California Lawmakers Push for Big Theme Parks to Open Sooner than They’re Slated To

Assembly Bill 420 would move Disneyland and its ilk from the Yellow Tier into the Orange Tier

Two California State Assembly members will introduce a bi-partisan bill aimed at getting Southern California’s long-shuttered giant theme parks back in business faster than the government had initially planned by putting them on the same tier as smaller amusement destinations in Governor Gavin Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

Fullerton Democrat Sharon Quirk-Silva and Santa Clarita Republican Suzette Martinez Valladares are co-sponsoring Assembly Bill 420, citing the “devastating outcomes for surrounding businesses and communities” that the prolonged closures have wrought.

“Now, more than ever, we need to strengthen our resolve to care for each other and to create clear and proper tiers to ensure the safety and health of our community and businesses,” Quirk-Silva, chair of the Committee of Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media, said in a press release. “Through collaboration with industry leaders, responsible and safe tourism can be used as a pathway to recovery.”

This is one of the only bits of good news park employees and fans alike have gotten since the sites shuttered in March. In September, Disney laid off 28,000 workers, and in December, the Industry Guidance for Theme Parks was amended so that parks with a capacity of less than 15,000 visitors could reopen in the Orange (moderate) Tier 3, while the biggest were relegated to the Yellow (minimal) Tier 4.

“The intent of AB 420 is to adjust the guidance for all amusement parks, regardless of size to open safely within the same tier,” the co-sponsors stated.

Erin Guerrero, executive director of the California Attractions and Parks Association, lauded the proposal, saying, “We deeply appreciate Assembly Members Quirk-Silva and Valladares for their leadership and for introducing legislation on Safe Theme Park Reopening. Worldwide, theme parks have proven they can reopen responsibly while protecting the health of guests and staff. Science and data show it can be done. California should allow theme parks to reopen responsibly in the Orange—Moderate—Tier 3.”

The news should also please Disney chair Bob Iger, who quit Newsom’s economic recovery task force over the reopening delays in October, and company CEO Bob Chapek, who publicly complained the following month that the there was still no end in sight.

Chapek said at the time, “We are extremely disappointed that the State of California continues to keep Disney closed despite our proven track record,” adding that the state’s handling of the theme park situation was responsible for “decimating” small businesses that rely on the parks to stay afloat.

“As a veteran of the theme park industry, I intimately understand their operations, their procedures, and their ability to move people and keep them safe. The industry, and Six Flags Magic Mountain in my district, has been closed for nearly a year, while parks in other states have been open to the public and serving them safely,” said Martinez Valladares, whose first job was at Six Flags Magic Mountain. “By opening our theme parks, we will trigger a ripple effect to our local economy, and in turn, create more jobs. It’s time to offer clear guidelines that will balance public health and the need to safely get people back to work, and this bill is the first step.”

Meanwhile, companies that operate big theme parks immediately welcomed the proposal. Shares in Walt Disney Co., Universal Studios’ parent company, Comcast Corp., Knott’s Berry Farm owner Cedar Fair LP, Six Flags Entertainment Corp. and SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., all rose as the news broke

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