Michigan’s Adventure: How Not to Open an Amusement Park

Aaron Petersen, Contributing Writer

Michigan’s Adventure has been a thing of nostalgic memories to me since I was just a little kid. I have been working for Cedar Fair for almost seven years now, and those seven years have truly changed my life for the better.  Unfortunately, this year, the park regressed significantly on multiple levels of operation. Whether it be from the lack of staffing, the minuscule amount of experience within that staffing, or the lack of real incentive to help attract new workers, the park was not ready to open by any means, and it’s only going to get worse when the park proceeds with its full opening.

In my past experience with the park, we have always had good staffing who we were able to be expendable, regardless of employee termination or resignation. This year, however, staffing is arguably the biggest problem thus far. Some of the biggest and most popular rides, such as Shivering Timbers and Thunderhawk, were unable to open because of the lack of employees. The same goes for the foodservice areas. Michigan’s Adventure raised their entry-level wage for regular associates to $14 per hour for those 18 years or older, but that seemingly isn’t enough to want to draw in new employees. They are experiencing the same problem many established businesses are currently: being forced to raise their wages to attempt to draw in more help. The biggest problem in their process of doing so is the lack of incentive that many other workplaces provide, such as sign-on bonuses, attendance, and incremental wage increase. Cedar Point did the same thing by raising their wage to $20 per hour with a $500 sign-on bonus, but with much greater results, as they were able to return to a full operating schedule in less than a month’s time due to a massive influx of new workers. The guests have also noticed this lack of staffing. Comment sections across multiple Michigan’s Adventure social media pages bring up the issue as a hindrance to their experience. It is truly a shame to see how little the park can truly handle compared to years prior.

Experience amongst the workers is truly lacking, and while that is something that is out of the park’s control, it is still a significant issue. The majority of new hires for the season were super minors (14/15-year-old associates), and for many of these young workers, this is their first job ever. Especially to begin the season, this is where the going gets really hard, and those new workers have to learn how to do their job on the fly without much-experienced help surrounding them to help take the pressure off of them. This wasn’t an issue when I was a 14-year-old because I had people surrounding me with proper training; I did not feel overwhelmed by all the new information I had to take in. The newest members of Michigan’s Adventure’s staff must deal with the broad end of these issues.

If this is how guests receive the park within the first month, I can only imagine how chaotic it will be when Wildwater Adventure (the waterpark) opens its doors. Knowing how much staff is needed to allow that section of the park to run, you can only assume the worst for the employees’ sake. Guests can’t really anticipate such significant internal issues when they make reservations, nor will the park seemingly warn their consumers either. But the worst aspect, out of all of this, is that guests still have to pay full ticket price as they would years prior, circa 2019. It costs $36 per person for just admission online, and that’s not including parking and food (if you choose to eat in the park). For a park that is only partially functioning due to low staffing, it’s absurd that guests have to pay as much as they do.

Overall, Michigan’s Adventure is suffering the same fate many other businesses are, as low staffing is seemingly ruining guests’ experience to go along with the in-park staff. Cedar Fair should have waited to open the park when they knew they were confident with the level of staffing. The level at which they are currently operating is tarnishing their brand’s name and the guests’ overall enjoyment of this beloved amusement park. I would definitely seek thrills elsewhere if you are looking for such.