Spanish firm to buy amusement park chain

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PITTSBURGH -- A family owned amusement park company said Tuesday that it will be acquired by a Spanish firm that manages dozens of amusement, animal and water parks in the United States and Europe.

Kennywood Entertainment said it agreed to sell its amusement park holdings to Madrid-based Parques Reunidos, which made an offer as part of a plan to consolidate family entertainment venues worldwide.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The sale includes three Pittsburgh-area parks -- the historic Kennywood in West Mifflin, Idlewild & SoakZone in Ligonier and Sandcastle Waterpark in West Homestead. It also includes Lake Compounce Theme Park in Bristol, Conn., and Story Land in Glen, N.H.

Members of the Henninger and McSwigan families have owned the Kennywood business since 1906. Its flagship operation, Kennywood Park, is a National Historic Landmark and a destination for roller coaster enthusiasts. The comedy "Adventureland," helmed by "Superbad" director Greg Mottola, was recently filmed on the site.

"The Kennywood experience -- as visitors have come to love and expect -- will continue," said Harry Henninger, the company's chairman. "Nothing will seem different, even to the folks working at the parks. Existing management will remain in place."

Kennywood has held acquisition talks with other amusement park operators in recent years, "but Parques Reunidos is the first one to share our vision and philosophy," he said in a statement.

"This has been a very difficult decision for members of the founding families, now numbering over 100 and residing all over the country," Henninger said.

Last year, a Kennywood representative said the company had grown into a business of $80 million to $120 million annually.

Parques Reunidos, which has the financial backing of the London-based Candover Investments, runs 61 amusement, animal and water parks in the United States and Europe. Its annual revenues exceed $570 million, according to Kennywood.

The sale is expected to close in March.
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