After a long, complicated history, it looks like California's Great America will meet its end to help Cedar Fair's ends meet. It's easy to see why the $310 million sale of the land (and the ability to reclaim its rides) is a win-win for Cedar Fair. Said Cedar Fair President and CEO Richard A. Zimmerman in 2022: “For our investors, the sale and lease agreements allow us to monetize a high-value asset in the heart of Silicon Valley at a very attractive multiple. The transaction also provides us with a substantial sum of incremental capital which we intend to use to further advance our strategic priorities and generate enhanced returns for our unitholders.”
So we know what's in it for Cedar Fair. But who, exactly, is Prologis – the "real estate investment trust" who paid big bucks to secure 112-acres beneath California's Great America amusement park in Santa Clara, California?
Frankly, there's nothing particularly thrilling about the San Francisco-based company. Essentially a giant real estate firm, Prologis is a sizable player in the development of industrial, advanced manufacturing and logistics projects. The company is reportedly "a major landlord" for Amazon, and touts having been the quiet developer behind Amazon's distribution centers, warehouses, and other industrial facilities "in 19 markets, including the UK, China, Japan and the United States."
But at least for those who've got their ear tuned to the rumors of the industry, an odd one had bubbled up... That maybe – just maybe – the client Prologis was hired by in this case isn't interested in distribution warehouses at all, but in filmmaking ones.
Mickey in San Jose?
First of all, let's be clear: according to the rumblings of entertainment insiders, if The Walt Disney Company is at all connected to the $310 million purchase of 112 acres in Central California's Silicon Valley, it is likely not for a theme park.
It's not that Disney hasn't considered park acquisition before... Allegedly, Disney seriously crunched the numbers on acquiring Southern California's Knott's Berry Farm in the '90s, believing that the park just up the street could be transformed into the never-built Possibilityland: Disney's America. (Instead, the Knott family opted to sell their historic Californian park to Cedar Fair, who still owns the property to this day.) But in Great America's case, Cedar Fair owns all the rides (which they'll doubtlessly take with them).
Instead, it's possible that once Great America is gone, Prologis' client could very well be the filmmaking arm of The Walt Disney Company, for whom the 112-acre plot could become a movie studio and production facility. Even though it's entirely rumor, there are certainly a few reasons that the idea has merit.
For one, Disney has recently found itself highly intertwined with a smaller, regional studio – Trilith Studios (formerly Pinewood Studios) in Atlanta, Georgia, above – where nearly all Marvel Studios films and television shows since 2015's Ant-Man have been produced. It makes sense for Disney to establish its own regional production campus... and one that's at least closer to the Californian homes of many of its stars, crew, and executives.
Speaking of which, a studio in San Francisco could prove to be a "Goldilocks" location for Disney – near enough to the company's Burbank headquarters and many celebrity's Los Angeles homes, but far enough to avoid some of the tax, union, and labor restrictions imposed on Southern California and the "studio zone" of Hollywood...
The rumor mill
Right now, the idea of Disney being the impetus behind Great America's purchase is merely a rumor, and any association between Prologis and Disney is alleged at best. Even if it were true that Disney might've had interest in the property, the changing guard at The Walt Disney Company might mean that plans fall through or priorities shift altogether. Right now, consider this a far-fetched – but interesting – thought exercise with what Disney might want with a hundred acre campus near San Jose...
It's equally likely, after all, that the Santa Clara property becomes an Amazon warehouse, or an industrial yard, or that it's resold to another property investor, or that it yields office space, apartments, or mixed use retail to complement the nearby stadium and the region's jaw-dropping real estate market. But for now, isn't it fun to imagine what could be?