SeaWorld $3.4B bid to purchase Cedar Fair could have ripple effect in New Braunfels

The Hill Country city, home to a Schlitterbahn water park that’s part of the Cedar Fair portfolio, is only 45 miles from SeaWorld.

Tidal Surge will open at SeaWorld San Antonio in spring 2022. (SeaWorld San Antonio)

Editor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between KSAT and the San Antonio Business Journal.

A multibillion-dollar unsolicited offer by Orlando-based SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. to purchase Cedar Fair LP has left a wake that stretches as far as New Braunfels.

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The Hill Country city is home to one of two Schlitterbahn water parks that are part of the Cedar Fair portfolio, and it’s only 45 miles from a competing attraction in San Antonio owned by SeaWorld.

“Schlitterbahn is an anchor employer during the summer months and produces significant indirect economic impact to local businesses and residents,” Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce CEO Jonathan Packer said.

Veteran industry expert Dennis Speigel, founder of International Theme Park Services Inc., said New Braunfels could feel the impact of a SeaWorld acquisition.

“There could be some divestiture for sure,” he said.

But SeaWorld, which operates an Aquatica water park next to its namesake park in San Antonio could see some extra value in Schlitterbahn, a major attraction in a high-growth area along the Interstate 35 corridor.

“It’s one of the best water parks in the United States. And it’s performing quite well under Cedar Fair,” Speigel said. “Maybe there is an opportunity to cross pollenate.”

After dealing with backlash from animal rights groups for years, and after enduring multiple changes in leadership, there has been more emphasis, Speigel said, in rides and attractions. That could also potentially work in Schlitterbahn’s favor in a SeaWorld deal.

SeaWorld has, according to a Bloomberg report, offered Cedar Fair $3.4 billion. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, Cedar Fair reportedly passed on a $4 billion offer from Six Flags, causing some analysts to characterize the reported SeaWorld offer as too low.

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