The planned reopening of Anaheim’s trademark amusement park marks the start of a financial comeback for the city, a spokesman says.
“It’s not like flipping a switch and going back to normal, but we will take that because it’s the beginning of an economic recovery roadmap that we have,” Mike Lyster told The Epoch Times.
“Any activity we get in the near term is actually beneficial, it’s beneficial to us as a city and it’s beneficial to all of the working families and small businesses who rely on our large businesses.”
The California Department of Public Health announced March 5 an update to the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which takes effect April 1. It allows for outdoor ballparks, stadiums, and theme parks to open with significantly reduced capacity and mandatory masking.
Under the state’s original policy, theme parks wouldn’t be permitted to open until a region reached the least-restrictive tier.
The recent announcement allows amusement parks such as Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm to open at 15 percent capacity in the red tier. When the county graduates to the orange tier, the parks can operate at 25 percent capacity.
Ballparks and outdoor stadiums are also eligible to reopen under the new guidelines.
The ongoing pandemic has wreaked havoc on Anaheim’s $400 million budget, since the city relies largely on tourism as a source of income. It’s facing a $114 million deficit for the fiscal year ending in June.
Lyster said the city’s deficit is “directly attributable to a fall-off in visitors.”
“Our biggest source of revenue is when somebody stays at a hotel,” he said. “We get additional sales tax when they go and spend at restaurants or merchandise at the parks and so forth.”
Right now, Anaheim has a nine percent unemployment rate, meaning about 15,000 people are out of work.
It’s “a number on par with the Great Recession,” Lyster said.
The city’s unemployment rate reached as high as 12 percent, or 20,000 people, earlier in the pandemic.
Based on the rising activity at Downtown Disney, Anaheim is seeing a subtle level of economic growth within the city, Lyster said.
Park attendees are currently allowed to walk around the theme park and go to restaurants, but can’t go on rides.
Activity there has resulted in a boost in hotel occupancy, too, Lyster said.
“We actually have folks who missed Disneyland so much that they traveled to our city and stay in hotels to go to Downtown Disney, just to shop and to go to the restaurants that are not even to go to the parks, which of course aren’t open yet,” he said.
“Now all of this is gradual, but we will take it because it is the start of a larger recovery.”