Not So Great News: Great America Is Closing Its Doors

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California’s Great America entrance sign with its infamous carousel in the background.

Kiana Guanga

 

California’s Great America now has an expiration date.

In late June, Cedar Fair announced the sale of its Great America location in Santa Clara to Prologis, Inc., a Fremont-based real estate investment and logistics management company, for $310 million. The park is set to shut down within the next 11 years. 

The beloved theme park has remained a staple of Bay Area culture for over 46 years, catering to visitors of all ages with various rides and events. The park is well-known for its adrenalizing rides, such as its single-railed Railblazer and 225-foot tall Drop Zone. 

A couple of guest-favorite events include the Halloween Haunt – a month-long event featuring spooky mazes, shows, and entertainers – and the Winterfest – a winter wonderland event featuring stunning lights, falling snow, and ice skating. “ I love how pretty they decorate it during the holiday season, ” high school junior Mia Cabral states. These diverting events are huge crowd-pleasers and are a part of what makes Great America so beloved.

The announcement of the crowd-favorite park’s closure has sent a wave of shock throughout the Bay Area community. “I am very upset because it was where I would spend most of my summers. I always looked forward to going. I feel like the Bay Area won’t be the same without it,” Elania Del Real, a Wilcox junior, expresses. Similar to Del Real, many Bay Area residents regularly spend their school breaks at the park. 

Its variety of thrill rides, delicious comfort food, and family-friendly environment have made Great America a magnet to visitors of all ages, including some famous individuals. Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry was spotted at the park with his children shortly after winning the 2022 NBA Finals.

Great America is the sole major theme park in the southern region of the Bay Area, meaning residents will be required to travel a remote distance to fulfill their thrill-seeking desires. “When I have kids I want to be able to take them to Great America. I loved this place growing up and think it is unfair to drive an hour and a half just to enjoy the thrill of an amusement park,” San Francisco State freshman Jalyn Javier voices. The closure of the park hands over the Bay Area theme park crown to the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom location in Vallejo—a 65-mile distance from Great America.  

Cedar Fair announced it sold its Great America location, one of its 11 parks, with the intent to lower its debt from $2.6 billion to approximately $2 billion. The COVID-19 pandemic heavily impacted the entertainment company and forced it to halt all park operations for over two years. 

The corporation signed a six-year lease in its deal with Prologis, Inc. to continue short-term operations, with the option to extend another five years. However, Prologis can impose a two-year termination notice to the lease, permitting the closure to occur anytime between 2024 and 2033. It remains unclear what the company plans to do with the 112-acre property, but with the plot neighboring the 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium and various tech facilities, many predict the establishment of a residential site. 

Great America has been under the ownership of several companies in its almost five decades of operation. It opened in 1976 under the ownership of Marriott Corporation and was later sold to Kings Entertainment Company in 1989. In 1992, it was acquired by Paramount Parks and later came under the ownership of Cedar Fair in 2006. Cedar Fair purchased the park from the city of Santa Clara in 2019, giving the company full rights to the plot. The transitions in ownership came with a variety of mascots. This included Looney Tunes under the Marriott Ownership, Hanna-Barbera (The Smurfs, Scooby Doo, etc.) under the King’s Company, Nickelodeon under Paramount, and Peanuts under Cedar Fair. 

Despite the fact that the park will resume operations for roughly another decade, Great America visitors have begun to bid a fond farewell to years of unforgettable memories. “It feels like my childhood is being stripped away,” Javier voices. The park will undoubtedly remain a cultural landmark in the Bay Area for generations to come.