Steven Gentile, president and co-owner of L.I. Adventureland, an amusement park on Long Island, talked about making it through the pandemic, reopening, and its newest ride.
How did you adjust to the pandemic? The pandemic unfortunately kept us closed during the 2020 season, even though on July 8, we were prepared for the fourth phase of reopening. They ended up excluding the amusement industry from that fourth phase. We were prepared and ready to go.
What did you do? We pivoted out of that closure to do some movies and concerts during the summer of 2020. It was helpful for us to keep us relevant on Long Island. I feel that Long island people were supporting our movies, and concerts gave us a chance to support them.
What did you do while closed? We kept our full-time staff employed throughout the pandemic. That enabled us to do a lot of painting, fixing, adjusting different things. We got a new ride this year called “The Sports Tower” from Italy. It’s a 60-foot sports tower that gives you an aerial view of Adventureland and Farmingdale. You spin in your sports-themed gondola. At nighttime, the lights on the ride give you a beautiful light show.
When did you reopen? We got the green light to open up the amusement industry April 10, so April 10, Saturday, was our first day of operation. We had all the social protocols in place. The park is open at 33 percent. We found ourselves to have a strong reservations system. We had strong results.
How do you manage people there? All purchases must be done off our website, so we can have staggered entry, entering the park. Each hour we allow a certain number of people to sign up and enter the park through our online portal. We don’t want a cluster at the ticket booth or waiting online.
Are all the rides open? All the rides are open. The rides are running at a capacity of 33 percent. You can push some to 50 percent because they are spaced out in a safe way. Most of the rides are socially distanced already.
What’s the atmosphere like? Fantastic. I think it’s pent-up fun people were not able to experience over the past year. They could take advantage of other things to do on Long Island. Adventureland is one of those things to hit once or twice during the summer.
Who’s going? We’re getting a lot of parents with their kids and quite a few 14-, 15-, and 16-year-olds. It’s mostly a family crowd. The park is open Saturdays and Sundays through Memorial Day. After Memorial Day, our hours broaden. We’ll be open seven days a week by the end of June when schools let out.
Are you making any other changes? We’re bringing in more food items. We brought in beer, wine, and seltzer for the first time in 25 years. It’s being well received and well respected. Parents are taking advantage of that in a nice way.
How did you handle things financially? We took advantage of the PPP and the SBA’s COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). The PPP should be forgiven since we didn’t open and lost at least 95 percent of our income from the previous year. The EIDL loans have to be paid back. We’re hoping our industry, the amusement park industry, will be included in any grants out there to be offered, primarily the SVOG Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. Grants are coming down from New York State.
What’s the status of your foundation? Last year, the pandemic caused us to cancel our foundation’s largest fundraising event for Adventureland’s Helping Hands Foundation, created in 2015 after my dad, Tony Gentile, passed away in 2013. Now our VIP event will be held Friday, Sept. 10. It’s primarily a fundraiser for the foundation’s scholarship fund. We incorporated my mom Vivian into that scholarship. It’s the Tony and Vivian Scholarship fund.
How does the upcoming year look? When you operate at 33 percent, that means you’re operating at 33 percent income. We’re happy that we’re open and able to generate some income. We’re happy for ourselves and our guests, our fans, the public. We get to see them and they get to see us and enjoy the park. We need to be safe and practice the proper protocols, but we need the powers that be to expand our 33 percent to get to a higher percentage. We need to be included in grants.