Attendance, revenue down at Six Flags after woman’s death on Texas Giant

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Attendance and revenue at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington declined after the July accident in which a Dallas woman fell to her death from the Texas Giant roller coaster, company executives said Wednesday.

“There clearly was an impact,” Jim Reid-Anderson, chief executive of Grand Prairie-based Six Flags Entertainment Corp., told Wall Street analysts during a conference call to discuss its third-quarter results.

“We have seen very steady improvement as time has gone on,” he said. “We’re seeing that attendance decline dissipate.”

Reid-Anderson said the decline was seen only at the Arlington park. Six Flags owns 18 parks in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Overall, the company reported record revenue for the quarter but lower net income.

The company spent $3 million in “legal retention and legal costs” related to the July 19 accident, but Reid-Anderson declined to say whether that number included any settlement costs.

While not disclosing specific numbers, he said the attendance and revenue drop in Arlington was “big enough” to affect the company’s financial performance in the quarter. The company said overall attendance grew 2 percent to 11.8 million guests in the quarter.

The theme park operator, which also owns Hurricane Harbor, said net income was $120.4 million for the period, or $1.22 a share, compared with $253 million, or $2.23 a share, in the year-ago quarter, which benefited from an asset sale of $67 million.

On Wall Street, shares of Six Flags (ticker: SIX) closed down 20 cents at $35.09.

Six Flags has denied liability in the accident that killed Rosa Esparza, 52, who fell from the roller coaster on her first visit to the Arlington park. Her family filed a lawsuit in September in Tarrant County naming the amusement park, Six Flags Entertainment Corp., Six Flags Theme Parks Inc. and Texas Flags Ltd. as defendants. The family seeks more than $1 million.

Six Flags said it complied with inspections and maintenance procedures recommended by the German company that designed and built the coaster. The ride was immediately shut down, but it reopened in August after Six Flags Over Texas added redesigned restraint-bar pads from the manufacturer and new seat belts.

The park also began providing a coaster seat at the ride’s entrance so guests can see whether they fit into the restraint system before entering the line.

Six Flags Entertainment said revenue for the quarter ending Sept. 30 was $504.5 million, up $19 million, or 4 percent, from the same quarter a year ago. Executives said it was the 14th consecutive record quarter based on revenue growth.

Total guest spending per capita rose 71 cents to $41.27, representing a growth in sales of season passes, dining passes and annual memberships. Per capita guest spending in the parks was $17.31 for the quarter, up 26 cents, or 2 percent, from a year ago.

Revenue from admissions for the first nine months was $523.2 million, up nearly 4 percent from the same period in 2012, the company said.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727 Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST

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