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Local economy looks for fallout from Cedar Fair sale

Tom Jackson • Mar 7, 2010 at 7:06 PM


There are plenty of good reasons to hope Apollo Global Management’s acquisition of Cedar Fair works out well for the company — maybe even more than a billion reasons.

It’s estimated that in 2007, tourism generated $1.1 billion of business in Erie County, said Joan Van Offeren, executive director of Lake Erie Shores and Islands East, Erie County’s visitor and convention bureau.

Those numbers help to explain why many residents want Cedar Point to fair well under new ownership.

On Dec. 16, Cedar Fair announced  Apollo Global Management agreed to buy Cedar Fair for $2.4 billion. The deal is subject to a two-thirds approval by Cedar Fair’s unitholders, who are being offered $11.50 per unit.

Cedar Fair does not release attendance numbers for Cedar Point, but Van Offeren said the park draws an estimated 3 million visitors each year.

Although not all tourism in Erie County is generated by Cedar Point, the amusement park established Sandusky as a tourism mecca.

“That gives us a strong location,” Van Offeren said, adding that tourism supports one in every four private sector jobs in the county. “Why did other development come to Sandusky? As somebody said, do you think Kalahari would have moved to Clyde?”

Figures also show that tax income generated directly by Cedar Point are important to Sandusky and its schools.

Sandusky collected about $2.4 million in admissions taxes through November this year. More than 99 percent of those taxes come from tickets sold for admission to Cedar Point.

Cedar Point and Cedar Fair paid $2,181,086 in property taxes in 2008, with 76 percent of that going to Sandusky Schools, said Erie County auditor Tom Paul. The market value of Cedar Fair’s real estate holdings is $110,101,770.

Cedar Fair does not release its complete annual payroll, but it employs 65 to 70 people who work at the corporate headquarters in Sandusky and pay income taxes to the city.

Among those are five top corporate earners who made in excess of $6.1 million in 2008 when combining salaries and bonuses. These include Kinzel, who drew $2.96 million including his $1.28 million bonus that year. City income taxes on these earners alone is upwards of $61,000 per year.

In addition, Cedar Point has 275 permanent, year-round employees and hires about 5,000 seasonal employees for the summer tourism season, said Robin Innes, a spokesman for Cedar Point. Its top earner is John Hildebrandt, vice president and general manager of Cedar Point, who earned $348,954 in 2006.

Considering property taxes these individuals pay on their homes, the county rakes in another $52,000 a year.

But such figures only tell part of the story.

Much of the other economic activity and tax income in Erie County is generated by Cedar Point, even if it isn’t produced directly by the amusement park.

Erie County boasts nearly 6,000 hotel rooms, Van Offeren said. Those numbers do not include bed and breakfasts and camping sites. Cedar Point generates most of the demand for those hotels and nearby restaurants.

All of those hotels, and the other commercial businesses supported by the tourist trade, pay property taxes and generate other income for the county, Paul said.

Bed taxes from Cedar Point hotels and other hotels are an important source of revenue for Sandusky.

They support other local governments such as Perkins Township and the visitor bureau, which uses the money to market Erie County as a tourist attraction.

Bed taxes for 2009 produced about $949,000 for Sandusky through November, according to a city report. In better years, Perkins Township brought in $750,000 in bed taxes.

Altogether the city and county benefit from at least $5 million each year in admissions, property and income taxes thanks to the park and its headquarters. This conservative estimate doesn’t include sales or bed taxes, which are heavily influenced by Cedar Point’s existence.

Here's what the commenters had to say:

starryeyes83 wrote on Dec 21, 2009 10:46 PM:

" ***

Cliffs Carryout

Does anyone know for sure they sold a winning Mega Millions ticket last week? Someone is apparently $250,ooo richer! "

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hancrack me up wrote on Dec 21, 2009 10:04 PM:

" I can tell this story will replace the daily Neusse front page drama. There's already 6 stories on here about it & has been the headline in the paper paper the last 5 days. "

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Cityslicker wrote on Dec 21, 2009 12:32 PM:

" To all of you Cedar Point bashers. Watch what you wish for. "

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Quicksand wrote on Dec 20, 2009 6:35 PM:

" Hey, Commissioners: the best investment you can make right now is to put up toll booths at every entry point to the city, and as soon as May 1st arrives begin charging tolls! (But, please let us taxpaying residents have a FREEPASS!) It is your last hope of milking this dying cash cow of yours! "

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Joker wrote on Dec 20, 2009 1:18 AM:

" Sensationalism at its worst. There will be ZERO fallout. Cedar Point is too much of an institution to see negative effects. So what if a different company is calling the shots; Richard (because your effed up filter won't let me say d*ck) is still in command and he has led us to the promised land. "

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Will63 wrote on Dec 19, 2009 8:57 PM:

" OMG!! Cedar Point IS NOT going anywhere, get a grip. Didn't anyone read what Mr. Kinzel said?? The park will NEVER leave Sandusky. They are an upscale resort, with a huge following from neighboring states. It would be STUPID to turn off all that income the park generates. Apollo approached CP officials, CP didn't approach them. So, Apollo saw the huge potential CP has, and will continue to grow. They may have to buy up more of Sandusky to do it, and maybe get rid of some of the trashy homes around town. CP expansion would beautify this city, and get rid of the undesirables. "

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s100 wrote on Dec 19, 2009 4:56 PM:

" Aren't those numbers for tax income a little low, considering the size of Cedar Point and the revenue the company generates?

$2M in admissions taxes and $2M in property tax seems low to me. How do Sandusky's, and the county's tax rates, compare to other municipalities?

It seems like Sandusky is very behind the times in terms of capital investment in schools and infrastructure. Have tax increases been considered in the last 5-10 years? "

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William Jefferson Clinton wrote on Dec 19, 2009 4:30 PM:

" Nice article and use of factual data SR! The one thing 100% for certain is that the future will not have 5 corporate officers in Sandumpy making $6.1 million and paying upwards of $61,000 per year in city incompe taxes. "

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outsider wrote on Dec 19, 2009 3:51 PM:

" Do you really believe Apollo Global cares about an amusement park? Cedar Point was purchased only for its land and the construction of a casino in the future. Maybe if your lucky the casino will also have a toned down amusement park to keep the kiddies happy while mom and dad gamble away their future. Don't you just love the new American way....If I can just get lucky this time! "

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hancrack me up wrote on Dec 19, 2009 2:25 PM:

" Like the suits would really honestly let everyone know they were skying out & shutting the park down. That's the master plan already! Even Victory Mission will take a loss since CP usually donates about $5,000 in loose change they find(that is if track maintenance doesn't pocket it first). At first I said 10 years, now I say give them 5 years to move the entire operation south- where the money is, where the weather is & where backwards thinkers AREN'T. That's okay- after CP's gone & the 25 area water parks shut down due to lack of business, folks will come from miles around to enjoy the new splash park down in the hood. CP has no business in this decrepit area. I only wish they were bankrupt due to lack of sales from outrageous rates & food prices. It was Janet Jackson that said, "What Have You Done For Me Lately?". "

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Yadayadayada wrote on Dec 19, 2009 11:59 AM:

" Indeed , lots of changes have taken place, in the employment in Erie County, since 2006.

Erie Metroparks, for example, employs, evidently, hundreds of lawyers,few rangers, and fewer parks employees.

The decline of family supporting employment in the past 20 years is just astounding.

And yet we now compete for the Kalahari, Meijers, Wal-Mart, Sams Club jobs we would have never considered in years past.

Now, who knows if a Cedar Point employment, the bottom of the job heap, will be there; ....without a work visa from Croatia or Romania, Afghanistan or wherever.Apollo Global. The name sounds somewhat indicative of where the employees will come from. "

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watch'n it all wrote on Dec 19, 2009 10:00 AM:

" Incidentally,I see the list is from "2006" lots of changes have taken place in those figures as we approach 2010. "

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watch'n it all wrote on Dec 19, 2009 9:53 AM:

" @6079 Smith W:

WalMart is the nations largest employer.

Some on this list are on shaky ground as we blog. Some will no longer be needed if the erosion continues. At that time I would suppose Walmart would no longer have interest in the area either. It's a vicious cycle that leads to tumble weed rolling down main st. "

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6079 Smith W wrote on Dec 19, 2009 9:14 AM:

" @ watch'n it all:

According to the state as of 2006, this is the list of the largest Erie Co. employers:

Cedar Fair/CedarPoint

Ky Klos Bearing Inc

Firelands Regional Medical Center

Ford Motor Co/ACH

Freudenberg NOK

International Automotive Components

Kalahari Resorts

Meijer Inc

Sandusky City Bd of Ed

State of Ohio


No WalMart, but I see that Meijer’s made the list.

Consuming – it’s what has helped to make America what it is today. "

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6079 Smith W wrote on Dec 19, 2009 8:49 AM:

" From my reading of their business fundamentals it looked as though CF's position was largely becoming a choice of find a buyer, or file for bankruptcy like Six Flags.

I like the fact that AGM owns Harrah's and with gaming 'finally' being legal in Ohio, this has good potential going forward.

Detroit, Cleveland, Toledo or Sandusky?

Where do you think most senior would like to go to spend their Soc. Sec'y checks if the state would expand the licenses?

Heck, Hamilton Co. voters voted the issue down - give it to Sandusky!

This move is a net positive - believe it. "

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watch'n it all wrote on Dec 19, 2009 8:18 AM:

" I like the economic breakdown given here showing the wages and taxes both on personal income and property for individuals, the recognition for trickle effect on everyone else in the community. When it was the auto industry or other manufactures in the area it was all about the union being at fault and how we don't need the manufacturers anyway.Well I guess Wal-Mart will soon become not only the nations largest employer but Erie county's largest as well! "

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Gardenman wrote on Dec 19, 2009 7:00 AM:

" Yes, I agree on the value of Cedar Point. To loose a business in even a small percentage way would be terrible for the entire area. I like many lament on a hot August Saturday at the huge traffic jam on 250 BUT I justify that by life without this business could be very bad for all of left in the county.

To their credit Cedar Point has been a very kind and generous corporate partner to this community. More than once they have stepped up to help in ways only they can. The Kalahari has been the same and thats not to exclude lots of other smaller busineses in this community.

Sometimes we fail to realize and appreciate the value of local businesses till they are not there. I am glad the SR had made the value of Cedar Point evident to us upfront. "

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Infoman wrote on Dec 19, 2009 4:07 AM:

" I hope the City Commissioners understand what Cedar Point brings to the economic table! One can only imagine life without this park. "

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