Theme park season pass prices way down, job applications way up

It's a roller coaster economy, even for roller coaster jobs.

America's seasonal theme parks are filling their rosters for the summer, and across the board, they're finding job applications by multiples of what they received last year. Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey expected as many as 18,000 applications for just 4,100 positions. North Carolina's Carowinds usually has 1,000 applications by this point, but this year, it already has about 3,400. Holiday World, a popular Indiana park, saw interest shoot from 767 applications last year to 1,797 over three job fairs this year.

It's long been an industry joke that pimply-faced teen-agers are the ones who are traditionally in charge of America's thrill rides. The Clearasil set makes for our generation's carnies. This year, though, the job market is so tough that grown adults are officially crowding teens and college kids out of the running. Six Flags in St. Louis recently reported a 50% increase in applications, many of them displaced from unsteady industries like construction.
Not that theme parks are much steadier. There aren't going to be as many jobs this year. Amusement parks are already hurting, and Disney, which operates parks year-round, has already announced intentions to lay off thousands of park workers. Despite the fact it's running unprecedented sales, admissions are flat compared to last year.

Busch Gardens has chopped its season pass prices to the lowest level since 2004. Six Flags, already in financial trouble, is preparing itself for a desperate summer. At some of its parks, the price of a season pass just got chopped again.

For example, at its park near Atlanta, it will now sell you the right to come and go all season for $50. A year ago, season passes were $20 more than that. Now, one costs just $10 more than a one-day ticket.

New lower entry prices are hitting a sweet spot with consumers: The park is reporting that season pass sales are 255% higher than they were a year ago. A silver lining, perhaps, for the ailing amusement industry. But bad news for the nation's babysitters. This summer, it's cheaper to drop the kids off at Six Flags.
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