Crowds flock to Six Flags Great Adventure for opening day
JACKSON — It almost felt like a normal, blazing hot July day here when the gates opened at Six Flags Great Adventure Friday morning.
This summer, of course, nothing is quite normal due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. That much was clear as the first guests of the season, donning protective face masks, queued up to have their body temperatures checked before entering the sprawling theme park at 10:30 a.m.
Friday marked the theme park’s first day in operation in months. Opening day was reserved for members and season pass holders. The park opens to the general public Saturday.
The gates opened to a light morning crowd 30 minutes ahead of schedule. By lunchtime, the line of vehicles waiting to reach the parking area stretched outside the theme park and down Route 537 to the interchange for Interstate 195.
Social distancing reminders and cleaning crews were conspicuous inside the theme park. On the rides, every other seat was left empty. Guests who wanted to avoid lines for food could place their orders online for pickup. There are designated outdoor “mask-free” areas for guests who need a break from their face coverings while social distancing.
One of the Jersey Shore’s biggest tourist attractions and largest seasonal employers, Six Flags Great Adventure has a large, loyal fan base and employs around 4,000 people every summer. But like other businesses upended by the COVID-19 crisis, it has had to scramble to make major adjustments in its operations.
The theme park’s safety protocols include thermal imaging temperature checks for arriving guests, touchless bag checks, extra cleaning crews and plentiful hand washing and hand sanitizing stations. Both guests and team members must wear masks inside the theme park.
Guests are required to make online reservations and watch an informational video that outlines the new safety protocols.
Effective Thursday, Gov. Phil Murphy has allowed amusement parks to open at 50% capacity. Water parks and playgrounds were also allowed to open Thursday at half capacity. Six Flags’ Hurricane Harbor water park remains closed, however.
“This ’new normal’ will be different in some ways, but we believe these additional measures are appropriate in the current environment,” Mike Spanos, president and chief executive officer of Six Flags Entertainment Corp., the parent company of the Jackson theme park, said last week.
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