Great America is Closing: What Can You Expect?
By Erik Chalhoub
The news of California’s Great America’s eventual closure sent shockwaves through the Bay Area and the theme park community. We haven’t experienced such a loss in our region since Santa’s Village in Scotts Valley shut down for good in 1979.
So what might this mean for Great America visitors? Let’s take a look.
Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, which has owned Great America since 2006 and the land it sits on since 2019, announced in late June that it had sold the land to real estate developer Prologis for $310 million, and would wind down operations of the Santa Clara park in preparation of its eventual closing within 11 years.
Cedar Fair has not yet committed to a hard closure date for Great America. But a review of the lease agreement between Cedar Fair and Prologis helps us narrow down the date ever so slightly.
According to the agreement, the lease has a six-year term, with an option to renew for another five years. However, Prologis can terminate the lease at any time, provided it gives a two-year notice.
This means that, if Prologis gives notice today, Great America could close in 2024. The latest it could remain open is 2033.
But what will Great America look like in the next year or five? It might be completely unrecognizable.
Shockingly, this is not the first time Cedar Fair has shut down one of its parks, and we can look to the past to get some sense of how Great America is going to fade into the sunset.
In 2004, Cedar Fair purchased the Geauga Lake theme park in Ohio, but, citing financial issues, shut down the amusement park side of Geauga Lake in 2007 but kept its recently upgraded water park operational through 2016.
During the ensuing few years, Cedar Fair relocated rides to other parks in its portfolio. Ironically, the now-defunct FireFall at Great America came from Ohio.
Expect to see the same situation play out at Great America. 2022 will likely be the last time the park is “whole” before rides are shipped out elsewhere. Strong rumors suggest that Psycho Mouse, the wild mouse-style coaster toward the rear of the park, will be the first to go at the end of this year, and will be relocated to Cedar Point in Ohio.
Newer, more-marketable rides such as RailBlazer will likely follow suit over the next five years.
It’s not completely unimaginable to see Great America’s new water park, South Bay Shores, be the last area standing, similar to Geauga Lake’s water park. Great America has already been flirting with water park-only operation this summer.
Any new investment (i.e. rides) into Great America is probably a thing of the past, making Liberty Twirler, a scrambler-type carnival ride opening soon, likely the final new ride at the park. Cedar Fair, however, has committed to continuing special events at the park throughout its final years.
Whatever happens, we can expect Great America’s closure and redevelopment to be a painful, long-drawn-out process that extends well into the next decade and maybe even beyond. Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor said the property is currently zoned for a theme park, and any changes must be approved by the Santa Clara City Council.
Make sure you get those final rides in at Great America, because nothing can be taken for granted.
Save the Dates
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s Evenings on the Colonnade continues Thursday evenings through Aug. 11.
Performing in the final two weeks are Coffee Zombie Collective on Aug. 4 at 8:30pm and The Joint Chiefs on Aug. 11 at 7:30pm.
Free Movies at the Beach continue on Fridays through Aug. 12. “Trolls” will be screened on Aug. 5, with “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on Aug. 12. Showtimes are 9pm.
Don’t forget to celebrate National Roller Coaster Day, this year taking place on Aug. 14. The best way to do so is to take a spin on the Giant Dipper at the Boardwalk, and the first 100 riders of the day will receive a souvenir cup.
By popular demand, Gilroy Gardens is hosting Back-to-School Family Camp Night on Aug. 6-7. Attendees can experience camping overnight at the park with a dinner and a movie, with breakfast, lunch and a day at Gilroy Gardens the following morning.