Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Premier Parks Acquisition Plan Gets under Way; Tool to Aid Towns' Development Efforts

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Premier Parks Acquisition Plan Gets under Way; Tool to Aid Towns' Development Efforts

Article excerpt

An initial public offering made earlier this year has set the ball rolling in Premier Parks Inc.'s goal of acquiring more amusement facilities.

Despite the planned acquisition of New York state's largest amusement park, announced this week, won't move Premier Parks up from its position as fourth largest theme park company in the United States.

Premier Parks, owner of Frontier City and White Water Bay in Oklahoma City, is buying The Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdom.

The financial terms of the deal, expected to close in December, were not revealed.

Charles Wood founded The Great Escape in 1954 as Storytown, USA. The park has since grown into the biggest in New York with more than 125 rides, shows and attractions, including its Comet wooden roller coaster -- consistently rated among the best in the world.

"Premier Parks is noted in the industry as an innovator when it comes to owning and operating theme parks," Wood said. "They know the business and perhaps, most importantly, have the resources to make things happen."

Premier Parks plans to add attractions to the New York park, however, renovation plans are not final.

"The tag line (for Premier Parks) has always been providing family entertainment close to home and at an affordable price.

The Great Escape fits exactly within that philosophy," said James F. Dannhauser, chief financial officer.

The deal means Premier will now operate the two largest amusement parks in New York state. Premier acquired Darien Lake Theme Park and Camping Resort in August 1995. Premier invested more than $10 million in new attractions and improvements this past year at Darien Lake, located about 25 miles east of Buffalo.

Premier also owns three other parks, two of which were also purchased last summer: Adventure World, between Baltimore, Md. and Washington, D.C.; Geauga Lake in Cleveland; and Wyandot Lake in Columbus, Ohio.

Premier Parks, which has offices in Oklahoma City and New York City, earlier this year was named the 10th largest theme park chain in the world.

As of year-end 1995, the company had total assets of $173 million. Premier Parks has a total of 4,700 seasonal and full-time employees.

The Great Escape will add 740 employees.

In 1995, Premier Parks had an aggregate attendance of 4.1 million. Estimated attendance for 1996 is 4.5 million, excluding The Great Escape.

"Including this park, we've acquired six parks in last five years," Dannhauser said.

"The next step for us is to continue to plan to grow the company."

The $57 million initial public offering completed in May was designed to allow Premier Parks to both purchase additional parks and expand existing parks, he said.

"It is absolutely our intention to continue to pursue acquisition opportunities in the theme park business on into the future," Dannhauser said.

However, no specific transactions are planned in addition to The Great Escape.

An economic development tool designed to help smaller communities in the state is one step closer to reality.

It will be a month, however, before anyone knows exactly what that tool will be and how it will work. …

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