Cedar Fair has teamed up with the city of Sandusky and Bowling Green State University, to create a new tourism degree themed on Resort and Attraction Management, with the new course set to launch as soon as the 2020 school year kicks off.
To be run by Bowling Green, the two-year course will constitute the final two years of a four-year bachelor's degree from the university.
The course, says the university, is designed to better prepare people for an increasing number of available jobs, not only for the operator, but also with other attractions-based companies within the tourism sector. According to the university, the scheme will “help Sandusky transform its seasonal, summertime economy with more full-year, high-paying jobs.”
“It’s important for future managers to have experience at all levels,” said Cedar Point general manager, Jason McClure.
“Employees have to have the ability to understand the entire experience. You may not think rides can affect the food and beverage experience, but it does. Our guests don’t think of these things as separate.”
The new course will look at all elements of attractions and hospitality operation, offering a programme tailor-made for the visitor attractions industry. According to university president Rodney Rogers, a traditional hospitality management programme – including the university’s existing Tourism, Leisure and Event Planning degree – won’t cover issues specific to places such as theme parks.
Up to 100 successful graduates could be hired as a result of the course each year, to work at locations across the Cedar Fair portfolio. This would also apply to other theme park operators and destinations that revolve around attractions – such as ski resorts, waterparks, zoos and museums.
"In many ways, these general managers are running a small city," said Rogers. “In addition to employees operating rides, they're supervising a security staff, food and beverage operations, hotels, retail and more. It's almost more like a city manager than hospitality management."
Cedar Fair is making significant investment into the programme, spending up to US$25m (€20.3m, £18m) in the construction of new classrooms and accommodation for students on the course. In addition, the theme park operator will also provide summer internships for students taking the course, and will host guest lectures and present case studies to student classes.
The city of Sandusky will provide land to build the new accommodation and classrooms on, also providing further financial incentives, coming in the form of grants and tax incentives. As part of its capital budget structure, the state of Ohio has contributed US$800,000 (€650,000, £576,000) to the development.