“Before the pandemic hit, they were pretty much business as usual, they really didn’t do any social distancing things until after they reopened.” Matt Roseboom with Attractions Magazine said. “They first shut down overseas and I thought ‘they are never going to do that here’ and then, of course, they all starting going one after another until they all shut down.”
The editor and publisher of the Orlando-based magazine said he can only remember a handful of times that amusement parks closed, but never for this long.
“Maybe a day or two for a hurricane and they closed briefly after 9/11, but nothing like this,” Roseboom said.
More than 50 parks across the country had to close their gates starting in March and now, three months later, some of them are trying to bounce back.
“Almost all the theme parks are requiring masks, taking your temperature when you come in, they are social distancing,” Roseboom said. “They have markers on the ground for where to stand for the rides and some of the rides they are cleaning them off and giving you hand sanitizer before and after you are on the ride.”
As of July 1, more than 25 amusement parks had reopened across the country.
“Universal is open, SeaWorld is open and Disney has planned to open on July 11,” Roseboom said. “I think right now it is just local people attending. They seem very happy to be back in the theme parks and they seem very cautious as well.”
Six Flags has also opened nine of its U.S. locations, which includes some of its water parks. The parks are using a reservation-only system and operating at less than 50 percent capacity and have a number of safety precautions in place.
“We had a group of people, we have an epidemiologist that is on hand and then also our park teams all collectively went together,” Six Flags Over Texas spokeswoman Sharon Parker said. “Ultimately, it was based on guidance from the governor on when theme parks can reopen and we used that as our template.”
When guests arrive at any of the Six Flags locations, they are welcomed by a big tent that uses thermal imaging technology to identify anyone with a temperature over 100.4 degrees.
Guests also go through a contactless security screening, and there are hand sanitizing stations and enforced social distancing guidelines throughout the park, In addition, all rides are also going through a sanitizing process between each ride cycle.
“We have a team that goes in and sanitizes those seats, the ride is sent off and before someone can occupy that ride again, it will have gone through the sanitization process,” Parker said. “We also have a Clean Team that is going around the park cleaning all high-traffic surfaces, any surface that is touched often."
The parks also have bathroom attendants, mobile food ordering with contactless pick-up and mask requirements inside the park.
Meanwhile, a lot of eyes are on rising COVID-19 numbers in several states, including Texas and Florida.
While there are precautions in place at all reopened theme parks — rising COVID-19 cases have caused 17 states to stop their reopening phases.
Water parks in Arizona were forced to close again during the last week of June, however parks in Florida and Texas are still open as of July 1.
“We are going to continue to monitor and see what is best for our operation. At the end of the day we are going to do whatever is safe. We are not going to compromise the safety of our guests or our team members,” Parker said.
Six Flags has at least one more park scheduled to reopen by the Fourth of July, leaving only four parks in the United States waiting for an opening date.