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After 177-day shutdown, Dreamworld embarks on new rollercoaster ride

Business

After 177 days closed and millions of dollars in losses, Dreamworld and WhiteWater World theme parks on the Gold Coast have finally reopened to the public.

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The staged re-opening, ahead of September school holidays that start from Friday, includes capped visitor numbers under its COVID-safe plan, as well as other changes including the shutdown of a number of rides and the temporary closure of some rollercoasters and attractions within the Dreamworld Corroboree precinct.

A planned memorial to the four people who lost their lives in 2016 in the tragic malfunction of Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids Ride will not be in place for the re-opening.

In July, Dreamworld parent company Ardent Leisure pleaded guilty to three charges over the disaster relating to failing to comply with its health and safety duty and exposing individuals to a risk of serious injury or death. The court judgment is due to be handed down later this month along with a potential penalty of as much as $4.5 million.

Dreamworld chief operating officer Greg Yong said the reopening was a significant day for the theme park and Gold Coast tourism.

“We’ve got a lot of really passionate fans of the park and we expect a lot of those will be back today,” Yong said.

“Whilst there are some border closures, we really think that our locals and Queensland residents, Gold Coast and Brisbane guests will come out in force and we are really excited to welcome them back.”

The park’s re-opening comes almost three months after the opening of competitor theme parks, with Village Roadshow reopening Sea World, Movie World and Wet’n’Wild from late June.

Dreamworld’s re-opening also comes with the assistance of a $70 million loan under a three-year financial assistance package from the State Government as part of its COVID-19 Industry Support Package and Queensland Tourism Icons Program 2020.

“We think of that as a really forward-thinking investment from the Queensland Government and we’re really thankful. But it is a loan and has to be repaid … but we look at that as really solidifying the future for Dreamworld,” Yong said.

The closure of the park has severely financially impacted Ardent Leisure, which reported $136.6 million loss for the year. It reported an 18.8 per cent fall in revenue to $54.5 million from its Dreamworld and WhiteWater World attractions.

To streamline operations, Ardent has made further ongoing changes to the park. In a significant change, WhiteWater World will be transformed to a seasonal water park, operating less than six months of the year.

Under the new arrangements, WhiteWater World will open from early September until late January annually and across some peak weekends on either side of these dates.

Yong said a new $30 million, 1.2km rollercoaster was also being constructed and would be ready to open in 2021, based on an award-winning German ride that could reach speeds of 105km an hour.

“In the next little while we will be breaking ground and starting that work and it is really exciting,” he said.

“We think it’s going to be the best rollercoaster in Australia,” Yong said.

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