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Amusement park CEO lays out plan to increase revenue

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — One of the nation’s biggest amusement park chains is banking on technology and sports to generate more revenue.

Cedar Fair Entertainment Co.’s new strategies include adding interactive computer-aided rides, offering electronic photo packages and building sports complexes to draw teens and families, said Chief Executive Matt Ouimet.

The company based in Sandusky operates 14 amusement and water parks in North America, including Cedar Point and Kings Island in Ohio, Canada’s Wonderland outside Toronto and Knott’s Berry Farm near Los Angeles.

It’s on pace to bring in a record $1.23 billion in revenue this year.

Ouimet outlined the company’s plans to investors this past week in Santa Monica, California, The (Toledo) Blade reported.

Cedar Fair is working with game maker Electronic Arts Inc. to build two digital attractions that will open next year at Great America in Santa Clara, California, and Carowinds near Charlotte, North Carolina.

Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare, a 3-D version of a popular online game, will go into the park in the Carolinas.

The interactive rides will cost only a few million dollars — much less than a roller coaster — but can be reprogrammed later for a new generation of the game, Ouimet said.

Another idea being looked at would offer customers more photos of themselves.

The plan entails selling digital photo packages that use images from surveillance cameras on rides around the park. The package could be delivered to a visitor’s smartphone before the end of the day.

“We’re going to allow you to get photos you couldn’t get otherwise,” Ouimet said.

Ouimet, who spent 17 years with the Walt Disney Co. before taking over at Cedar Fair, said he’s copying an idea from his former employer, which found opening a sports complex at Walt Disney World in Florida brought in new visitors.

Cedar Fair is putting up land it bought near its flagship park in Sandusky for a youth sport complex that will be built largely with revenues from a 1 percent increase in hotel taxes.

The complex, slated to open late next year, will host lacrosse, softball and soccer tournaments.

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