Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts has agreed to sell its flagship New Braunfels park and its Galveston park to Ohio-based Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, the companies said Thursday.
Cedar Fair Entertainment -- which operates a number of amusement parks, including Knott's Berry Farm in California -- will pay $261 million for the two Texas properties, according to a news release. Cedar Fair also receives an option to purchase a Schlitterbahn property in Kansas City for $6 million.
The company will continue to operate its South Padre waterpark and resort, which will be rebranded, according to a statement on Schlitterbahn's website. The Corpus Christi park will remain a Diamond Beach property.
Ticket and season pass prices as well as reservations will not change, the company said. Events will continue as scheduled.
The Henry family, which owns Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts, decided to sell the properties last year and has been working to identify a buyer to take over, according to the statement. The two Texas parks and the resort had 1.2 million visitors in 2018 and generated revenue of $68 million, according to a news release from Cedar Fair Entertainment.
"For the past 50 years, the Schlitterbahn family has focused all its resources, talent, and energy into building Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts into an iconic Texas brand. It is now time for the company to enter a new and brighter stage of development and growth," the Henry family said in a written statement. "Cedar Fair is a dynamic, brand-oriented company. Under Cedar Fair’s leadership, the Schlitterbahn brand will have an opportunity to grow and expand like the early days when the sky was the limit. While it’s a difficult decision, after several challenging years, we believe that our team, communities, guests, and fans are going to enjoy what lies ahead. We believe Cedar Fair, with their approach to embracing parks that have a unique footprint, will be a phenomenal owner, and with the talented people that are the Schlitterbahn Family, will take Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts to the next level of world-class family entertainment."
Richard Zimmerman, Cedar Fair’s president and CEO, said that Schlitterbahn employees "are known throughout the industry for their innovation and dedication to the quality of the guest experience."
"Because of their work, the water park located in New Braunfels has been recognized as the best water park in the world for 21 straight years, and Galveston has received recognition as the best indoor water park in the world for a decade. We look forward to adding these parks to Cedar Fair’s industry-leading portfolio of regional entertainment resorts,” Zimmerman said in a written statement.
Judy Young, vice president of the New Braunfels Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the Schlitterbahn sale was "kind of bittersweet."
"For our community the Henry family has been a cornerstone of the visitor industry for over 40 years," Young said. "Over those years they've employed generations of New Braunfelsers."
She said the Henrys "had great vision and were great community supporters and were huge in our river preservation efforts. It's obviously going to be a change, but Cedar Park Entertainment is known in the attraction industry for running top notch attractions. I know they are going to do a great job with holding onto the culture and the heritage while improving the guest experience."
The New Braunfels Schlitterbahn employs more than 1,600 seasonal workers and 175 full-time workers, a company spokeswoman said.
Schlitterbahn in recent years has dealt with a gruesome death, indictments and financial troubles.
In February, criminal charges were dismissed against co-owner Jeff Henry and other officials at its Kansas City park over the design and construction of its Verrückt water slide. Jeff Henry and two others had been charged in connection with the death of Caleb Schwab, a 10-year-old boy who was decapitated while on the ride in 2016.
The indictments alleged that Henry and others designed a dangerous ride without the proper expertise, the Tribune News Service reported. Improprieties by prosecutors led a judge to dismiss the charges in February.
Schlitterbahn opened its first park, Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort, in New Braunfels in 1979.
Additional material from American-Statesman reporter Lori Hawkins.