Cedar Fair exploring sale of amusement parks in Missouri, Minnesota

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:54 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 10, 2009

*CORRECTION: Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. is the firm that is considering the sale of its amusement parks. An earlier version of the headline had the incorrect name of the company.

Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. is trying to sell three of its amusement parks along with the site of a now-closed park near Cleveland as a way to pay down its huge debt.

North America's third-largest amusement park chain announced Monday that it was considering selling Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun in Kansas City and Valleyfair near Minneapolis.

How much interest there will be is unclear. Troubles in the financial sector may make financing a deal difficult.

Cedar Fair said it's too early to speculate on the timing or price of any deal.

The company also said Monday it will cut its annual distribution rate nearly in half to $1 per limited partner unit.

"In light of current economic and market conditions, reducing our debt and strengthening our balance sheet must continue to be a priority," said Dick Kinzel, chairman of Cedar Fair.

Cutting the distribution along with other payments will help lower debt by about $200 million over the next three years, he said.

Cedar Fair, based in Sandusky, Ohio, took on a huge debt in 2006 with its $1.24 billion acquisition of Paramount Parks Inc.

The deal added five amusement parks to its lineup, including Kings Island near Cincinnati.

Cedar Fair already had been trying to sell one of the parks it bought from Paramount. The company has been trying for more than a year to sell California's Great America in Santa Clara, Calif., to the owners of the San Francisco 49ers for parking at its proposed football stadium.

The team doesn't have enough parking for the stadium which would be next to the Great America site and wants to use some parking spaces surrounding the amusement park.

Also up for sale is the site of Geauga Lake amusement park near Cleveland, which closed at the end of 2007, and Cedar Fair's land next to Canada's Wonderland in Toronto.

Cedar Fair operates 11 amusement parks, six outdoor water parks, one indoor water park and five hotels.

Shares of Cedar Fair LP rose 36 cents, or 6 percent, to $6.36 in afternoon trading Monday.


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Lifelong Columbian March 10, 2009 | 10:49 a.m.

I would expect several amusement parks to close in the next few years as the economy continues to struggle. Even when it does finally begin to rebound, there will still be many who will not return to their old spending habits. Amusement parks no longer appeal to younger generations the way they once did in the 70s and 80s. Things simply change and kids today find pleasure in social networking sites and other tech trends.

Anyone here remember 'Dog Patch' at the lake? As a kid growing up I used to love to go there. In fact the whole strip at the lake is almost gone. There was simply a different culture back in the day that no longer exists. Riding amusement rides, go karts, bumper boats and helicopter rides just doesn't interest anyone anymore.

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