Under California’s new guidelines for theme parks, large-scale locations — including Disneyland, Six Flags and Universal Studios — will remain closed until the foreseeable future. Smaller theme parks, with an overall capacity of 15,000 or less, will be permitted to open a tier sooner to in-county residents.
The announcement resulted in a torrent of statements from prominent theme park executives in Southern California who criticized the state’s “arbitrary” decision, saying the parks are ready to reopen safely.
“We have proven that we can responsibly reopen, with science-based health and safety protocols strictly enforced at our theme park properties around the world,” Ken Potrock, Disneyland Resort President, wrote in a statement. “Nevertheless, the State of California continues to ignore this fact, instead mandating arbitrary guidelines that it knows are unworkable and that hold us to a standard vastly different from other reopened businesses and state-operated facilities.”
Disneyland’s push to reopen now has the support of multiple labor unions, such as Workers United Local 50 and UFCW 324s. The unions co-signed a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday explaining the change.
“We wrote you in June 2020 to tell you that we were not yet convinced that it was safe to reopen the parks on Disney’s timetable,” the unions wrote in the letter. “Since then, Disney has taken safety measures we advocated, and engaged with their workers' representatives, [such that] our original position has changed.”
Disney fanatics and former employees expressed their feelings about the state’s decision to delay Disneyland’s plans of reopening.
Linsey Schreck of Laguna Hills, who was one of the Disneyland employees laid off last month, felt that preventing Disneyland from opening until Orange County moves into the yellow tier was a little restrictive by the state.
“It would probably be okay to open when we enter the orange tier,” Schreck said. “I will go back to Disney when it’s safe, and by that I mean after they open and I wait a month!” She has since lined up part-time work elsewhere.
Schreck also stated that her annoyance with the layoffs was more towards corporate rather than the state.
“I don’t think corporate cares because they reinstated their full salaries but laid off 28,000 [employees],” Schreck said. “They claimed they had no choice since California is closed but they just didn’t want to make the sacrifice.”
There is also the question of reduced business even if and when the park returns.
“There’s a lot of people in Orange County as well as LA county that don’t believe in [vaccines]. So I think it’s like that’ll dissuade a lot more people to go there,” Jeffrey De La Cruz of Aliso Viejo, California, a former Disney annual pass holder, said. “But still, there’s going to be people that want it to reopen. But, in my opinion, I’d have to pass.”
Meanwhile, Disneyland trended on Twitter over discourse surrounding whether or not reopening Disneyland should be a priority.
Park owners and operators are upset about the move as well. “Pushing us into Tier Four behind other businesses that have already reopened makes no sense,” Karen Irwin, president and chief operating officer of Universal Studios, wrote in a statement as she described the situation as “shameful.”
Upon moving into tier four, larger amusement parks will be limited to 25% total capacity. Additionally, capacity on indoor dining and drinking establishments will be limited to 25%, as well.