People wear face masks as they ride ‘The Goliath’, roller coaster at La Ronde amusement park in Montreal, Saturday, July 25, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. The wearing of masks or protective face coverings is mandatory in Quebec as of July 18. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Amusement parks welcome back fewer guests with new pandemic precautions

Physical distancing, extra sanitizing in affect at Canada’s them park

Quebecers who have spent the summer missing the Goliath’s 170-foot drops are in luck.

The sky-high ride was among more than 40 attractions in operation this weekend as Six Flags Entertainment Corp. reopened its La Ronde amusement park in Montreal following a months-long closure to stop the spread of COVID-19.

But the park — and a handful of its counterparts across Canada — are looking a lot different these days as operators unveil a slew of measures meant to keep guests safe.

“There used to be thousands and thousands of people walking around, huge lineups and crowds and all that, but this is not what you will see when you get to La Ronde because this is a new reality,” said spokesperson Karina Thevenin.

La Ronde opened in preview mode on Saturday and Sunday, along with this coming Friday. It will host a few exclusive days for members and seasons pass holders on Aug. 1 and 2 before welcoming the general public.

La Ronde has rolled out a new online reservation systems that helps it restrict capacity and stagger entry times, so guests can easily physically distance.

When they arrive, guests are asked to don a mask and to step through a thermal imaging system that will measure body temperature and help the park weed out guests who may have COVID-19 symptoms.

While queuing for rides, guests will see footprints and markers on the ground, helping them to keep six feet or more apart, and rides will also have seats blocked off to aid with physical distancing.

While the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park near Tokyo has asked guests to “scream inside your heart” and not out loud to stop the spread of COVID-19, Thevenin said guests are free to make noise as long as they are wearing a mask.

“I tried a roller coaster with a mask on and it works just fine,” Thevenin said. “I was screaming to my heart’s content.”

Meanwhile, Calaway Park in Calgary has kept six high-velocity rides, including Vortex, Ocean Motion, Free Fallin’ and Wave Rider, closed to stop the spread of droplets.

Out of 32 rides, 26 have reopened and six — Dodgem, Storm, Air Gliders, Bumble Blast, Sky Wynder and Dream Machine — require guests to wear a mask, said Bob Williams, the park’s general manager.

Calaway also upped its sanitizations, so rides are cleaned after every cycle, and staff wear face masks and sometimes, also shields.

Calaway settled on what COVID-19 precautions to take at the park by conferring with public health officials and consulting with other theme parks, though few have reopened in Canada.

Canada’s Wonderland, just outside Toronto in Vaughan, and Galaxyland at the West Edmonton Mall both remain closed.

Over in Cavendish, P.E.I, the Sandspit Amusement Park has been open since June 26 with increased precautions and an approach ”like a barbeque where you start low and go slow,” said Matthew Jelley, the president of Sandspit operator, Maritime Fun Group.

The park is operating at about 15 per cent capacity, but it took at least 10 days for it to attract even that many guests, he said.

Instead of charging guests who wanted to go on rides and letting the rest in free, Jelley said everyone must now pay admission.

It was a hard choice to make, but one that was necessary because the park has 365 days of expenses even though it isn’t welcoming guests year-round, he added.

READ MORE: Workers praise Disney virus safety, but will visitors come?

It’s a reality Shelley Frost, chief executive of Playland-operator Pacific North Exhibition, knows well.

The Vancouver park, she said, wasn’t able to accommodate end-of-school or graduation parties and had to open on July 17, far later than it usually would.

“We do about $60 million a year between the fair and our year-round events like concerts and festivals and we already have a confirmed loss of about $52 million of that, so we’ve been doing a lot of layoffs and austerity measures,” said Frost.

The park has yet to hit its reduced capacity rates, but guests are slowly returning to ride the Tea Cups, Sea to Sky Swinger and Bug Whirled.

The park will soon open bigger rides like a wooden roller coaster that Frost hopes will attract teens, but she is keeping her expectations muted.

“We were very excited to be able to be a little ray of hope for things getting close to being you being back to normal, but we are very cognizant of the fact that people are very different in terms of how comfortable they are.”

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

District of Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen recently photographed the town’s original cemetery — now completely overgrown — among the trails behind the Vanderhoof Museum and Visitor Centre. (Gerry Thiessen photo)
Mayor, historical society examine ways to mark Vanderhoof’s original cemetery

“It is a part of our history and we don’t want that history to evaporate,” Thiessen said.

Northern Health saw 14 cases in one day earlier this week, the highest in one day since the beginning of the pandemic. (Image courtesy CDC)
Northern Health sees highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

There have been 23 cases of reported cases of COVID-19 in the Nechako Lakes Health Area

’Herbert’ Shane Hartman with his daughter Isla. (Shane Hartman Facebook photo)
Love for daughter and drumming leads to author’s first book

Shane Hartman spent very spare moment writing and illustrating Isla’s New Drum

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Most Read