Somewhere in the whistle of the winter wind, you can almost hear the whirr of roller-coaster wheels and the screams of petrified passengers.
At least, you can if you’re the HR manager at theme parks like Kings Dominion, which just held a job fair to start filling 2,500 positions, or Kings Island, which needs to fill 4,000 jobs before its April 30 opening, or Six Flags Great Adventure, which is holding job fairs the next two weekends to find thousands of workers for its park in Jackson, New Jersey.
According to this release from the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), some 400 parks in the United States generate more than $11 billion a year in business. With an average of eight or so parks per state, there likely is one near you, and if 2011 operations are ramping up, time is ripe for jobs, technology, tourism, workplace, personal finance and even investing stories related to the theme park industry. (See the ongoing saga of the Cedar Fair failed takeover and shareholder unrest if you think all the excitement in this industry happens on the midway.)
And while college-student ride operators are traditional at seasonal parks, not all the jobs in this industry are low-paid summer fare. This Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis of amusement park wages shows that nurses, lawyers, horticulturists and many other well-paid occupations find good jobs in the theme park industry; the analysis offers relatively recent mean hourly and annual wage information that will help you compare local pay and perks to the national average. From facilities to food service to electrical trades, you can probably find amusement park workers related to your beat for careers stories, profiles and seasonal employment stories. (You could broaden this out to a seasonal jobs story including nature parks, racetracks and other partial-year operations, but I think readers will be hooked by a behind-the-scenes amusement industry story.)
The BLS also operates a Producer Price Index (wholesale costs) for the amusement industry; interesting data, and check the BLS’ occupational handbook for more stats about workers in the industry, including the percent in each age range, etc. (Be interesting to see if more middle-aged applicants are vying with young adults for these seasonal jobs; one good reason reporters might want to cover these jobs fairs in person.)
The IAAPA site is a good source of general information, but for breaking news and analysis be sure to sign up for the daily e-mail feed from AmusementToday.com; the trade journal is absolutely packed with timely news and information about all sorts of entertainment businesses, from state fairs to Disney.
Speaking of which, Disney the other day attributed its unexpected 54 percent profit jump in part to strength at its theme parks; Six Flags and Cedar Fair also are publicly traded and their earnings results may provide clues both to company performance and the 2011 outlook for consumer entertainment spending. You might also ring or e-mail the investment company analysts for these firms; they may suggest questions you might post to private owners of local or regional parks, in terms of financial metrics, industry challenges, special expenses and other industry-specific info.
A just-out market research report by Global Industry Analysts Inc. says the U.S. amusement park market could reach more than $29 billion a year by 2015. A company rep was unsure (when I called) about whether the firm would share additional data with reporters; you can try giving them a call but the news release alone is rather interesting and does point to a number of major industry players.