Cedar Fair, L.P., doing business as the Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, is a publicly traded partnership headquartered at its Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. The company owns and operates eleven amusement parks, two outdoor water parks, one indoor water park, and five hotels in the US and Canada. Cedar Fair also manages Gilroy Gardens under contract with the city of Gilroy, California.
Cedar Point opened in 1870 as a recreational area. The park was developed over the years going through only a few managements. The park belonged to the Cedar Point Pleasure Company. In 1974, Cedar Point Pleasure Company proposed building an amusement park in Cambridge Township, Michigan on the former Frontier City amusement park site. Those plans were abandoned in 1975. Three years later, Cedar Point acquired Valleyfair. The name Cedar Fair then was derived from the names of both parks, "Cedar" coming from Cedar Point and "Fair" coming from Valleyfair. Cedar Fair was founded in 1983 then went public on April 29, 1987.
The first acquisition of the new Cedar Fair company came in 1992 when Cedar Fair bought Dorney Park from Harris Weinstein. Cedar Fair also bought Worlds of Fun from Hunt-Midwest in 1995. One of the biggest acquisitions came in 1997 when Cedar Fair bought Knott's Berry Farm from the Knott family. This marked the first time Cedar Fair operated a year-round amusement park. In this acquisition, Cedar Fair now also owned and operated Camp Snoopy at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. This park was later sold to Mall of America Management in 2005, due to the close proximity of Valleyfair. This park was re-themed to the Nickelodeon franchise in 2007, and continues to operate under the name Nickelodeon Universe. Several new water park properties named Knott's Soak City have opened around the southern California area since the acquisition which included Buena Park in 1999, Chula Vista in 2000 and Palm Springs in 2001. Michigan's Adventure in Muskegon, Michigan was purchased for $27.6 million in 2001.
Cedar Fair opened its first indoor water park in November 2004, Castaway Bay. It replaced the former Radisson Hotel and is open year-round.
The biggest acquisitions have come recently starting in 2004 with Six Flags World of Adventure. Cedar Fair bought the park for $145 million and reverted its name back to Geauga Lake, the name the park used until its conversion by Six Flags in 2000. However, with it being so close to Cedar Point, the park started losing attendance and various rides, leading to rumors of the park closing. On September 21, 2007, it was announced that Geauga Lake would close and only the connected water park would operate as Geauga Lake's Wildwater Kingdom. Most of the rides at Geauga Lake were sent to other Cedar Fair parks to operate. In 2011, the water parks name was shortened to just Wildwater Kingdom, removing the Geauga Lake prefix. WildWater Kingdom closed in 2016.
On May 22, 2006, Cedar Fair announced it had outbid competitors and intended to purchase all five parks in the Paramount Parks chain, including Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton and the management agreement of Bonfante Gardens. On June 30, 2006, Cedar Fair announced that it had completed its acquisition of Paramount Parks from CBS Corporation in a cash transaction valued at $1.24 billion USD. Shortly following the transfer of ownership, Cedar Fair began the process of integrating the two companies. With the purchase of the Paramount Parks, Cedar Fair LP announced that it would do business under the name Cedar Fair Entertainment Company. Cedar Fair LP remains the legal company name.
The individual parks continued to operate under their Paramount names during the 2006 season, however Cedar Fair began removing the Paramount name and logo from the parks in January 2007. The names of the parks were changed back to their original pre-Paramount names (the Paramount's prefix was removed) with the Cedar Fair corporate logo added. Bonfante Gardens was changed to Gilroy Gardens. Cedar Fair began removing references to Paramount Pictures Although the acquisition granted Cedar Fair a ten-year licensing deal for Paramount names and icons, such as Star Trek and Batman, Cedar Fair opted to terminate the agreement and not pay an annual licensing fee. All references to Paramount/CBS-licensed properties were removed before the beginning of the 2007 season.
In December 2009 it was announced that Apollo Global Management would offer Cedar Fair $11.50 per share, a 28 percent premium over the market price, as part of a takeover plan which would also make Cedar Fair a private company. The deal included a cash payment of $635 million in addition to assuming Cedar Fair's debt of over $1.7 billion USD putting the total value of the transaction close to $2.4 billion USD. Cedar Fair planned to hold a shareholder meeting on March 16, 2010 to vote on the transaction but postponed the meeting to April 8, 2010, implying that two-thirds of the shareholder vote needed for approval wasn't yet secured. On April 6, 2010, the deal was terminated, and Cedar Fair paid $6.5 million to reimburse Apollo for expenses incurred from the proposed transaction. Cedar Fair also adopted a unitholder rights plan as a preventative measure to help protect unitholders in the event of any future hostile takeover.
On September 16, 2011, JMA Ventures, LLC entered into an agreement to purchase California's Great America from Cedar Fair and take ownership of the Gilroy Gardens management contract. The agreement required approval of Santa Clara's city council which was scheduled to vote on the matter on December 6, 2011. However, JMA cancelled its plans to purchase Great America and bowed out of the agreement.
On June 20, 2011 Cedar Fair announced that long term CEO Dick Kinzel would retire on January 3, 2012 and that Matt Ouimet will take his spot as the CEO of Cedar Fair. Ouimet was employed by The Walt Disney Company for 17 years. He served as president of Disney Cruise Line and president of the Disneyland Resort. He officially became CEO on January 3. Cedar Fair launched new websites for their parks in 2012 as well as a new marketing campaign, Thrills Connect.
On November 20, 2012, Cedar Fair announced they had sold its Knott's Soak City: San Diego location to SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. About nine months later, Cedar Fair announced it had sold its Knott's Soak City: Palm Springs location to CNL Lifestyle Properties.
On September 5, 2016, Cedar Fair closed Wildwater Kingdom, the last operating part of the former Geauga Lake & Wildwater Kingdom. All land that once contained both properties is now available for redevelopment.
On October 4, 2017, Cedar Fair announced that Ouimet would step down as CEO and be succeeded by COO Richard Zimmerman on January 1, 2018. Ouimet will remain with the company, taking the newly created position of executive chairman of the board of directors.
Fast Lane is Cedar Fair's version of a virtual queue system. It was first announced for Kings Island on July 18, 2011. The park served as the testing park for it. For $50, visitors get a wrist band which gives them the ability to get to the front of the line on the parks most popular attractions. Originally, it could only be used from noon to 7:00 PM, but it was soon expanded to be available all day. On January 19, 2012, it was announced that Fast Lane would be rolled out at all the Cedar Fair parks for the 2012 season. There is also Fright Lane, which is Fast Lane for the haunted attractions during the Halloween events.
Cedar Fair has some of the most visited seasonal parks in the North America with a combined 25.1 million people visiting their parks in 2016. Cedar Fair's most visited park is Knott's Berry Farm while the most visited seasonal park is Canada's Wonderland.
Parks organized with visitors per year: