Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Six Flags Plots New Strategy

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Six Flags Inc (NYSE: PKS) will be overhauling its parks for 2005, stated chairman Kieran E. Burke yesterday at a meeting of stockholders.

"These are desperate times in America, and they require desperate actions on the part of forward-thinking management," he said.

Faced with sagging profits and dwindling attendance, the world's largest regional theme park operator has blamed everything from weather to terror threats for its lackluster performance. But Burke said that he had finally identified the true cause.

"I finally walked through one of our jewels, Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. I must admit, it was a hole," he said shamefully. "The food was overpriced and unappealing, the rides were either broken down or had ridiculously long lines, there was trash everywhere on the midway and the bathrooms hadn't been cleaned since the previous season."

Burke announced a three-step plan for turning the chain around. The first step, he said, was to "not deny the tradition that Six Flags has developed in its long proud tradition." Customers, he said, flock to their parks for the unique Six Flags experience. "Rather than run from our guests' expectation, I intend to meet them head on."

Beginning in 2005, all rides will operate for only 15 minutes per day before the parks close. "This will ensure that our guests no longer have to fear rides constantly breaking down due to poor maintenance. With such a brief operating schedule, our crews will be able to keep the rides in top condition."

This practice will also turn a former deficit into an asset. "Long lines will no longer be a problem, since the rides will not be running." This will also allow the chain to cut its maintenance staff in half.

The second initiative is regarding the food service at the park. "We will turn to the masters of food service in the world, the United States Military. We have contracted with them for 2005 to provide MREs at all our parks. Our guests will enjoy the same quality food that our valued soldiers and Marines do." The advantage of this, Burke claimed, is consistency. It also will help instill patriotism in the guests, reminding them of the sacrifices our troops are making overseas.

The final change that Burke announced was in regard to the park's cleanliness. The challenge, he said, is the difficulty in finding low-wage workers who want to engage in the dirtiest jobs at the parks. So he plans to eliminate all of the park's restroom and waste reclamation facilities, along with most of the custodians.

"When I saw all the trash on the ground at Kentucky Kingdom, I realized that this was a potential gold mine waiting to be exploited." Rather than force guests to walk a few feet to throw their trash into a refuse container, Burke will encourage that guests throw their trash, and especially their food, directly onto the ground.

"We are purchasing 1500 roto-tillers, which will be used to mix the trash, which after all is fertilizer, directly into the ground throughout the day. This will not only help to nourish the thousands of dying plants in our parks, but also create much more of a quaint country fair atmosphere. It will also eliminate the costly maintenance of thousands of tons of poured concrete walkways."

Burke's novel solution to the challenge of maintaining restroom facilities follows the same idea. "Our parks are famous for their forested areas, but many of our guests never see the abundance of shade we provide. So our most-used park facility will be a deep hole in the forest serving as the park's lavatory, which will encourage our guests to commune with nature."

At the end of each day, the hole will be bulldozed and a new one dug out. "I did this all the time at home for my dog, just on a much smaller scale. If it's good enough for my dog, it's certainly good enough for Six Flags guests."

Burke is confident that his strategy will work. "We expect profits to grow by 75 percent next year, barring any more natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Or, you know, any weather that is not sunny and 72 degrees."