Six Flags Great America return in 2020 'unlikely,' health officials say
For decades, suburban thrill seekers have had the opportunity to spend October weekends enjoying roller coasters and haunted attractions at Six Flags Great America's Fright Fest.
This year, safety concerns over the global pandemic kept the Gurnee theme park from opening. Six Flags officials, however, said they are upbeat about that changing, even as health department officials warn that a 2020 return is "unlikely."
"We continue to work closely with state and local officials and are hopeful we will have an opening date for Great America in 2020," said Caitlin Kepple, Great America communications manager.
Lake County Health officials were less optimistic. Hannah Goering, a spokeswoman for the Lake County Health Department, said the department has not been part of any discussions about the park reopening for seasonal activities, including Holiday in the Park, a winter festival that features thousands of Christmas lights.
"It seems unlikely with the upward trend in cases in Illinois and surges happening in other Midwestern states that we'll see more relaxed measures this fall or winter," Goering said.
Government officials did give the go-ahead for Six Flags to open the Hurricane Harbor water park, which is adjacent to Great America, starting in late July.
When guests arrived, a slew of new safety precautions awaited them including a thermal scanning system that checked incoming guests' body temperatures while also serving as a touch-free metal detector. There were also policies requiring face masks except when guests were on water attractions or in pools.
The measures -- which also included stepped-up cleaning efforts and social distancing -- appear to have been successful. Goering said the Health Department did not identify any COVID-19 outbreaks at Hurricane Harbor.
Kepple said park officials were proud of the safe and successful 2020 season at Hurricane Harbor and added that they would have been ready to do the same at Great America.
"If we had received approval to open the theme park in accordance with those guidelines, we would have done so with the same robust health and safety protocols in place as in the Six Flags Hurricane Harbor water parks," Kepple said.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that Florida public health officials and employee unions say there have been no coronavirus outbreaks among workers or guests since Disney World reopened to the public in July.
For now, however, Illinois' reopening plan calls for theme parks such as Great America to return during Phase 5.