Shapiro emphasized that the parks are in great shape, the company is continuing to invest in new rides and attractions, and that attendance, revenue, and profits are all on the increase. He also confirmed that he is not planning on laying off any staff or closing any parks. Shapiro did acknowledge that the bankruptcy court could challenge the company's plans, and that it would look closely at the park chain's performance this season to gauge the Chapter 11 process.
The Six Flags leader then used the forum to share his thoughts about the company and his plans for the future. Among the highlights of Shapiro's revelations:
- The restructuring will not hamper the company's plans to invest about $100 million annually in the parks. Shapiro said that Six Flags America will be getting a new Thomas the Tank Engine land with ten new rides in 2010. And, he said, the chain is gearing up for a big 50th anniversary celebration in 2011.
- The CEO thinks that a $100-million annual capital investment is all the company can afford, and that he wants to add something new to every park each year. That's why, Shapiro says, the days of Six Flags mega-coasters may be over. "If I put in a $25-million coaster at one park, that leaves me with only $75 million for the rest." He pegged the new Terminator Salvation coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain at $10 million and said that the Bizarro coaster makeover at Six Flags New England cost $7 million. Shapiro pointed to the previous management's investment of $50 million in Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure as a prime example of how it racked up insurmountable debt. He also said that while Kings Island's Diamondback and Cedar Point's Maverick are great coasters (I'll second that!), he doubts whether the parks will be able to realize a reasonable return on their investments.
- Shapiro admitted that, while the parks have improved under his watch, "We're not where we need to be." He said that the previous management deferred much-needed maintenance and infrastructure improvements in favor of flashy coasters. Shapiro wishes he could commit $200 million to capital improvements, but that given his budget constraints, bringing the parks up to snuff will take time.
- Expect to see more themed, immersive rides, like Bizarro and Terminator Salvation, says Shapiro. He conceded that the Batman-themed The Dark Knight rides may not have been critical favorites, but he added that Six Flags Great Adventure and Six Flags Great America saw attendance increases of 200,000 and 100,000, respectively, when the indoor coasters debuted at the parks last year.