UPDATE MARCH 17, 2021 — On Wednesday, Disneyland president Ken Potrock officially announced in a news release that both Disneyland and California Adventure will be reopening to an eager public on April 30 after a yearlong pandemic closure.
“The day all of us have long been waiting for is almost here,” he said. “We’re excited to have more than 10,000 cast members returning to work as we get ready to welcome our guests back to this happy place.”
CEO Bob Chapek also commented on the reopening on CNBC on Wednesday morning, saying, “I think as people become vaccinated, they become a little bit more confident in the fact that they can travel, and, you know, stay COVID-free. Consumers trust Disney to do the right thing and we’ve certainly proven that we can [open] responsibly whether it’s temperature checks, masks, social distancing, [or] improved hygiene around the parks.”
At least at first, the parks will operate at a dramatically reduced capacity, around 15 percent, in line with California’s current COVID guidance. Only California residents will be able to buy tickets initially, and the park will be instituting a new “theme park reservation system” to make sure it keeps to capacity limits.
It’ll be a different experience in other ways too. In January, the park announced it was doing away with its annual passholder program, devastating frequent visitors. “I would go two or three times a week,” passholder Ginger Leigh-Lanny Duncan told Los Angeles at the time of the announcement. “I’m still in denial and that speaks volumes about how much it affects me. It breaks my heart that I won’t be able to go down and check on things that have always been there.”
MARCH 16, 2021 — Governor Gavin Newsom announced that theme parks could reopen as early as April 1, but after the yearlong closure things might not move so quickly. Disneyland has indicated that reopening might happen closer to May 1. And Knott’s Berry Farm officially announced a plan to reopen in May, once 1,700 workers have been rehired.
Over the weekend Los Angeles and Orange County COVID cases were down and both moved into the less restrictive Red Tier, which would allow the parks to open at 15 percent capacity. When the Orange Tier is reached, the parks will be able to operate at 25 percent capacity, helping the park’s bottom lines and allowing for thousands of workers to be rehired. Disneyland will initially rehire 10,000 cast members of 30,000-plus, according to the Disney blog Mice Age. A tier must remain in place for three weeks before it is reassessed.
When the milestone of one year without patrons passed on Monday, it meant that ride operators’ annual certifications expired. Once those ride operators return, annual inspections and safety training will need to be completed before Dumbo the elephant can again take to the Anaheim skies. Members of Disneyland’s kitchen and custodial staff are being brought back in limited numbers to deep clean the kitchens, order food, and prepare new ways to serve smaller crowds.
Theme Park Insider editor Robert Niles has predicted that Six Flags Magic Mountain could be the first of the local parks to relaunch once they have the OK. “The park’s drive-in car show ends this weekend, so it’s the one park that I see as being good to go for ride operations on April 1,” he writes in a March 13 post. “That’s a Thursday, so maybe the park waits until the next day to reopen, but I can’t see Six Flags leaving money on the table by delaying its reopening longer than it legally must.” He adds that Magic Mountain and other parks will likely return with some rides still closed.
In the meantime, Disney California Adventure, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Universal have all been running food and drink experiences to keep patrons in the parks while still maintaining COVID protocols. The Taste of Boysenberry Festival will run at Knott’s until May 2, Universal opened the Harry Potter and Simpsons areas for Taste of Universal last Friday, and Disney California Adventure launches Touch of Disney on Thursday with temperature screenings, barriers to enforce distancing, and carrot cake funnel fries.
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