Richmond’s “Numbnuts” Cripple Busch Gardens

by Kerry Dougherty

Five more days until Virginia finally enters Phase 3 of the slo-mo reopening of the commonwealth.

But if you were planning to take the kids to Busch Gardens or Kings Dominion to celebrate, forget it.

Thanks to ridiculously small crowd limits, both sprawling theme parks said they can’t comply with Virginia’s rules. The management of the parks want to know why they are lumped in the same category as bowling alleys and skating rinks.
Under the governor’s rules “entertainment venues” can open at 50% capacity, but with no more than 1,000 visitors.

On a good summer day Busch Gardens draws upwards of 24,000 guests. Holding the 383-acre park to 1,000 visitors would be economic suicide for one of the biggest tourist attractions in Virginia.

So Busch Gardens will remain shuttered. And the economy of the so-called Historic Triangle of Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown will continue to circle the drain.

“Our parks are largely outdoor facilities spread across hundreds of acres but we continue to be lumped in with unrelated models like bowling alleys and skating rinks,” said Kevin Lembke, president of Busch Gardens.

Lembke told The Daily Press that Virginia is the only state that does not make a special case for theme parks in its COVID-19 re-opening rules.

The governor’s arbitrary 1,000-guest limit raises the question: Has Ralph Northam ever been to a theme park? How about a bowling alley? Does he know the difference?

If not, will someone please take him on a field trip?

Northam’s rule, like so many of his others, is not rooted in science. In fact, at his Thursday press conference Northam mentioned how many surfaces people touch at a theme park.

So what?

Seems almost all experts agree that COVID-19 is not easily acquired outdoors. And almost definitely not from surfaces. Busch Gardens management understands the need for crowd control and pandemic measures and has a plan ready that includes temperature checks at the gates, masks for guests, 300 hand sanitizing stations and frequent sterilization of equipment and rides.

But to pay the salaries of 4,000 employees, park officials insist they need to admit at least 5,000 patrons a day.

That’s a fraction of the number of visitors who normally descend on the park in the summer, but as State Sen. Tommy Norment of Williamsburg said this week, it’s “Five times what those numbnuts in Richmond were suggesting.”

Numbnuts, huh? Well said, Senator Norment.

This column was published originally at

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21 responses to “Richmond’s “Numbnuts” Cripple Busch Gardens”

  1. If Northam were a Republican governor, we’d be reading articles about how the restrictions on the theme parks disproportionately impact minorities.

  2. sbostian Avatar

    Interestingly enough, I had a meeting with a friend who is in a minority class. He is a liberal Democrat, not a conservative or libertarian. However, he expressed disgust at Northam’s management of the economic aspects of his COVID 19 response. His complaint: The draconian requirements imposed on “small businesses” have had a catastrophic effect on minority owned and minority staffed businesses. I don’t think he has been approached by any Commonwealth media outlets.

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Johns Hopkins reported 37,077 new virus cases yesterday, the most ever in a single day in the US. Whoops. I forgot. We are only supposed to look at Virginia.

    1. And the number of COVID-19 infections in Texas and Florida is relevant to combatting the virus in Virginia…. how?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        because they are doing the very things that you and Kerry ding Northam for not doing……….. and the results of their actions are pretty good evidence that Northam is not that far off what should be done.

    2. Matt Hurt Avatar
      Matt Hurt

      Here’s from the CDC data I just obtained. The bottom seems to be dropping out of the death counts, thank goodness.

      Anyone may obtain the data from this page.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        the death counts typically follow the infection rates… no?

        If we have infection running wild right now, we won’t see increased deaths yet.

        But beyond that – deaths are not the only impact. Do you see what is happening to businesses in those states where the infection rates are running wild?

        1. Matt Hurt Avatar
          Matt Hurt

          I suspect not, but we’ll see. From everything I have read, it seems that doctors are figuring out how to mitigate some of the issues caused by this scourge. We’ll see to what degree that is true.

          The infection rates do not seem to have declined as sharply as the death rates, but I can’t find good apples to apples data sets on the CDC website to verify this.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            For the theme parks – a couple of things:

            1. – are they open in other states – and no problems?

            2. – theme parks look to me like a mega worst-case 100-times worse that other congregate situations.

            why not open the theme parks but make testing mandatory? that way we get the answer and make decision based on facts.

            looking at the pro-sports – they’re getting significant virus infections when they work out – is that “mild”?

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    People travel. Isn’t that how the virus is spread? Kinda obvious.

    1. All those seniors traveling to and fro…….. no wonder so many died

  5. vaconsumeradvocate Avatar

    Jim, How does this fit with your list of things Virginia should do since COVID is “milder” than expected? Didn’t you say avoid large outside events?

    1. The evidence seems pretty clear that large indoor events contribute to viral spread, but outdoor events are a different story. If outdoor events propagated the disease, we’d be seeing a surge in the wake of the George Floyd protests. Some conservative commentators are arguing that we are, in fact, seeing such a surge, but I haven’t seen any persuasive evidence yet.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Many of the Floyd protestors were wearing masks – it was hard to miss them.

        Do you think what is going on in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California is due to indoor events?

        If you don’t know why would you assume anyhow?

  6. BG and KD should have a ‘social justice’ day and invite all to march for their favorite cause.. PROBLEM SOLVED….. all peoples can congregate and carry signs and eat cotton candy and ride rides…. there’s always a solution within the system.

  7. WayneS Avatar

    Does Ralph Northam know the difference between a bowling alley and a theme park?

    There is definitely a joke buried in the answer to that question…

    …something about the relative size of balls, perhaps?

    But I am FAR too polite to go there…

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    already did………… 😉

  9. fromthefuture Avatar

    Ms. Dougherty is skilled at comedy writing.

  10. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Staycation. I’m loving it! Saving big buckaroos this year. Doodlebug and I caught a whole mason jar of lightening bugs last night. No charge, no lines, no long car rides. It was great old fashioned fun.

  11. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    With so many truly serious matters at hand, why do we have to worry about theme parks? Jim bacon, what is Dougherty’s value other than being free of charge?

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Ms. Dougherty does add value Mr. Peter. She prompted a response from you. I think she is a good igniter for debate and discussion.

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