GURNEE, Ill. (NewsNation Now) — Six Flags Great America will open its thrill rides for the first time in 15 months this weekend.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the park was open in the fall for a Christmas lights show, but roller coasters and other rides were not open.
“It was difficult. It was hard on the Six Flags family, the Six Flags company,” said Hank Salemi, park president. “We entertain millions of guests on an annual basis who come here to have fun. It was just really hard. We understood why, it was a public health issue, but it was also very, very difficult when this is what we love to do.”
“Just on Saturday, we are so excited to open the gates with our thrills with our coasters and have guests back.” said Caitlin Kepple, communication manager.
The park is not sacrificing safety. As one of the final Six Flags parks to reopen, Salemi said his park is following the lead of others and making sure people are as safe as possible.
“We are very confident it’s going to keep people safe,” Salemi said. “We are just on the backs of many of our parks that have been open since 2020, summer 2020, and we’ve learned a lot of lessons and we’ve done it right.”
“Safety is always our top priority at Six Flags,” Kepple said.
Masks are required for park employees and visitors, and Salemi pointed out that there will be multiple changes to the park that will enhance safety. For example, there’s a reservation system in place that monitors the number of people in the park and when they arrive.
“We are going to do many, many things to ensure we are as safe as we possibly can be, and I didn’t even mention social distancing on our rides and on our tables and in our restaurants, we are going over and above to make sure our guests are as safe as possible,” Salemi said.
Last summer, Six Flags Great America did hire its seasonal workforce, and the park did not have to furlough or let go any of its 200 permeant employees. Six Flags plans to hire 4,000 seasonal workers for the new year.
“I’ve missed it so, so much when we haven’t been able to be open for an entire year of 2020, so I think it is going to be exhilarating,” Salemi said. “It will be different; it is not going to be exactly the same.”