Readers Forum: What do you think of the Kennywood sale?
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Kennywood Park officials today announced the sale of their company, along with Sandcastle, to Parques Reunidos, a Spanish company that runs amusement parks around the world. [ Read story ]
We asked readers to tell us what they thought of the sale. The replies have been overwhelmingly negative. Here are some of the comments:
As a native son of Pittsburgh, I cannot believe the pathetic, disgusting, and flat-out ignorantly xenophobic racism displayed on this forum. It's one thing to bemoan the state of the economy where being a family-owned business is no longer feasible; it is an entirely different thing to presume that all international interest in Kennywood will result in negative consequences.
What exactly do you think is going on here? That this is some scheme cooked up by Spanish zapatistas to take over the United States, one amusement park at a time? That instead of eating french fries, we'll be forced to eat churros instead? The family wanted to sell. An international company wanted to buy. Unless you also run an internationally traded corporate and are as such a financial wizard, then you probably should take them at their value and understand that their business perspective isn't to take away the core business of Kennywood (ie: local patronage, family fun, etc.), but to instead infuse it with more capital to make it even better. Why in the world would they make such a sizable investment if they wanted to take away from what made Kennywood great? Why would that insult their biggest market and their biggest fan base?
What exactly is it about internationalism that makes everyone so uncomfortable? Do you really have such an inferiority complex about your city and your country that you feel that any international influence will just make your own products seem so worse and inferior? Trying to decipher the logic used in some of these arguments is an impossible task - you're all so blinded by this ridiculous xenophobia that you don't realize that in the long run of things, this is probably better. An international company will have more capital to develop the park, to make it more than just a regional attraction. But alas, everyone is too stuck on this 1950s ideal where we just beat the Soviets to the moon and U-S-A is #1; that reality is no longer around. It's a world economy. If some of you posters ever took an economics class, you'd realize that shopping for USA-only has absolutely no effect. The gain you're making by shunning imports is reduced by the drop in supply as a result of more expensive products.
Either way, have your opinion and think what you want. Just please stop posting your embarassing, racist statements in such a public forum. It makes me sad to be a Pittsburgher - not that Kennywood is being sold, but that the city I love is infested with such disgusting ignorance.
-- Nik Bonaddio, Wexford
I am appalled that the owners of Kennywoood sold out to a foreign company. They say nothing will change , and that might be true for a year or two but then it will be changed. Kennywood has been a tradition in my family for many years. I love everything about that park . What I love most is the atmosphere.
I can not see how a foreign company can maintain the hometown quality of the park . Greed will prevail and no longer will the customers be able to bring their own picnics and consequently be charged outrageous prices for food. I am sure the prices will be doubled for parking and entrance to the park as well. All of the things that kept bringing families to the parks will now be lost. Lost Kennywood will be just that.. lost! What does a company based in Europe know about Pittsburgh tradition anyway. Shame to the owners of Kennywood for selling out to a foreign company!
I am not sure that I will return to Kennywood . It breaks my heart.
-- Tracie Doerr, Butler
Well... add Amusement Parks to the growing list of American companies and infrastructure being sold to foreign interests. Didn't the Spanish either attempt to buy or did indeed buy the Pennsylvania Turnpike?
I expect to see Mt. Rushmore be put on the Auction block next or maybe Yellowstone Park. It has been said by a few the White House & the Capital Building are already owned by foreign interests. In a figurative sense of course.
I would think since it's being taken over by a giant amusement company, if Kennywood doesn't return a big enough of a profit, they will close it. This new company wouldn't think twice about the history of the park, unlike the Henninger and McSwigan families who have owned the park since it's inception and have a personal bond to it. Correction they HAD a personal bond to it.
-- Bob Wolf, Pittsburgh
I feel the sale of Kennywood to a foreign company will mean the end of Kennywood as us "Burghers" know it. The two families have kept it in the old tradition and as natives themselves, knows what it takes to keep their customers and fans happy. I fear that any other company will turn Kennywood into another cookie cutter 'theme park'. I cannot blame the families for taking the money and running, but this does leave me with a empty feeling in my stomach. While the change may not be immediate, I suspect it will start in the next few years as the numbers are crunched.
I was born and raised in the East End area, however, I do not live in Pittsburgh anymore due to my career. I do have many family members who live in the surrounding five county area and I visit them and Kennywood just about every year. I know that eventually, Kennywood will not remain the same. Goodbye Kennywood!!
-- Don Ebbitt, Key West, Fla.
I HAVE SPENT MY LAST DOLLAR AT KENNYWOOD, SAND CASTLE, OR IDLEWILD. IS THIS AMERICA? I'M NOT SURE ANYMORE.
-- Dorothy Vicetic
It will not be the same! Parks bought out by large holdings companies operate as a business, and at some point the bottom line will dictate what will happen, humanity, family, and heart play no part in the decision making process. It then follows the operation dehumanizes. Case in point Walmart only responds to the human side of their operation when outside factors force them, lawsuits etc. Sam Walton where possible carried US products and seemingly was proud of it. Today many US products are missing from the shelves or pushed to the side to make room for imports at Wally World, the bottom line dictates. I now live out of state, but try to visit Kennywood when I can. I guess this is just one more example of selling the US out.
-- Frank B.
I am somewhat amused after reading some of the comments in this forum.
Do you really believe teens are going to come from Spain to work in West Mifflin for a below-minium wage job? It's true what they say, "Money makes the world go around," and apparently the Merry Go Round, too.
I love Kennywood and I, too, hope things don't change drastically. Kennywood Park was the site of the best job I ever had. I worked on the dunking machine which was situated around the Laser Loop. In this capacity I was able to make fun of people all day -- and get paid for it. Many friendships were forged among all the workers through the years and Grove Parties still bring a smile to my face. Yes, remembering the park now may bring a tinge of sadness for the sale of it, but we don't know what the future holds.
I'm guessing though, there still will be plenty of jobs for area teens, whether they speak Spanish or not. And friendships will continue to blossom there whether we're eating Potato Patch Fries or Tapas Espanola.
-- Kirsten A. Pastrick, Duquesne
I am saddened by the sale of this great local institution to a foreign company. I understand from a business aspect that they are looking for the deal that is most beneficial, but from the social aspect of this sale, it is another black eye for the American people. Too many products or companies that could proudly say USA on them are becoming international corporations.
My family will probably still go to Kennywood, as we have little ones that we wanted to show them places we loved so much, but the moment that all the signage becomes bilingual is when I turn the vehicle around and find somewhere else for us to spend our time and money.
-- Stuart Cunningham, South Park
As a kid growing up in the Mon-Valley, Kennywood was a summer tradition, sometimes more than one trip per season. Those are great childhood memories!
Seeing the park sold to a foreign corporation, I was upset. It seems that the more time goes by the more family owned businesses are
Swallowed up or overtaken by corporations! I hope that and believe that most people agree with me. That corporate big business companies such as, (do I have to really say it), Wall-Mart, Wegman's, and the like are the death knoll of the family owned, "Mom & Pop" established businesses. I have to admit, I'm being somewhat nostalgic but it's more than that. I think it's scary to see the world coming to the "corporate run" future depicted in many movies and books. Big Brother is already watching us people!
-- David J. Matafka, Camp Hill, (formerly of Charleroi)
I'm torn about the impending sale of Kennywood and its sister parks.
On the one hand, I want Kennywood, Idlewild, Sandcastle, and the rest to be around for a long, long time. I don't want them to meet the fate of Westview Park and other long-gone amusement parks in the area. (It would be great if an outfit like Parques Reunidos bought the floundering Conneaut Lake Park, for instance, before it too is lost.) A deep-pocketed corporation would have more resources to pay for upkeep and upgrades to these parks, keeping them fresh and exciting. They could become regional or even national attractions instead of merely local favorites, becoming a magnet to draw tourists to the area. Along those lines, Parques Reunidos may also go forward with new attractions and park expansions, like the indoor water park that's been rumored to be in the works for a while now, making them even more of a destination.
On the other hand, I can't help wondering what changes are in store for Kennywood, Idlewild and the rest of these parks under new ownership. And changes there will be, all assurances to the contrary. A large multinational corporation will never be as responsive to its customers, employees and the local community as a local, privately-held family business. Will Parques Reunidos keep the old-fashioned, family-centered character of these parks? Will they invest in them, keeping old favorites while adding new rides and attractions? Or will they skimp on operation, investment and training and try to wring as much profit as possible from them? Will they try to squeeze every last drop of money out of visitors -- for example, by raising admission prices even higher and forbidding guests to bring their own food and drink (as is common in many big parks)? Nobody knows.
The Henninger and McSwigan families run these parks as businesses, not public services, and apparently it made business sense to sell at this point. But it still feels like a bit of Pittsburgh is being taken away from us. We've lost so much from this area over the past few decades. It's unsettling that our beloved local amusement parks are now going to be under international ownership, to say the least.
-- Nancy Ott, Aspinwall
I trust that the people who sold did it for the right reasons. It is their right to sell off their company whenever they please. I think it is a shame that those who have responded in the forum are ignorant, near-sighted fools who feel as though their lives are infringed by the sale of Kennywood. I think the forum responses are examples of the general publics' fear of anything foreign.
-- Bill Campbell, Wexford
The sad reality underscoring the sale of Kennywood to a foreign entity is that family entertainment in the United States is in danger of becoming homogenized. U.S. parks and attractions operate in the context of a saturated market, where only the latest and greatest innovations in ride technology can attract new visitors (interestingly, a quick check of amusement ride manufacturers reveals the existence of only a small number of U.S. based companies). Family-owned companies like Kennywood cannot reasonably operate in the global marketplace, or even nationally along with Disney, Universal, or Cedar Fair, by investing millions of dollars in rides, attractions and additional property without being reasonably assured of a return on that investment.
Kennywood survived the many challenges it has faced throughout the years including: a horrendous transportation infrastructure (roads in and out, lack of public transportation options), increasing shortages of seasonal labor due to a decline in area population, an onerous local tax system that drained park resources without the local government rendering the services paid for, and the lack of adequate real estate for the purposes of expansion. But when these things coalesce in the context of the global consolidation of parks and attractions by large corporate entities, only the foolish would fail to evaluate their options and latch onto one of the few lifelines remaining.
Understanding all of that, I believe that this action may very well have saved Kennywood and its sister parks. Family-owned businesses like Kennywood do not have the capital or resources to make the necessary investments to be competitive in the global marketplace. With hundreds of parks and attractions within a two-hour flight from Pittsburgh, what it will take for Kennywood to be successful and sustainable will be the ability to invest the resources necessary to further develop the park and to market it appropriately.
And rest assured, Parques Reunidos understands the station that Kennywood holds in the global marketplace...that of a day park that is long on safe, affordable, family entertainment, and short on aspirations to be something that it is not. Kennywood is not Disney or Six Flags. Kenny the Kangaroo is not a nationally-recognized icon with his own TV cartoon show. This park is a family park, and would do wise to conduct future operations accordingly. Knowing the classiness of the Henninger and McSwigan families, and their dedication to both this area and this industry, I would expect nothing less.
What has happened here is not some great injustice, but rather as Jim Futrell noted, is indicative of the world in which we live.
-- Corey Connors, Washington, D.C.
It's a real punch to the gut to hear about the sale of Kennywood. Kennywood's reputation among roller coaster fanatics and theme park fans, not to mention the local general public is second to none, but there is no way that a company based thousands of miles away, speaking a completely different language, and with completely different customs, will be able to maintain the atmosphere that makes Kennywood so special. The xenophobic comments I've seen on here so far aside, it's just not possible for a large international corporate entity to have the same core values as local family ownership, no matter how good their intentions. I've had many friends working deep within the Kennywood back scenes in the last few years, and while it may not have been perfect (based on the stories they tell), it was "home", and it was something that defined Pittsburgh. I just moved from Pittsburgh to Ft. Worth and now I'm happier than ever that I made sure to visit Kennywood as one of the last things I did before my move south.
-- Brett, Ft. Worth, Texas, (formerly Moon Township)
Press 1 for English
Press 2 for Spanish
Press 3 for Pittsburghese
Personally, I'd rather have the Europeans purchase the park and keep it open than have it kept 'in-house' and shut down for financial reasons. Hopefully, the history and traditions of the park will be kept intact. The group that bought the park seem to love historic parks. Hopefully they are interested in maintaining the historic park culture by stabilizing the park's finances.
-- Bob King, Benicia, Ca.
There is only one way to really make a difference, people, and that is not by belly-aching to the newspaper. Hit 'em where it hurts ($$$). I will miss Kennywood just as much as anyone, but I liken it now to a fading relative that is living on borrowed time. Would you rather see Kennywood operated like a shadow of it's former self, or not at all? Remember the greatness that Kennywood was and the memories that were created there. Then, if new ownership ruins the park, don't go. Let them watch it rot. Someday, when the time is right, someone with a Pennsylvanian heart (and sufficient funds) will bring it back to it's full glory. Then we'll all celebrate Kennywood's resurgence like she was never gone! Of course, we can't be sure of this. If you didn't know me you would probably even say I'm a fatal optimist. Still, I'll be damned if it's not worth a try.
-- Ryan, East Liverpool, Ohio
One of the few simple things left, and now that is gone too. It is just so sad.
-- Janet Wilkenson, Bethel Park
All of Pittsburgh and all of its surrounding communities have fourth and fifth generations that have enjoyed the Parks also. Kennywood has always been a "Family Day" for us all. Hope that nothing does change there. It's nice to have ties to beautiful Madrid.
See you there,
-- Marcy and Pat Sheldon, Pleasant Hills
I think it a shame the everything in the United States is be bought up by foreigner isn't any thing sacred any more.
-- Ray Miller, Odessa Fla.
I'm disappointed but not surprised to find that virtually every reader comment thus far expresses the charmingly overt xenophobia of a small town. You would hope that have had continued faith in and love for Kennywood all of these years would also respect the judgment of the family in this matter.
It's admittedly hard to imagine that Kennywood will remain exactly the same place that it has been under a century of family ownership. But to make crass and comments about foreign investment accomplishes nothing to that end.
As far as the issue of language is concerned, I could hardly think of a less grounded or more absurd issue to broach. Oh, I certainly hope the park doesn't overflow with the tidal wave of Spanish immigrants who are just begging to work in an amusement park in the middle of America. I'm not sure if the people who have voiced their opinions thus far are familiar with the country of Spain, but the bulk of Spanish citizens I have met have proficiency in English surpassing many Americans.
-- Max Steindle, Knoxville
I am not worried like others that people will need to speak Spanish in the park. That is rather silly. However, it still felt like a punch in the stomach to hear that Kennywood was sold to a foreign company. It is all about maximizing profit, but this would have been easier to swallow if it was sold to an American company. The perception of Kennywood as a local park will not be the same after the sale.
-- James Ciganek, West Mifflin
After reading some of these responses, I'm tired of Pittsburghers' resistance to change. New ownership could mean big things for Kennywood... It has nowhere to go but up!
-- Beth Pedone, Forest Hills
I have worked at the park for four years, and this came as quite a shock when I found out this morning. The only thing that leaves me hopeful is that the park management and staff will all stay in place. While Kennywood is indeed a family park, it will continue to be. The reason that K.E. agreed to sell was that Parques Reunidos holds the same kind of philosophy as Kennywood has held in the past. Kennywood will either improve greatly or go down the tubes in the next few years. I hope that this new company improves it to be as great as it was in the early 1990's, when it dominated the coaster world.
-- Shane Jones, West Mifflin
It's interesting that most of the respondents here seem to oppose the sale out of some sort of patriotic indignation. I'm merely worried that another takeover of a Pittsburgh Icon, be it by a Parque Reunidos of Madrid, or a Federated Department Stores of Cincinnati (albeit masquerading as Macy's of New York), will inevitably lead to changes and a lessening of the ties that have bound such an institution to the community. Will our kids and grandkids know the Kennywood we have known, any more than they will know where the "Kaufman's Clock" is located?
Kennywood was something almost no other city in the US or the world could boast of, a truly local amusement park that held its own against almost totally corporate competition. A multinational operator will be hard pressed to maintain that atmosphere...
-- Matt Diersen, Morningside
I think it is terrible! They are family parks that I would hate to see changed. I know they state everything will be the same, but well, you know how that goes.
-- Judith L. Clark, Natrona Heights and Orlando, Fla.
I definitely feel sad. Kennywood is (was) a Pittsburgh institution. Even my out-of-town relatives who have been to Six Flags loved Kennywood for it's unique atmosphere and thrilling wooden coasters. It will never be the same, no matter what anybody says.
-- Marcia Schneider, Coraopolis
Another sad example of our county and our livelihood being sold, don't complain when are no longer the United States Of America!!!
-- Kirsten E Forbes, Dravosburg
This is so disappointing! I have been checking labels while shopping for the holidays to purchase "Made in USA" products whenever possible, even if the product is more expensive, in a very small attempt to strengthen our nation. Kennywood has such a great reputation, both locally and nationally, and it will be hard to have that same pride with a foreign-owned business. The Spanish people most likely know what they're doing and will run the parks well, but the lack of local ownership, care and attention that all three of those parks have been based upon will surely have an effect. Its sad.
-- Carolyn Mader, Baldwin Borough
I think it's a shame that they are selling the park, it's just another step in what has become par for the course of the last several years, GREED, everyone just looking to get as rich as they can no matter what the affect to those around them. This park was started by family men, who wanted to create a place that would be in the memories of those who came forever, and Kennywood has done that for almost 100 years, but as with so many other things we once held dear, it will change, and the magic will be lost. I would like to think that the park will stay the same, but unfortunately I don't, and it won't. At first you notice small things that are different, then bigger things will come to the surface,and you will start to see that things are changing in a way that the original owners would never have allowed. The corporate vision will start to show through, and the family owned, family oriented way of doing business will die away, the prices will go through the roof, and eventually it will be broken off and sold to others who will let go even further the long forgotten ways of Kennywood Park. It's very sad to see this day come, it's one that I never wanted to see.
-- Brian J. Friday, Harrisville, Mi.
What do I think of the Kennywood Sale...?
It just another shining example of the times we live in today. Unfortunately, I'm sure it take gads of money to be competitive in today's amusement park market, and the Spanish company has more of it than the current local Kennywood owners.
How many companies can we really call 'home-based' any more? For the past 50 years, we as a society, and as consumers, have made choices that have brought this mega-world about. Bigger is better right?
For the sake of everyone, I hope that's right!
-- Jeff Kruzic, Hunker, Pa.
I am saddened by the sale of Kennywood. I live in West Mifflin and worked at the park in 1967 and 1968. I have always been impressed by the Kennywood families' committment to safety, cleanliness and quality entertainment.
It feels like another little piece of America has been sold abroad.
-- Kathleen Nagy Kemp, West Mifflin
I think it is a shame that so many businesses in the United States are owned by foreign companies. With so many products sold here unfortunately manufactured overseas, what next?
-- John G., Monessen
I am shocked that my favorite park is being sold to a foreign company. I grew up going to Kennywood, I when I go back to Pittsburgh for family reunions we always go to Kennywood for a day.
This country is being sold off to other countries piece by piece and the citizens have nothing to say about it. Granted, it is a private business and so what they want with it. But , where is the loyalty to their country.
Walmart was founded by Sam Walton as a store to help people buy things at a better price and they were all made in the USA. When he died and the family took over they started pushing for things to be made in China. The bottom line is that they can make more money. They are not fair to the public or their employees. As a result many of our companies are having products made in China. This is not good for the public or the country.
They are trying to build a highway from the Mexican border through the country up to Canada. Part of it will be a toll road. Guess who will get the tolls. A foreign country, I think it is also Spain. Not to mention the hardships on the land owners that they are displacing.
I hope that the philosophies of the new owners are similar to the current owners, but the profits are going out of the country.
I believe that our government and big business are selling us out only for money in their hands now. They don't care where it can lead the country. IT'S ALL ABOUT MONEY AND THEY ARE TAKING IT FROM US.
-- Jack Bich, Sugar Land, Texas
The sale of Kennywood is very sad news for all of Pittsburgh and the region. One of the greatest aspects of the park was knowing that it was locally owned, locally run and all around local.
Now, Kennywood is nothing more than a profit generator for a foreign company. Hasn't Pittsburgh been down this road before with other major companies/landmarks? Kaufmann's. KDKA. Heinz. And many others. They all were created here but in the age of big business, have all been sold off (or closed completely in the case of Kaufmann's) to larger companies that do not care about the uniqueness of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.
No longer is Kennywood a family-owned amusement park.
-- Robert Cherry, Moon
I think it stinks. We could not have had an American company buy Kennywood. I am sure that there are plenty of American companies that would have bought if they would have had the opportunity. I think we have enough people in this country owning businesses that treat the American people like crap. I am afraid the quality of Kennywood is going go down hill in the future.
-- Billie Jo Doman, Meadow Lands, Pa.
I'm tired of seeing our country being sold to foreigners.
-- Neil M. Kraynek, Penn Township
This sale is reflective of so many things. On one hand, it is indicative of the global economy in which we live; on the other hand, it represents the end of an era in the amusement park industry. At one time, most of the large amusement parks in the country were owned by families like the Henningers and McSwigans, but as corporate theme parks came to dominate, those families faded away. The Henningers and McSwigans were among the last of that breed. What is also sad is it ends 101 years of continuous ownership of Kennywood, the third longest family ownership tenure among the world's amusement parks (the others are Trimper's in Ocean City, MD, 114 years, and Blackpool Pleasure Beach in England, 111 years).
I have faith that the two families would not have sold what is essentially a family heirloom to someone who was planning drastic changes. I also trust that the purchasers are smart enough to realize the deep love that people in this region have for the park and will not try to take away the things that "make Kennywood Kennywood."
Only time will tell, but the sale is the end of an era not only for Pittsburgh, but for the entire amusement industry.
-- Jim Futrell, Historian, National Amusement Park Historical Association
What a shame that we keep selling off bits and piece of America to foreign companies. And now a venerable 'family-owned' amusement park. Hope the Henningers have fun counting their money. Kennywood will never feel the same.
Adios espiritu de Kennywood!
-- Chris Hyatt, Glenshaw
Kennywood -- when you hear that name you think of Fun and Hometown America! Now it will be foreign-run and as everything else; workers and owners will not speak English. Sad, actually!
Sharon Price, Pittsburgh
We are now losing our companies to foreigners. Hey kids, bienvenido al Parque de Kennywood.
-- Jordan Kaufman, Mars
USA is being sold down the river, everything is going to be owned by outsiders and the USA citizen will no longer have a job with an American-owned company.
-- Joyce Kozera, Pittsburgh
Only one question about the Kennywood Park pending acquisition. Will those visiting the park have to press one for English?
-- Archy McNally, Lake Hamilton, Fla.
This is truly sad and depressing news. Despite assurances to the contrary, things will not remain "the same" at our beloved park. To even say that is being disingenuous. Large, publicly held multi-nationals won't be concentrating on the quality of Potato Patch fries or training seasonal teens in the finer points of operating the carousel, because they'll be too focused on the bottom line.
What really galls me is that this "off-season" sale will deny all of us the chance to experience our quirky, fun, family-owned park even one more time...
-- Ron Dylewski, Aspinwall
So much for keeping America, America. Let's look at the bright side... At least it was not sold to the Chinese.
I stopped going to Kennywood when they took the family out of family fun.
-- Randy Csupak, Cranberry
I hate it. I was in total shock to hear. Why can't we keep some things that are so dear to the people? They will change this place like all others. I have lived in Europe and been to Europa Amusement Park, and it is so much different then our American Park. I am very disappointed in this decision. What will be next?
-- Pearl Culberson, Atlanta, formerly McKeesport
I have a feeling that certain members of the two families that sold the park will eventually regret their decision to sell it.
Now, when will we see a new rollercoaster?
-- Michael M. Bierce, Brighton Heights
I have lived in West Mifflin my entire life, and Kennywood was an American institution ... until today. Just last year, the owners talked about the pride of being privately held and family ownership. I was proud of that status too, especially here in our Borough. They were even quoted in your article as putting the institution over monetary gain and that they did not have the right to sell: "We agreed we didn't found it, we don't deserve to profit by selling it. Let's pass it on," said Mr. Henninger, 60, grandson of F.W. Henninger. See how quickly they changed their tune ... all for money. Money isn't everything, and it is getting old that we keep selling ourselves out as a country to foreign interests instead of investing in ourselves. It is a sad day in American history.
I hope that other companies think twice before selling out for profit, and I hope that someone soon starts to invest in our country before things get worse. Maybe English will become the second language in this country after all, and I would venture to say that it is another time that our founding fathers would be appalled.
-- Ruth A. Simm, West Mifflin
First Published December 11, 2007 12:02 pm