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Randal H (Randy) Drew has managed a variety of park portfolios across the United States. The creator of Alfa SmartParks is now back in the business with a passion as president and CEO of PARC Management, based in Jacksonville, Florida. Together with Michael A Jenkins, he recently completed the purchase of seven parks from Six Flags Inc including Darien Lake, New York; Elitch Gardens, Colorado; Frontier City & White Water Bay, Oklahoma; Splashtown, Houston, Texas; Waterworld, California; and Wild Waves & Enchanted Village, Washington. Here Randy takes time to talk to Park World.
Some observers believe you overpaid for the seven parks because the return on investment is low. Others believe it was a bargain because it would have cost more to create these parks from scratch, or because there is room to grow the business. Your thoughts?
While Six Flags may have viewed these parks as non-strategic to its business vision, PARC Management sees a tremendous opportunity in these properties. The brand recognition and community goodwill these regional theme parks established long before they became Six Flags-branded parks can be re-established and embellished through sound management, strong consumer value in local markets, good corporate citizenship and increased local operational control.
What do you plan to do with the parks purchased from Six Flags?
PARC Management will look to emphasise the local presence of these properties, including enabling more management control based on local markets, increased community marketing activity and a strong focus to drive local market value for the consumers. The goal is to create parks that are reflective of their communities’ tastes and discretionary income levels.
The one park offered by Six Flags you did not purchase was Magic Mountain. Why?
Six Flags decided not to include Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor in the transaction.
Have you kept previous management teams in place at the new parks or replaced them?
We decided that it would be best to empower the current management at the parks as we transition from a national brand to local/regional parks. Our focus is to provide exceptional entertainment in a safe and wholesome environment where families can create treasured memories for generations. The park teams are part of the community. They live, shop, and eat with their guests each day and understand the needs of the communities they serve.
Do you plan any group branding across the venues?
Our philosophy is to build local/regional brands that have been established in the markets. For instance, Elitch Gardens has served its guests for 117 years and is the oldest theme park west of the Mississippi.
Long before Six Flags, Elitch Gardens was a place generations came to enjoy great entertainment and create memories. Each park enjoys a rich heritage and a unique place in its market. We want to ensure that each park builds upon its unique theme, strengths and place in its community.
How do you protect yourself against a takeover, or do you welcome the challenge?
We have a long-term plan for the continued expansion of our business, and as a closely held company we would not anticipate a takeover.
Any further expansion plans?
We are investing over $5.6 million this year and we plan to continue to invest in each of the parks. We will also continue to seek acquisition opportunities within the entertainment industry and opportunities to manage entertainment facilities and parks for third-party owners. Through intrinsic growth at our parks, acquisitions and management we expect to continue to grow our business.
Can you tell us specifically what additions or changes are planned for Darien Lake, Elitch Gardens, Frontier City & White Water Bay, Splashtown, Waterworld and Wild Waves & Enchanted Village?
New rides such as RipQurl, a ProSlide attraction, at Denver, new shows such as Le Grande Cirque at Darien Lake, and Quick Draw, and an award-winning ride from Sally Corporation in Frontier City are just a few examples of the investments we're making in our parks.
We are also implementing price freezes or rollbacks from the 2006 season to offer a more family friendly pricing structure. In addition, we’re eliminating all trans-fats from foods we prepare and increasing in-park entertainment.
Although reinvestment is critical in attracting repeat customers, in the past few years Six Flags did not significantly reinvest in parks such as Darien Lake because of their debt load. What are your longer term investment plans?
Moving forward, we plan to deploy in excess of
$30 Million over the next five years.