“These are brands that they love and trust. And when they find them in a Six Flags, it increases their confidence level even further that they’re going to have a terrific day at the park.” Magic Mountain is one of theme park chain Six Flags’ premiere thrill parks. But on top of teenage thrill seekers, the company is hungry to attract families to its Valencia park. The fact that major brands want to partner with Six Flags is not surprising, given that park visitors are a captive audience of consumers. Along with bringing in new concessions, the park is getting a face-lift, cleaning up in hopes of attracting parents with kids and giving them reasons to come back. While teens have long made up the customer base, drawn by the thrill rides, the park wants adults who are likely to spend more on food and concessions. Work on the park includes a complete refurbishing of a 95-year-old Grand Carousel and a resurfacing and striping of the parking lot. Buildings at the Six Flags Plaza are also being painted, and two coasters that fell out of favor with riders and the park’s owners are being dismantled. The nation’s theme park market is growing, with total consumer spending expected to go from $11.2 billion in 2005 to $13.4 billion in 2010, according to a report released last year by PricewaterhouseCoopers. For Six Flags, the cross-branding strategy is new. Before Mark Shapiro became the company’s CEO in December 2005, individual parks handled their own corporate alliance agreements, and the only company-wide deal was with Coca-Cola, Goldberg said. Shapiro created a corporate alliances division to land deals with major brands, and now in addition to Coca Cola Co., Kodak, Cold Stone Creamery, Nintendo and Heinz, Six Flags partners include Home Depot and Papa John’s Pizza. Magic Mountain in Valencia starts daily operation March 17. Visitors will be given a Kodak photo card, which they can hand to photographers tagging along with the park’s Warner Bros. characters. Visitors will access the photos over the Internet when they get home. Cold Stone Creamery will open a shop in the park in early spring, said Sue Carpenter, spokeswoman for Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor. Attendance at Magic Mountain was 2.8 million in 2005, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report. Attendance dropped about 25 percent in the last half of 2006, which Shapiro blamed on uncertainty surrounding a possible sale of the park. Now, the park is no longer for sale, and the company is hoping the cross-branding strategy will increase the park’s profitability. “I think it will probably pay off,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “Because probably people haven’t been to Magic Mountain for a while, so there is always the interest factor. And the economy is good, so they have money to spend.” Kyser called Six Flags’ cross-branding strategy “very savvy marketing,” and said it will help the company. “They can cement a reputation for being a family-friendly place,” he said. In past years, Magic Mountain has held a number of events that attract families. Those have included its Gospel Celebration and Hallelujah Jubilee concerts. It has areas for children, but the park is known more for its 15 heart-pounding rides. The park does plan to expand its offerings for children. Six Flags has capitalized on the kid-friendly appeal of British TV show Thomas & Friends, the Australian band The Wiggles and skateboarder Tony Hawk to build play areas and rides centered around them at its parks. Magic Mountain does not have any of those attractions this year, but it is working on getting some or all of them in the park in the near future, Carpenter said. Six Flags, the world’s largest regional theme park company, was facing $2.1 billion of debt last year. But in January, it announced a sale of seven parks for $312 million, bringing its total number of North American parks to 21. In the meantime, CEO Shapiro and his executive team are continuing to look for brand names to partner with. “This year is really the first year that Mark’s team will be able to have an impact on a full operating season,” Goldberg said. “So this is really the year that you are going to see the family-friendly strategy go into effect.” email@example.com (661) 257-5253 Magic mix Six Flags is entering into a cross-branding strategy with more than just Coca-Cola. New alliances include: Cold Stone Creamery Kodak Heinz Nintendo Wii Home Depot Papa John’s Pizza160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! VALENCIA – Families visiting Six Flags California’s Magic Mountain this spring will find plenty of brand-name ice cream and photographers ready to snap their pictures with Bugs Bunny on Kodak cameras as the theme park works to spruce up and reinvent itself. It’s all part of corporate owner Six Flags Inc.’s family-friendly strategy, in place this year for the first full season. Brand names are playing a big part in the new strategy. Cold Stone Creamery will dish out the ice cream, Kodak will do the photos, Heinz will be the official ketchup and the Nintendo Wii will hold the title of official video game console, which means park visitors can play Nintendo’s Wii for free. “When people come to our parks with their families, they want to find products and services that they’re familiar with,” said Wendy Goldberg, spokeswoman for Six Flags.
Soto had never anticipated such an event when he first decided to sign up for the Marines. As a 23-year-old working for a landscaping company in Hollywood, the Texas native was walking down the street one day in 1940 when he saw a military poster. “There was this Marine guy on there, and boy he looked sharp up there,” Soto said. “It said, `Join the Marines and see Guatemala, Australia, Japan.”‘ That was all it took for Soto to enlist. Pretty soon, the private was in training in San Diego and then assigned to the USS New Orleans, which would be his home for the next three years. At the small Alhambra back house where Soto now lives, one wall of his living room is dedicated to his time in the service. The front page of an old newspaper from the day after the Pearl Harbor attack is encased. Next to it, are pictures of Soto in his military uniform and a shadow box with several medals inside. Among them is a purple heart. Soto received it after he was wounded during the November 1942 Battle of Tassafaronga, near Guadalcanal. “I remember it was dark,” he said. “You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. All of a sudden, zoom. We felt the (Japanese) torpedoes.” Soto was standing next to his 5-inch anti-aircraft gun when he heard an explosion. “I got hit in the head and the shoulder, and I was knocked unconscious,” he said. “No one saw me.” Dozens of men on his ship died, and several U.S. ships in the battle were badly damaged or sunk. On the New Orleans, damage to the ship’s hull sank the stern of the cruiser, but the crew managed to keep the ship afloat. After finally being discovered by sailors, Soto was taken to safety and treated for his wounds. Soto was promoted to sergeant in 1943 and discharged in 1946. He got married shortly after and had two children, but he got divorced in the 1980s. Before retiring 20 years ago, Soto worked for the postal service and then as a secretary for a Los Angeles junior high school. Every now and then, a bad memory slips in. “When you see all those bombs exploding, bobbing heads in the water, waiting to be rescued – it’s a lot,” he said. “I’ll never forget that day. I’ll never forget it.” firstname.lastname@example.org (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2109160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “I remember that morning I was up at 6 a.m.,” the 89-year-old said. “Breakfast was at 8 a.m., so I started polishing my rifle, shining my shoes. I was passing the time.” When the emergency sirens went off, Soto dropped everything and ran up on deck only to see other U.S. ships “taking a heavy beating” in what has become an infamous day in U.S. history. Soto’s ship – a 9,000-ton heavy cruiser – was in dry dock at the time, sans power and under repair. About two hours later, as quickly as everything had begun, the attack that would eventually lead the U.S. into World War II was over. “We got a lot of survivors,” he said. “They were burned very bad, very bad. There was a lot of damage done. The Japanese did more damage that day than the whole war. I will never forget that day.” ALHAMBRA – It was about 7a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, when Joe Soto heard the sirens aboard the USS New Orleans go off, signaling an emergency. “All of a sudden we heard, `All hands to battle stations, all hands to battle stations,”‘ Soto said. “`This is not a drill.”‘ A fleet of Japanese planes and midget submarines had begun their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Soto was shining his shoes.