Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Flying high: Vallejo's Six Flags reports larger profits

November 15, 2005

Flying high: Six Flags reports large profits

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

Students from St. Basil's Elementary School watch Shouka the whale in February as she swims by during her birthday party at Six Flags Marine World. Shouka has made a positive difference in attendance. Photo: J.L. Sousa/Times-Herald file photo

Six Flags Marine World had a banner year in 2005, which means an extra half million dollars to Vallejo, city and park officials said. The park recently closed for the season.

City finance director Robert Stout said Monday that while the extra money is nice, it's but a drop in what promises to be a huge deficit bucket.

Vallejo spokesman Mark Mazzaferro said that for the past three years, the city's gotten its Marine World money in February.

"This is a one-time half million dollars," Stout said. "It was a good year, but it's a half million dollars to offset a multi-million dollar deficit. The bigger issue for me on Marine World is what happens if they continue to have good years, and decide to exercise their purchase agreement. Revenues would plunge."

Stout said the $500,000 windfall is unlikely to mean much real, sustainable help for the city.

"I can't project it into the future and say we can now hire more police officers or firefighters, or anything. I'm reluctant to speculate how it might be spent," Stout said.

As part owner of the park, the city of Vallejo shares in its profits, Stout said. If Six Flags exercises its purchase option, the city's $60 million, Marine World-related debt would vanish, but so would the profit sharing, he said.

"It's a complicated issue," Stout said. "The half-million is nice, but you can't draw implications from it for the city on a going-forward basis."

Marine World spokesman Paul Garcia said the park knew the city would be getting some extra money by the middle of the 2005 season.

"We anticipated it since our July presentation to the City Council," Garcia said. "The added interactive animal element drew people who were reminded of the Africa USA days, and is very popular."

Garcia said Ocean Discovery, the park's new three-element marine mammal attraction which opened in April, and the first full year with Shouka the killer whale, have made a positive difference in attendance.

Park officials are already planning for next year, Garcia said.

"We're definitely looking at ways to focus on children and families, adding some new interactive components," Garcia said. "We're looking forward to 2006 and beyond."

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at RachelZ@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6824.

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