LeBron James Takes His Talents to Sandusky

Cedar Fair may be Ohio's biggest winner of the LeBron James sweepstakes.

Jul 19, 2014 at 10:00AM

Cedar Fair (NYSE:FUN) is one of the country's two largest regional amusement park operators, battling Six Flags (NYSE:SIX) for roller coaster supremacy in a white-knuckled attempt to woo summertime thrill seekers.

Cedar Fair's flagship Cedar Point in Ohio and Six Flags Magic Mountain in California often race against one another in a mad scramble to see which amusement park can pack the most coasters. However, there's one thing that Cedar Fair may soon have that Six Flags does not: LeBron James.

James hasn't signed an endorsement deal with Cedar Fair. This isn't that kind of deal. This is a story about a head-turning tweet that will inevitably get Cedar Point to rename one of its scream machines after the guy who's arguably the best basketball player on the planet.

When the amusement-park operator made that post 10 days ago it seemed as if James would be staying with the Miami Heat. He made it to the NBA Finals all four years in Miami, a streak that no team had accomplished since the 1980s. However, hailing from Akron, the allure of coming home as a prodigal ball-dribbling son was too tempting to pass up. 

James stunned the sports world by announcing that instead of staying with the Heat to see if Miami could become the first team since the 1960s to go to the NBA Finals for five years in a row, he would return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he started his pro career. 

Cedar Fair's most famous park took a gamble -- one that it didn't think it would have to live up to -- and even though it lost the bet, it's going to win the pot.

"We stand ready to honor our original tweet," Cedar Point went on to post after James decided to take his talents to Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, just 62 miles away from Cedar Point.

Cedar Point's a pretty neat place for coaster enthusiasts, situated on a lake-blessed peninsula in Sandusky. The company's headquarters are even located in the park. It will be interesting to see if Cedar Fair decides to name one of its newer rides after James in a way that won't anger the purists.

James himself has been to the park before. It didn't go very well last time he was out there -- as the following video shows -- but that was also shortly after he devastated Cleveland by taking his talents to South Beach.

In any event, investors in regional amusement-park chains don't need to be playing these kinds of games. Folks buy into Cedar Fair and Six Flags to cash in on growing attendance at the country's amusement parks, though the chunky quarterly distributions both companies offer naturally help.

Cedar Fair currently yields 5.4%, and Six Flags isn't too far behind at 4.6%. Despite the ups and downs of the thrills once patrons cross through the turnstiles, growth has been steady and consistent. Analysts see revenue climbing between 4% and 6% at both chains through the next couple of years.

It remains to be seen whether Cedar Fair will get an attendance uptick from King James' Top Thrill Dragster, King James' Millennium Force, or whatever coaster it decides to use to live up to its promise. As long as the growth keeps coming and the quarterly distribution checks keep coming, you won't find too many investors complaining.

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Rick Munarriz and The Motley Fool have no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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