Kinzel leaves long legacy, receives key to city

Food brought Dick Kinzel to Cedar Point, but roller coasters took him to the top of the amusement park industry.
Amanda Santiago
Nov 3, 2011


Food brought Dick Kinzel to Cedar Point, but roller coasters took him to the top of the amusement park industry.

Although he worked hard and encountered the day-to-day struggles many family men do while trying to establish their careers, his climb to the top, for the most part, was quick and has coasted smoothly for 39 years.

Kinzel, 70, didn’t enter the amusement park industry until 1972, when he was 31. After a year at Wisconsin State College, he joined the Canteen food-service company in Toledo, his hometown.

During his 10 years there he achieved the title of commissary manager. In 1971 the father of four sent his résumé to Walt Disney World, which was getting ready to open in Florida later that year. One of Canteen’s purveyors learned Kinzel was interested in the park food business and mentioned an opening at Cedar Point.

When Kinzel heard from Disney, he asked for $15,000 per year and wouldn’t budge. Disney wouldn’t either. Soon after, he heard from Cedar Point and accepted a job as a supervisor in the food department for $13,000.

In 1975, when Kinzel was director of foods, several of the park’s top officials resigned. Bob Munger, general manager at the time, promoted Kinzel to director of operations. Kinzel had no experience on that side of business, but studied over the winter to be ready to step into the position in spring.

In 1976, after a year of navigating operations, Cedar Point was one of the first parks in the country to install an Arrow Dynamics “Corkscrew” coaster.

Kinzel said it was one of the park’s best decisions: Gate attendance topped 3 million for the first time and really put the park on the map.

With the success of Corkscrew, it was obvious new coasters would bring new business. The double-tracked Gemini, a steel-tracked, wooden-framed racing coaster, was added in 1978 and again led to record-breaking attendance with the tallest coaster in the world at the time — at 125 feet.

One of the most important career moves of Kinzel’s life came that year. Cedar Point bought Valleyfair amusement park in Shakopee, Minn., and Munger sent Kinzel to manage the facility. At the time the parks were publicly traded and sold as over-the-counter shares. But in 1983 Munger pulled them off the market and Kinzel became an equity partner when he was part of the leveraged buyout to take it private.

The parent company took one word from both of its parks and became Cedar Fair.

Kinzel, whose tenure as Cedar Fair’s leader ends Jan. 2, has been general partner since 1986 and a member of the board of directors since 1986. He also served as chairman of the board from 2003 until January 2011.

In the video above, watch Kinzel accept a key to the city of Sandusky at a recent city commission meeting.

This story exerpt is taken from a special section on Kinzel's tenure at Cedar Fair and his retirement printed in the Register on Sunday, Oct. 30. To purchase a back copy of this edition, visit the Register offices at 314 W. Market St. between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, or call 800-466-1243.



and next year, a life-like statue of Kinzel will be one of the features in the new "Dinosaurs Alive" attraction


sorry, I had to.


Wonder how much the key will bring on Ebay?


And he leaves with a record third quarter of 2.74 cent a share.  About 150 million profit for third quarter.  Not bad.  And declared 70 cents a share dividend for the quarter.

Where are you Smith.



How soon we forget,   he almost ruined the company,  tried to take the company private at a cheap price,  by the way,  which he was investing in the Appollo group deahl himself,  talk about self dealing....

6079 Smith W

@ lifetimeresident:

How impressed am I expected to be?

Historically, getting div'ds out of (FUN) has been like milking a mouse. Market value has been like barbequin' 'em.

Now, if you wanna discuss real investments: How's your gold doin'?

Good luck Mr. Kinzel.



Thanks alot Register, I just puked on my good suit!  By the way Dick, did you notice that the key to the city was for Detroit.  You know, Detroit, the same place you tell your staff not to hire employees from.  Oh right, now you remember, Detroit.  So I guess you are moving then?


Although Richard has done a lot for Cedar Point and the city of Sandusky he has also singlehandedly tarnished the reputation of a once great company. With his numerous tirades and egotistical stances the man has alienated quite a number of people customers and industry insiders alike. From trying to sell the company under everyone’s noses to the debacle he made of Geauga Lake. Everything the man has done lately was purely ego related. The best thing to celebrate is that in January he is gone, let’s hope Ouimet can repair most of the damage he has created.


@ Smith

My Gold is up 50% and paying about 1.5% Dividend.  GFI. Goldfields.  But you know whats here today could be gone next week.

Obviously, every leader or CEO of a major business has their own critics.  Surely Mr. Kinzel did not expect to go out at the top of his game, while leaving the company saddled with over a billion dollars in debt.  Did he think no one would notice?  He deserves some of the negative criticism too, particularly for decisions he made over the last five years.  No doubt he was part of a very successful management team that included bright, energetic individuals who helped to develop the company to a point where it could acquire an assortment of parks (Michigan's Adventure, Dorney Park and Knott's Berry Farm), all based on a proven track record.  It appeared to be a solid and profitable company, growing at a healthy rate with good dividends.  But than greed took over, highlighted by several ill-advised acquisitions (Geauga Lake and the Paramount Park's chain).  Now it is a mess for someone else to clean up because they will be paying interest on those loans for decades.   We can only hope that the new management is up to the challenge.    Mr. Kinzel got the keys to Sandusky.  Let's hope he doesn't think he owns the city because he'll try to sell that too.  Greed does that to you.      
Tool Shed

I saw this in the paper the other day and wondered, yes I wondered.  As I sip my brandy and take a pull off my cigar, I wonder how long it will be before we see an article with Dick Kinzel's picture and maybe the letters SEC also somewhere in that article.  And I'm not referring to the Southeastern Conference either. 

Sniper of Justice

Isn't this a little pointless?  Kinzel has proven that trivial things such as locks won't get in his way when he wants something.

It's a shame because there could have been a nice ending to this story had it ended ten years ago.  Kinzel didn't acknowledge the fact that corporate leaders have an expiration date, and that he had passed that a long time ago.  He helped to build Cedar Fair into one of the most stabile and respected forces in the amusement industry and then his ego resulted in the tearing down of what he accomplished.  He insisted on purchasing the Paramount parks and thrusting the company into debt exceeding $2 billion.  He pulled the plug on Geauga Lake and the city of Aurora is now left with a huge vacant lot instead of something that generated huge amounts of tourism dollars (wonder if Aurora will also be giving him a key to the city?)  He tried to force a sale of the company that would have completely screwed the shareholders, merely out of greed.  Kinzel ran roughshod over a board of directors that he installed, not for the good of the company but because he wanted his way, and there was no way he wasn't going to get it.  In the end, Cedar Fair operated like a family-run business even though it has been a publicly-traded company for years, and the public that owns the company was never first priority.

January can't come soon enough and everyone with some kind of interest in this can only hope Ouimet has a plan to quickly erase the mistakes that were made and start making things right.  Right now the company is being run as if everyone's been getting high on Kinzel's blonde hair dye... at least there's one more holiday season where he'll take credit for the company donating $8,000 in spare change found on the ground to the local soup kitchen while he collects a few million dollars in compensation.

6079 Smith W

@ lifetimeresident:

The way those boys in DC are printing money and Europe is fiddling, I think that any downturn in the price of gold is gonna be awhile.

Regardless, the keyword for me is always diversification.

YTD, I'm doing better than the majority of the hedge fund "geniuses." :)

Again, Good luck Mr. Kinzel.



Tool Box

Hopefully Matt Ouimet will bring back the fulltime moral which has gone far below bottoming out.  There are a lot of things Dick has taken away because he felt it was just "fluf" that really didn't mean anything to the employees but it costs the company money.  I guess he wasn't thinking that way when he cost the company 6 MILLION DOLLARS because of his agreement he made with Apollo.  To show you just a few, the fulltime staff used to enjoy going to an annual Christmas party.  They also used to enjoy receiving a Christmas ham, another thank you from upper management for a great season and for putting in so many extra hours during the season.  There were discounted tickets that fulltimers used to be able to buy at Human Resourses, not anymore.  The place has gone to the dogs! 


Place your bets

It would be nice if some of that returned now that the company is showing some improvement.  If you threw me a million dollar going away party, I'd sure give you a Christmas Ham.


Forgot about the $6M termination fee to Apollo.  Amazing how that came about with the company in so much debt.  If it weren’t for the unitholders dislike of the deal (which included the much debated $11.50 per share offer), Mr. Kinzel might have come away with a big payoff and would probably still be CEO, only this time for the new owner!   Unitholders smelled a rat and squashed the deal.   How quickly we forget! 

stevenj777's picture

 I've always liked him.  I'm glad he bought the Paramount parks.  Some say he over-payed but they are strong parks and acquiring them doubled the size of Cedar Fair in one year.  That says a lot for a company that took 30 some years to gain the number of parks it previously owned and operated.   Of course debt will go along with such a move.  But it will more than pay for itself in time.  Geauga Lake was in trouble when Six Flags bought it.  They put in 4 coaster in one year and still couldn't make it work.  Six Flags also bought the adjacent Sea World and ruined it.  Cedar Fair tried to save Geauga Lake, I believe that.   If the aim was to bulldoze the competition why would they buy Kings Island, also in Ohio, from Paramount.  It remains successful.  Yeah, He tried to sell a beloved publicly traded company into private hands but I think he was looking to make sure the company remained long into the future and Apollo would have been a good entertainment company able to do that.  And let's not forget Talon, Magnum, Raptor, Millennium Force, Diamondback, Shivering Timbers, Prowler, Renegade, and Xcelerator etc.  Dozens of attractions that pushed the envelope or charted new ground entirely.  So many top notch parks exist now to keep America happy with clean Midways, Fast moving Queue's, and quality consistent ride operations.   You don't find that with all park chains.  He did a stellar job.  Congrats Dick!


StevenJ777, you are part of a very small minority.  You see Mr. Kinzel exactly as he sees himself: infallable, righteous and the great emperor.  Not taking away from his earlier successes, most see his last five years as a disaster, with mounting bad decisions and debt, and questionable management changes.  There is enough material here for a good reality show!




Pretty obvious that STEVENJ777 is Dick Kinzel.