Dreamworld a "ghost town" as rides remain shut down
IT should have been one of the biggest days of the year at Dreamworld, but two months after the death of four patrons, the theme park was a virtual ghost town yesterday, with a poor crowd and continuing safety audits.
The fallout from the deaths of Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett and Roozi Araghi is unabated for owner Ardent Leisure.
It has failed to recapture crowds, despite slashing ticket prices, offering free meals to kids, extended season passes and longer operating hours.
One-day tickets, which are usually $95 for adults, were down to $75 yesterday, while children were $55, down from $65, and the operating hours were extended from 5pm to 9pm.
Ardent Leisure also offered to extend season passes by six months and provide evening shows featuring "The Fire Machine" spectacular until January 15 in an effort to lure back patrons.
Unfortunately, the offers have done little to draw the crowds, with The Courier-Mail yesterday finding segments of the theme park deserted, multiple ride closures, and minimal queuing during what is usually peak trading season.
Many of the "thrill rides" remained closed for further safety audits, weeks after the theme park officially reopened on December 10, with only The Claw, BuzzSaw, Pandamonium, and Mick Doohan's Motocoaster in operation yesterday.
With the closure of five of the nine thrill rides, including crowd favourites the Tower of Terror and Giant Drop, increased waiting times were expected, but many park visitors said they barely had to wait at all.
Season-pass holder Samantha Edwards and her family said the park was "practically empty" compared with this time last year.
"It was a very, very quiet day," Ms Edwards said.
"Even with most of the rides still shut, we didn't have to line up for more than five minutes on any given ride. It's very unusual given the time of year."
Ms Edwards said her family was able to walk onto most rides and see a number of shows without having to join long queues.
"My only complaint would be the ride closures," she said.
"We were looking forward to trying out most of the thrill rides, only to find that they were closed. But I am glad they are taking every safety precaution."
Dreamworld and Ardent Leisure declined requests for crowd numbers and revenue figures over the holiday period but it is understood the park lost more than $7 million in takings while it was closed in November.
Rival theme parks Movie World and Sea World were yesterday overflowing with patrons on the New Year's Day public holiday.
Operator Village Roadshow said crowd numbers were "solid" and waiting times for flagship rides such as the Scooby-doo Spooky Coaster and the Arkham Asylum were in excess of an hour.
"Village Roadshow Theme Parks is experiencing a solid school holidays period, with Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World and Wet'n'Wild Gold Coast operating with extended hours throughout the period," a spokesman said.
At many points, even the lines to buy food and drink were longer at Movie World and Sea World than the lines for rides at Dreamworld.
Movie World season-pass member Renee Budden said the Dreamworld tragedy would not deter her from attending.
"If anything, I think the park would be safer than ever before," she said.
"They have undergone that many safety audits and have kept their rides closed … another tragedy would be extremely unlikely."
Sea World patron Bianca Burgess, 28, said her family, visiting from Bowen, had not been to Dreamworld as they had a young daughter, but would like to go in the future.
"I don't think Lexie is big enough for a lot of rides there yet," she said. "In the future we will surely go and try out the rides.
"It was a tragedy what happened, but it would be a shame to see it go.
"It's good having all three theme parks as they each offer variety and something different for everybody."