The sale of Knott's Berry Farm marks the end of an era in Southern California, but the new owner is a promising fit. Cedar Fair LP, an Ohio-based firm that already owns four amusement parks, seems poised to keep Knott's competitive while maintaining attractions that made the park special as a destination for family entertainment.
As Orange County catapulted into its current era of suburban growth and high-tech industry, Knott's remained a traditional getaway for good food, good times and an atmosphere described by one longtime park visitor as "that small country feeling." But modern times have influenced this business as well as others.
The development of amusement parks as huge businesses has been evident at nearby Disneyland, and other formidable contenders have emerged to make their claims on the disposable incomes of families around the region and visitors from around the world. Knott's had made an effort to add attractions to keep up with the likes of Universal Studios and Magic Mountain. In recent years, the conventional stops like Calico Ghost Town were supplemented with such thrill rides as an upside-down roller coaster and a spinning gondola.
The new owner enters at a critical moment when expansion funds are needed. When the sale was announced this week, plans already were on the drawing board for a huge wooden roller coaster at Knott's. Cedar Fair sent a signal that it "loves coasters," which are a big feature at the company's Cedar Point park near Cleveland.
Decisions by family-owned businesses to seek outside capital constitute a familiar pattern in sectors across the economy. Knott's seems to have wisely accepted the purchase offer of a company that has experience in the scale of its business. If some of the feeling of hands-on family management stands to be lost, there is assurance in the new president's remark that Cedar Fair intends to "continue to keep a good, clean, safe park."
In a time of glitzy entertainment, that is welcome news for the continuation of an important fixture in Southern California's diverse tourism industry.