The “click-clack” sound of the Rollo Coaster train ascending the lift hill and the antique carousel’s jolly music will be heard again this summer at Idlewild & SoakZone.

After a nearly two-month delay caused by the the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the historic Ligonier Township amusement park will open to the public on Saturday, July 11.

Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Idlewild will implement a series of health and safety measures for guests and employees, including: limited capacity in the park, its buildings and rides; mandatory temperature checks; required facial coverings; enhanced cleaning and sanitizing; and social distancing.

“With our parks spread across dozens of acres, we have the space to effectively distance our visitors and provide the good, clean fun we have delivered to families for generations,” Idlewild and SoakZone general manager Brandon Leonatti said Wednesday in a press release statement.

Idlewild has suspended walk-up sales this summer, instead requiring guests to pre-purchase their admissions and RSVP for each day they plan to visit through the park’s website beginning June 17. Dates will be gradually released to the online calendar until the park reaches visitor capacity for each day. All ticket and season pass sales will be conducted online.

The park will open in phases, beginning with an invitation-only Friends and Family Day on Monday, July 6 and exclusive season passholder dates July 7-10, before opening to the general public on July 11. All 2020 season passes have been extended through the 2021 season.

Idlewild’s sister parks, Kennywood in West Mifflin and Sandcastle Waterpark in Homestead, will also reopen according to the same phased timeline. The three Western Pennsylvania attractions are operated by Palace Entertainment, which is owned by global company Parques Reunidos.

All guests, team members and contractors, except children age three and younger and those with medical conditions, are required to wear facemasks while at Idlewild. Masks must be removed while swimming and on SoakZone water attractions.

Visitors and employees will have their temperatures taken with a contactless thermometer before entering the park. Individuals registering a temperature of 100.4°F or higher or exhibiting other COVID-19 symptoms will be denied entry to the park, along with their accompanying party.

Automatic hand sanitizing stations will be available throughout the park. Employees will wear personal protective equipment and routinely disinfect high touch areas and rides. Guests are asked to maintain six feet of social distancing from other parties; Plexiglass barriers will be installed around the park where necessary.

Before planning a visit, guests should consult the park’s comprehensive list of its health and safety protocols on the Idlewild and SoakZone website at www.idlewild.com/healthandsafety.

Social media responses to the park’s opening announcement on Wednesday were mixed, particularly concerning the facemask requirement. While some commenters on the Idlewild & SoakZone Facebook page appreciated the park’s initiatives, others criticized the mask policy.

2020 is an unprecedented year for Idlewild in its 142-year history, with the COVID-19 pandemic delaying opening day and the park’s resulting health and safety precautions. However, it’s not the first time the park has been closed for a partial or even full season.

Pennsylvania’s oldest operating amusement park closed for the entire 1943 and 1944 seasons due to World War II rationing and economic difficulties, reopening on a limited basis in 1945 before returning to full operation the following year.

Although the park’s grounds have been quiet for the past several months, Idlewild’s staff and maintenance crews are now busy getting the park ready for opening day. As part of a multi-phase remodeling of all park restrooms, the renovation of the large restroom building in Olde Idlewild began in early March before the COVID-19 shutdown halted the project. The park plans to open the new facility later this summer and has rescheduled other enhancements for 2021.

Idlewild & SoakZone has generated tourism and business for the Ligonier Valley since it opened as a picnic grove for the Ligonier Valley Rail Road in 1878. Ligonier Township officials are concerned about the impact of Idlewild’s closure on their operating budget, anticipating a significant loss in the 10% amusement tax the municipality collects from season pass and ticket sales.

It’s too soon to tell whether a mid-season opening will affect the township’s financial projections for the remainder of 2020 and through 2021, according to Ligonier Township manager Terry Carcella.

“Even opening up in the middle of July impacts the profit margins for Idlewild since they lost half the season. It also impacts the loss of revenue for the township and region. We will keep track of the data from that point on, but it’s better late than never,” Carcella said via email.

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