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Lower than expected attendance this year so far seems to be prompting Busch Gardens Tampa to make even more cuts as the summer season draws to a close in order to make up for lost revenue. Second quarter results released from SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment earlier this week include a nearly $16 million loss, and nearly 10% drop in attendance across the chain from the same period last year.
As reported in our recent article, Crown Colony Restaurant and Garden Gate Cafe will be closing this month. While not official, they are expected to close with the end of Summer Nights this Sunday, August 18th. Several sources have stated Garden Gate is expected to reopen later this year, while no specific plans exist to reopen Crown Colony Restaurant at this time. The Crown Colony Cafe and Pub on the second level of the Crown Colony House are expected to remain open.
Also worth noting is the seasonal closure of Orang Cafe in the Jungala section of the park. Unlike the other two eateries above, Orang Cafe has closed in the off season in the past. What’s interesting to note is that it closed before the end of Summer Nights, and also has seen its signage completely removed. In the spring when it was closed, it’s signage was still present and a sign out front noted its temporary closure.
Several sources have also told us to expect a number of the smaller concession stands to be closed completely or have reduced operating hours. While this too is expected in the slower off-season, it will be interesting to see how drastic the cuts are and if they impact guests with increased wait times.
Two shows look to be changing to weekend only operation starting next week - Madagascar Live! Operation: Vacation and A is for Africa. This is based on the official entertainment schedule on Busch Garden’s website, and a report from a forum user who was informed by an employee that cuts were coming to the Safari of Fun area.
While the number of showings per day are typically reduced because of the shorter park hours, it seems odd that the brand new Madagascar show is going completely dark five days a week. Tuesdays will be the hardest hit – Lets Get Loud! doesn’t perform on that day of the week, leaving only three entertainment opportunities for guests – Iceploration, Critter Castaways and Born to Rock.
According to the Busch Gardens website, Rhino Rally is also closing down as of August 19th, and is currently scheduled to remain closed through the end of the year. This will likely be extended through early 2014 as a seasonal closure to save on costs. Also slated for seasonal closure – Jungle Flyers, closing just after Labor Day (September 3) through December 19th, right before Christmas week.
These cuts are in addition to the abrupt closure of Pirates 4D at the end of the Independence Day weekend. Other seasonal closures may also be on the way. Skyride is currently scheduled for a two month “refurbishment” beginning September 9th.
Smaller cuts throughout the park have also been made recently, including the reduction of Summer Nights hours from 10 p.m. closings to 9 p.m. on weekends after the first two weeks. Just inside the turnstiles, the outdoor sales location of plants and other landscaping items disappeared earlier this summer. It’s also likely some merchandise locations will have reduced operating hours in the months ahead.
All of these things make the $50 weekday ticket promotion currently being offered a bit more understandable. With so many cuts coming, paying the gate price of $89 would probably result in even more complaints than they are already bound to receive.
It’s not all bad news, though. The work on Falcon’s Fury is well under way, and this year’s Howl-O-Scream is shaping up to be rather impressive, including three new houses. Work continues on smaller refurbishment projects around the park as well.
At this point, outside of contacting the park and voicing concerns over the reduction in attraction, entertainment and dining options, we can only hope that attendance picks up at the park next year so that all of these locations can reopen and return to normal operation.