Santa Clara expects steep losses of more than half a million dollars in revenue each year when Great America shuts its gates within the next decade.
News last week of the amusement park’s $310 million sale to San Francisco-based real estate firm Prologis shocked Silicon Valley. This comes on the heels of Santa Clara already facing a revenue crisis with a nearly $20 million deficit.
Now city leaders are discussing what might be developed on the 112-acre site, and the financial impacts of losing a key entertainment landmark.
Santa Clara spokesperson Lon Peterson told San José Spotlight the city receives approximately $550,000 in annual revenue from California’s Great America, which includes property, sales and transient occupancy tax. He said it is unclear how much revenue will actually be lost.
“The city doesn’t know what will replace Great America, so there’s no way to know the impact or the benefits without knowing when they’re leaving,” he said, adding Cedar Fair Entertainment Company has a multi-year lease.
If Prologis wants to change the site’s current designation, it will require City Council approval. The parcel is zoned for mixed industrial and entertainment use, accommodating restaurants or a shopping center, and would have to be rezoned if another use like housing is proposed.
Councilmember Suds Jain said he is in favor of the latter due to the housing shortage, but the decision will be up to Prologis.
“This is a cultural loss for the city. That’s where a lot of our kids get their first job experience,” Jain told San José Spotlight. “It’s been a great asset for the city and it really did put Santa Clara on the map. I grew up in Davis and we came to Santa Clara for attending Great America—it was drawing people from all over Northern California.”
The park, originally owned by the Marriott Corporation, opened in 1976 in tandem with a sister park in Illinois and became a major draw for tourists to Santa Clara. It boasts 51 rides, running the gamut from water slides to high-speed roller coasters.
In a statement, Mayor Lisa Gillmor said she considers its loss “devastating” for the city and Bay Area. Gillmor did not respond to further requests for comment.
Councilmember Anthony Becker said he has heard “negative, very heartbreaking” feedback from residents bemoaning the park’s closure.
“I mean, it’s basically my childhood and everybody else’s childhood. It feels like we’re being erased,” he told San José Spotlight.
Becker worries revenue losses will extend beyond park entry fees. The closure will reverberate in the loss of entertainment groups and bookings at hotels and restaurants. He said the city needs to focus on other opportunities to generate revenue. The council and staff are negotiating an updated “headcount” business license tax with the Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce, and he is pushing for a cannabis sales tax.
“I think maybe if we had made better choices a few years ago, maybe (the park) would have been better marketed and (seen) more visitors. The pandemic did cause a lot of problems. But I think it’s going to be a pretty big loss,” he said.
At the nearby Residence Inn by Marriott, Office Manager James Williams said Marriott’s local hotels primarily see reservations from guests visiting Silicon Valley on business. But Great America’s closure will affect weekend bookings, he said.
“We do have people who do specifically come here for Great America,” he told San José Spotlight. “We won’t see a huge drop off in business, but it will definitely impact us to some extent. It’s like, what’s next, Disneyland?”
Contact Natalie Hanson at [email protected] or @nhanson_reports on Twitter.
Reporter Tran Nguyen contributed to this report.