Don’t worry – Great America promises to be in business for nearly six more decades – San Jose Mercury News

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SANTA CLARA — Even as nervous families and kids streamed into Great America on Wednesday in a fit of spring break fervor, the president and CEO of the company that runs the amusement park was at the entrance with a calming message: The place is not disappearing and will never be anything other than what it is today.

“We are here to commit to the long-term growth and the vibrancy of Great America pending approval of our master plan by the city,” said Matthew A. Ouimet of Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, owner of the park. “We are prepared to invest in a collection of new rides, attractions and shows,” he said, speaking at the outdoor fountain and carousel of the 40-year-old institution.

The Celebration Swing whips riders around during opening day at California’s Great America in Santa Clara Calif., on Friday, March 25, 2016. The

Ouimet said the approval of the master plan will make the park “more fun,” referring to a 35-foot height limitation that is a bane to the higher-faster-crazier formula that delights amusement park fans. Now, any ride higher than the limit must get special variances before it is built. The master plan, says Ouimet, promises more spectacular roller coasters and water slides and, with Silicon Valley in mind, “there will be more digital rides.”

Each year the park offers at least one mega-attraction. Great America’s General Manager Raul Rehnborg described an attraction opening this year called “Mass Effect” as perfect for the digital generation.

“It will be the largest, highest resolution, 3-D LED screen in the world,” said Rehnborg. “It is cutting edge technology, it is a prototype attraction and there is nothing around even remotely close to this thing. It will feature special effects, motion-action sequences and an incredible, integrated sound system. It is something that attacks all the different senses.”

Rehnborg said his love of his work goes back to his teen years when he started at Knotts Berry Farm as a humble sweeper. He took his degree in engineering, but could not give up his connection to amusement venues. Today, he is the top boss of the 116-acre park in Santa Clara.

Clearly explaining the fate of the park was necessary, according to management, because there have been nagging rumors that Cedar Fair had been tussling with various real estate interests, the city of Santa Clara and the San Francisco Forty-Niners (and their nearby Levi Stadium). Ouimet felt it was time to silence all the scary chatter about the demise of the park.

He announced that even if the city of Santa Clara sells the land, Cedar Fair holds a rock-solid “ground lease” that runs through 2074. “Under that lease, we have the right of first refusal to buy that land.” Further, even if another company outbids them for the ground, Ouimet firmly stated that Cedar Fair will not allow any other use besides Great America.

The negative rumors about the park being turned into commercial and residential use picked up so strongly that a pro-Great America, petition (9,000-plus signatures) is currently online. “No matter what happens to the land,” said Ouimet, “this is going to be a great amusement park.”

Contact David E. Early at 408-920-5836. Follow him at

Don’t worry – Great America promises to be in business for nearly six more decades – San Jose Mercury News

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