ANAHEIM, Calif. — Fans hoping to hop on a ride at Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, and other SoCal theme parks on April 1 will probably have to wait a little longer.
California says that theme parks across the state can fully reopen as early as April 1. But many operators aren't planning to reopen their theme parks with rides to visitors so suddenly.
"The fact is it will take some time to get [Disneyland and Disney California Adventure] ready for our guests," Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Tuesday during the company's annual meeting of shareholders. "This includes recalling more than 10,000 furloughed cast and retraining them to be able to operate according to the state of California's new requirements."
"We have hundreds of employees to bring back to work, which will definitely take weeks,” said Julie Estrada, a Legoland spokeswoman, speaking to Spectrum News 1. “And we need those employees to operate the rides."
After nearly a year of being closed due to the shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, theme park operators have finally received a green light and guidance on when they can fully reopen their theme parks.
In a hastily called announcement last week, California health officials updated the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy plan, a four-color coded system that monitors a county's coronavirus cases and details what businesses can and can't operate and other restrictions.
The new guidance allows theme parks to reopen, at limited capacity, when their home county reaches the red tier, the state's second most restrictive tier level.
Under the new rule, theme parks can operate with attendance at 15% capacity at the red tier, 25% in the orange tier, and 35% in the yellow tier.
Before the new guidance, a major theme park like Disneyland would only be able to operate at 15% capacity when its home county reached the yellow tier, the state's least restrictive level.
Orange County, home to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, and Los Angeles County, home to Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain, are currently in the purple tier, the state's most restrictive level.
In the past month, with vaccines rolling out, Orange and Los Angeles counties have improved their coronavirus case rates and positivity rates. Many county and health officials believe both counties can reach the red tier as early as mid-March.
However, the new rule has also thrown many theme park operators into a loop.
Before the new guidance, Knott's Berry Farm, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Disney sold tickets for an outdoor food and beverage event. Legoland in Carlsbad was offering a Build 'N Play event.
Those events are still going ahead as expected.
A Touch of Disney at Disney California Adventure, starting March 18 and running into mid-April, will continue as currently planned, a Disney official said. Since it is only a food, beverage, and shopping event, attractions will not be operating.
A Universal Studios Hollywood spokeswoman said A Taste of Universal would also go on as planned, starting Friday, March 12. The event ends on April 4.
Universal later sent out a letter to its passholders saying it is "ramping up to reopen in compliance with health and safety protocols and limited in-park capacity levels."
"We recently took the first step in our reopening with the limited time, separately ticketed Taste of Universal event on Friday, March 12, which will begin to transition us to a full park open," the statement read.
Legoland spokeswoman Estrada said the Lego-themed theme park will continue with the Build' N Play event and won't make any opening date announcement until San Diego reaches the red tier.
A Knott's Berry Farm spokeswoman said they don't have any additional information at this time on when the park will reopen or how its Boysenberry Festival will be affected. The Knott's Boysenberry Festival runs on select dates from now until May 2.
A Six Flags Magic Mountain spokesman said they would follow-up about a specific reopening date soon. Six Flags officials had previously said they planned to reopen all of their theme parks with rides nationwide sometime this spring.
Still, there is a lot of excitement around the possibility of finally fully reopening the theme parks after nearly a year of being closed.
"The response has been great thus far, our cast members are excited to get back to work," said Chapek, Disney's CEO. "And this is good news for the Anaheim community, which depends on Disneyland for jobs and business generated by visitors."