I'm kinda disappointed that it's probably going to be some sort of drop tower, I'm just not that huge of a fan. I feel like BGW could've come up with something better, unless it's going to amazing and make me eat my words... I was looking at the Tampa thread and it looks like they're getting a new coaster so hopefully a sister coaster will make its way to Williamsburg soon!
With a deal expected in about a week, speculation is running high on who will buy Kingsmill Resort. Kingsmill residents report that low-level employees are saying Blackstone is it. The Gazette reported June 9 that Blackstone was the front-runner over Marriott and Toll Brothers.
Not so fast, says John Gerner, managing director of Richmond-based Leisure Business Advisors, which offers guidance to tourist attraction developers and operators, from resorts and museums to amusement parks and zoos. Gerner knows Busch Gardens, having worked his way up in the 1970s from a ride operator and ending in the finance department after graduating from the College of William & Mary in 1980. A couple of stars are misaligned for a Blackstone bid, he believes. First, were Blackstone interested it would likely have picked up the resort and spa at the same time it bought 10 theme parks from Busch. "Blackstone has the money to do what it wants," he said Monday, noting that the company would not have delayed the Kingsmill buy because of finances. Instead, company execs likely weighed Kingsmill at the time and decided against it.
Gerner hedged. "I wouldn't be surprised if they were the buyer," he said. He acknowledged a trend in the theme park industry to associate hotels with the parks. Blackstone reportedly also wants to take Busch Gardens year-round.
Blackstone also owns at least seven resorts in the chain Center Parcs Europe, as well as all of Center Parcs UK, so the company knows the resort market.
Finances will be the deciding factor, Gerner said. And despite the proximity to Busch Gardens, Kingsmill isn't a given for Blackstone. "It comes back to if they feel that would be of value to them," he said. "I would imagine Blackstone would not be uncomfortable with someone else owning it." He believes it's more likely the resort will pass to an entity that is centrally focused on resorts.
That keeps the door open to Marriott, which despite sharp losses because of the recession is showing signs of recovery (see box). Marriott also owns the hotel outside the front gate of Kingsmill as well as a big timeshare resort at Ford's Colony.
Whoever buys Kingsmill Resort will have to share with the homeowners association the cost of the 24-hour security force as well as maintaining and repairing the three main roads of Kingsmill, Mounts Bay and Wareham's Pond. Residents are responsible for their own neighborhood streets, but are prepared.
Edgar Brown, who chairs the Contingency Planning Committee for KCSA, reiterated in an interview Monday that the homeowner association has sufficient reserves to cover the $400,000-$600,000 needed annually to keep up the streets. The capital expense budget for roads extends three years out and fluctuates depending on need, he said. Brown added that the closing of the sale will clarify all agreements and deeds involving the roads, gatehouses and other matters over the years. "When everything is documented, it will memorialize that which we have done historically," he said.
Locally, Blackstone seems to be most focused on Busch Gardens itself, having just received a height waiver for a new tower attraction.
"I think that's a good sign," Gerner said. "It shows a level of commitment. Busch is very well regarded. The feeling a year ago was that the best thing that Blackstone could do was leave them alone."
There was some initial fear that the investment group would focus solely on the bottom line to the loss of quality, then flip the parks. "That obviously does not seem to be the case."
Change the scheme, Alter the mood! Electrify the boys and girls if you would be so kind!
^Interesting. Christmas Town extended the park's "season" all the way until the end of December last year. I'm not sure how well this would work during the rest of the winter. Colonial Williamsburg lays off quite a few employees from Janaury until March because of reduced hours and business. Williamsburg does tend to be pretty quiet until the spring, when the school groups start arriving again.
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