Kings Dominion closure brings economic woes
For the first time in its 45-year history, Kings Dominion has halted its roller coasters for an entire season, thanks to COVID-19.
But beyond being disappointing for fans of the amusement park in Doswell, “the economic impact is huge,” says E. Linwood Thomas IV, director of economic development for Hanover County. “Kings Dominion is one of Hanover’s top five taxpayers.” In 2018, visitors to the park spent $258 million in the county on tourism, generating more than $5 million in tax revenue.
The loss of jobs also is tough on the region, especially for teens and young adults who often fill the park’s 4,000 seasonal positions. This summer, Hanover’s economic development department created a smartphone app to connect job seekers with available positions.
Owned and operated by Cedar Fair Entertainment Co., Kings Dominion plans to reopen for the 2021 season. The park announced in early August that because of Gov. Ralph Northam’s order that limits its capacity to 1,000 guests, as well as the “diminishing number of calendar days left in the 2020 operating season,” it would remain closed this year. Another big attraction — the Virginia State Fair, which draws about 250,000 visitors — was also canceled this year, a blow to Caroline County.
The 2020 season at Kings Dominion was supposed to bring a refreshed and expanded Soak City, its water park section, with a children’s wave pool and a multilevel play structure.
“We are disappointed that we are unable to welcome our guests back to the park this season,” Kings Dominion General Manager Tony Johnson said in an August statement.
The park had come up with a “comprehensive safety plan in accordance with industry and public health standards,” Johnson said, but even in Phase Three of Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening plan, it didn’t make economic sense to reopen. Rival theme park Busch Gardens Williamsburg was also closed all summer, except for a series of limited-attendance August special events.
Far from its start as a summertime attraction, Kings Dominion typically has an eight-month season, including its Halloween Haunt and WinterFest events.
Thomas says that Hanover’s industrial sector business, which has continued during the pandemic, has protected the county financially.
“We’re relatively insulated,” he says. But if the state or the region moves back to Phase One or Two, “it will be devastating.”