind of case traced back to our parks,” Kaprelyan said.
Cedar Fair partnered with government and health officials in other states during the reopening process.
“They came out, we walked them through our reopening plans and when they saw how diligent we were in our approach, they were very appreciative and comfortable about how we were going to approach our business,” Kaprelyan said. “Somehow in these other states we were able to work with local jurisdictions to open our parks. In this state, we’re just getting no answers. It’s been very, very frustrating.”
Knott’s has limited attendance during the food and beer events that began in July to alleviate concerns about crowding.
“We can limit who comes into our parks,” Kaprelyan said. “We’re not going to have our parks to full capacities. We’re going to make sure that we limit the attendance so that we can maintain social distancing and all the other protocols that we have in place.”
Knott’s has not received an explanation from state officials about why zoos, museums and aquariums have reopened while theme parks remain closed despite meeting all the prevention plan requirements from the Center for Disease Control and state and local jurisdictions, according to Kaprelyan.
“Every time we ask them, ‘Can you help us understand what’s going on here and why we can’t open?’ They just keep saying to us, ‘Well, you’re different,’” Kaprelyan said. “All we want is to be treated equitably when compared to other entertainment venues.”