Thousands turn out as Six Flags Magic Mountain reopens after yearlong pandemic closure – Daily Breeze

Thousands turn out as Six Flags Magic Mountain reopens after yearlong pandemic closure – Daily Breeze

**** Please visit the themeparks official websites for their latest guidelines and openings ****

The simple joy of riding a roller coaster returned after more than a year of coronavirus closures as Six Flags Magic Mountain became one of the first amusement parks in California to reopen amid declining COVID-19 cases and increased vaccinations.

Magic Mountain reopened on Thursday, April 1 for season passholders and members after a 383-day closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic that stretched from March 14, 2020 through March 31, 2021. The park will reopen to the general public on Saturday, April 3.

For many Southern California theme park fans, the pandemic became real when Magic Mountain, Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and Knott’s Berry Farm closed in March 2020. The reopening of Magic Mountain marks the symbolic bookend of a yearlong theme park drought that also signals the light at the end of the tunnel for the pandemic.

Magic Mountain member Haig Jarekian, 13,Β  had waited a year for this day.

β€œThe first day he found out the park was going to reopen he made a reservation,” said his mom, Suzy Jarekian, of Reseda. β€œHe was very excited.”

By lunchtime Haig had already conquered six rides.β€œI want to do Twisted Colossus and Goliath next,” Haig said.

With a record 19 roller coasters to choose from, what was the teen most looking forward to? The boneless wings at High Octane Wings across from Full Throttle.

SEE ALSO: What to expect when Six Flags Magic Mountain reopens

Around the park, thrilled fans screamed on Scream, howled on Goliath and were hootin’ and hollerin’ on Gold Rusher regardless of any mitigating masksΒ  or state guidelines discouraging shouting or screaming.

Greg Wright, director of operations for Six Flags Magic Mountain, welcomes guests into the Valencia theme park on Thursday morning, April 1, 2021, after the park was closed for more than a year by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Brady MacDonald, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Greg Wright, Magic Mountain’s director of operations, held a social distancing sign and welcomed visitors back at the front gate with a mix of delight, relief and pride.

β€œItβ€˜s a little emotional,” Wright said. β€œI haven’t seen some of my team in 13 months.”

Arrivals were staggered every 15 minutes. Visitors arriving by car were turned away and told to come back later if they showed up at 10:30 a.m. with a 3 p.m. reservation.

The goal was to reduce as many pinch points and limit crowding as much as possible. Visitors flowed through a temperature tunnel and a contactless security zone without stopping. Seven open turnstiles meant there was rarely more than one group in any one line.

Riders are seated every other row on Twisted Colossus as they visit Six Flags Magic Mountain on Thursday, April 1, 2021 on its first day of operation after a yearlong closure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Brady MacDonald, Orange County Register/SCNG)

COVID-19 related changes could be seen everywhere. Tables were added to create cordoned off outdoor dining areas. Crews sanitized ride vehicles every 30 minutes β€” or more often for less busy kiddie rides. Signs reminding visitors to wear masks were attached to poles every 50 feet or so. Hand sanitizer stations dotted the midway.

SEE ALSO: California theme parks must close some indoor rides and shows, state guidelines say

Mask adherence was virtually universal β€” with only a few exposed noses or masks under chins. Audio announcements reminded visitors to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

Social distancing meant coaster capacity was reduced by half to two-thirds. Goliath loaded only one family or party per 6-seat car β€” meaning a full train that normally holds 30 might go out with 7 people aboard. Twisted Colossus filled every other row β€” allowing for more throughput. The Justice League dark ride β€” which was down early in the day β€” brought riders waiting in outdoor queues through the preshow without stopping and loaded them directly on the attraction.

The top of the 235-foot-tall lift hill for Goliath offered a bird’s-eye view of the park’s Los Angeles County vaccination site β€” a sea of orange traffic cones and drive-thru tents. The 57 mph Twisted Colossus didn’t budge the masks of riders. West Coast Racers kept riders outdoors to avoid extended indoor waits.

On day one, all of the visitors were season passholders or members β€” old pros at judging ride queues and knowing what was worth the wait and what could wait for another day. Crowds were light but not out of the ordinary for a midweek spring day. Some restaurants and shops remained closed due to sparse foot traffic.

Lines formed quickly for Full Throttle near the entrance, the wood-steel hybrid Twisted Colossus and the West Coast Racers racing coaster β€” the park’s newest ride that opened in late 2020.

Attendance increased throughout the day as staggered entries continued every 15 minutes β€” but it never felt crowded. By 3 p.m., the socially distanced lines were nearly as long for food as they were for rides.

Longtime season passholder Renee Martinez and her family rolled snake eyes on their first day back at Magic Mountain β€” waiting in lines for Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom, Justice League and X2 only to have all three rides go down.

β€œIt was not a great experience,” said Martinez, 36, of Lancaster. β€œWe usually have no complaints. … We just had bad luck.”

They gave up after 3 hours of standing in the sun wearing masks without getting on any rides.

β€œWe’re going to get some ice cream,” Martinez said.

Magic Mountain President Don McCoy, who started at the park during the pandemic, said about 1,200 employees have been called back or hired, down from a typical summertime high of a little more than 3,000.

Magic Mountain and other California theme parks are masters of crowd control and queue management β€” key capabilities in the coronavirus era, according to McCoy. Safety was the top concern before the pandemic and remains so now.

β€œWe know what to do in this environment,” McCoy said.

The Valencia amusement park will swing open its gates to the general public on Saturday. Single-day visitors, members and passholders are required to make advance online reservations β€” limited only to California residents β€” in order to visit the park under state-mandated rules.

SEE ALSO:Β Say goodbye to single rider lines at California theme parks

California officials allowed theme parks to reopen starting April 1 after sidelining the industry for more than a year while other businesses were allowed to operate with restrictions. The closures cost California theme parks billions and forced the tourist destinations to lay off tens of thousands of employees amid the pandemic.

Magic Mountain was joined by Legoland California, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in returning to limited operations with roller coasters and rides on April Fool’s Day. Universal Studios Hollywood (April 16), Disneyland (April 30) and other California parks will return throughout the month.

Jordan Rodriguez didn’t think California theme parks needed to be closed for a whole year and was glad to be back at Magic Mountain on Thursday.

β€œI missed the adrenaline,” said Rodriguez, 30, of Fresno, after riding Full Throttle. β€œI missed it so much I had to go sky diving to get a thrill β€” twice last year.”

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**** Please visit the themeparks official websites for their latest guidelines and openings ****

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