Kings Island central to Warren County becoming ‘Ohio’s largest playground’

Vehicles travel northbound 71 toward the Western Row Road/Kings Island Drive exit May 2, 2014, in Warren County. NICK DAGGY / FILE PHOTO

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Vehicles travel northbound 71 toward the Western Row Road/Kings Island Drive exit May 2, 2014, in Warren County. NICK DAGGY / FILE PHOTO

Amusement park is a Top 10 employer in the county

Warren County is called “Ohio’s Largest Playground,” and much of that is because of the ripple effect Kings Island during its 50-year history.

Phil Smith, president & CEO at Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Kings Island is “very important” to the region’s economic health and that he cannot imagine where it would be without it.

“It’s at the heart of our tourism landscape here,” Smith said. “When Kings Island is open, that’s when the most visitors come to Warren County, we have the most visitor spending, the most hotel rooms being occupied.”

The tourism industry in Warren County generated $1.3 billion in 2019, according to the most recent visitor spending study, much of it a result of the businesses that have popped up in the five decades since Kings Island made its debut.

Smith said it’s “not much of a stretch” to assume/deduce/determine that guests often plan out their visit and figure out what entertainment, leisure, sporting and dining options are in the area and worthy of a visit.

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“They get interesting in canoeing, or ziplining or some of our festivals, or shopping on our downtown streets or dining in our restaurants and they make a vacation of it,” he said. “That’s what we do as a CVB, we market the entire county and a lot of vacations start with ‘OK, the centerpiece is Kings Island, and what can we do for the rest of the week or the weekend?’”

The CVB tells potential visitors that there is more to do within 30 minutes of Warren County than any place else in Ohio, spotlighting activities in and around Dayton and Cincinnati, while encouraging tourists to stay in the county, which he said is “the epicenter.”

Kings Island has drawn numerous other attractions to Mason and Warren County over the years including Great Wolf Lodge, The Beach Waterpark and Ozone Zipline Adventures, plus a slew of restaurants and other businesses.

James Hyland, manager of Marion’s Piazza’s location at 6176 Soundwave Blvd. in Mason, said Kings Island visitors are a boost to the restaurant’s bottom line primarily on summer nights and more so on weekends than weekdays.

“It definitely picks up our hours after 10 o’clock (p.m.) ... a decent amount, a lot more than normal.” he said. “Normally after 9 o’clock (when Kings Island isn’t open), we’re pretty much dead the rest of the night.”

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Tourism generated by Kings Island and the businesses it has attracted over the years is good for Warren County residents because it generates tax dollars, Smith said. Every municipality, township and county derives incomes for their general fund in different ways, a city from from its personal income tax and a county from sales tax and property tax.

“Because we have visitors spending here, a lot of the general fund is generated through sales tax by people who don’t live here,” he said. “That means Warren County can provide all kinds of services to its residents, and those services are paid for by people who don’t live here and that means all of our taxes in Warren County stay low.”

Kings Island was key in helping set the city’s course for the future and redefining its rural reputation to “the premier community and hub of innovation it is today,” said Jennifer Heft, Mason’s assistant city manager.

The economic development story related to Kings Island is multi-dimensional, Heft said.

“The planning and construction of Interstate 71 in the 1960s and into to the early 1970s was underway and the construction of Exit 24, (the) Western Row exit was a companion to the KI development,” she said.

The amusement park is referenced as part of the catalyst to the timing and design of that exit, which after nearly five decades was completed in 2019 as a full interchange, a $50M investment.

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Kings Island often is cited as one of the Top 10 businesses in Warren County at 1,250 full-time or full-time equivalent employees for 2021, said Michele Blair, Mason’s economic development director. That translates to somewhere around 4,000 part-time positions and about 200 full-time positions.

This year, the park is seeking 5,000 part-time workers.

“Their impact, especially in the summer months, has a significant impact to the local economy with both direct and indirect visitor spending, overnight hotel spending as well as job creation revenue,” Blair said. “In addition, KI provides more than 1,000 jobs to high schoolers, college students and many other part-time job opportunities.”

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