ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — In a fiery speech on top of a rooftop hotel, with Disney California Adventure’s Guardians of the Galaxy attraction and Mickey Mouse Ferris wheel peeking in the background, Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu stood behind a podium and challenged Gov. Gavin Newsom to visit Anaheim and see the economic destruction the coronavirus has created.
“See the economic impact yourself,” Sidhu said standing on the rooftop of a closed hotel and aiming his tirade toward the governor. “It’s a disaster right here. All of the businesses are closed here. How long are you going to keep us closed? Give us the guidelines… If it is not done in a timely basis, every business will be bankrupt.”
As part of an effort to reopen Disneyland and other theme parks across the state, Sidhu, joined the mayors of Garden Grove and Buena Park, and Anaheim business leaders Wednesday at the rooftop of the closed Grand Legacy Hotel appealing to the governor to release the health and safety guidelines for the reopening of theme parks.
The cities are reeling from the economic fallout from the closures of Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm with Anaheim facing a $100 million deficit, Garden Grove seeing a 60 percent drop in transient occupancy tax or bed tax, and Buena Park losing one of its largest sources of tax revenue, the mayors each said.
Gov. Newsom, during his weekly press conference today, said those safety guidelines to reopen theme parks will be coming up shortly but did not provide a date of its release.
“We will be making announcements soon as it relates to theme parks,” Newsom said. “I am not here today to make that presentation but I want folks to know we are actively working in a number of sectors and will be making public the fruits of those negotiations and efforts very, very shortly.”
Disneyland officials opted to not participate in the Reopen OC press conference.
“We are disappointed with the state’s lack of progress in providing the industry with guidance and clarity on reopening,” a Disneyland spokeswoman later said in a statement to Spectrum News 1. “We have proven we can operate responsibly, with strict health and safety protocols at our properties around the world and at Downtown Disney in Anaheim. Tens of thousands of people’s livelihoods depend on our ability to operate and we stand ready and willing to accelerate discussions with the governor and his team to make ‘real progress’ toward our reopening and getting people back to work.”
The Reopen OC press conference is the latest and third straight day a city, business or trade organization has called out the governor for its cautious response to reopening theme parks across the state during the coronavirus pandemic.
As of Wednesday, Orange County recorded 135 new coronavirus cases and six deaths, bringing the county’s total number of cases to 51,259 and 1,111 deaths. Approximately 45,900 have recovered. Anaheim has 8,755 coronavirus cases; Buena Park 1,462 and Garden Grove 2,802 cases, as of Wednesday according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Orange County recently moved down a notch from the state's four color coded tier system that tracks coronavirus cases. Orange County moved from the state's most restrictive purple tier to red tier, allowing the county to reopen certain businesses at limited capacity.
Now, city and business leaders want the state to reopen theme parks in an effort to bring in visitors to the area. The mayors implored for the governor to issue the guidelines that would allow theme parks to reopen.
In Anaheim, the Disneyland Resort, which includes two theme parks, three hotels and a retail strip, is seen as the economic engine and lifeblood of not only Anaheim but surrounding areas. The two Disney theme parks attract more than 20 million visitors a year. A Cal State Fullerton study found that Disneyland generated an $8.5B economic impact to Southern California.
It has been six months since Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and other theme parks have closed and their prolonged closure has made a dent in their respective city’s finances and the businesses that rely on the millions of theme park visitors. Downtown Disney, which was closed in mid-March, reopened in July.
Garden Grove sits roughly three miles away from the Disneyland Resort. In the past several years, several hotels have popped up along the city’s border with Anaheim on Harbor Boulevard to attract Disneyland Resort visitors.
“Disneyland and the other theme parks are critical to the economic well-being of Garden Grove and the closure of Disneyland has been disastrous in my city,” Garden Grove Mayor Steve Jones said.
Garden Grove is also home to the Great Wolf Lodge, a popular hotel and indoor water park, that has also remained closed.
Buena Park Mayor Fred Smith said the closure of Knott’s Berry Farm and other live attractions such as Medieval Times and Pirates Dinner Adventure have hurt the city’s finances. Knott’s annually attracts more than three million visitors a year, according to the Themed Entertainment Association.
The Western-themed park is the city’s largest employer and sales and hotel tax by visitors are an important source and vital to the financial health of the city, Smith said. Knott’s, Medieval Times, and Pirates employ 5,500 people, he said.
“Theme parks all across the country are opening and opening safely and responsibly,” Smith said. “I’m confident Knott’s Berry Farm, and Disneyland, and other California theme parks can also do the same as well.”