California theme parks are considering legal action and keeping “all options open” after state officials issued reopening guidelines that could keep the major tourist destinations closed until early 2021 or even next summer.
California Attractions and Parks Association executive director Erin Guerrero said during a news conference on Wednesday, Oct. 21 that California theme parks are considering legal action to gain permission to reopen or to change the state’s newly-released reopening guidelines.
“I think that all options are open at this point,” Guerrero said during the news conference. “We’re going to continue to explore our options.”
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The Sacramento-based CAPA represents Disneyland, Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, SeaWorld San Diego, Legoland California, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and California’s Great America.
California issued long-awaited theme park reopening guidelines on Tuesday, Oct. 20 as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy after state officials visited Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and Pacific Park to review COVID-19 health and safety measures.
“Our number one goal is to be allowed to reopen responsibly,” Guerrero said during the news conference. “Obviously, we’d love to keep that conversation going and come up with a reasonable timeline for reopenings, but at this point any options are viable.”
Guerrero was joined on the virtual news conference by officials from Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm, Legoland California and California’s Great America.
Cedar Fair regional vice president Raffi Kaprelyan — whose company operates Knott’s Berry Farm, California’s Great America and Gilroy Gardens — echoed the sentiment regarding legal action.
“If they’re open to discussion, we’ll continue our dialogue,” Kaprelyan said during the news conference. “If not, all options are open.”
Theme park officials said the new reopening guidelines issued by the state are “unachievable” and will keep the parks “closed indefinitely.”
California officials issued separate reopening guidelines for smaller and larger theme parks in the state. Small theme parks can reopen in the orange/moderate tier 3 while large theme parks must wait to return in the yellow/minimal tier 4.
The new guidelines mean Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and other large theme parks won’t be able to reopen for months — and possibly until early 2021 or next summer — when their respective counties reach the least-restrictive “minimal” risk level.
Most California counties with major theme parks fall into the second-most restrictive red/substantial tier 2 risk level — including Orange (Disneyland and Knott’s), San Diego (SeaWorld and Legoland) and Solano (Six Flags Discovery Kingdom).
Los Angeles County — home to Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain — is in the most restrictive purple/widespread tier 1 risk level. Santa Clara County — home to California’s Great America and the smaller Gilroy Gardens and Happy Hollow parks — is in the second-least restrictive orange/moderate tier 3 risk level.
The theme park officials called on Newsom to revise the newly-issued guidelines and allow California theme parks to reopen in tier 3 instead of tier 4.
“I’m very much hoping that this discussion is not over. We’re going to continue to work with the governor,” Universal Studios Hollywood president Karen Irwin said on the conference call. “The most disturbing part of these guidelines is opening in tier 4. Frankly, I just don’t see a path forward to getting to that level.”