Knoebels Summer Plans Still Uncertain
ELYSBURG — The re-opening of Knoebels Amusement Resort for its 94th season remains an uncertainty during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The state Department of Health indicated that amusement parks can operate in the green, or the final, phase of reopening, but the park is situated between Northumberland and Columbia counties. Northumberland has been in the yellow phase since May 8 and Columbia County since May 15, so it’s unlikely both counties will move to green at the same time.
“It’s tough to say what will happen,” said Knoebels Public Relations Manager Stacy Ososkie. “The business’s physical address is in Northumberland County. The challenge is half our rides and attractions are in one county and the other half in another.”
Roaring Creek divides the park in half. The main parking lot and popular rides like Impulse, the Grand Carousel and the Ferris Wheel are on the Columbia County side.
The earliest opening date for the amusement park is June 29, but that’s if it’s announced this week that Northumberland County has a planned date to enter the green phase, said Ososkie.
“We are gradually inviting back our full-time team to complete projects as permitted by state guidelines,” said Ososkie. “However, we’re doing so in a cautious manner, taking into account the unclear timeframe we have to prepare the park. Though some projects have resumed, much park prep remains on hold due to the uncertainly of when amusement parks will be permitted to open.”
Ososkie said the park is updating its calendar week by week at http://www.knoebels.com/TodayAtK.
Another question is the logistics of keeping park visitors socially distanced. The park is free admission with no gates or fences, so Knoebels does not keep a record of park attendance, only estimates based on cars in the parking lots.
“We have discussed options for managing attendance, but we haven’t made any definite decisions on that just yet,” said Ososkie.
The park has 2,300 employees during a typical year, including seasonal workers. Some have been re-hired through one in-person event before the shutdown. Two physical job fairs were canceled and employees were hired through virtual interviews, she said.
“Safety is always our top priority,” she said. “We don’t know what the requirements will be, but we’ll be prepared to follow them. We have a team planning and investigating operational adjustments for the park. We have 150 hand sanitizer stations that we will place around the park. We’re working on enhancing our cleaning and sanitizing routines.”
Buddy Knoebel, third generation owner and co-manager, said he looks forward to re-opening.
“I miss the people — seeing smiles on their faces and families enjoying time together,” he said. “I miss the sound of roller coasters, and the laughter as you travel throughout the park. I miss the interaction with our guests, and witnessing the results of our team’s efforts to make our guests happy. I miss the team who makes this all happen. The park is an outlet; people visit here to experience joy. It really all comes down to being about the people.”
The park’s new “Tornado” ride is still in Colorado where it was being manufactured. The 32-passenger ride will be located near the StratosFear. Visitors need to be 38 inches tall to ride Tornado with an adult, and 48 inches to ride alone.
“Prior to everything shutting down, we received a video of it being tested,” said Ososkie. “It seems to be in good shape. We believe it is a possibility to have it here this season.”
Other Knoebel businesses
The park’s related businesses are opened or will be opening soon with restrictions and precautions.
Three Ponds Golf Course opened May 1. Knoebel Lumber and Nickleplate Bar and Grill remained open as essential businesses with Nickleplate only offering takeout.
Lake Glory Campground reopened on May 22 and the park campground reopens June 11. There are reservations, she said.
“The amusement park is closed, but many families can still enjoy spending quality time together in the great outdoors,” said Ososkie.
The park’s social media page on Facebook is also keeping visitors and park enthusiasts engaged, she said.