MASON, Ohio (FOX19) - Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced amusement parks can reopen throughout the state in two weeks just hours after Cedar Point’s owner, Cedar Fair, joined a lawsuit Kings Island filed Thursday demanding it be allowed to reopen.
DeWine said Friday amusement parks can open June 19.
Ohio’s amusement and water parks have been closed all season due to coronavirus.
As of early Friday, the state’s three largest parks - Kings Island in Mason and Cedar Point and Kalahari Resorts in Sandusky - have all sued Dr. Amy Acton, in her official capacity as director of the Ohio Department of Health.
Kings Island’s lawsuit also names the Warren County Health District. Kalahari Resorts names the Erie County General Health District.
The lawsuits claim Acton lacks authority to order the restrictions preventing water parks and amusement parks from opening amid the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to Friday, her latest health order required them to stay shuttered through July 1.
The lawsuit contends Acton’s order blocking amusement parks and water parks from opening has singled out them out while other businesses were permitted to operate.
The suit asks a judge to order the immediate reopening of amusement parks and water parks and to prevent Acton from closing them again in the future.
Most of the state’s economy and businesses already have reopened or can soon.
DeWine announced Thursday zoos, museums, playgrounds cinemas and other entertainment venues can reopen starting June 10 with virus precautions and attendance restrictions.
A spokesman for DeWine’s office told FOX19 NOW Thursday: “The administration is still working on guidance for those facilities.
The attorneys representing the amusement parks and water park include Chris Finney of Cincinnati, who recently successfully sued on behalf of gyms and fitness clubs to reopen.
Hours before the first two lawsuits were filed Thursday, Ohio House Republicans took action to try to reopen amusement parks and water parks.
An amendment reopening amusement parks and water parks is now part of House Bill 665 regarding amusement park ride safety. The amendment passed committee Thursday, but it’s not clear when it will go to the floor for a full House vote.
Cedar Fair, which owns Kings Island in Warren County and Cedar Point in Sandusky, announced on Kings Island website Thursday they hope to reopen soon.
“Cedar Fair fully supports the amendment to HB 665 that was adopted today in the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. The amendment provides for the immediate re-opening of Ohio amusement parks and water parks,” reads the statement from Richard Zimmerman, CEO of Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, which owns Kings Island and Cedar Point.
"We fully anticipate and expect having the same opportunity granted to other businesses in Ohio to operate our business in a safe and manageable environment.
"As professional amusement park operators with an exemplary safety record, we are experts at managing risks and following protocols. The protocols we have developed to reopen our parks are in accordance with governmental and CDC directives, Erie County and Warren County Health Departments, medical professionals, Ohio’s Development Services Agency (DSA) and industry best practices. They are specifically responsive to the COVID-19 crisis.
Warren County Commissioner Dave Young said Friday he wasn’t surprised to see Cedar Fair join the the lawsuit in Warren County.
"I think it just shows the importance of this decision," he said. "This organization is obviously the biggest provider of amusement parks in the state. The decision to open or not open and what that looks like is critical."
Young has said and continues to stress that the death rates for coronavirus do not justify continuing restrictions on businesses.
"I keep pointing for people to actually go look at the actual death rate in New York City. The aggregate total death rate is .002%, so if that was the worst of the worst in our nation and maybe the world why in the world are we continuing to do what we are doing? People know the right thing to do. People know if you are in the at-risk community and older you need to be very very careful. It’s not government locking down everybody. That’s your responsibility to take care of yourself.
Young has said he called DeWine last week and urged him to reopen Kings Island and the county’s new $16 million sports complex, which Young says just lost two major tournaments to other states, Indiana and Texas.
While DeWine seemed receptive to reopening recreation centers, Young said he was hesitant about amusement parks.
And though many entertainment and recreation facilities can now reopen in Ohio starting June 10 with virus precautions and attendance restrictions, Young says Warren County’s sports complex can only operate on a very limited basis.
"Sports tournaments, which is what we are banking on, are still prohibited," Young said. "You can practice, but you can't have a tournament which is ridiculous to me. Local kids can go practice. It does nothing for our economy and we just build a new $16 million complex and lost these two huge tournaments.
“I love Mike DeWine. I think he’s wonderful person and he’s done what he thinks is best. I think other points of view need to be heard in the discussion. I am not someone who pretends to be a doctor or someone who claims to be an infectious disease expert. But I am a numbers guy and I do understand percentages and our economy and when I see a death rate of .002%, we need to change the conversation.”