Six Flags CEO blames decline in park attendance on last year’s crowds

Surprising comments by Six Flags President and CEO Selim Bassoul are making headlines.
Updated: Aug. 17, 2022 at 6:00 PM EDT
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AGAWAM, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Surprising comments by Six Flags President and CEO Selim Bassoul are making headlines. He called the amusement park chain a cheap daycare center for teenagers and referred to the problem with long lines and crowds last year. Now, he said attendance is way down

The comments were made during the Six Flags second quarter earnings conference call with investors last week. The bottom line is that extreme overcrowding at the parks last year may be impacting attendance this year.

There were no long lines to get into the parking lot at Six Flags New England on Wednesday. It’s a noticeable difference from last summer when on certain days, there were hours of waiting, lines of cars, and huge crowds.

Agawam Mayor Bill Sapelli told Western Mass News that he has noticed a difference in traffic around the park this summer compared to last summer. However, that could be due to a number of factors.

“The state of the economy right now, the cost of goods and services going up, I’m sure that people are cutting back on entertainment of that nature I’m sure,” Sapelli said.

However, Bassoul has different theory as it applies to the whole amusement park company. A transcript from an earning call with investors last week revealed that attendance at the amusement parks across the United States is down 35 percent compared to 2019. He pointed to experiences parkgoers had in 2021 and 2019 when he said wait times just to get into the park were between 20 and 30 minutes, with another 20-to-25-minute search at the entrance. People had a 15-to-25-minute wait to get into a restaurant, then one to two hours to get their meals. That was on top of two-hour wait times for rides.

Bassoul’s conclusion was “...we realized that literally we had discounted too much...we became...a cheap daycare center for teenagers during breaks and the summers.”

Six Flags is hoping to bring back families willing to pay for a positive experience. They also decided to get rid of their free meal program. Sapelli believes supply chain shortages may have played a role too.

“The cost of materials and supplies, it’s just crazy whether for paper plates and the cups used or whether it’s the hamburgers and hotdogs. It’s going out of sight…That may have some to do with it as well, you know. They’re trying to look where they can cut costs,” Sapelli added.

In the meantime, Six Flags is looking forward to this year’s Fright Fest with preparations already underway in Agawam.

“Fright Fest, which is coming up September 24 to October. They’re hiring over 200 people for that program and that’s a very successful program,” Sapelli noted.

Western Mass News reached out to Six Flags New England for comment, but we were told they had nothing to add at this time to what they called the commentary given on the earnings call.