Canobie Lake Park in Salem is getting ready to open its doors on July 16, with reservations only, a 25% capacity limit and other social distancing and cleaning guidelines.
Chris Nicoli, the park’s brand manager, said the experience will likely be very different from what visitors are used to, with shorter lines, spaced-out queues and seating on roller coasters, and some rides unavailable at certain times.
“The product is definitely going to look differently this year,” Nicoli said.
Staff members will wear masks. Nicoli said it is likely that guests will be required to wear masks, at least at the start of the season.
He said the park may create a new daily update web page, since rules and ride availability are likely to change day by day.
“This is our path forward to be able to do anything,” Nicoli said.
Social distancing is not expected to be a problem.
“One of the unique things about us is the space,” Nicoli said.
He said the 65 acres of property at Canobie make it easier to ensure social distancing, and even with the customer capacity restricted to 25%, the park can still serve thousands at a time.
Amusement parks are allowed to open in the state as early as June 29, but Nicoli said a park of Canobie’s size needed more time to get ready.
Almost no one has been at the facility for about three months, and Nicoli said staffers have been doing virtual meetings from their homes, with a very minimal staff presence at the park.
“Everyone … is very excited to be back on property,” Nicoli said.
The park is working to bring seasonal staff on board. Nicoli said they expect the number will be a little less than a normal year. Some workers — such as street performers and costumed characters who would normally interact with kids — will instead enforce social distancing and sanitize rides, he said.
“This is not going to be a great year, but we can survive it as long as we have the opportunity to do the safe, smaller openings,” Nicoli said.
“We’ve been around over 100 years; we plan on being around another 100 years. Decades from now, it will be another blip on the radar.”
He said the purpose of the park isn’t just to make money, but to give folks a way to have fun, create memories and forget about the outside world for a bit.
“And I think a lot of people need that right now,” Nicoli said.
Hudson resident Brett Parker, who has gone to the park since he was a kid and has been bringing his family to the park multiple times a year, said he remains concerned about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the numbers he’s seeing.
“Me and my family will be sitting out this year regardless of the precautions,” Parker said.
Still, Parker said he wishes the park well, and as a business owner he is sympathetic to the park’s need to reopen.