‘This is about survival’: How Rehoboth’s Funland plans to reopen this weekend
As the rides at Delaware’s only amusement park come back Friday night, visitors will find some new protocols that are even more stringent than others.
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Funland’s amusement rides have been a summer staple on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk for decades. Four generations of the Fasnacht family have helped operate the rides and games at Delaware’s only amusement park, including 91-year-old co-owner Al Fasnacht, who still helps run the place.
But this year will be unlike any other in its 58-year-history.
As the park plans to open for its first night of the 2020 season on Friday, COVID-19 restrictions will force Funland to abandon its traditional green tickets for rides to help limit the number of people inside the park, and to avoid contact with ticket-takers. Instead, visitors will pay a flat $20 fee for two-hour sessions to ride as much as they want.
Arcade games will still be available on the boardwalk without a Funpass from 2 to 9 p.m.
“We know we have a lot of our own family to protect and keep safe as we open,” said Chris Darr, Funland’s personnel manager. “We’ve kept that in the forefront of our minds: How do we open this park safely so everybody can come and enjoy the park still?”
To start, the rides will be open for just two nightly sessions, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and from 7:15 to 9:15 p.m. Guests will have to buy a “Funpass” through an online reservation at Funland’s website to secure one of just 200 spots in one of those two-hour windows.
In the coming weeks, the park plans to add two more sessions for a total of four each day, and even then, Darr said, attendance will be well below the traditional summer flow of people.
“It would not be uncommon to have approximately 1,500 people in and around Funland, coming and going over the course of an evening or even an hour or so,” he said. “We’re facing a business situation like we’ve never, ever faced before. This is about survival for us.”
The park has put other restrictions in place to limit the spread of the virus that are more stringent than others.
All guests over 3 years old will be required to wear a mask while at Funland, even though the state’s requirement for masks in public places only applies to those over the age of 12. All employees will have their temperatures checked when arriving at work. Riders will have to sanitize their hands before and after going on each ride, and must keep their distance from other visitors.
Despite the drop in attendance, operating the park and all the rides still requires the full complement of 40 employees to be on the job.
“Those employees are really dedicated,” Darr said. “They’re being given extra training for what is needed to operate the park safely.”
Darr is the fourth generation of his family to help operate Funland since its inception in 1962.
That first year presented unprecedented challenges for the park and all businesses in Rehoboth. In March, a massive nor’easter parked along the Delaware coast and pummeled the shoreline through five high tides. Dubbed “The Storm of ’62,” the rains and winds pounded the beach with 20- to 40-foot waves, causing widespread flooding and destroying the Rehoboth boardwalk.
This year’s economic storm has already cost Funland nearly half the summer season. Now, as it opens in mid-July, the lower attendance numbers forced by the coronavirus precautions mean more stormy weather ahead.
“What the family faced coming out of The Storm of ’62 was a major challenge just like this is. Our families really work together in all ways to make sure we weather this storm as well,” Darr said. “Our hope is that our customers come and can enjoy the park, and also support us so we can be here for another 58 years after this scenario goes away hopefully.”
He encouraged guests still holding their Funland green tickets to keep holding on to them, as the park will return to its traditional pay-per-ride format once the threat from the coronavirus is over.
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