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Attendance at Cedar Fair theme parks increases during first half of 2011

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Cedar Fair has announced that attendance at its North American theme parks increased slightly during the first half of 2011 when compared to the same period a year earlier.

The largest increases were seen at the firm's California parks (including Knott's Berry Farm), where sales were up 8 percent year-on-year. Elsewhere, attendance and revenue gains were more modest, resulting in an overall increase in revenues of 2 percent to $372 million. Cedar Fair expects to make between $975 million and $1 billion during the full calendar year.

Attendance figures may have been slightly higher at four of Cedar Fair's parks had they managed to open new attractions in time for the start of the 2011 season. Plans to install WindSeeker spinning tower rides at the parks stalled following technical problems, although the attractions at Kings Island, Cedar Point and Canada's Wonderland are all now operating. Knott's Berry Farm's version is expected to open later this summer.

Cedar Fair recently appointed Matthew Ouimet, the man widely credited with turning around the performance of the Disneyland Resort, as its new CEO. Ouimet will take over control of Cedar Fair's 17 water parks and amusement parks across North America, after former CEO Dick Kinzel was forced out by shareholder Q Investments.

The company has been in turmoil for several years, and saw a planned takeover by asset manager Apollo Management LP collapse in 2010 due to a lack of shareholder support. While it saw an increase of nearly 8 percent in attendance during 2010, it still made a net loss of $32 million and remains hindered by the weight of massive debts.

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