When Will California’s Great America Start Building From the Master Plan (and How We Got Here)?

Back during the media event for the opening of the newly converted floorless coaster, Patriot, at California’s Great America, the guest speaker was the Mayor of the city of Santa Clara, Lisa Gillmor. The reason for this is because the city recently approved the rezoning of, and a new master plan for, the park. This will allow easier approval for new rides, bigger rides, longer hours, and an “entertainment” district. During the media day presentations both Gillmor and California’s Great America General manager Raul Rehnborg talked a lot about what the master plan will allow the park to do, and when they’ll be able to start. I had a chance to talk to Rehnborg for a little bit after the event to learn some more about background of the master plan and rezoning push, as well as about when they’ll start putting their plans into motion.

At the Patriot opening Great America GM Raul Rehnborg and Santa Clara Mayor both discussed the new opportunities presented by the rezoning that was approved by the city earlier in the year

The Background of the Master Plan

Over the past year we’ve been covering the long term plan for California’s Great America. The park first revealed that they were pushing for rezoning with a new master plan in March 2016, and slowly more details about what was being considered were revealed as they went through the process of getting approval (see posts here and here). This culminated in the approval from the city in late January, opening the door for expansion of the park.

“It’s been about a two and half year process. We really started to ponder it after the Gold Striker experience,” Rehnborg explained. “That was very contentious because of some of the perceived impact by the neighbors. Really, it was the city that came to us and said the old process of variances (used in that project) needs to be thought of in a different way.”

The headaches involved in getting Gold Striker build led the city to suggest that CGA try to rezone their land.

That suggestion from the city, and the headaches that came during the effort to get Gold Striker approved and built, started the process that led to the development of the master plan and the creation of the rezoning.

“That was, as you can imagine, a very comprehensive and thorough process that included public review, public comments, and so forth,” Rehnborg continued. “So we were excited to kind of have closed the chapter of that process on January 24th at the city council hearing, and now it’s time to take advantage of it.”

Where California’s Great America Goes Next

So with the process completed earlier this year, we were curious how soon Great America would start taking advantage of the new zoning and implementing ideas from the plan. Rehnborg emphasized multiple times that Patriot was the last project under the old zoning rules, implying that the new projects allowed under the rezoning would be coming sooner rather than later.

“(Patriot) is the last project under the old zoning, but by having the zoning approved we’re going to be able to take advantage of that as early as 2018,” he told us.

Patriot was the last project at California’s Great America done before their rezoning for their new master plan.

So how quickly is Cedar Fair trying to move? Well, as Rehnborg described, “as soon as the zoning was approved, we brought all the best minds of Cedar Fair down to Great America and we had a series of meetings. We went through all of these different opportunities we had. What we wanted to talk about was what’s going to be the most impactful, what are the biggest needs of the park, and what are the biggest opportunities? So the team has focused first on the product content and kind of the roadmap, and now we’re working on the sequencing.”

My interpretation of that is the park knows, at least roughly, what they want to add, but the question remains what will come when. It’s safe to say that we’ll be seeing things soon, though.

The California’s Great America Master Plan first shown last Spring. Could we see one the things mentioned here show up in 2018?

“It’s all a pretty exciting process, but now we have a pretty firm idea of where we’re going for 2018, and so you’re going to see construction begin in 2017 for some of those 2018 projects,” Rehnborg said.

So What’s Coming in 2018?

It appears he wasn’t kidding. Not too long ago, InsideCGA (who you should definitely follow for updates on the park) noticed a few markers popping up in the park, especially around the “Invertigarden” (the spot that has been an empty grassy area ever since Invertigo was removed in 2010). Of course, we don’t know if those markers are actually ride related, but on this week’s investor call Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet added some more to imply it IS for an addition.

In response to a question about when we might see construction starting at California’s Great America, Ouimet said, “you’ll actually see (construction) activity later this year. In fact there is some, I know for a fact, there’s some construction stakes already in the ground out there. So you’ll see that start to ramp up later this year…”

Taken at the Invertigarden by InsideCGA, could it mean something will be built on this spot (finally)??? (Courtesy InsideCGA)

Ouimet also added some information on what we might be seeing, saying “Construction has already begun on multiple high impact attractions that will come online in 2018. As we look to build on Cedar Fair’s history we’ll be adding to our collection of world class coasters, including a completely new type of coaster, a dramatic transformation of two of our historical wooden coasters and a renewed relationship with a manufacturer who we haven’t worked with recent history that will add another coaster and deepen our pool of ride manufacturers.”

We pretty much know that the two wooden coaster conversions are the Mean Streak conversion at Cedar Point and a Hurler conversion at King’s Dominion, so that leaves the two other hints. It’s possible CGA is building something other than a coaster, but if they really want to take advantage of the new zoning then something that is 200 feet tall or more would make sense, and what would be the “most impactful” or give the “biggest opportunity”? That certainly sounds like a new roller coaster.

How much of the new skyline will exist in 2018? It sounds like at least one of these tall things will be there.

As for what the coaster could be, check out our post from yesterday where we speculate on some of the possibilities. There are a lot of potential companies and rides out there. Whatever it is, keep in mind the final words of CGA GM Raul Rehnborg from the Patriot opening: “I encourage all of you to keep an eye on what’s happening at Great america, it’s going to be an amazing ride.”

In the meantime, if you’re into the business of theme parks, you can check the full investor call transcript here. California’s Great America is fully open for the season, and you can learn more about the park on their site. Finally, keep checking Coaster101 for more info on this and other projects as we get into the 2017 season, and let us know in the comments, on Faceboook, or on Twitter what you think might be coming to California’s Great America in 2018 under their new master plan!