California releases reopening guidance for theme parks, outdoor stadiums

Andrew Sheeler
·3 min read

California public health officials released COVID-19 reopening guidelines for theme parks and stadiums on Tuesday, and it appears that major theme parks like Disneyland and Six Flags won’t be reopening any time soon.

While smaller theme parks, with a capacity of 15,000 people or fewer, will be allowed to resume operations in orange tier counties, larger theme parks won’t be able to reopen until the county reaches the yellow tier, Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said in a press conference Tuesday.

The guidance states that smaller theme parks may reopen with limited capacity, each 25% or 500, whichever is fewer. Smaller theme parks may only open outdoor attractions, and ticket sales will be limited to visitors from the county where the theme park is located. Face masks will be required at all times, unless a person is eating or drinking, Ghaly said.

Larger theme parks also will be limited to 25% capacity, when they are allowed to reopen, he said.

Asked to explain how the state delineated smaller theme parks from larger ones in reopening guidance, Ghaly said that, “Really, the nature of the smaller amusement theme parks is that they’re really local activities.”

“They’re almost exclusively outdoors,” he added.

The guidance has been controversial, as California takes a tougher stance on reopening than many other states. Walt Disney Co. chairman Bob Iger recently quit Gov. Gavin Newsom’s economic recovery task force, and the company has announced layoffs.

The announcement was not well-received by the California Attractions and Parks Association.

“To say today’s announcement on theme parks is disappointing would be a grave understatement. The Governor has not used science or data to inform his decision. Theme parks have opened and operated safely around the world for months. Data and science prove that theme parks can operate responsibly anywhere – there is no rational reason to believe they can’t do so in California. No one cares more about park employee and guest safety than the parks themselves,” Executive Director Erin Guerrero said in a statement.

Guerrero said that under the guidance released by the state, theme parks will remain shuttered for the foreseeable future.

“By forcing amusement parks to stay closed until their home county reaches Tier 4, the governor has issued a “Keep Theme Parks Closed Indefinitely” Plan which will devastate California’s major theme park industry,” Guerrero said.

Guerrero urged the state to reconsider the guidance and revise it so that larger theme parks can reopen under Tier 3, the orange tier.

Ghaly also released guidance for reopening stadiums, which he said are relatively less risky than theme parks.

Outdoor arenas will be allowed to resume operations in the orange tier at 20% capacity, and 25% capacity in the yellow tier, Ghaly said.

Ticket sales will be restricted to those living within a 120-mile radius of the venue, and will be restricted to advance sales and assigned seating only; no day of sales or will-call tickets will be allowed, Ghaly said.

As with theme parks, masks will be required at all times unless eating or drinking, and eating and drinking must be done in one’s seat.

Finally, tailgating will be prohibited, though parking at the stadium will be required, Ghaly said.