The British Are Coming?

Lost in the xenophobic hysteria over word that Kennywood has been sold to Spanish-based amusement parks operator Parques Reunidos is the fact that Parques Reunios itself is owned by British buyout firm Candover Investments. Here's the Candover profile of its Parques holding.

Two things about the deal leap out at me immediately, one serious and one not:

The serious: There is no evidence that any of Kennywood Entertainment's parks will close, will lay off staff, or will not be run by local management teams. There's no evidence that Parques Reunios doesn't want Kennywood Park itself to remain a part of the cultural fabric of Pittsburgh. That's in contrast to Don Barden, owner of the Majestic Star casino now officially underway in Pittsburgh. Said Barden to Pittsburgh: Drop dead!

The change here is symbolic, and it's emotional. A core piece of Pittsburgh-iana (is that a word?) is now part of a global entertainment network. Is there any better evidence of old Pittsburgh's role in the new global economy than Kennywood's becoming part of an international amusement park company? Even the Steelers long ago became an international brand.

I think that Pittsburgh should welcome that kind of trans-national connectedness -- even though I understand that Pittsburgh traditionalists prefer to think of this as the destruction of Alderaan: "a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced." Certainly, there is a loss of local affect. But the benefits will, I predict, outweigh the costs. As I often do, I prefer a Star Trek metaphor to one from Star Wars: "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra."

The not: Does this mean that Pittsburgh will finally have enough Spanish-speaking residents to justify Spanish-language television on our cable systems? Temba, his arms wide.

¡Bienvenidos a Pittsburgh!


6 Responses to "The British Are Coming?"

Mar's kids said... 12/12/2007 8:54 AM

Barden, his arms closed :)

Time will tell with the new Kennywood deal, but I feel that this is a giant leap forward for the Park. You can't really outsource the Thunderbolt, and Parques Reunios can bring this amazing park to the attention of a much wider world.

Anonymous said... 12/12/2007 9:09 AM

I don't know if xenophobic is the right word. I think people would react like this no matter who bought the park. They're just worried it will become another Six Flags or something, probably.

Of course the park's owners have turned down plenty of potential buyers, and they say that this firm shares their vision for the park, so I doubt we have much to worry about.

Woy said... 12/12/2007 10:03 AM

Mike, you just earned a whole new level of respect with the ST:TNG reference.

C. Briem said... 12/12/2007 1:30 PM

the post-yinzer world is upon us for sure... but I agree it's not so xenophobic. Things that touch upon childhood memories just strike a chord. Like when Rockefeller Center was sold to the Japanese, I think that was a bigger deal because of the ice skating rink which made it more than a building for many. Remember, wasnt' there a sit-in down at city council over the removal of the Zeiss projector. Same type of visceral attachment to things from the past.

Mike Madison said... 12/12/2007 4:48 PM

The "xenophobic" reference is linked to a comment thread at the Post-Gazette which exhibits a fair share of out-and-out xenophobia. The sale of Rockefeller Center to Sony was met with a lot of the same attitude. Take a look at this story (if the link isn't stable, I'm pointing to a NY Times story from December 1989 with the hed, "Huge Japanese Realty Deals Breeding Jokes and Anger").

Bram Reichbaum said... 12/14/2007 3:57 AM

I disagree only in your characterization of Don Barden's comments. On those issues, on that narrow design issue as such, Barden said that enough was enough. Moreover, he was obviously "making a move" in advance of more City Planning Showdowns. If Riverlife gets to run op-eds in the P-G, Mr. Barden can say a few frank words. BTW, he's volunteering to meet with Northside Untied after the first of the year.

Your analysis of Kennywood as-such: yes. Nothing but good news. I wonder if there really is much xenophobic hysteria, or if people are just getting off on telling jokes.

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Updated September 2020:

Pittsblog 2.0 was written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, from January 2004 through December 2011.

Since then, Pittsburgh-themed essays have appeared from time to time at, on law and technology, and in some of Pittsburgh's classier professional media venues.

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