by Andrew Rybarczyk
I have always been a Dick Kinzel fan. It was his vision that made Cedar Point what it is today and gave me the opportunity to fall in love with roller coasters. In all of my limited dealings with him, he could not have been nicer or more gracious. Most important though, you could see his love of Cedar Point, his love of roller coasters, and his love for his guests every day. Routinely, Mr. Kinzel would be walking the midways interacting with guests. So when he announced his retirement, it was indeed a dark day in my household. The future suddenly became uncertain. Even more so when his successor was announced, a man from the hated mouse company. The announcement of Matt Ouimet as the new head of Cedar Fair and my beloved Cedar Point would have to earn this spot obviously not in the companies mind but assuredly in mine.
Mr. Ouimet's first few decisions also did not sit well with me. Luminosity, a stage show was announced to replace the aging "Hot Summer Lights" show that had gone through various incarnations through the years. That in and of itself was not a poor decision. Deciding to tear down the oft beleaguered WildCat to put up seating was. I understand WildCat has had its issues, was aging, and was overlooked by many (even myself included at times), but did that warrant its destruction? To top off this, after seeing Luminosity, it became even more evident to me that Wildcat's death indeed was in vain. Luminosity for me was pretty much an epic fail especially in the early weeks of its tenure. It had just too much going on all at once but more offensive was the stage monstrosity constructed. During the day, the steel trusses just looked cheap and out of place in this section of the park that is more historic in nature because of the fixtures and architecture surrounding the train station. Later that season, the decision was made to remove Disaster Transport. Once again, not a favorite coaster by many but still one that represented a "starter" coaster for many families. To the point, Mr. Ouimet gained the nickname "Coaster Killer" around my household for having destroyed two coasters in one year. To say the least, this was NOT a promising start for the new captain of the ship.
This auspicious start though began to be tempered by Mr. Ouimet's next few decisions. One of the biggest was the addition of GateKeeper. This new roller coaster would be the first since Maverick was built in 2007. Not only was it one of the new B&M Wing Riders, but it also would feature a new front gate built into its design. It is exactly the type of first impression that the general public should get as they enter "The Coaster Capitol of the World." Another impressive decision involved a multimillion dollar commitment to improve the Cedar Point resorts. Being that I have always stayed "on property" when visiting, this announcement began to get me excited about the future of those properties. The last is the addition of Coca-Cola as the official drink provider. Now obviously a matter of taste, but I think this is a huge upgrade over Pepsi!
It seems that Mr. Ouimet's decisions are also making the stockholders happy as well. Cedar Fair has had a record year for attendance while also modestly reducing its overall debt. Ouimet's decision to increase the dividend paid to its stockholders has gained the attention of many investors considering that the ratio of price to dividend is becoming more favorable. Ouimet also seems to be saying and doing the right things financially. Investors are listening and with the announcement of 500 million dollars in unsecured loans being offered by the parent company, it seems that Ouimet is taking a financial gamble that could pay off big for the company, for Kings Island, and most importantly all of us fans.