The six-month closure of Knott’s Berry Farm has been “devastating” for the Buena Park theme park and a “disaster” for the city that depends on the 100-year-old institution to drive spending at area hotels, restaurants and businesses, according to Buena Park mayor Fred Smith.
“Tourism is a big part of Buena Park’s economy,” Smith said during a press conference across from Disneyland. “Knott’s Berry Farm is the largest employer in our city. It is the largest source of tax revenue, drawing visitors from all the way around the world.”
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Smith joined the mayors of Anaheim and Garden Grove on Wednesday, Sept. 16 to call on Gov. Gavin Newsom to issue COVID-19 guidelines that would allow Knott’s, Disneyland and other California theme parks to safely reopen.
California theme parks closed in mid-March amid the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. and remain shuttered while they await guidelines for safely reopening from the state. Knott’s has partially reopened for a series of limited-capacity food and beer events without rides.
Buena Park joins a growing chorus of voices calling on Newsom to reopen Knott’s Berry Farm and other California theme parks.
“I would ask governor Newsom to please do the right thing and let us reopen now,” Smith said during an interview.
SEE ALSO: Newsom: Announcement coming ‘very, very shortly’ on reopening California theme parks
Knott’s parent company Cedar Fair reopened theme parks this summer in Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Michigan without incident, according to Knott’s officials.
“Knott’s Berry Farm is prepared to work with the State of California and the Orange County Health Care Agency to meet and exceed the necessary guidelines and requirements for reopening our theme park,” according to Knott’s officials. “Cedar Fair Entertainment Company has implemented robust health and safety protocols for our guests and associates informed by our in-house, industry and local government experts, along with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control across all of its parks.”
Knott’s employs more than 5,000 people — with many of them out of work since the March closure of the park, according to Smith. Buena Park’s hotel bed tax revenue has dropped 92% during the coronavirus pandemic, Smith said.
“We’re actually down about $15 million due to the coronavirus,” Smith said.
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Knott’s follows a set of guidelines that are now familiar as part of the “new normal” in the COVID-19 era: Mandatory masks, social distancing, increased sanitization, contactless payments, reduced attraction capacity and employee training.
“They’re willing to step up to the plate and do whatever it takes,” Smith said.
Knott’s has implemented those COVID-19 health and safety protocols at the reopened California Marketplace outdoor shopping mall, Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel and during a series of food tasting events inside the park while rides, coasters and shows remain idle.
“We look forward to extending our protocols and experience across the entire property upon our reopening,” according to Knott’s officials.
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No COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported at Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Six Flags, Legoland and Cedar Fair parks in Florida, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia and Michigan, according to state health agencies and theme park officials.
“Theme parks all over the country are opening safely and responsibly,” Smith said. “I’m confident that Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland and other California theme parks can also do the same.”