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Great Escape reduces days of operation

Great Escape reduces days of operation

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Great Escape

Great Escape, the Six Flags-operated theme park, will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the remainder of the season, the park announced on Friday. Seen here: Cameron Vanderlinden, 4 and Chase Vanderlinden, 6, of Burnt Hills, enjoy a ride on opening day at the amusement park earlier this year. 

QUEENSBURY — Great Escape will be closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the foreseeable future due to a lack of employees, the Six Flags-operated amusement park has announced.

News of the theme park’s reduced hours came via a July 16 Facebook post, which stated the twice-weekly closures will allow for a “more enjoyable in-park experience.”

“Starting July 19, the theme park & outdoor waterpark will be closed on Tuesdays & Wednesdays. This will allow us to offer a more enjoyable in-park experience the rest of the week, including extended operating hours on the days we are open,” the post reads.

On Monday, a spokesman for the park said the decision was based on staffing levels and applies only to the Queensbury-based amusement park, not the more than dozen other theme parks operating under the Six Flags banner.

It’s unclear how long the reduced hours are expected to last.

“We will continue to review our staffing levels, and make adjustments to our operations calendar as needed,” Jason Lee, a spokesman for the park, said in an email.

Lee did not answer specific questions about the amusement park’s current staffing levels, instead noting more than 1,500 employees are hired to operate the theme park and hotel each year.

He added the amusement park will remain open one hour longer on days the park is operational.

Patrons who have already made reservations to visit the park can receive either a refund of use their passes on another day, Lee said.

News of the theme park’s reduced hours comes as businesses throughout the country struggle to find workers.

The problem has been particularly acute in the Lake George region, where many have struggled to fill positions normally held by foreign exchange students as part of the federal J-1 visa program.

Numerous countries have pulled out of the program this year due to concerns brought on by the pandemic, forcing local businesses to increase wages and other incentive packages in a bid to attract workers.

At Great Escape, the park has increased wages for most positions to $15 an hour and has recently started offering a pay incentive worth between $500 and $1,000, depending on position. The park has also relaxed its policies on piercings, tattoos and certain hairstyles.

At the Lake George Expedition Park, a dinosaur-themed amusement park located north of Great Escape, owner Danna Ellsworth has been navigating her own hiring woes and is considering offering some type of incentive if things don’t change soon.

The park typically hires around 30 ride operators, including a dozen from the J-1 program, but has been operating with around 15 this season, she said.

But staff shortages are felt throughout the park, which operates through Labor Day weekend, Ellsworth said.

“We’re trying everything in our power to hire people and there’s nobody there,” she said.

Adding to the theme park’s difficulties has been this year’s rainy weather, which has forced patrons indoors.

Instead of recouping the thousands in lost revenue brought on by last year’s pandemic-induced closure, Ellsworth is now just hoping to remain operational seven days a week.

But at Sky Zone, a trampoline park in Queensbury, business has been flourishing, said Matthew Boyce, vice president of operations for the company’s Queensbury and Clifton Park locations.

Boyce attributed to boom in business to recent storms, which he said have been happening at “just the right times.”

“It’s been helping us out greatly,” he said. “The tourist business is back up in Lake George and they all need something to do when the weather turns and they seem to be coming here.”

The trampoline park is now hoping to capitalize on Great Escape’s closure, and has started offering those with season passes or tickets to visit the amusement park on either a Tuesday or Wednesday at a $5 discount. The same offer extends to Great Escape employees as well, Boyce said.

As far as employees, Boyce said the park has been turning applicants away.

Most of the 50 employees who work at the trampoline park are under 18 and make minimum wage.

But the allure of free jumps coupled with the fun working atmosphere is too much to pass up, Boyce said.

“We must be the exception to the rule because we’re not having any problems with staffing,” he said.

Chad Arnold is a reporter for The Post-Star covering the city of Glens Falls and the town and village of Lake George and Washington County government. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGArnold.

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