Monday, September 20, 2021

Cedar Fair: Getting to the Point

Cedar Point GM Carrie Boldman helps the park adapt for the future

interview by Martin Palicki

150-year-old Cedar Point is a beloved icon of amusement park history. It is the flagship property of the Cedar Fair parks chain and was honored with the Thea Classic Award in 2018. Now, Carrie Boldman has made history as the first female General Manager of Cedar Point. She was named Vice President and GM of the Sandusky, Ohio park in April 2021, having previously served as Cedar Point’s VP of Merchandise and Games.

Prior to joining the Cedar Fair team in 2013, Boldman spent 16 years as director of product development and design for Disney Parks and Resorts, followed by two years as director of marketing and sales for The Chef ’s Garden, a family-owned sustainable farm in Huron, Ohio. All in all, Boldman brings 25 years of experience in strategic development, brand management and merchandising expertise to her new role.

How will your strong and varied background in merchandise and retail impact your role as GM?

Retail, at its core, is a very guest-focused business. We’re always designing and developing for literally every demographic, making sure we have something for everyone, and listening to our guests. What are they buying and what do they want to see more of? Merchandise is a tangible memory of their Cedar Point visit, and we think a lot about quality – how will this product be used (or remembered) for many years? These ideas also apply to other areas of the park, including foods, rides and shows, as I work with our entire team to keep an eye out for what our guests want, need and expect.

Cedar Point has been a leader in incorporating technology into the experience (The Battle for Cedar Point, for example). How do you see that progressing?

Technology will continue to enhance the park experience, particularly in the area of removing friction from the system. We want to make it easier and faster to perform simple tasks. Some of those examples include mobile ordering, which we’ve started testing at a few locations, and enhancing the mobile app for an easier ticket purchase process. We’re also watching how cashless technology is received at our sister parks as fewer guests bring cash when they visit.

Cedar Point has a reputation as a roller coaster park, but the new Snake River Expedition seems to be a bit of a departure from that. How do narrative-based attractions fit into the park?

Cedar Point has the best ride package in the world, and we know our guests love our coasters. An attraction like Snake River Expedition really immerses the guest in a story, and at the same time provides a ride that is unique to our park. When you add the ingredients together (the talent, theming and guest interaction) and combine those with the fact that everyone in the family, including a small infant, can take part in the experience, it really makes the ride special. Guest feedback has been incredibly positive. As we move forward, it’s all about balance in the portfolio, delivering thrills for those who love them and family experiences for others.

Snake River Expedition at Cedar Point. Photo courtesy of Cedar Point
As parks reopen, how do you think the guest experience will change in permanent ways?

Guest expectations are higher than ever, and it’s clear that people are so happy to be out of the house and enjoying life. They just want things to be back to normal as quickly as possible. We continue to work on delivering an amazing and safe guest experience, and this will be a primary focus for years to come. Certainly, the incorporation of touchless transactions and technology will also be a continued area of focus for us.

A park’s relationship with its seasonal staff is critical and Cedar Point has been in the news for some pretty noteworthy efforts to attract workers (adjusted schedules, boosted pay, signing bonuses…) Can you give us an update on how that approach is working and if you see these as long-term changes for your workforce?

Our approach worked very well this year, and the result is that we are staffed appropriately and entertaining guests every day. As we move forward, we know a great associate experience is vital to attracting talent and having them return the next season. We’ve made improvements to our associate housing, we offer complimentary tickets and discounts, flexible schedules and opportunities for future careers through our internship program. We’re also adding more than 300 full-time jobs and we hope to fill many of these with seasonal associates who want to advance their career and stay in the business of fun.

How do you define your approach to managing the park?

Right now, I am very hands-on as I learn new things. I’m definitely taking it all in and asking many questions. The best time to learn this business is when we are open, so I spend as much time as I can with guests and associates. Going forward, my approach will be more on balancing the day-to-day operation with the vision and plan for the future – thinking more about mid-to-long-term projects and initiatives that support Cedar Point’s purpose: to Make People Happy.

What excites you the most about being in this new role?

It’s really important for me to spend my time doing something I love. I am always excited to talk to guests in the park and hear directly from them about their Cedar Point story. I meet people who have been here dozens of times and people who just had their first visit. To hear what Cedar Point means to them and the joy and fun it brings to their lives is really the best. Cedar Point is a very special place – the people who work here and the people who visit are always the best part of my day. We started as a simple bath house and beach in 1870 and still stand today after more than 150 years. We have exciting things planned for the future, and what excites me most is that someday my grandkids and their grandkids will visit Cedar Point and create their own memories. • • •

Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki owns and publishes InPark Magazine. Started in 2004, InPark Magazine provides owners and operators the perspective from "in"side the "park." Martin has also written for publications like Sound & Communications, Lighting & Sound America, Attractions Management and others. Martin has been featured in Time Magazine, CNN.com and Folio. Martin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

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