LeBron James Will Have to Wait for His Roller Coaster
Cedar Point parent Cedar Fair (FUN) will close Mantis -- the Ohio park's 145-foot-tall steel stand-up coaster -- on Oct.19. It wasn't as popular as the park's larger or newer thrill rides. However, instead of tearing it down and building a new scream machine in its restrained footprint, Cedar Point will simply replace the coaster trains. Instead of a stand-up ride that was slow to load and rough to ride, Cedar Point will turn the same track into a floorless coaster for next summer.
You won't find too many coaster fans complaining. Floorless coasters have been growing in popularity, offering an exhilarating experience as feet can dangle freely from the seats and riders can enjoy unobstructed vistas of the amusement park. However, the real surprise here is that the new coaster will be named Rougarou. What happened to the King James promise? And where on earth did that new name come from? (It's a werewolf.)
In one of the more enthralling off-seasons for the NBA, James was widely expected to re-sign with the Miami Heat. After taking the team to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances and winning championships in half of them, James surprised the media by choosing to return back home to the Cleveland Cavaliers for at least the next two years.
One of the more interesting perks surrounding his return was that Cedar Point had used its official Twitter feed to try to woo James back to Cleveland. It all started with an interesting Twitter post made just two days before he went public with his decision: promised to live up to its promise: "It's been fun to watch the excitement surrounding the return of @KingJames to Cleveland. We stand ready to honor our original tweet."
The chatter picked up fairly quickly. Would Cedar Point re-track its wooden yet rough Mean Streak coaster in the back of the park, making it a smoother ride, and rebrand it with the King James moniker? Would it carve out space in the peninsula to build an entirely new coaster? For now, we will have to wait.
Living Up to a Partial Promise
Cedar Point did announce a partnership with the LeBron James Family Foundation charity last week, a program that will provide an annual Akron I Promise Network event and a ride auction to benefit the charity. The partnership benefits "go far beyond renaming a coaster," Cedar Fair claims. That's true for the charity and for the families that will get to enjoy the annual event, but it still finds Cedar Point falling short of its promised tweet.
It wouldn't have hurt to go through with the promise. It would have provided welcome publicity for the 2015 season after a surprisingly ho-hum 2014. Cedar Fair announced preliminary year-to-date top-line results for its collection of regional amusement parks earlier this month. Net revenues through Labor Day were up a mere 1 percent to $939 million. A 3 percent increase in average in-part guest per capita spending was offset by a slight decline in attendance and resort revenue.
It could be worse. SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS) has been having a disastrous year in terms of turnstile clicks, and it's now targeting revenue to take a 6 percent to 7 percent hit for all of 2014. However, that's a unique case in light of the "Blackfish" controversy. A mere 1 percent uptick at Cedar Fair falls well shy of the more encouraging signs seen at the country's larger theme parks.
After three years of revenues growing consistently between 4 percent and 6 percent, this year will likely fall well short of sustaining that streak. Cedar Point may or may not be letting down James, but Cedar Fair itself is letting down its investors.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. To read about our favorite high-yielding dividend stocks for any investor, check out our free report.