Gatorland prepares to reopen, after paying their workforce during coronavirus shutdown

click to enlarge Gatorland president and CEO Mark McHugh - Screenshot via Gatorland/YouTube
Screenshot via Gatorland/YouTube
Gatorland president and CEO Mark McHugh
In a video message released on Thursday, Gatorland president and CEO Mark McHugh says the park is still not able to reopen yet, but they haven't waited to set up lots of new safety precautions for when they do.

Gatorland says it still needs the green light from state and local officials before they can even set a reopening date, but McHugh says in the video message that a skeleton crew has been in place since the park shut down on March 18, feeding and caring for the park's animals. They've also been producing their popular "School of Croc" web series, now with more than 50 episodes.

McHugh also noted that the park has been in a position to pay their entire workforce and keep their benefits, even though most of their 190 employees were sent home to shelter in place. He and a committee of 24 park leaders, managers and directors divided into task forces to create a plan in 14 categories and "eat the elephant one bite at a time."

"We embarked upon the largest overhaul of the park in our 70-year history, which was a huge mission," says McHugh. "This committee developed a very detailed, 31-page policy manual for safely operating the park in a post COVID-19 world."

Gatorland's website lists their new policies and protocols. It's a far cry from when the park celebrated its 70th anniversary with a "Gatorpalooza Fun Fest" last May, but it looks like they're ready to get back in gear.

The new park restrictions include reduced capacity, physical distancing markers, disinfecting rides and other surfaces, and more. Here are the many changes they've listed for the park:
    • All queue lines at admissions, shows, rides, food venues and retail shops have been marked for safe physical distancing based on CDC guidelines;
    • The park itself, food venues, retail shops, all shows, and rides now have reduced capacities and seats to provide comfortable and safe social distancing;
    • All rides, show seating, transaction counters, and pin pads are disinfected after every ride, show, or transaction;
    • All contact surfaces, doorknobs, handrails, grab rails, benches, chairs, and restroom surfaces are sanitized frequently throughout the day;
    • All counters, tables, and chairs at our food venues are sanitized and cleaned after every guest;
    • All public surfaces throughout the entire park are thoroughly disinfected every night;
    • We have added over 50 additional handwashing and hand sanitizer stations throughout the park;
    • The Jumparoo Show and Gator Gully Splashpark/Playground will be closed during Phase 1 and 2 due to limited space for proper social distancing;
    • All employees are required to have their temperature checked before working, and wear face masks at all times in the park. Guests are also encouraged to wear face masks;
    By entering Gatorland, guests must agree that:
    • They do not have a fever, cough, or other symptoms of COVID-19;
    • Gatorland reserves the right to check their temperature if they exhibit symptoms;
    • They will endeavor to maintain social distancing from other groups; and
    • They will frequently use handwashing and hand sanitizer stations.

"The safety and cleanliness of Gatorland have always been our guiding values, and we cannot wait for you and your family to come see us again," says the park's website.

Check out the video below.
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