One of the city’s premier tourist attractions will be under new ownership after an Ohio-based company announced Thursday morning that it would buy Schlitterbahn’s New Braunfels and Galveston parks in a $261 million deal.
The change in ownership should mean that there are bright times ahead for Schlitterbahn lovers, the Henry family said in a statement announcing the deal.
“While it’s a difficult decision, after several challenging years, we believe that our team, communities, guests, and fans are going to enjoy what lies ahead,” the Henry family said, alluding to the legal difficulties Schlitterbahn has dealt with after the death of a 10-year old boy at the Kansas City location in 2016.
“We believe Cedar Fair, with their approach to embracing parks that have a unique footprint, will be a phenomenal owner, and with the talented people that are the Schlitterbahn Family, will take Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts to the next level of world-class family entertainment.”
Cedar Fair Entertainment Company said it also has the right to acquire the property located in Kansas City, Kan., for a cash purchase price of $6 million.
The move sent shockwaves through the New Braunfels community just as the summer tourism season swings into high gear, but Winter Prosapio, corporate communications director for Schlitterbahn, echoed the Henrys in saying the move was a positive one.
“We’re very excited, and nothing is changing for the 2019 season in terms of our staff,” Prosapio said. “We’re going to keep the parks going and full and all that stuff. There will be renewed investments in the flagship park, and that is going to be great.”
Cedar Fair’s president and CEO Richard Zimmerman said the move allowed the company to enter a fast-growing area of the country.
“These properties represent new markets for us with attractive demographics in the growing Central Texas region, and they align with our strategy to identify compelling opportunities to accelerate our growth and profitability,” Zimmerman said. “The investments we have made over the past five years to strengthen our back-of-house and customer-facing systems will support a smooth integration of these properties by ensuring a premium guest experience, strong team collaboration and superior execution.”
Prosapio said discussions about the sale of the parks have been ongoing for a few months now, and the deal does include the Schlitterbahn name.
“It’s been something that (the Henry family) have been exploring,” Prosapio said. “It’s very bittersweet, but the nice thing about the company they’ve chosen is Cedar Fair is very much about — it’s a company of brands — and they very much like to keep the character of the brands they have acquired over time, Knottsberry Farm being a good example.”
It was because Schlitterbahn is already such a successful brand that likely interested Cedar Fair, Prosapio said.
“They’re a very large company and they wouldn’t be interested in acquiring us and changing everything — they like that we are already a very successful brand in Texas,” she said. “They’ll bring some things that are fantastic to our community.”
The fact Schlitterbahn has won ‘Best Water Park in the World’ for 21 years straight and Galveston has won ‘Best Indoor Water Park in the World’ for a decade were mentioned as big points of note by Zimmerman.
“We look forward to adding these parks to Cedar Fair’s industry-leading portfolio of regional entertainment resorts,” he said in a statement.
Decisions about other Schlitterbahn parks at South Padre and Corpus Christi will be made locally, Prosapio said.
“South Padre is going to continue as a Schlitterbahn park through the end of the season, and then they’ll spin off — and they’ll still be owned by part of the Henry family,” Prosapio said. “The Corpus Christi park is still owned by Diamond Beach and all parks are going to continue being Schlitterbahns until the end of the 2019 season.”
After the 2019 season, those parks may re-brand.
“They’ll make their decisions about what they want to do moving forward,” Prosapio said.
Guests can rest assured they will still have free parking and be allowed to bring in their free picnic lunch for the 2019 season, Prosapio said.
“They really are some of people’s favorite things about Schlitterbahn,” Prosapio said. “There could be changes or a lot could stay the same, the future will tell, but everything for the 2019 season is going to go forward the way it always has.”
Details are still being worked out, said Michael Russell, investor relations for Cedar Fair Entertainment Company.
“All of that will come as we move through this process to close and certainly after close, but for 2019, it’s business as usual,” Russell said. “We’re part way — or maybe even halfway through the season, not quite, and we simply want these parks to operate as they are without any disruption to operations and that’s important.”