Despite requests, Gov. Northam isn’t changing guest limits for Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion, likely keeping them closed


RICHMOND (WAVY) — A summer of fun at Virginia’s marquee theme parks is appearing less and less likely after Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va) indicated he wouldn’t be making any exceptions for the parks in the state’s phase 3 reopening guidelines.

Despite Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion both indicating that the governor’s 1,000-person limit would not make reopening “economically sustainable,” Northam on Thursday stuck by his decision that holds the massive parks to the same restrictions as bowling alleys and movie theaters.

“There are so many contacts at these amusement parks, people are touching different things and so we have had discussions with the Virginia Department of Health, our epidemiologists, and that is the decision we made,” Northam said.

Northam did not shut the door completely on changing his mind during phase 3, which starts on July 1. Several state lawmakers have pushed for Northam to at least raise the capacity limit to 5,000.

On Tuesday, Busch Gardens President Kevin Lembke said that would at least allow his park, as well as Water Country USA, to “get back to business.”

“As soon as we feel it’s comfortable we can move forward safely, we’ll do that,” Northam said.

He pointed to rising COVID-19 case numbers in other states as a chief reason to stick to the current plan.

“Those individuals are the same people that come enjoy our amusement parks,” Northam said. “I know it’s difficult. These decisions are tough.”

The Historic Triangle, which includes James City County, York County and the City of Williamsburg, relies heavily on tourism. Hotel revenue fell 85 percent in the Williamsburg hotel market for the week of June 14-20 compared to the same week in 2019, according to ODU’s Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy.

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