Santa Cruz's flagship amusement park will soon be filled again with the sounds of shrieks and laughter, albeit muted by masks and with thinner crowds than usual.
Santa Cruz County's declining coronavirus numbers placed it in the less restrictive orange tier of California's reopening guidelines Tuesday, meaning the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk can reopen for up to 500 people.
Spokesman Kris Reyes said that there is no opening date yet but that park staffers are excited to get back to work.
"We are currently reviewing the state's reopening guidelines for amusement parks to understand how and when the Boardwalk can reopen rides and other attractions," Reyes said in a statement. "The safety of our employees and guests will remain our top priority whenever we reopen."
It is unclear how many rides will be up and running again, but Reyes said "it certainly will not be all of them."
The state released new guidelines last week, allowing small theme parks to reopen outdoors only, with visitors restricted to county residents. The parks must offer a reservation system, and masks are mandatory.
Built in 1907, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is California's oldest amusement park and is poised to make history again as one of the first to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parks in other orange-tier counties are also eligible for reopening.
The new guidelines apply to parks with a capacity of 15,000 or fewer, so major venues such as Disneyland and Universal Studios still have to wait. Theme parks of all sizes can reopen at 25% capacity once a county has reached the yellow tier of "minimal risk level" — a far-off threshold for places such as Orange County.
The guidelines immediately drew ire last week from theme park executives and the local governments that rely on the parks' tourist dollars.
"These state guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future, forcing thousands more people out of work, leading to the inevitable closure of small family-owned businesses, and irreparably devastating the Anaheim/ Southern California community," Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock said in a statement.
Official opening day for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk's rides, arcades and miniature golf will be announced on its website and social media channels, Reyes said. The boardwalk is open already for limited dining and shopping, and the nearby bowling alley allows visitors at 25% capacity, he said.