AUSTELL - A Cobb Travel and Tourism official says Six Flags Over Georgia's $175 million economic impact in Cobb County for its 2012 season is the theme park's greatest thrill.
The local Six Flags park, sitting on 200 acres at 275 Riverside Parkway off Interstate 20, is the leading tourism entity in Cobb County, according to Cobb Travel and Tourism, a nonprofit funded by hotel/motel taxes to market Cobb County as a destination for travelers.
A study by Cobb Travel and Tourism said 40 percent of park attendees travel from at least 50 miles away and a third of guests come from out of state.
Holly Bass, CEO of Cobb Travel and Tourism, said there is a lot of name recognition with Six Flags.
"They deliver a great product," Bass said.
Dale Kaetzel, park president, said he would be making an announcement next week about a major capital investment in the park that will transform Six Flags Over Georgia, "taking it to places it's never been."
The draw from across state lines means families lining up at Six Flags Over Georgia are also spending time at local restaurants, hotels and shopping centers during their extended stay, said Kaetzel, who took over as the park's president in January.
As a tourism anchor in the south Cobb area, Kaetzel said the focus of Six Flags Over Georgia will be to bring in visitors from Alabama, the Carolinas and Tennessee, while also doing "the best we can to make the best day ever for those who live in Georgia."
Local focus is also why Six Flags Over Georgia was listed as one of the top 10 employers in Cobb County by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce.
The park employed 1,680 people during the 2012 peak season, which runs from Memorial Day, at the end of May, to the middle of August, when children return back to school. The full season runs from March through October.
Support of community
Kaetzel recently moved from northern California and said, in his 15 years of theme park experience, he has never seen a level of support for economic development like there is in this region of Georgia.
Two or three off-duty Cobb Police Department officers patrol the park each day it is open.
"Safety and security is our number one priority," Kaetzel said about the family-oriented park.
Another attraction on Riverside Parkway that runs along Six Flags Over Georgia is about to draw even more crowds to the Austell location.
Riverside EpiCenter, a project of Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral which broke ground in June 2012 and is expected to open by January 2014, will include a 600-seat auditorium, a six-lane bowling alley and a food court.
Bass said the fact that Six Flags Over Georgia has survived the recession means it can be used as leverage for further development in the area.
"Everything builds on top of each other and compliments each other," Bass said.
Keeping up to date
It also means that to keep its reign as the supreme Cobb County tourist destination, Six Flags Over Georgia, which originally opened in 1967, must stay on top of its game.
It now has 11 roller coasters, including the Goliath with more than 1,500 tons of steel over six miles of track.
Kaetzel said one way to keep guests coming is through fear, specifically by putting on the annual Fright Fest, which runs on the weekends from the end of September through Oct. 27.
The Six Flags Over Georgia event during the day is focused on family fun, but at night it is a preeminent fright experience, Kaetzel said.
This fall, Kaetzel promised, will be bigger than ever with three new mazes and five more scare zones haunted by zombies, vampires and ghouls.
"It will be never before seen quality and good old fashion scares," he said.
Six Flags Entertainment Corp., based in Texas, is the world's largest regional theme park company with 18 amusement parks including 16 in the U.S., one in Mexico and one in Canada. It reported revenues of $1.1 billion last year.